Sunday's MotoGP race at Argentina proved Nicky Hayden's famous quote to one of the sport's most respected Journalists, David Emmett. Nicky had Said "that is why we line up on every Sunday!". The Sunday's race promised to be a thrilling affair even before the MotoGP contingent stepped foot on the Argentinean soil, largely based on the fact that the Termas De Rio Hondo Circuit is one very fast and flowing circuit that has earned a reputation of being a severely hard track on tyres last year itself, when the first ever MotoGP event was held at the track. With supremely fast Turns and a track that has a pretty abrasive tarmac alongwith the dusty conditions, it was always going to be a race of tyres.
Ever since the first of the free practise sessions begin, the fans and followers understood that the race day might just produce a surprise result and Marc Marquez dominance might be broken. The FP1 and the FP2 saw Aleix Espargaro taking top spots on his Suzuki GSX-RR which every rider on the paddock unanimously said to have admitted to be the best handling bike n the MotoGP paddock, a commendable respect earned by the Suzuki in just the 3rd race after its return to the premier league. As much as the performance of the Suzuki was the point of talk, so was the rider piloting it, Aleix Espargaro is not only making his presence count on the paddock but is also constantly working towards the development of the GSX-RR and everyone has set their eyes on this Spanish rider and his incredible will to do good and has an ability for extreme hard work. Aleix is going to be a big name in future, there is no doubt in that.
However, the Argentina GP as already discussed was always going to be the race about the tyres and there was a pretty valid reason for that. Bridgestone has introduced an 'Extra-Hard Compound' tyre this year, a tyre that could only be used by Honda and Yamaha factory and satellite riders. As much as there has been a cry about the availability softer compounds to Open teams (including Suzuki and Ducati) for qualifying, the Argentinean round was one where the softer of the two compounds was never going to make a difference. For a track this tough on tyres, everyone knew that the softer compound (the hard One in this context) won't work and the Extra Hard was the tyre for the race.
After the initial exploitation of the situation by the Suzuki which suits such tracks perfectly due to its incredible handling, something that gave the Suzuki and its rider, Aleix Espargaro a much deserved and a famous front row start in just their 3rd race, Suzuki is improving and is improving fast. Marc Marquez took a spectacular pole with his 2 stop strategy and 3 tyre attack during the qualifying round, proving Marc Marquez is surrounded by some of the smartest minds of the paddock. A flag to flag race type bike swapping saw Marquez took a record breaking pole.
Marquez's pole was something we have all become used to, and the statement "Where did that Lap come out from?" has become more of a standard protocol for this 22 year old phenomenon that is Marc Marquez. Come race day, everyone knew, Number 93 was the man to beat and almost whole of the paddock was thinking about who will come 2nd, such was the dominance of Marquez throughout the weekend.
Or was it? This race was an apt example of just how many factors can decide a race outcome. Everyone knew the extra hard compound was going to be the tyre of choice for the race, however, as the race weekend progressed, more and more rubber was being laid out on the track ending up meaning a lot more grip, the temperature was another thing, if it was hot on the race day, then the Extra-Hard would have had a clear advantage over the Hard compound, but then, when the race day arrives things can change and they can change pretty fast.
The starting grid in MotoGP saw a number of riders opting the hard front and the hard rear tyre, not a surprise as most of the paddock had access to it only as it was the hardest compound available to them. Interestingly Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow also had chosen the hard compound over the extra-hard compound that was available to them, a decision largely based on a lower track temperature than expected and the fact that the grip levels were at their best of the weekend. With only the Factory Yamaha's opting the Extra-Hard it was a race that would boil down to tyre management and utter riding skill. Valentino Rossi who was to start from 8th on the grid had gone for the extra hard front and rear while his team mate had chosen the extra hard for rear only and went with the hard front.
With almost all of the field on the hard compound, a great race start was what everyone needed, for it would enable riders to stretch lead and then manage their tyres and thus positions on the field. Aleix Espargaro lead the race from the start as he went ahead of Marquez in the front corner. However, it was not long before Marquez got the situation under his control and took the lead, as Aleix Fought with the Ducati's of both Andrea's and the CWM Honda of Crutchlow, Marquez kept on racking in laps after laps extending his lead to more than 5 seconds. As the Suzuki started to fall short because of its biggest weakness, horsepower and top speed, there was Ducati again, both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone proving and finally stamping the arrival of Ducati back in the title contention. Three vastly different tracks and three incredible race performance by Ducati, the GP15 is a clear and evident threat for Honda and Yamaha, and it is getting better and better.
The way Andrea Dovizioso could use his hard compound tyres throughout the race and the way he managed to stay with Valentino Rossi almost throughout the race proves that the Ducati GP15 is now an all track bike and a contender for the win every weekend. Andrea Dovizioso would never have been so desperate to lose something as much he wishes to lose the soft tyre allowance, since, Ducati losing the soft tyre allowance would mean they would have won a race in dry and that is what exactly Ducati wants from this season, atleast one Dry Race win. The GP15 rides well in dry, is ferociously fast, it turns and yes it rides almost like its predecessor's godly ability in wet. Ducati is back and this has thrown the championship wide open.
But, the race was not over, Valentino was riding on the extra hard compounds both up front and at the rear and had been vocal about his inclination towards the compound to be the race tyre. And, around the midway of the race Rossi's pace begin to show, as he overtook its competition one by one with an incredible finesse he is known for. After spending considerable time with Dovizioso fighting for the 2nd position Valentino upped the ante and as the extra hard compound came to its own, Rossi started taking chunks out of Marquez's lap times lap after lap.
By the time last 5 laps had arrived, Marquez's pit wall wasn't just showing Valentino's imminent arrival but it was shouting aloud that any time now, Vale would say 'here I come, kid!' and would snatch the victory from Marquez's hands. And, it happened soon enough as Valentino took the lead from Marquez when just around a lap and a half remained in the race. Marquez was not going to let the Italian pass him without a fight though, and the tough battle for the lead saw the riders touching a couple of times, before Marquez clipped the back of Rossi’s bike and crashed out of the race. This left Rossi on his own to take the victory by over five seconds, and he admitted afterwards that the key to his success was not caring about Marquez’s tyre choice, and just focusing on his own: "I am sorry for the incident with Marc and I hope he is ok, but it was a great race and I am very happy to have won. I had good pace and although Marc was far ahead during the race, I saw he selected the hard rear tyre and so I had to concentrate and keep riding at one hundred percent to catch him."
Marquez confirmed afterwards that he was unhurt following the crash, and that he chose the hard tyre as it was the only way he felt he could beat Rossi: "It’s a shame what happened, because we were having a good race! It was interesting, because our tyre choice was different from Valentino’s as I felt we were not as competitive with the harder compound. The strategy was working out well for us, it’s just a pity about the last two laps. When I saw that he was closing in on me, I decided to conserve the tyres a little. On the final laps I went back to riding in the low 1'39s to check that the tyres were still in good shape, and knew that we would be fighting to the end."
Talking about the clash with the Italian he said: “When he passed me, well…you can see what happened in the video. I love Valentino and it is always difficult to beat him, he is my hero and I always learn something when I ride against him.”
The Race Direction was immediate to declare that they were looking into the incident between Valentino and Marquez however, from the replays it was indeed a race incident and it was declared that no further discussions will be held on the same. Marquez's crash meant Dovizioso took 2nd position on the podium, his 3rd consecutive 2nd place. This meant that Dovizioso has become the first ever Ducati rider to stand on podium in first 3 races of the year. It was, behind Dovizioso a spectacular finish for the 3rd arrived when Cal Crutchlow pulled an almost impossible pass to come just a fraction of a second faster than Andrea Iannone winning the final podium place.
Lorenzo ended up having a rather miserable 5th place, he said after the race, "Honestly, I am very disappointed. I didn't expect to finish in fifth position. I expected to fight at least for the podium. I was was not able to ride as good as Valentino with the hard rear tyre, maybe we needed a softer one to feel better. I didn‘t feel good and I wasn‘t able to ride as I wanted." Smith took 6th place behind Lorenzo and was followed by Aleix Espargaro who finished 7th on his Suzuki GSX-RR after starting 2nd on the grid. He was followed by his brother Pol in 8th place. Scott Redding took a well earned 9th place as he beat Maverick Vinales to 10th place.
The final five point positions were taken by Danillo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Hector Barbera, Loris Baz and Stephan Bradl respectively. A rather promising ride by Yonny Hernandez was shortened after a spectacular mechanical failure saw his Pramac Ducati burned to ashes after catching fire.
The Moto2 and Moto3 were also thrilling affairs were the veteran Frenchman Johann Zarco finally won his maiden Moto2 race and was followed by Alex Rins, the Moto2 rookie showing great talent and becoming a major threat to the title, came in 2nd. Sam Lowes took 3rd spot keeping his title contention well alive. The Incredible Back-flip celebration of Masbou was a treat to watch, especially in the super slow motion.
In Moto3, the British youngster, Danny Kent once again raced a splendid race as he won the usually densely fought Moto3 by a margin of 10 seconds, the biggest ever since Moto3 came into existence, Danny Kent finally proving why he has been touted as a rider for future.
The MotoGP goes to Jerez, at south of Spain for its first European Round of the season in 2 weeks team. As always we will be bringing all the in depth analysis and news from the MotoGP, Stay with us and Ride Safe!!!
Photo and Video: motogp.com