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Crutchlow On Top As The Title Fight Explodes In Argentina

Argentina PR Strip

Independent Team rider back on the top step after a stunner, with huge drama for Marquez and Rossi

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) has taken an impressive third Grand Prix victory in the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, besting Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on the final lap to earn the honour of winning the 750th GP race for Honda. But the headlines must be shared, with drama for Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the reigning Champion accrued a number of penalties and clashed with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), with the fuse on the title fight now lit up and on full power.

There was drama even before lights out at Termas de Rio Hondo, with the conditions hard to judge and the race delayed as the majority of the grid went back into pitlane to switch tyres. That left Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller alone on pole after the Australian didn’t need to switch, and the grid lining up a few rows back in order to not all start from pitlane.

As the field came back round to line up for attempt number two at lights out, however, that wasn’t even the bigger headline – with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) stalling on the grid and not in his position. The number 93 was then able to get the bike going and took his position, but had been told to instead start from pitlane.

With that unanswered question hanging in the air, the lights went out and Miller took off from his lonely pole position to get the lead. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) took second, with Zarco initially in third before Marquez struck as the Frenchman had a moment. From there, the rider from Cervera picked his way forward to behind Miller – as Zarco clipped Pedrosa and the number 26 found himself on a wet part of the track, race ending early as he crashed out.

Sure enough, however, Marquez’ pitboard showed the words ‘Ride Through Penalty’ and the next bolt of drama hit the race.

With the remaining Repsol Honda bike heading in, Miller was in the lead and being hunted down by a group of three: Zarco, Rins and Crutchlow, and they were soon on the scene.

But Marquez, when back out on track, was lighting up the timesheets immediately – before an incident saw him get too close to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and the reigning Champion was told to lose one position. That done and the bit then back between his teeth, it was game on for the number 93 to salvage as much as he could – which, by laptimes, seemed it may be an awesome recovery.

Back at the front, Rins led briefly before an error, and Miller then suffered his own – with Crutchlow able to move through to lead from Zarco and the three able to pull away from Miller.

The drama was far from done, however. On the fight back, Marquez had picked off Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and honed in on the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of first Valentino Rossi and next up Maverick Viñales, until the number 93 made a lunge up the inside of the ‘Doctor’ – and misjudged it.

Both running wide and forced to sit up, Marquez was able to stay ahead – but the number 46 went down as he clipped the grass. Able to get back in the race and restarted, Rossi was left far down the order as the incident lit the fuse on the race and the rivalry once again.

The fight at the front, meanwhile, became three by the last lap, with Crutchlow and Zarco able to just pull away from Rins to duel it out over the final sector – and the Brit keeping ahead to take a stunning third Grand Prix victory. Zarco took second for another impressive visit to the rostrum, with Alex Rins visiting that podium for the first time in the premier class in third, pulling a big wheelie over the line.

Miller took fourth after not quite being able to make up the ground to the front, ahead of Marquez on track – but not in the results. As the flag fell, another penalty for the number 93 came up – a ride through, or 30 seconds added to his race time.

That means Marquez finishes 18th, and takes no points home from Argentina.

Viñales therefore takes fifth, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and an impressive ride for Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing). Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) came home eighth, with Hafizh Syahrin pulling a stunning to take ninth and top rookie for Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) completed the top ten, just ahead of KTM’s best result yet in 2018 in P11 as Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory) took solid points.

The Championship fuse is lit, rivalries are heating up and Crutchlow heads to Texas as the points leader for the first time ever – the first British leader since the 1970s and an Independent Team rider to boot.

Marquez, meanwhile, faces a mountain to fight back – with his first zero of the year marked in the dramatic and extraordinary Argentina GP. Texan turf awaits the king of COTA on Sunday 22nd April.

MotoGP Race Results: 1st Independent Team Rider: 1. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) HONDA 40'36.342  2. Johann Zarco (FRA) YAMAHA + 0.251  3. Alex Rins (SPA) SUZUKI + 2.501

Moto2™: Veteran holds off Vierge and Oliveira in a brilliant battle

Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) marked his 100th intermediate class start with a fantastic victory at the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, with the Italian picking up his second Moto2™ win and taking the lead in the World Championship.

Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) converted pole position into his first dry race podium, bridging the gap to the front group in the middle part of the race to battle his way to second. After starting sixth, Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Miguel Oliveira fought his way through to the leading group on the opening lap and he came home third, with both pushing to the limit in the final corner. 

Just behind, Pons HP 40 rider Lorenzo Baldassarri couldn’t quite repeat his Qatar podium or stay with the leaders by the line, eventually finishing 3.764 seconds back off the rostrum in fourth. EG 0,0 Marc VDS  rider Alex Marquez’s chances of a podium were diminished as he ran wide at turn five on lap 20 while battling with Baldassarri – the Spaniard settling for fifth on his 100th GP start .

Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) superbly picked up his best ever Moto2™ finish, crossing the line in a jubilant sixth to round off  a very good weekend for the Australian. Reigning Moto3™ World Champion Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) impressed again in seventh, keeping Kiefer Racing’s Dominique Aegerter behind him by 0.081 seconds – but it was nevertheless a solid ride from the Swiss rider on his second ride with the KTM.

Qatar race winner Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) recovered from 15th on the grid, however he could only manage ninth to leave him six points adrift in the Championship. Dynavolt Intact GP’s Marcel Schrö tter claimed tenth, which means the team now sit top of the Teams Championship after two rounds. 

It wasn’t the day Brits Danny Kent (MB Conveyors – Speed Up Racing) and Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) would have hoped for. Kent – after starting third – didn’t get off the line well and ended P12. Lowes – who was in touch with the leading group in the opening laps – had a tougher latter half of the race and came home 13th . 

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) wasn’t able to finish after he suffered a scary looking crash, hitting the back of Jorge Navarro’s (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) bike on the run down to Turn 13 on lap two. Both riders ok, with Navarro retiring on lap six with a bent exhaust.  

The Moto2™ riders now head to the Circuit of The Americas, with the Championship looking like it will be a titanic battle this season. 

Moto2 Race Results: 1. Mattia Pasini (ITA) KALEX 40'37.538  2. Xavi Vierge (SPA)  KALEX + 0.850  3. Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM + 1.414

Moto3™: Italian storms to victory ahead of Canet and Di Giannantonio as Martin gambles on slicks

Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) took his maiden Moto3™ victory with a magnificent ride on a drying track at the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, pushing from the start and able to pull away for a 6.8 second lead after ten laps. Pole position man Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) opted to start the race on the slick tyres, while Championship leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) pulled in at the end of the warm up lap to make the same gamble.

Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) battled hard to take a valuable 20 points and the lead in the Championship as he took second , with Del Conca Gresini Moto3™ rider Fabio Di Giannantonio finishing 0.274 back in third. Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) threatened late in the race to take his first podium of the season, but a mistake on the last lap ended his chances and he finished a solid fourth.

A gap of 3.294 then separated the Italian to Adam Norrodin (Petronal Sprinta Racing) who claimed his career best finish in fifth, with sixth-placed Estrella Galicia 0,0  man Alonso Lopez also grabbing his career best result. Lopez led Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) in seventh and Nic colo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) in eighth.

Home hero Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider) managed to get a top ten finish at his home Grand Prix, dropping back from the leading group late in the race but taking ninth.

Then came the pole man Arbolino, who carved his way through to tenth after opting for slicks at the start of the race. He led fellow slick gambler Martin over the line by 1.074 seconds, with the race winner in Qatar taking P11. The risk didn’t quite pay off with a reward, but the two men took solid points.

There were a number of crashers, including Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as he got clipped by another rider, and Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai), who tagged the back of Di Giannantonio at Turn 5, crashing out of fourth on the penultimate lap in some late heartbreak for the rookie.

The lightweight class will next be back on track in the Lone Star State as engines fire up again in Austin from Friday 20th April.

Moto3 Race Results: 1. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) KTM  41'43.822  2. Aron Canet (SPA) HONDA +4.689  3. Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) HONDA  +4.963
Words and images courtesy of www.motogp.com

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