The Italians steal some limelight behind a pitch perfect performance from the reigning Champion
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a brilliant victory in Termas de Rio Hondo with a dominant performance at the front, taking the Championship lead in the process to leave Argentina four points clear on the way to Texas. The race to complete the podium behind him was a spectacular tussle, however, and one eventually won by Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as the ‘Doctor’ made the perfect move on Andrea Doviziosos (Mission Winnow Ducati) on the last lap to secure second and his first podium since Germany last season – an apt way to mark the anniversary of his World Championship debut in 1996.
Marquez took the holeshot from pole as Dovizioso pounced for second, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) losing out from the middle of the front row and Rossi leapfrogging his teammate. Marquez immediately pulled the pin to make a gap, with Rossi then soon attacking Dovizioso but the Ducati rider holding firm.
Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was next to go on the offensive as he dived past the ‘Doctor’ but the move didn’t stick, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) getting past Viñales to tag onto the Australian. Chopping and changing, Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) was next to attack the number 12 Yamaha in the melee – before Miller took Rossi, and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had a stab at getting past the number 46 too.
It was a breathless tussle over the first two laps but one rider was then forced out of it: Crutchlow was given a Ride Through for jumping the start. That took him out of the battle as Dovi, Miller and Rossi found Morbidelli back on their tail and Rossi pounced on Dovizioso just as Morbidelli pounced on Miller in tandem. Spectacular though it was, it was shortlived as both Yamahas then headed wide and the ensuing shuffle reset the battle. Dovizioso and Rossi followed by Morbidelli, Petrucci, Miller and Viñales was the freight train fighting it out for the podium.
As the laps ticked on the Dovizioso-Rossi battle lit up and started to pull away from those behind. Dovizioso blasted down the straights, Rossi made the most of the Yamaha’s forte in the corners…the two trading positions at times but able to stay ahead of the battle that now included Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) as he arrived on the scene from 16th on the grid.
As that raged on, the last lap was a relaxed one for Marquez at the front. The reigning Champion completed his stunning performance and took his first win of the year, but the battle for second stayed tense to the line. Rossi lurked behind his prey for the first half of the lap, but at Turn 7 the ‘Doctor’ struck to perfection. A block pass saw the Italian not only get past his compatriot but also create just enough of a gap to keep him ahead until the end; the result Rossi back on the podium for the first time since Sachsenring last season. Dovizioso, meanwhile, although forced to settle for third, achieved his goal of getting on the podium at a track that usually proved tough for Ducati – and he’s only four points off Marquez in the Championship.
The fight for fourth saw Rins and Miller locked in battle and in the end it was the Australian who took the spoils, coming home in the same position as last year and as top Independent Team rider. Rins nevertheless took an incredible fifth after gaining 11 places, with Petrucci ultimately dropping into the clutches of Viñales and Morbidelli – and one last gasp of drama just around the corner for that trio.
Viñales attacked Petrucci, Petrucci held him off and the two Yamahas behind then came into contact, suddenly both on the floor and sliding out as the Ducati escaped for P6. That meant Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) got an even bigger reward for a quality race as the Japanese rider capitalised for seventh, with fast Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) taking P8 and coming home as top rookie. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took ninth and homed in on his pre-race goal of the top eight.
The battle to complete the top ten was another stunner. It was Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who won it and who takes the spoils, but the Spaniard had to do some serious looking over his shoulder for another KTM: that of rookie Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3). The Portuguese rider has been notable in 2019 so far, but less than two tenths off Espargaro and two tenths off the top ten made quite an impression as he scored points for the first time.
The recovering Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) took P12, ahead of Crutchlow, Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the points. And that’s all she wrote in Argentina. Now it’s time for chapter three at the Circuit of the Americas, traditionally Marquez territory. Can he rule the venue once again and increase his lead? Find out on the 14th April for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.
MotoGP Race Results: 1. Marc Marquez (SPA) 41’43.688 2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) +9.816 3. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) +10.530
Moto2™: Baldassarri blasts clear of a spectacular tussle at Termas
A stunning race of closely fought battles sees the Italian consolidate his points lead and a new face takes to the podium.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) made it two from two in 2019 as he took victory at Termas de Rio Hondo, playing the waiting game and timing his attack to pull the pin to perfection in the latter stages. His closest competition came from early leader Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) as the Australian rode to a superb first podium, with Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) coming home third and elbows out throughout the race.
The first drama hit on the Warm Up lap as polesitter Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) suffered a technical problem and was forced to miss the start, with that leaving Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) the furthest forward and the German capitalising to lead Lap 1. Gardner was soon to strike, however, and the tone was almost immediately set as Schrötter attacked back but was held off by the Aussie.
The front group of Gardner, Schrötter, Marquez and Baldassarri had initially pulled out almost two seconds on the chasing pack but the four didn’t keep it tidy to try and pull away – it was all-out war. Each attack would either see immediate retaliation or a calculated move soon after to serve the rider ahead some payback, and the scenes were spectacular ones as the squabble stayed just about perfectly within the lines of brutal but fair.
Gardner remained the man ahead for much of the first half before Schrötter lunged again with 12 to go, his attack repelled but the German able to fight back and keep the lead. Marquez remained third and Baldassarri lurked in fourth, the Italian remaining an observer as seemed to wait it out and choose his moment.
Meanwhile just behind, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was on the charge. Starting to make some gains on the first group, the South African closed it down to half a second – and the war ahead raged on, Marquez taking over in second to chase down Schrötter.
With nine laps to go, however, Gardner hit back again and took second, and not long after Baldassarri made his first real move. The Italian sliced past Marquez into third before Gardner took the lead again, and then there was a ‘Baldattack’ on Schrötter to leave the Italian in second. The Jaws music began and with four laps to go Baldassarri finally attacked for the lead and Gardner ended up a little wide, slotting back in just ahead of Marquez. In the lead, though, Baldassarri then pulled the pin as Gardner harried Schrötter, and the Aussie was able to get past but the gap to the leader would ultimately prove too big.
Baldassarri crossed the line in clear air to stamp some more authority on the early part of the Championship, but the celebration just behind him was even bigger as Gardner finally took that first podium. So close in Qatar, the Aussie moves up to second overall in the standings as he broke his rostrum duck, and Marquez managed to emerge from the melee for a valuable P3.
Just behind that, Binder was still on a charge but the South African overcooked it when attacking Schrötter, forcing the German well wide, and that let past both Iker Lecuona (American Team KTM) and Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46). Binder got back past Marini before heading wide again, and the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider then attacked the Italian again on the last lap – and overcooked it again. Contact with Marini sent the him wide as Binder crossed the line in fifth just behind Lecuona, but that wasn’t all she wrote. After the race, the South African was penalised for irresponsible riding and demoted a place. So it’s Schrötter who is classified fifth, ahead of Binder, with Marini forced to settle for seventh.
Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) took P8 in a solid day’s work, ahead of a top ride from Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), who was top rookie once again. Not by much though, as a stunning charge from Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) saw the Thai rookie take his second top ten finish – the first having come in his sole Moto3™ appearance at Buriram last season. Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team), Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team), Khairul Idham Pawi (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and NTS RW Racing GP duo Bo Bendsneyder and replacement rider Jesko Raffin completed the points.
Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) was a crasher as he tagged the back of Binder early on, as fellow veteran Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) made a mistake at the exact same corner at the exact same time and also went down. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) suffered an issue with his arm and was unable to finish, having been on for the honour of top rookie after some impressive pace in Argentina.
Termas was another thriller but it’s advantage Baldassarri as we head for Austin. Can the Italian make it three from three? Find out on the 14th April!
Moto2™ Race Results: 1. Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA) 39’46.000 2. Remy Gardner (AUS) +1.244 3. Alex Marquez (SPA) +1.817
Moto3™: Masia masters Argentina for maiden Moto3™ win
Spaniard converts first pole into first victory as the freight train fights it out at Termas.
Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) took a stunning first win from his first pole position in the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, pitching it to perfection on the final lap to cross the line ahead of a stunning ride through the field for Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power), with Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Team) completing the podium. It was the first visit to the rostrum for all three.
Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) took the holeshot from second on the grid as Masia slipped back a little from pole, with Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) initially challenging the two and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) getting feisty at the front of the group. Feisty was the word for much of the race and the first few laps were no different, with most of the field locked in a long freight train shuffling for position.
A duel for the lead between Canet and Antonelli early on looked like it could see the two men break away but it wasn’t to be, and with 17 laps to go Masia struck back to take the lead. With 15 to go it was home hero Gabriel Rodrigo’s (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) turn to do the same, but the action ramped up another notch as the group battled it out – and Binder began to make his presence felt as he moved up the order.
With 11 laps to go it was attrition more than pace that was slowly whittling down the riders in the front group. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) came together and they both went down, also pushing Qatar GP winner Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) wide and the Japanese rider left with a gap left to make up. Vicente Perez (Reale Avintia Arizona 77) crashed out not long after too, but the freight train would soon gain back another carriage as rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) was able to tag on – and Toba pushed and pushed to try and make it back onto the group.
As the last few laps appeared, the number 27 had made up the gap and was back in contention. With such a huge group all squabbling, it was clear by crunch time that it wasn’t only a battle for the lead but still a battle for points: more than 15 riders were still tagged together hammering around Termas de Rio Hondo.
Heading over the line to begin the last lap, Binder held on at the front but he had Dalla Porta for close company and it wasn’t long until the Italian muscled his way past. As they thundered down to Turn 5 Rodrigo struck to make his own move for the lead and Binder then attacked Dalla Porta in the shuffle behind; the Italian forced a little wide. That was when Masia decided to strike taking over at the front through Turns 7 and 8 and ultimately not needing to look back. Keeping his cool, the Spaniard crossed the line for his first Grand Prix win and his first visit to the podium with just enough breathing space to avoid an attack from the chasing pack.
That wasn’t true of Rodrigo. Binder muscled through on the inside and the Argentinean suffered a huge wobble, somehow staying on but his podium hopes evaporating. The South African was able to complete his own fairytale race and take that second place and his first podium though, gaining a stunning 18 places from his starting position in the process. Arbolino, meanwhile, avoided the drama and swept through to take third and convert his top pace in preseason into a podium.
Antonelli took fourth after a solid race, with Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) concluding a quality Sunday with a top five finish and his best ever result in fifth. Rodrigo recovered from the last lap drama to take sixth ahead of another forced into a recovery as Dalla Porta crossed the line in P7. Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) – arguably the author of the move of the race as he managed a three-in-one overtake for the lead at one point – took eighth, ahead of Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) and a top class fight back from Qatar GP winner and Championship leader Kaito Toba.
Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai), Canet and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) locked out 11th to 13th, with the final points taken by rookie duo Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team).
Somewhat surprisingly, it was Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) who was the first of the freight train to miss out on points, the former Argentina GP winner taking P16, with rookie Ogura just behind him. But that’s it from a high octane Termas de Rio Hondo, with Toba still with a slim points lead as we head to the Circuit of the Americas in two weeks.
Moto3™ Race Results: 1. Jaume Masia (SPA) 38’54.562 2. Darryn Binder (RSA) +0.108 3. Tony Arbolino (ITA) +0.295
Words and images courtesy of www.motogp.com