I must confess I held my breath as the lights blinked off at the start of the Argentinean round of MotoGP. I must also confess that I was disappointed just a little too much, when Jorge Lorenzo made an almost-perfect start to the race.
After all, it isn’t often that you see the two-time world champion make a mistake – a rookie error, an uh-oh that brings a chuckle a la Circuit of the Americas. He has almost always run a perfect race.
Case to point: the race in Argentina at Circuito Termas de Rio Hondo. That is, until we experienced, quite inevitably, the Marc Marquez Moment. Also known as the overtake that sent it all to hell for Team Yamaha.
The start was a mad dash, a free-for-all, every-man-to-himself jamboree of riders scrambling for first position. They changed positions faster than I could tweet, faster than the commentators could comment, and left me feeling positively breathless.
Only one man avoided the chaos, steaming ahead, determined to increase the gap between him and the melee behind. Lorenzo stayed strong for most of the race, impervious to the madness he left in his wake.
Meanwhile, Marquez had fallen prey to the melee – as Andrea Iannone succeeded in pushing past, forcing him wide in the process. But the young Spaniard isn’t easy to defeat. He may have been pushed down to 6th place, but he wasn’t there for long. Lap 4 and Marquez was up to 2nd place.
It wasn’t like Marquez proceeded to chase down Lorenzo. He was there, right behind, stalking the Yamaha rider, waiting to make his move. There was an air of inevitability around the two riders as they played out a story that has been told through the start of this season, and through a lot of the last.
The Marquez Moment took place on lap 17. It was a neat overtake just waiting to happen, and then, just like that he started increasing the gap – with .699s on lap 17 to 2.577s at lap 23.
The Yamaha ignominy didn’t end there. Dani Pedrosa had snuck up into 3rd place, or had he always been there? I know I do a great disservice to Dani, but it is sad how he has almost always been under the shadow of a teammate – be it Casey Stoner, or Marquez. You know what they say, always a bridesmaid…
Anyway, Pedrosa had also fallen prey to the start-up madness, and proceeded to work his way up from 7th place until he passed Lorenzo to take second place. But Lorenzo was happy even with a third. It has been a difficult start to the season and he later said in a team press release, “I’m really happy, this is probably the most sweet third place in my career in MotoGP, arriving after two difficult races. We have demonstrated that even in not our best shape we can fight with the Hondas and arrive in a proud third position…”
His teammate, nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi however wasn’t really having the best of luck. The determination was there, as was the focus and the drive. But it just wasn’t meant to be. The first few laps set the pace for Rossi’s race. He began auspiciously enough at the top of the pack, going for a podium finish, a win even. But a mistake three laps into the race, as he went wide, saw him slip down to 4th place, chasing Andrea Iannone for 3rd place while holding off a charging Stefan Bradl right behind. The recovery was instant and the battle that followed intense. But a mistake by Bradl cost Rossi a valuable 4th place, as he went wide and ended up at 7th place. Yet again, Rossi fought his way back up to 4th, crossing the finish line 4.898s behind the leader.
The star of the show though was Andrea Iannone. The Pramac Racing rider has shown incredible pace the past two race, fighting right up there with the big-wigs giving them a run for their money and holding his own. The young Italian ended the race at 6th place, became the first Ducati rider in the race and celebrated with a much-deserved wheelie and a promise of good things to come this season. A team press release quoted him as saying, “I’m very happy with how the race went, I pushed hard from the start and I was going to stay in the leading group, but unfortunately, between the 8th and the 10th lap, I was forced to slow down due to the decay of the tires.” It doesn’t really matter does it? He was after all faster than the factory bikes as Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso ended the race 9th on the grid.
Speaking of Ducati, we all missed Cal Crutchlow and hope he’s doing well. Crutchlow was unable to race in Argentina following a surgery for his injured right hand. Fingers crossed for Jerez though!
Aleix Espargaro was unable to shrug off some ill luck as a crash early in the race saw him slip right down to the back. He ended the race in the 15th place bringing home a point for his team.
No rest for the wicked though as MotoGP heads to Europe and Jerez. Here’s to more madness and battles.
Hiroshi Aoyama gave us a perfect end to a fantastic race at Termas de Rio Hondo. At the last minute, just as we thought the race positions were final, the M7 Aspar rider pulled a fast one. He grabbed his teammate Nicky Hayden’s 10th place from right under his very nose, crossing the finish line with a jubilant wheelie. There was no way, it seemed, Aoyama would give up the title of top Open class rider for the first time this season.