TERMAS DE RIO HONDO, Argentina — official series release — MotoGP photo —
Valentino Rossi gambled on the right tire choice to take his 84th MotoGP victory on Sunday at Autodromo Termas de Río Hondo in Argentina, as Marc Marquez crashed out of the race with two laps to go.
Conditions were similar to yesterday’s qualifying with bright sunshine and a track temperature of 37 degrees. Despite this Repsol Honda’s Marquez, along with CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, decided at the last minute to switch to the hard compound rear tire, unlike the Movistar Yamaha’s of Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo who went with the extra hard option. This would prove to be a crucial decision later on in the race, as tire life would have a huge part to play at the Termas de Rio Hondo.
It was Aleix Espargaro who led the pack into turn one on the Team Suzuki Ecstar, but it didn’t take long for Marc Marquez to make his move for the lead, passing the Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR almost immediately, with the reigning MotoGP World Champion going on to lead by 0.8 seconds at the end of the first lap.
Marquez took advantage of his hard tire’s extra grip early on in the race to extend his lead to over four seconds, all the while though Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was making his move through the field. “The Doctor” moved into second place at the expense of Dovizioso on the Ducati Team GP15 with 15 laps to go, having started back in eighth on the grid.
Rossi then set about hunting down Marquez, as the Spaniard’s tyre performance started to fall away, and it suddenly became apparent he would be able to catch the Honda.
It was like watching a hunter stalk his prey as Rossi made huge in-roads into Marquez’s lead, finally catching him with just two laps to go. Marquez was not going to let the Italian pass him without a fight though, and in the ensuing battle the riders touched a couple of times, before Marquez clipped the back of Rossi’s bike and crashed out of the race.
Although Marquez was not best pleased at the time, Race Direction ruled it as a “racing incident” and took no further action.
This left Rossi on his own to take the victory by over five seconds, as well as assume the championship points lead in the process.
“I am sorry for the incident with Marc and I hope he is okay, but it was a great race and I am very happy to have won,” Rossi said. “It’s a great victory, we made the right decision and started with the extra hard tire. When I saw Marc start with the red one I knew that he would try to push at the beginning. I made a great start but on the first corner Iannone pushed me on the outside. Step by step I came back, and when I arrived in second Marc had a little more than a four second lead. I knew the race was long, so I knew he could have some difficulty.”
“Catching him lap by lap, I could see him far away but coming closer and closer, it was a great taste.”
Marquez confirmed afterwards that he was unhurt following the crash, and that he chose the hard tire 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!” Marquez said. “It was interesting with our tire choice [being] 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 tires a little. On the final laps I [picked my pace back up] to check that the tires were still in good shape, and knew that we would be fighting to the end. When he passed me, well…you can see what happened [on replay]. [No hard feelings, though], 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.”
Andrea Dovizioso took advantage of Marquez’s crash to claim second, five seconds behind Rossi, and now trails him by six points in the Championship standings.
CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow left it until the very last corner to pass Andrea Iannone to claim the final podium place, managing to hold off the Ducati Team GP15 on the run to the line to take thirdrd and finish as the leading satellite rider.
Meanwhile, Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo had no answer to the pace of the riders at the front, finishing a lonely fifth position.
“Honestly, I am very disappointed,” Lorenzo said. “I didn’t expect to finish in fifth position. I expected to fight at least for the podium. I was not able to ride as good as Valentino with the hard rear tire, maybe we needed a softer one to feel better. I didn‘t feel good and I wasn‘t able to ride as I wanted.”
CREDIT: MotoGP World Championship