MotoGP 2017: Argentina preview
MotoGP visits Argentina’s Termas de Rio Hondo circuit for a fourth consecutive year after the country had endured a span of 14 years without a grand prix event. The three previous visits have seen two victories for Marc Marquez and one for Valentino Rossi. Should Marquez fail to win Sunday’s race it will be the first time in his five seasons in the premier class that the Spaniard has not won either of the season’s opening two races. Marquez has started all three MotoGP races at the circuit from pole position, winning in 2014 and 2016. In 2016 he took a clean sweep of pole position, fastest lap and race win.
This weekend’s race is Rossi’s 350th career grand prix start – the Italian is the only rider to reach this milestone. Rossi has started, and won, races in the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP classes; the only rider of the current grid to have done so.
Should Maverick Vinales continue his phenomenal pre-season and first race form (he topped the timing charts in every pre-season test, started from pole and won in Qatar) and win in Argentina he will become the first Yamaha rider since Wayne Rainey in 1991 to win the opening two races of the season.
Vinales’ win in Quatar was Yamaha’s sixth win in the last eight races at Qatar. Everyone expected Vinales to be a contender on the Yamaha, but to perform as he has so far has taken many by surprise.
Last season the young Spaniard failed to finish the race in Argentina. While Vinales has had a season to acclimatise to the challenges of MotoGP, it was a newcomer to the class who took the fight to the establishment in the opening stages of the season opener in Qatar.
Reigning Moto2 champion Johann Zarco led the race comfortably before crashing out. The Frenchman looked suited to the privateer Tech 3 Yamaha in those early stages and will be looking to consolidate that form this weekend – in Moto2 Zarco was renowned for his race craft; he completed every race of the previous two seasons on his way to winning the title on both occasions.
The podium in Qatar was completed by Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati in second and Rossi in third on the other factory Yamaha. It was by no means a shock to see a Ducati on the podium, the surprise was in the shape of the rider.
The 2015 champion Jorge Lorenzo is so far finding the transition from Yamaha to Ducati difficult, and could only manage 11th place – and only the third-placed Ducati, with Scott Redding finishing ahead of the Spaniard on the Octo Pramac Racing Ducati in a creditable 7th place.
MotoGP rookies Alex Rins and Jonas Folger both impressed in their debut races, in 9th and 10th respectively.
The debutant KTM machines ridden by Pol Espargaro and Britain’s Bradley Smith both finished outside the points in 16th and 17th, with another MotoGP debutant and Briton, Alex Lowes on the Aprilia, in 18th place.
2017 MotoGP standings
1. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) 25 points
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati ) 20
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 16
4. Marc Marquez (Honda) 13
5. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 11
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 10
In Moto2 the Italian Franco Morbidelli took his first win in the series aboard his Kalex-framed machine. He also qualified in pole position and recorded the fastest lap of the race.
Kalex-framed bikes finished first, second and third, taking a further five of the top 10 places. The remaining two top ten finishes were occupied by Tech 3 and series newcomer KTM, which finished fourth courtesy of Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira.
The 2015 Moto3 champion Danny Kent on the Suter finished in 13th place. Reigning Moto3 champion Brad Binder could only manage 20th in his maiden race after stepping up a class to Moto2.
2017 Moto3 standings
1. Franco Morbidelli (Kalex) 25 points
2. Thomas Luthi (Kalex) 20
3. Takaaki Nakagami (Kalex) 16
4. Miguel Oliveira (KTM) 13
5. Alex Marquez (Kalex) 11
6. Luca Marina (Kalex) 10
The Moto3 class was dominated by Honda. The Japanese manufacturer took the first five places and a further two in the next five. Austrian manufacturer KTM took the remaining three places in the top 10.
One of the Hondas was piloted by Scot John McPhee, who took second place behind Joan Mir.
McPhee had an indifferent season last year but at times showed glimpses of his potential. Hopefully the switch to a factory-backed Honda will see the Scot blossom and consistently challenge at the front.
2017 Moto3 standings
1. Joan Mir (Honda) 25 points
2. John McPhee (Honda) 20
3. Jorge Martin (Honda) 16
4. Aron Canet (Honda) 13
5. Romano Fenati (Honda) 11
6. Andrea Migno (KTM) 10