Wales and Argentina share a passion for many things – not least a love of rugby, food and partying! Both countries are blessed with stunning rugged scenery and, since 1865, Welsh has been spoken in Patagonia. And this weekend, the two great nations share another passion – MotoGP™ racing! It’s race day on Sunday at the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, where the world’s greatest motorcycle races will duel at the Autódromo Termas de Rio Hondo.
There is seldom a clear favourite in MotoGP™, but the superstar in pre-season testing and at the opening race of 2017 in Qatar was last year’s British MotoGP™ winner Maverick Viñales, who won on his Movistar Yamaha team debut. His team-mate Valentino Rossi wasn’t far behind, and this weekend will mark the nine-time world champion’s 350th world championship start. And when your team-mate is the first person on the grid you’d like to beat, expect some Yamaha fireworks this weekend!
Rossi won in Argentina in 2015, and his main rival that day was the current World Champion, Marc Marquez. Choosing the wrong tyre in Qatar, Marquez kept it on the road and showed the same commitment to the long game that took him to the title last year – and Argentina could be a good place for a planned attack. Dani Pedrosa, on the other side of the Repsol Honda box, is a man Marquez consider a threat in Argentina too – with the Termas de Rio Hondo track more suited to the bike, and the number 26 having been a quietly threatening presence on the pre-season timesheets.
The layout of Argentina is also good reading for the Ducati Team. With a double podium on the cards last year until disaster struck at the final corner, the Borgo Panigale factory have shown form both at the venue and in 2017 with Andrea Dovizioso’s stunning ride to second in Qatar. Jorge Lorenzo had a difficult first race, but the five-time World Champion will have more track time under his belt after a private test in Jerez, and the conditions should be more constant than the ever-changing Qatar.
Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) could be a dark horse again, after getting in the mix at Losail. At mistake cost him a result but the Italian’s pace was right up there, and the Suzuki is another bike that could gain from the Termas de Rio Hondo track. Team-mate and top rookie in Qatar Alex Rins may have a harder time, after crashing in training and travelling to Argentina with a fractured ankle.
The rookie stealing the headlines in Qatar was Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), after team-mate Jonas Folger did the same in preseason. Zarco took the lead and stunned the big hitters first time out despite his crash, and both Tech 3 rookies will be looking to convert their pace into positions in Argentina.
British riders John McPhee and Scott Redding will be chasing repeat performances, after both making excellent starts to the season. Scotsman McPhee was a superb second in the Moto3™ race in Qatar, while Gloucestershire’s Redding’s seventh place in the MotoGP race was a tremendous morale booster.
After a difficult time in pre-season testing on the Octo Pramac Ducati, Redding hit top form in Qatar and finished under ten seconds behind race winner Vinales. In the same Qatar race, Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith made his factory debut on the new KTM. Together with team-mate Pol Espargaro he was delighted to finish the first ‘proper’ grand prix for the team and will be moving on to finish in the points at the next two races in Argentina and Austin two weeks later.
Moto2™ Grand Prix winner Sam Lowes also finished the race on his MotoGP debut. The Lincolnshire rider gained valuable experience on the Gresini Aprilia and will be encouraged by the sixth place finish of his team-mate Aleix Espargaro. Qatar was a tough weekend for double MotoGP grand prix winner Cal Crutchlow. After a big crash in practice from the LCR Honda, he crashed again in the early stages of the race. The Isle of Man based Midlander bravely remounted but fell again when the throttle stuck open. He will be seeking a change of fortune at the circuit where he finished third two years ago.
Oban-based McPhee gave the British Talent Honda team a tremendous debut in Qatar in an eight rider race for victory under the floodlights. It was his first grand prix since a serious injury sustained at the Australian Grand Prix in November last year and the 22-year old can expect another big Moto3™ fight in the 21 lap race on Sunday. Wiltshire’s Danny Kent was 13th in the Qatar Moto2 race after impressing during practice. He returns to the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit where he won the Moto3 race two years on route to the world title.
BT SPORT 2
Friday 7 April: 13.00 – 20.00
Saturday 8 April: 13.00 – 20.15
Sunday 9 April: 13.30 – 22.00
Highlights Monday April 10 19.00
talkSport2 will also have live commentary of the race on Sunday.