In 1979 the hair was longer, the jeans wider and music was available only on vinyl: this was also the year the last time a British racer led the MotoGP standings but all that changed when Cal Crutchlow grasped his third career Grand Prix win and his first of 2018 by charging through the damp tarmac of Termas Rio Hondo to claim a bizarre and explosive Argentine fixture.
The delayed start, the sense of chaos as 99% of the MotoGP pack elected to rush to the pitlane and switch to slick tyres with a rainy second GP of the season suddenly drying in the heat, a reformed and staggered grid, a dramatic crash for Dani Pedrosa and three penalties for world champion Marc Marquez (one for hitting Aleix Espargaro and another knocking Valentino Rossi to the floor and out of the points) were all talking points but not the main focus of this frantically gripping contest.
“The headlines are here,” rebuked a determined Crutchlow in the post-race press conference. “These three guys on the podium; it was hard fought for everyone.”
The 31 year old LCR rider was not wrong. The tussle between the Brit, Monster Tech3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and Pole-sitter Jack Miller was the central pull of a close and captivating MotoGP race with the lead swapping through mistakes, traction-begging tyres and an element of strategy. It was the resolute Crutchlow – a rider with good previous form at Argentina – that held off Zarco and not only achieved a new landmark but also posted Honda’s 750 Grand Prix success.
“I knew I could win or finish second in the wet or dry, I had the pace here in the few last years,” he revealed. “I took minimal risk and stayed in fourth for a long time. I knew I could pick them off and be there at end of race. I won at the slowest possible speed. There was no need to take a risk for the championship. I felt comfortable and confident. The team have done a fantastic job all winter and pre-season and also Honda with the engine; I have to give credit to the team and to them.”
When asked at what point he thought the chequered flag might be seized #35 was also unshakeable.
“When I sat on the grid,” he said. “You have to have that mentality or you don't win or even finish the race. Sure, Marc [Marquez] had to pit [for a ride-through penalty] and it would have been more difficult with him [there] but in the end we won the race. You have to believe it immediately or it won’t happen. I played my cards when I needed to.”
Johann Zarco was another one who held a strong hand. The French star sprayed champagne for the first time in 2018 but was just 0.2 of a second away from the Honda at the finish line.
“A very difficult race today, I was pushing at maximum from the start to end,” #5 claimed. “I thought something was possible at the end…but Cal had the better pace and I tried to stay close if he made a mistake. I thought ‘maybe in corner 13…’ but I was also thinking about second at that point.”
Argentina was notable for Marco Bezzecchi’s maiden triumph in a typically robust and unpredictable Moto3 affair.
Two weeks and the next instalment of MotoGP cannot come soon enough. Marc Marquez has yet to be defeated at COTA in Austin but Crutchlow is now flying and spice has only been added to the broth with Valentino Rossi looking for retribution. Round three sparks up in two weeks.