Maverick Viñales continues to helm MotoGP and has both hands firmly locked on the tiller after winning the Grand Prix of Argentina ahead of factory Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow. Round two of eighteen at a busy, fast and fabulous Termas de Rio Hondo saw shock crashes by the likes of Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa among others but Viñales kept cool to maintain a 100% win record since jumping on the works M1, and Rossi – in his 350th GP - also lifted his second podium trophy in row despite set-up concerns with the front of the #46 Yamaha. Crutchlow made the box for the first time since his historic win at Phillip Island in Australia last year.
The fourteenth Grand Prix in Argentina and fourth at Rio Hondo got underway with Marquez leaping into first place as pacesetter from Pole Position. The world champion sensationally crashed out before half race distance and Viñales was able to hit the lead with his podium buddies for company; the twenty two year old was not headed until the chequered flag while Rossi was able to get the better of his British rival with five laps to go.
“It was a difficult race and I started quite good but Marc started so hard,” Viñales said, who now has a 14 point lead over Rossi in the standings. “When I saw him crash I thought ‘bring home the maximum amount of points’. The bike was incredible so thanks to the team because they are doing a good job.”
“On the grid my mechanic said to me ‘this is the 350; make a good race’,” said Rossi. “I felt relax, concentrated and pretty good. It was a great battle with Cal at great pace but I had a little bit more. I felt good physically and this is a great result for all the team and for me.”
“[that was] A fantast ride by Vale again, and he’s not had that pace all weekend,” reviewed Cruthchlow on his first race finish of the year after crashing out of Losail for the season-opener two weeks ago. “The pace was not that fast I was managing the bike but I had a warning light. I pushed for Maverick a few times and I thought it was possible to catch him. When Vale went by I knew I had 5 seconds [gap]. It was easy to follow him but I had that light again. Anyway this is great for team, points for Honda and good to come back from disappointment of Qatar.”
Monster Tech3 Yamaha were enthused to see their MotoGP ‘rookies’ Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger slotting into fifth and sixth positions respectively; for Zarco in particular his top five result represented a very decent first allotment of points in the class and was a worthy way to banish the harsh taste of Qatar where he led the field but ended up buried in the Losail gravel.
Moto2 was all about Franco. The EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider elongated his dominance from Qatar directly into the curves and dips of Rio Hondo. Morbidelli leapt into the lead from the first lap and maintained a small cushion over teammate Alex Marquez with Miguel Oliveira in third place. Two weeks after celebrating his very first Grand Prix success the Italian/Brazilian went back-to-back and is clearly the rider to catch in the intermediate division. Disappointment befell Marquez as he flipped out of contention for the win on the last lap.
“This is an amazing feeling, two victories in a row, just incredible and I hope I can keep this momentum going,” ‘Morbido’ said. “I was pushing really hard from the start and very quickly I saw that Álex was going very fast close behind so I was ready for the fight. With a lap to go I had + 0.3s and pushed even harder for the win and did not know Álex had crashed until I took the chequered flag. It was a pity his race ended like this.”
Further down the order fellow VR46 Academy stars Lorenzo Baldassarri (4th), Pecco Bagnaia (7th) and Luca Marini (12th) also enjoyed the challenge of the Argentina layout while Moto3 was again the grip of Joan Mir, John McPhee and Jorge Martin.
MotoGP gathers together again in two weeks time at the wonderfully sweeping Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.