2017-04-10 10:01:31+0000 - Los Angeles, California, United States

MotoGP Round 2 Recap: Vinales Does It Again!

The Grand Prix of Argentina; The Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit. More than a quarter of the grid crashes out and Vinales wins his second race on the Yamaha.

Today marked the second round of the 2017 MotoGP world championship held at the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit in Argentina. With so many team changes and a handful of promising rookies it has been increasingly clear that this season is anybody’s to win and today only further proved that. The qualifying sessions we saw over the weekend did give us a glimpse of who some of the fastest riders for today’s race will likely be, but as always, when the lights went out at 4:00PM, anything could happen.

At the start of the race pole position was held by Marc Marquez who crashed on Friday in qualifying but still managed to clock in with the best time, putting him on the front row of the grid which is by no means out of the ordinary. The other two riders sharing the front row with last year’s world champion however came as more of a surprise with both rookie Karel Abraham and Cal Crutchlow on their older satellite Ducati’s.

The Race

Marquez got a fantastic start and easily clinched the holeshot with a determined Crutchlow not far behind. Having crashed out of the past couple races, Crutchlow spent today racing with a calm and collected attitude allowing him to ride consistently throughout the second round (today’s race). Abraham managed to hold onto third place as Dani Pedrosa, Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi fought to get towards the front of the pack early on. Vinales who has displayed better and better control of the M1 over the past few months seemed to take a trick out of Lorenzo’s book and rode the entire race as if on rails, with most of his lap times breaking into the 1:49’s. While all eyes were on the front runners, Jorge Lorenzo crashed out on his Factory Ducati machine, exacerbating what is now inarguably a bad start to his first season with Ducati. Andrea Iannone’s Suzuki supposedly made contact with Lorenzo’s machine resulting in the crash. This marks the second time Iannone has caused the #99 rider to crash out of a premier class race. Though the replay would suggest that Iannone was not at fault this time.

Rossi and Vinales snuck past Abraham’s 2015 Ducati where they both then set their sights on Crutchlow, who held onto second place, followed by Vinales then Rossi. Abraham was then in a pack along with Johann Zarco, Jonas Folger, Andrea Dovizioso and Pedrosa. Vinales who won the opening round in Qatar wasted no time getting on Crutchlow’s rear wheel, positioning himself to pass the thirty-one-year-old Englishman so he could begin the highly anticipated battle we’ve all been waiting for: Vinales Vs Marquez!. A victory today for the #25 pilot would make him the first Yamaha rider to win the first two rounds of the premier class season since Wayne Rainey back in the 1990 season.

Anticipating his new rival’s strategy, Marquez made sure to put the hammer down early on, temporarily throwing his concern for tire-wear-management out the window and increasing his lead over Crutchlow by more than a full second by the end of the first lap. With twenty-four laps remaining the field was lead by Marquez, then Crutchlow, Vinales, Rossi, Petrucci, Pedrosa and then Abraham who had continued to lose positions. Behind him was Folger, then Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista, making up the top ten. Petrucci then overtook Pedrosa while Marquez demonstrated his confidence on a fresh set of Michelins and stretched his lead to one-point-eight seconds by the end of the second lap. Clocking a lap that was a half second faster than the rest of the front runners.

Even though Crutchlow opted for a hard front tire option which made late/out braking him incredibly difficult for the Movistar Yamaha riders, Vinales managed to perform an overtake that would stick
at turn seven. Now the question on everyone’s mind was; Could Vinales catch his fellow Spaniard on the Repsol with a full twenty-two laps remaining? Petrucci and Pedrosa continued to swap positions with a series of overtakes on each other.

At the start of the next lap it seemed like a battle between the two young Spaniards was inevitable until turn two when Marquez lost the RC213V’s front end and crashed out, meaning his battle with Vinales would have to come another day. The top three riders were now Vinales, Crutchlow and Rossi. Crutchlow at this time continued to insure his position and displayed an impressive performance on the LCR Honda which was sandwiched between the blue Yamahas. Zarco, who started the race from fourteenth on the grid was able to slowly move up the pack, all the way to sixth place.

Alex Rins then crashed out on his GSXRR on turn thirteen which made Suzuki’s day go from bad to worse after Iannone suffered a ride through penalty for a false start at the beginning of the race. Between the two mishaps the Ecstar Suzuki team lost quite a few points. Riders then began to pile up behind Petrucci with Pedrosa looking for a way through to no avail, followed by Zarco, Bautista and Dovizioso, making up the pack that was battling for fourth place. Meanwhile Vinales who was leading the race had increased his lead over Crutchlow by a full second. On turn five with roughly sixteen laps to go, the LCR Honda pilot ran slightly wide, enabling a tenacious Rossi to close the gap.

Vinales’ lead was now one-point-five seconds with fifteen laps remaining. Two-time Moto2 champion and Premier class rookie, Zarco, finally found a way passed Petrucci on his Monster Tech 3 M1, putting him in fourth place. Followed by Petrucci, Pedrosa, Bautista, Dovizioso, Espargaro and Folger, rounding out the top ten. On turn five of the next lap Pedrosa overtook Petrucci by riding up the inside, landing the remaining Repsol pilot in fifth place on the rear wheel of Zarco. Right away Pedrosa made his move on Zarco, overtaking the promising rookie on turn nine with the move just barley sticking. Bautista then passed Petrucci, making it clear that so far, the action to watch from today’s race was now the battle for fourth.

A gearbox problem rendered the machine of Sam Lowes unraceable and the premier class rookie was forced to retire to Gresini (Factory) Aprilia garage. Vinales now had a lead of two seconds, meaning a victory for him would largely come down to tire conservation in the final laps so long as no threat emerged from the pack that followed the budding superstar.

Having made his way past Petrucci and Zarco, Pedrosa had an ample amount of wide open track ahead of him and he right away began attempting to lessen the gap standing between him and Rossi. On turn two of the next lap it would appear Pedrosa was pushing a little too hard coming out of turn one. With a throttle that was opened too wide, the short rider came out of turn one with his rear wheel sliding. As soon as he began his turn into the second corner a low side sent him and his machine (separately) tumbling and flipping through the gravel. This would not be a happy day in the Repsol garage with both of their riders crashing out from a top five position on the same turn of the same race only a handful of laps apart. Unaware of the drama behind him, Vinales further increased his lead. The race was more than halfway over, twelve more laps.

Aleix Esprargaro who had started the race from the third row on the grid (eighth place) was unexpectedly involved in a collision with Dovizioso who would be taken out of the Argentina GP for the second year in a row as the result of someone crashing into him. At least this year it didn’t happen on the final turn of the final lap, by his own teammate while leading the race. (that’s literally what happened last year). Nonetheless the seasoned Italian couldn’t have been happy with the Factory Aprilia rider, though he could be seen apologizing before the crash’s dust had even settled. (who knows whether that fell on deaf ears however). Both sets of Factory Ducati and Honda riders were now out of the race.

With ten laps to go Vinales still lead the race, followed by a distant Crutchlow then a not-so-distant Rossi. Behind them the next pack was now lead by Zarco, then Bautista, Petrucci, Folger, Scott Redding, Jack Miller and then Abraham finishing out the top ten at that time. The next three laps would prove to be uneventful aside from Rossi clearly setting up an attack on the #35 LCR Honda pilot.

With just seven laps left to go, Vinales had now gained an advantage by a whopping two-point-five seconds over his closest follower. On turn five of that lap Rossi finally pulled the trigger and made his move on Crutchlow, passing him up the inside in an overtake that would easily stick. Not bad for his three-hundred-and-fiftieth Grand Prix appearance. Right away it would appear a mature Crutchlow seemingly opted to take the third place points, rather than jeopardize his spot on the podium in an attempt to overtake the doctor.

Bautista was in a distant fourth place behind Crutchlow by around three seconds, comfortably leading Zarco who also possessed a substantial lead over an even more distant Petrucci who has not finished in the top six since Sepang in 2015. The next three laps were again lacking in noteworthy action without any changes in position.

With less than three laps remaining Folger, on turn five managed to overtake Petrucci who had selected soft tire options that were now limiting his ability to push the bike as hard as he needed to maintain his lead. Four of the top six riders were piloting M1s, proving what a fantastic job the folks at Yamaha have done developing this machine over the years.

On the final lap it appeared it was Vinales’ race to win if he could manage to keep from crashing, the same went for Rossi and Crutchlow’s podium positions. And that’s just what would happen. Vinales and Rossi would not only finish in first and second, but will also now be in that same position overall in terms of over-all standing (points) so far this season. Crutchlow finished third in front of Bautista.

Zarco who led the opening round race for a handful of laps completed his first premier class race, finishing in fifth just ahead of his fellow rookie and Monster Tech 3 Rider, Folger. Behind Folger was Petrucci who finished in seventh place, behind him was Redding in eighth and Jack Miller in ninth. Abraham finished in tenth infront of Loris Baz. Tito Rabat finished twelfth, Hector Barbera thirteenth, Pol Espargaro fourteenth, Bradley Smith fifteenth and Iannone sixteenth, with the rest of the grid going home with a DNF.

While this race probably won’t be remembered for much more than it being Vinales’ second win, and “the one all those riders crashed out of”, a total of six. It was nonetheless some solid racing. Rossi who started the race in seventh on the grid managed to finish second, making this the thirty-fifth time that the doctor has come from outside the top six and still finished on the podium in the premier class. The race today also marked the thirty-eight-year-old’s three-hundred-and-fiftieth Grand Prix event. With Movistar Yamaha seeing both of their riders on the podium yet again, it was as good a day for them as it was bad a day for the Factory Ducati and Honda teams. Crutchlow did a fantastic job of holding onto his position for the majority of the race, not that a podium finish is ever something to knock. KTM saw their riders score the manufacturer’s first point in the premier class. When you race at the highest level even small victories are still victories to be celebrated.

Some of this season’s rookies also further proved themselves. Learning how to manage tire-wear and figuring out how the fuel level effects the geometry and physics of a MotoGP machine takes some getting used to, even when coming from the Moto2 class and so far the 2017 rookies have thoroughly impressed. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha saw both their rookie riders finish in the top six which must be reassuring to them. Zarco started today’s race in fourteenth place on the grid and finished in the top five.

If today made anything clear, it’s that Lorenzo and Ducati might have a beyond frustrating season until they get the Desmoseddici GP17 set up optimally, and that Vinales has a serious shot at his first premier class world championship so long as the weather allows for it. The twenty-two-year-old is undeniably fast, but his lack of experience on a wet track is noticeable and could be his undoing. Also he didn't have to really face Marquez today who did have a decent lead on Vinales so if Marquez can manage to keep the bike from ending up in the infield Vinales could have a real speed bump on his road to the championship. The only injury today was to Rins who suffered a recent MX injury just prior to today’s race which he appeared to reinsure with today’s crash. As of now there is no word on the state or extent of his injury(s?). Other than that, the six other riders who crashed today walked away unscathed, albeit unhappy. With all the team changes and rookies, along with a new circuit and new internal winglets, 2017 is shaping up to be a good one, especially if your name is Maverick.

Final Results

  1. Maverick Viñales ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 41m 45.060s
  2. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 41m 47.975s
  3. Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) 41m 48.814s
  4. Alvaro Bautista ESP Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP16) 41m 51.583s
  5. Johann Zarco FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 42m 0.564s
  6. Jonas Folger GER Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 42m 3.301s
  7. Danilo Petrucci ITA Octo Pramac Racing (Desmosedici GP17) 42m 5.106s
  8. Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Racing (Desmosedici GP16) 42m 10.540s
  9. Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 42m 10.725s
  10. Karel Abraham CZE Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP15) 42m 11.463s
  11. Loris Baz FRA Reale Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP15) 42m 12.012s
  12. Tito Rabat ESP Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 42m 26.935s
  13. Hector Barbera ESP Reale Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP16) 42m 27.830s
  14. Pol Espargaro ESP Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (RC16) 42m 28.145s
  15. Bradley Smith GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (RC16) 42m 28.512s
  16. Andrea Iannone ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 42m 31.279s
    Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP17) DNF
    Aleix Espargaro ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) DNF
    Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) DNF
    Sam Lowes GBR Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP)* DNF
    Alex Rins ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)* DNF
    Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) DNF
    Jorge Lorenzo ESP Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP17) DNF

*=rookie

You can watch the full race in the video below.....

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