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Rossi wins and Márquez tumbles in Argentine GP

© David Davies/PA Wire

By Dan Moakes
May 8 2015

With two races gone in the 2015 MotoGP championship season, there had been wins for both Yamaha and Honda, with the new Ducati also on the pace and on the podium. Perhaps the title contest was shaping up to be a contest between all three, so who would be top in Argentina?

Round three saw the first return visit to the new circuit at Termas de Río Hondo, where Repsol Honda man Marc Márquez had won the 2014 race. After his victory in Texas, no doubt Marc was looking to get on another roll as he aimed for his third MotoGP title. Once again his usual partner in the team, Dani Pedrosa, was being substituted by Hiroshi Aoyama as the Spaniard aimed to recover his fitness in time to race at home at the next event.

In qualifying it was once again Márquez who went fastest, taking yet another pole position. There was a mix of machinery in the leading places, with the Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso third and sixth, and the Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi fifth and eighth. The Pramac Ducati of Danilo Petrucci was seventh, and the customer Honda of LCR rider Cal Crutchlow was up in fourth. In only their third race back, the Suzuki team had a very promising run, with series rookie Maverick Viñales ninth and team-mate Aleix Espargaró beaten only by Márquez as he took second.

Tenth went to Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Yamaha), from Scott Redding (Marc VDS Honda) and then it was the Open class leader Héctor Barberá, riding the Avintia Ducati. Following on were Yonny Hernández (Pramac), Eugene Laverty (Aspar Honda), Aoyama, Stefan Bradl (Forward Yamaha), Karel Abraham (AB Honda), Pol Espargaró (Tech 3), Álvaro Bautistá (Aprilia), Nicky Hayden (Aspar), Jack Miller (LCR Honda), Loris Baz (Forward), Mike di Meglio (Avintia), Marco Melandri (Aprilia) and Alex de Angelis (Ioda ART).

The start of the race saw Aleix Espargaró go through on the inside of the first looping right-hander to take the lead, followed by Márquez, Lorenzo, Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Iannone, Petrucci and Rossi. The early contests for position saw Márquez fight through to regain P1, with Lorenzo responding to the efforts of both Crutchlow and Espargaró to take over in P2. Behind the first eight came Viñales, Smith, Hernández, Redding, Pol Espargaró, Bradl, Miller, Baz, Barberá, Laverty, Abraham, Hayden and the rest.

Márquez had opted for the softer compound rear Bridgestone tyre, and his pace at the front soon took him clear of the pursuit, building a lead of over three seconds. Aleix Espargaró went wide more than once as he started to lose out to the likes of Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Iannone, and in fact the same trio also got ahead of Lorenzo, with team-mate Rossi moving into sixth to run behind the Spaniard. Aleix was soon losing touch with this group, but was similarly clear of Petrucci in eighth. Hernández was next but not for long as a dramatic fire soon caught hold under the fairing of his Ducati and ended his efforts.

Smith soon moved into eighth position, with Petrucci heading Pol Espargaró, Redding, Bradl, Viñales, Miller, Barberá, Hayden, Baz, Aoyama, Laverty, di Meglio, Abraham and Bautistá. Meanwhile, Rossi had passed Lorenzo on the inside at the right-handed turn seven, with Jorge then starting to lose touch as Valentino joined in as the last of a four-man group contesting second position. Crutchlow was starting to run wide in some corners, and he therefore lost out to both Dovizioso and then Rossi, with Iannone dropping to fifth.

In contrast to Márquez, Rossi was running on the harder compound rear tyre and was obviously looking to move forward. He took over in second with a move on Dovizioso at turn seven, which put him four seconds behind the leader with fourteen laps left to run. Iannone passed Crutchlow for fourth, but these two were now starting to be dropped by the duo ahead. Later, Lorenzo would close in on them again. With ten laps to go, Rossi was now 3.5s behind Márquez and there was more to come.

As Rossi began to eke an advantage over Dovizioso, so his deficit to Márquez fell. With eight laps to go it was 2.7s, but three laps later it was only just over one second. Their rear tyres were key, with Marc’s not lasting the pace. With three to go, Valentino was right behind. On the penultimate lap he was able to make a move at the turn two looping left-hander, only to run wide. But at the right-handed turn five hairpin Rossi made it past on the inside for the corner. Márquez tried to respond on the way out but, with ‘the Doctor’ leaning for the change of direction into the fast left at turn six, the Honda clipped the rear of the Yamaha. In fact they touched twice, and it was Márquez who ended up crashing.

Rossi duly took the victory, with Dovizioso inheriting second place. Third had been close in the later stages, with Crutchlow just getting ahead of Iannone out of the final left at turn fourteen. Lorenzo was fifth, and the next group was headed by Smith, with Aleix Espargaró seventh, then Pol, from Redding, Viñales, Petrucci, Miller, Barberá, Baz, Bradl, Hayden, Laverty and di Meglio. Aoyama had been running just outside the points, but he made it a doubly bad day for Repsol Honda when he too crashed on the last lap.

With Valentino Rossi making it two wins from three races, it was three-time runner-up Andrea Dovizioso who continued as the closest challenger, and Marc Márquez’s crash leaving him down in fifth position overall. With Dani Pedrosa missing races and Jorge Lorenzo not yet on the podium, was the 2015 season going to cement Rossi’s return to the very pinnacle in MotoGP? We may know more when they return to Europe next time out.

Standings after three races: Rossi 66; Dovizioso 60; Iannone 40; Lorenzo 37; Márquez 36; Crutchlow 34; Smith 28; A.Espargaró 22; Petrucci, Viñales and P.Espargaró 15 ·· Open leader: Barberá.
Yamaha 66; Ducati 60; Honda 52; Suzuki 22; Forward Yamaha 2; Aprilia 1.

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