There was drama even before lights out for the MotoGP Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina at Termas de Rio Hondo. With the wet/dry conditions hard to judge, the race was delayed as the majority of the grid went back into pitlane to switch tyres.
But polesitter Jack Miller made the right choice to begin with, and sat alone on pole. Although the rest of the field should have been forced to race the tires they’d chosen, they were allowed to switch tires and then line up a few rows back in order to not all start from pitlane.
As the field came back round to line up for attempt number two at lights out, champion Marc Marquez stalled on the grid and jumpstarted his Repsol Honda. He was told to start from pitlane but instead took his original position, creating quite a scene in the process.
With pandemonium reigining, the lights went out and Miller took off from his lonely pole position to get the lead. Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa took second, with Johann Zarco initially in third before Marquez struck as the Frenchman had a moment. From there, Marquez picked his way forward to slot in behind Miller, as Zarco clipped Pedrosa and Dani found himself on a wet part of the track and high-sided.
Soon enough, Marquez’ pitboard showed ‘Ride Through Penalty’ and the next bolt of drama hit the race. Miller was back in the lead and being hunted down by a group of three: Zarco, Alex Rins and Cal Crutchlow.
Marquez—back out on track—was lighting up the timesheets immediately, before an incident saw him nudge Aleix Espargaro into the weeds and Marquez was told to lose one position. That done and the bit then back between his teeth, it was game on for the number 93 to salvage as much as he could – which, by laptimes, seemed it may be an awesome recovery.
Back at the front, Rins led briefly before an error, and Miller then suffered his own. Crutchlow was able to move through to lead from Zarco and the three able to pull away from Miller.
Marquez’s drama was far from done, however. On the fight back, he’d picked off Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati and honed in on his bitter rival Valentino Rossi. In a replay of his Espargaro buffoonery, Marquez lunged up inside of Rossi and pushed the ‘Doctor’ into the wet weeds. Able to get back in the race and restarted, Rossi was left far down the order as the incident lit the fuse on the race and the rivalry once again.
Marquez is told to get lost by Rossi’s MoviStar Yamaha crew:
Rossi talks about Marquez here:
The fight at the front, meanwhile, saw Crutchlow and Zarco able to just pull away from Rins to duel it out over the final sector – and the Brit keeping ahead to take a stunning third Grand Prix victory. Zarco took second for another impressive visit to the rostrum, with Rins visiting that podium for the first time in the premier class on his Suzuki, pulling a big wheelie over the line.
Miller took fourth after not quite being able to make up the ground to the front, ahead of Marquez on track.
As the flag fell, another penalty for the number 93 came up – a ride through, or 30 seconds added to his race time. That means Marquez finishes 18th, and takes no points home from Argentina.
Viñales therefore takes fifth, ahead of Dovizioso and an impressive ride for Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing). Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) came home eighth, with Hafizh Syahrin ninth and top rookie for Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) completed the top ten, just ahead of KTM’s best result yet in 2018 in P11 as Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory) took solid points.
The Championship fuse is lit, rivalries are heating up and Crutchlow heads to Texas as the points leader for the first time ever – the first British leader since the 1970s and an Independent Team rider to boot.
Marquez, meanwhile, faces a mountain to fight back – with his first zero of the year marked in the dramatic and extraordinary Argentina GP. Texan turf awaits the king of COTA on Sunday 22nd April.
Race highlights here:
story and photos courtesy of MotoGP with additional commentary by Tim Hailey
MotoGP Race Results
1st Independent Team Rider
1 – Cal Crutchlow (GBR) HONDA 40’36.342
2 – Johann Zarco (FRA) YAMAHA + 0.251
3 – Alex Rins (SPA) SUZUKI + 2.501