2014 Argentina MotoGP Preview
Last season, Argentina’s Termas de Rio Hondo circuit was set to debut on the MotoGP calendar. But due to travel warnings by the Spanish Government, the round was postponed.
Once the travel warning was lifted, and some homologation issues were settled late last year, the 2.986-mile circuit containing 14 corners was confirmed in January to host round 3 of the 2014 MotoGP Championship, which takes place this weekend.
This will be the 10th time the World Championship visits Argentina in South America. The last year was 1999 when, during the 500cc era, the American Kenny Roberts Jr. took the when at the Autodromo Oscar Galvez circuit in Buenos Aires. Termas de Rio Hondo now becomes the second track to host a round of World Championship racing in Argentina.
Heading into 2014 Argentina MotoGP, round 3 of 18, one rider is dominating – Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda RC213V pilot won the season opener at Qatar six weeks after fracturing his right leg in a dirt-track training crash.
He then followed this performance with a flawless performance two weeks ago at Texas’ Circuit of the Americas. Marquez led every session leading up to the Austin MotoGP, and topped off the weekend by leading all 21 laps of the race. And he completed the feat while being the only rider to use a hard rear Bridgestone slick; his unique riding style allows the hard tire to work on the RC213V. This provides Marquez with less tire degradation, something the remaining 22 riders continue to struggle with.
As he showed during his rookie season at the debut of Circuit of the Americas, Marquez has what it takes to quickly learn a new circuit such as the Termas de Rio Hondo. He’s now looking forward to learning Argentina, and hopefully continue his winning streak.
“Argentina will be a new track for most of us, some riders went a year ago but I don’t think the track surface was ideal so they were a little limited on the amount of laps they could do,” Marquez says. “I’m looking forward to visiting a new circuit and it will be nice for the fans. We will be looking to continue with the same momentum from the first two races of the season.”
The closest rival to Marquez so far this season is – not surprisingly – factory teammate Dani Pedrosa. He finished third at the season opener, and took third at COTA, though he ran a medium Bridgestone rear slick in both races.
As for the other factory team, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, one of its riders is doing well, and the other not so well. The latter is Jorge Lorenzo. The two-time MotoGP Champion suffered a first-lap crash at the season opener that ultimately caused a DNF, and he jumped the start at COTA, eventually finishing 10th.
The Spaniard Lorenzo has complained of lacking edge grip with the 2014 Bridgestone rubber. At Argentina, Lorenzo will continue to search for not only optimal setup on his YZR-M1, but also mental strength.
Lorenzo’s teammate Rossi fought hard with Marquez at Qatar, but though he slightly changed his riding style at COTA, he again dealt with tire degradation midway through the race. The nine-time World Champion of Italy will now work with his new crew chief Silvano Galbusera to overcome these issues, and hopefully get back to the podium at Argentina.
The final factory team, which runs under the open-option rules, is the Ducati Team. At COTA, Andrea Dovizioso delivered Ducati its first dry-race podium in over a year. The team continually struggled with the Desmosedici GP14 through the preseason, but the Italian Dovi has found a bit more in the setup, and hopes this will continue into Argentina.
As for his teammate, Cal Crutchlow will not start at Argentina. The Brit broke his throttle hand’s little finger during a crash at COTA. Following the wreck, he had a pin inserted into his finger, and this prevents him from using his front brake. Substituting for Crutchlow at Argentina will be Ducati Team Test Rider Michele Pirro.
As for the satellite teams, many have impressed, including LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, GO & FUN Honda’s Alvaro Baustia, and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. The latter two have battled intensely with each other, and though their team managers are likely on edge, it makes for a great show for the fans.
But Pramac Team Ducati’s Andrea Iannone has most impressed, especially at COTA. He kept the GP14 in podium contention at COTA, but then suffered front-tire degradation issues like Rossi; Iannone would eventually finish seventh.
Last year, Bautista and Bradl tested at Argentina, and will likely have an advantage over their satellite competitors.
And just like the preseason, the fastest of the open-class bikes (without factory backing like the Ducati Team) is once again NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro. He begins quickly, but seems to succumb to pressure through the race.
As for the other open-class riders, many are showing improvements, including Espargaro’s teammate Colin Edwards, GO&FUN’s Scott Redding, Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama, and Pramac’s Yonny Hernandez. The other riders to line up under the “Open” regulations are PBM’s Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes, Iodaracing’s Danilo Petrucci, Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham, as well as Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera and Mike di Meglio, MotoGP reports.
Following Bridgestone’s tire test there last year with Bautista, Bradl and Crutchlow, the tire manufacturer has opted to bring a symmetric rear, with both the fronts and rears set to be of the harder compounds to cope with the tyre-punishing track, MotoGP reports.
As the season heads into Argentina, Marquez has a perfect 50 points, 14 ahead of Pedrosa and 22 ahead of Rossi.
2014 Argentina MotoGP on TV
Fox Sports 1 will provide two hours of live coverage from Argentina’s Termas de Rio Hondo circuit beginning at noon ET Sunday, April 27.
2014 MotoGP Point Standings (after two of 18 rounds):
|5||Aleix ESPARGARO||Forward Yamaha||SPA||20|
|14||Colin EDWARDS||Forward Yamaha||USA||7|