Only two of 18 rounds in 2015 MotoGP are complete, and the battle for supremacy already brewing. But it’s not just between the factory Yamaha and Honda prototypes as it has been since 2008. There is another manufacturer in the batch – one that only earned a single MotoGP title in 2007 with Casey Stoner at the controls – Ducati.
Yamaha won the opening round in Qatar with nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi on the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1, and last week at Circuit of the Americas, Marc Marquez was victorious aboard the Repsol Honda RC213V.
But finishing second in both of those races was Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso on the GP15, which was developed under new Team Manager Luigi Dall’Igna of Aprilia World Superbike fame.
Yes – the factory Ducati GP15s of Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone are strong, but it’s going to be hard to slow Marquez down as the series takes no time off and heads from Texas directly to Argentina’s Termas de Rio Hondo.
This is the second-straight year South America’s Termas de Rio Hondo has been featured on the MotoGP schedule, and the 12th time GP racing has visited Argentina (the first was Buenos Aires in 1961).
The 22-year-old Marquez began the season off with a fifth-place finish. It sounds un-Marquez like, but the two-time MotoGP Champion’s performance was easily the most impressive in Qatar. Why? Due to a mishap, the Spaniard ran wide on turn one, rejoining in 25th – dead last. But he began picking riders off, and finished an impressive fifth.
It was a much different story at Circuit of the Americas; he arrived there with a perfect record of winning all races from pole since the track’s inception in 2013, and kept that record perfected after winning the race once again from pole. The dominate victory in Austin was also Marquez’s 20th in the premier class, and he is now equal to two-time 500cc World Champion Freddie Spencer. Marquez now carries some serious momentum into Argentina this weekend.
Last year, Marquez didn’t necessarily rule during 2014 Argentina MotoGP; he began slow, but come race day he found his rhythm at the 2.986-mile circuit containing 14 corners. When the 25-lap race was complete, Marquez beat teammate Dani Pedrosa to the line by nearly two seconds. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo would take the final podium position.
Marquez is now ready for a repeat performance – especially after regaining his confidence in Texas: “After a good weekend in Austin, I am feeling relaxed and confident again. Now we travel straight to Argentina for the next round and we have a good momentum which I hope to continue this coming weekend. Argentina is a circuit that I like and it’s the second year we visit Termas de Río Hondo. We had many fans there last year so I hope they all come to support us again this year and we can put on a good show for them.”
As for his teammate, Pedrosa remains sidelined due to recovery from arm-pump surgery. Riding in his place once again is Team HRC test rider Hiroshi Aoyama.
Marquez’s biggest threats will arrive from the factory Yamaha duo of Rossi and Lorenzo, and the factory Ducati duo of Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, which gave Ducati its first double-podium at Qatar since 2010.
Rossi finished third in Austin, and heads into Argentina with a one-point lead over Dovizioso. Rossi just missed the podium at last year’s MotoGP in Argentina.
Ahead of the race, Rossi says “I’m happy to go to Argentina because I like the track. We hope that there will be a better condition of the tarmac compared to last year, because the track and the lay out are good. It’s also not a bad circuit for our YZR-M1, but first we take a few days of rest and then we‘ll try to be focused and prepared for the race.”
Rossi’s teammate, two-time MotoGP Champion Lorenzo, finished fourth after some complications in both rounds; in Qatar, it was an issue with his HJC lid, and in Austin it was bronchitis. Regardless, due to his pair of fourths, he only trails points-leader Rossi by 15 points.
Dovizioso has shown the competitive nature of the GP15, and will fight once again for another podium. Last season, Dovi could only manage ninth in Argentina. But his teammate Iannone finished sixth aboard the Pramac Racing Ducati; Iannone, who finished third in Qatar and fifth in Texas, is looking for better results now that he’s on the factory GP15. He is currently fourth in the standings with 27 points, a point ahead of Lorenzo.
The leading satellite rider is Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith, who is tied for sixth place with fellow compatriot Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow). Smith and Crutchlow both have 18 points.
The track will be new to Crutchlow, considering he missed last season due to injury. Smith should have an advantage, though; he beat his teammate Pol Espargaro to seventh last season in Argentina.
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing’s Scott Redding will be seeking redemption on his RC213V after suffering a last-lap crash in Austin. The Team Suzuki Ecstar team of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales both finished in the top 10 in Austin, and will look to continue developing the new GSX-RR.
Also crashing in Austin was Pramac Racing Ducati’s Yonny Hernandez, who will also seek some redemption in Argentina. Things were different in Austin for his teammate Danilo Petrucci; he scored his first top-10 finish for the satellite team, and seeks even better results at Termas de Rio Hondo.
Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera leads the open-class riders with five points, two more than the sole American in MotoGP – Aspar MotoGP Team Honda RC213V-RS pilot Nicky Hayden.
CWM LCR’s Jack Miller is another Open class rider seeking better performances as he adapts to the prototypes. He did well in Argentina last season, taking third in Moto3.
As for the Factory Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, it earned its first points in Austin with 15th from Alvaro Bautista. His teammate Marco Melandri was forced to retire due to transmission issues.
2015 Argentina MotoGP TV Schedule
Fox Sports 1 will provide live coverage of 2015 Argentina MotoGP beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST.