2016 Argentina MotoGP Preview
Two weeks following the 2016 MotoGP season opener under the floodlights in Qatar, the series heads this weekend to Argentina’s Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. This is the third-consecutive year that South American circuit will be featured on the MotoGP calendar, and the 13th time GP racing has visited Argentina (the first was Buenos Aires in 1961).
Unlike Qatar, where the 21-rider MotoGP grid was able to spend three days testing ahead of the GP, nobody knows how the new Michelin tires and spec ECUs will perform in Argentina. The 25-lap race around the 2.99-mile circuit containing 14 corners will be the true testament of the 2016 MotoGP rule changes.
Michelin faces the biggest challenges considering it has zero testing there. MotoGP says front- and rear-tire options will be hard (yellow band) and medium (no band). Also, for the first time this season, the full wet and intermediate tires will be available if needed.
As he looks to continue defending his MotoGP title, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 pilot Jorge Lorenzo will seek his first win at the Argentinean circuit. The Spaniard had finished a best of third there in 2014 behind the Repsol Honda duo of Dani Pedrosa and winner Marc Marquez, and fifth last season when Italian teammate Valentino Rossi secured the 2015 Grand Prix of Argentina win.
Lorenzo completed dominated at Losail International Circuit in Qatar, earning not only the win but also the pole and fastest lap. He was joined on the Qatar MotoGP podium by Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez. As for Rossi, who has signed with the factory Yamaha squad through 2018, he just missed the podium.
The Italian who finished second at the season opener – Dovizioso – also finished second at Termas de Rio Hondo last season. Dovi and teammate Andrea Iannone are proving the strength of the new Ducati GP16, and are hoping to break Ducati’s six-year losing streak.
Iannone set an impressive top speed of 218.2 mph on Losail’s front straight, showing that this may be the quickest engine ever in MotoGP. Unfortunately Iannone crashed out of Qatar, but last season he finished fourth in Argentina.
Marquez and his team were able to tame down the aggressive nature of the RC213V in Qatar, and will look to replicate this in Argentina. Though the two-time MotoGP Champion had won at Termas de Rio Hondo in 2014, he crashed out last season. He and teammate Dani Pedrosa are continuing to get used to the new electronics on the RC213V, which require much more rider input.
Due to injury, Pedrosa was forced to miss last year’s round, making this only his second appearance at the Argentinean track. The same goes for LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, who missed the 2014 round due to injury.
The Brit, who finished on the podium last year in Argentina, will look to redeem himself after crashing out of the opening round in Qatar.
Two other riders that showed strength throughout testing – but were unable to replicate under full race conditions – were Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Vinales and Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati’s Scott Redding. Both riders proved they can be podium contenders, especially Vinales, who led the Phillip Island MotoGP test.
The only rider that will be missing from the grid is Redding’s teammate Danilo Petrucci, who broke his hand during a crash in Qatar testing. The official Ducati test rider, Michele Pirro, will substitute.
The 2016 Argentina MotoGP round gets underway at 9 a.m. local time Friday with the first of two practices for the day. Another two practices will precede qualifying on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix of Argentina. beIN will provide TV coverage; check your local listings for scheduling.
2016 MotoGP Championship Point Standings (after 1 of 18 rounds):