2016 Argentina MotoGP Upside/Downside | Odd Weekend of Racing

2016 Argentina MotoGP Upside/Downside | Odd Weekend of Racing Valentino Rossi
Yamaha's Valentino Rossi

2016 Argentina MotoGP Upside/Downside Commentary

It was an odd weekend at Termas de Rio Hondo during the Argentina round of the 2016 MotoGP World Championship. Between the unpredictable weather, the new-spec Michelin tire troubles, and dirty track, it was a huge challenge for the teams and riders. To be on the Upside, you had to be able to roll with the punches. Caution was rewarded at Argentina, and greed punished.

2016 Argentina MotoGP – The Upside

2016 Argentina MotoGP Upside/Downside | Odd Weekend of Racing Valentino Rossi
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi

1. Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi

Although Rossi lost touch with Repsol Honda’s Marc Márquez after the mid-point bike switch, he was still in the mix for second place as the race was coming to a conclusion.

At the end, Rossi didn’t have the front-end confidence to hang with Team Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. But when the two GP16 pilots came together and went down, Rossi was there to claim second without winning the fight. Skill wins championships, but every rider will take a gift of seven lucky championship points.

2. Repsol Honda’s Marc Márquez

With all the problems Honda had in the preseason testing, and the last minute tire issues after Márquez dominated in Argentina MotoGP qualifying, it was hard to know what was going to happen in the mixed condition race.

After dicing with Rossi for the first half of the race, Márquez leapt (literally) ahead in the pits, got some help for Aprilia’s Alvaro Bautista when reentering the track, and left Rossi in the dust. Winning by seven seconds is a huge confidence-builder for Márquez, and he also benefited from two major competitors crashing out, and a third finishing last. Márquez leads the series by eight points after two rounds—not bad.

3. Aspar Ducati’s Eugene Laverty

Yes, you can point to all the crashes and the odd structure of the race, but the fact is that Laverty was the top Ducati at the Argentina GP. Laverty kept the bike on two wheels, and passed fellow Ducati rider, Avinta Racing’s Hector Barbara, on the final lap. Laverty’s 13 points is four more than he scored in all of 2015, so this was a huge race for him.

2016 Argentina MotoGP Upside/Downside | Odd Weekend of Racing Maverick Vinales
Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales

4. Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Viñales

Yes, Viñales went down the in the notorious Turn 1 on Lap 18 when he hit a damp patch, leaving him with zero points in Argentina. However, the miscue happened late in the race while he was riding in a podium position, and within striking distance of second-place Rossi. Viñales goal is top six finishes at each round; that is over, but he knows going into Austin MotoGP this weekend that he’s capable of finishing on the box.

5. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa

Certainly, Pedrosa was not satisfied with his performance at Argentina. Finishing 28 seconds behind a teammate is not cause for celebration, but finishing on the podium is, no matter how you get there. With those third place points, Pedrosa sits third in the MotoGP World Championship standings, two points ahead of defending Champion Jorge Lorenzo on the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1.

2016 Argentina MotoGP – The Downside

1. Ducati’s Andrea Iannone

Two races; zero points. That pretty much says it all. Iannone said he wasn’t pushing too hard at Qatar, but he definitely was at Argentina. Not only did he DNF for the fourth-consecutive race, Iannone also took out his teammate, lost a podium finish within view of the checkered flag, and will be docked three grid positions at Austin for his “optimism.” It is time for this mercurial rider to turn things around and make it to the finish.

2. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow

Crutchlow had his eyes on the podium, but he managed to crash not once, but twice. The first one followed a collision with Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaró, and the second was due to hitting the paint wrong in a corner. That second miscue put Crutchlow out of the race for good. Like Iannone, Crutchlow has started two races and has not a single point to show for it. Barring injury, you can’t start off worse than that.

3. Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo

Except for qualifying, in which he put himself on the front row of the grid, Lorenzo never looked confident. With the mixed conditions, which Lorenzo is never going to favor, the reigning champion never got going. In sixth after the first lap was completed, Lorenzo was soon passed by Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda’s Jack Miller. Miller went down shortly thereafter, and three laps later Lorenzo was down at out. After leaving Qatar with a win, Lorenzo has to make up a DNF. That won’t be easy at Austin, where Márquez has proved unbeatable.

2016 Argentina MotoGP Upside/Downside | Odd Weekend of Racing Ducati Andrea Dovi and Iannone
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone

4. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso

Chasing the championship is going to be difficult for Dovizioso, and the last thing he needed was to have a podium taken away less that two turns from the checkered flag. However, that’s what happened when teammate Iannone came in too far inside and lost the front end.

To his credit, Dovizioso remounted and pushed his bike over the line as the final finisher in 13th, giving him three championship points. Instead of being just one point behind leader Márquez, Dovi sits in fifth place in the standings, and 18 points out of 1st.

5. Aspar Ducati’s Yonny Hernandez

You want to do well at the only race on your home continent, and it just didn’t happen for the likable Ducati racer. Hernandez was in the points after two laps, but went down on Lap 3 and his race was over. He also was the first crasher at Qatar, so he has zero points in two rounds. Like Iannone, Crutchlow, and Avinta Racing Ducati’s Loris Baz, all of whom have crashed out of both of the first two races, Hernandez needs to find a way to finish.


  1. A reasonably keen observer would have noted – as both Marquez and Rossi explained immediately after the race – that during the first half of the event, Rossi’s bike had the edge and he was pulling away from Marquez at the rate of about one second per lap.

    After the bike swap, the opposite was true; Marquez’ bike had the grip and feel his first bike had lacked, and Rossi’s second bike was off just a bit on setup, costing him a little less than a second a lap.

    What sets both these riders apart from those fighting for the podium is racecraft. Marquez seems to be maturing under the tutelage of Valentino Rossi, understanding that finishing a race is more important than getting even or playing games on the racetrack. He had the right bike with a great setup (he was obviously very comfortable riding at the winning pace, not struggling but enjoying the ride) and won the race cleanly and fairly.

    Rossi immediately sensed the difference in the new machine and backed off just enough to avoid crashing, but maintaining a pace that allowed him to finish second. That is called superb racecraft and stellar strategy.

    Vinales was riding well, on a Suzuki which is clearly going to be a contender this year. But he was too desperate to get that first Suzuki podium and overreached. That was a rider issue, not a tire, setup, or bike problem.

    Finally we come to the Ducatis. Dovizioso is an excellent rider on a capable bike, but even with the Ducati’s slightly superior top speed, could not match the cornering speeds and technique of either Marquez or Rossi when those riders were on properly set up motorcycles. Even with his latter bike, Rossi was still very competitive, and Dovizioso and Iannone had to ride on the ragged edge to attack for the podium. Not surprisingly, Iannone pulled a bonehead move and removed both himself and his teammate from the contest.

    This is what Rossi is all about. Even on a bike that was not as competitive as any of his rivals in the second half of the race, he was able to create just enough psychological discord in Vinales, Iannone, and Lorenzo (Jorge was falling behind and pushing to catch up when he lost the front) to cause these riders to make serious mistakes. They took themselves out of the race when they could have finished and taken some points. Dovizioso was riding well, but was caught in Iannone’s error.

    Some of these riders seem to have watched “Talledega Nights” and think the aphorism “If you’re not first, you’re last” is a strategy, not a slogan. Lucky for Dovi that unlike NASCAR, the MotoGP rules allow you to push your bike across the line and receive points.

  2. Appreciate that, and hope you are getting right back up to speed after your test of the Sidi boots. ;-)


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