MEDIA RELEASE/MotoGP - Photo: supplied As weekends go, they don’t get much better than that…
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) has taken an impressive third ever Grand Prix victory in the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, besting Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on the final lap to earn the honour of winning the 750th GP race for Honda.
But the headlines must be shared, with drama for Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the reigning Champion accrued a number of penalties and clashed with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), with the fuse on the title fight now fired up and on full power.
There was drama even before lights out at Termas de Rio Hondo, with the conditions hard to judge and the race delayed as the majority of the grid went back into pitlane to switch tyres. That left Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller alone on pole after the Australian didn’t need to switch, and the grid lining 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, however, that wasn’t even the bigger headline – with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) stalling on the grid and not in his position. The number 93 was then able to get the bike going and took his position after riding the wrong way down the pitlane. He was then ordered to start from pitlane.
Miller had a subsantial advantage as the majority of the front row riders were issued with grid penalties. This gave Miller an effective hole shot into the first turn. He took off from his lonely pole position to get the lead. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) took second, with Zarco initially in third before Marquez struck as the Frenchman had a moment. From there, the rider from Cervera picked his way forward to behind Miller – as Zarco clipped Pedrosa and the number 26 found himself on a wet part of the track, race ending early as he crashed out but rider ok.
Marquez’ pitboard displayed the ‘Ride Through Penalty’ notation. As the remaining Repsol Honda bike headed to the pits, Miller was in the lead but was being hunted down by a group of three: Zarco, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), and they were soon on his tail.
Marquez immediately set a series of fast times before an incident saw him get too close to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and the reigning Champion was told to surrender the position.
Rins led briefly before an error enabled Crutchlow to take the lead. Miller then also ran wide, which dropped him back from the top 3 . This left Crutchlow, Rins and Zarco to take the top 3 positions. The drama was far from done, however. On the fight back, Marquez had picked off Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and honed in on the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of first Valentino Rossi and next up Maverick Viñales, until the number 93 made a lunge up the inside of the ‘Doctor’ – and misjudged it. Both ran wide and were forced towards the slippery verge of the circtui. Marquez fought to stay upright, but muscled Rossi onto the grass in the process.
The lack of adhesion on the slippery surface resulted in the number 46 going down as he clipped the grass. Marquez continued as Rossi gesticulated his thoughts on the move, which left him far down the order. Marquez later apologised, however the incident lit the fuse on the race rivalry once again.