Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi in Argentina took home his first podium of the season today in a difficult race. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo got off the line well, but his “flag-to-flag” sprint ended after five laps.
The third day at the Termas de Río Hondo Circuit was filled with drama before the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina race even got underway. The scheduled ’extra‘ 30-minute morning warm-up session was cancelled when rain tormented the South American circuit. The change in conditions compared to the first two days meant the tyre allocation was amended to best suit the race situation.
While the ’standard‘ warm-up took place under wet conditions in the morning, the shortened race got underway on a mostly dry track with treacherous wet patches. A compulsory stop to change machines at the end of lap 9, 10 or 11, allowed the riders to use either the medium or the hard rear slick tyres that they had used on the Friday and the Saturday, as long as they were used with the minimum tyre pressure advised by Michelin for this race.
Despite threatening clouds, the Doctor flew from second place on the starting grid and took fourth going into the first corner. It took him little time to overtake Marc Marquez and teammate Lorenzo to chase down leader Andrea Dovizioso. The scrap between the three front runners had the fans on the edge of their seats for several laps until Dovizioso lost touch, turning the fight at the front into the duel all racing fans had hoped for; a head-to-head battle between Rossi and Marquez.
The pair swapped positions multiple times until it was time to swap bikes. They came in simultaneously at the end of lap 10 with nothing between them as they entered pit lane. Rossi jumped to his second bike without any problems and was eager to continue the fight for first, but more drama was on its way.
When the Italian rider re-entered the track he was held up by Tito Rabat, who had yet to do his compulsory stop. Rossi had his work cut out for him as the slight disruption created an over four-second gap and he struggled to get used to his second bike. With five laps to go he was joined by Maverick Viñales, Andrea Iannone and Dovizioso, but the Doctor wasn‘t going to give up his second place that easily. Making his Yamaha YZR-M1 as wide as he could, he held off Viñales, who was unable to keep up and crashed in turn one with three laps to go. Still being chased by Dovizioso and Iannone, Rossi defended his podium position tooth and nail. However, he was unable to fend off the attacks and was lying in fourth place when his rivals collided in the final corner of the last lap, allowing him to cross the line in second place, +7.679s from the front.
Teammate Lorenzo had a lightning fast start from third position as the lights went out and grabbed the holeshot, but fell back to seventh place as he took time to get heat into his tyres. With sixteen laps to go he decided it was time to put the hammer down, but his attempt to claw his way back to the front of the field ended with a crash in turn one a lap later when he was caught out by the tricky conditions and was unable to continue the race.
Rossi‘s 20-point score increases his points total to 33 in the championship standings and enabled him to climb up to second place. Despite not taking home any points, Lorenzo still holds fourth position after two rounds with 25 points.
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