The bikes have finally hit the track at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. Pushbikes, that is ... Cal Crutchlow, Alvaro Bautista, Hector Barbera, Stefan Bradl and Tito Rabat have all spent time lapping the Argentinian circuit ahead of the two-day test which starts on Thursday, some circulating on bicycles, some lapping the track in rental cars.
First reports from the track are positive, with all of the riders tweeting that they like the layout. It appears to be a fast track, with several fast, sweeping corners, the kind of track which riders love, and as promised by the race organizers when they announced the race just over a year ago at Assen. It would be the fastest track on the calendar, was the promise. The general assessment is that the track looks safe, with no dangerous areas, which is a major positive for the track.
Whether the riders achieve that tomorrow is hard to say. There have been a number of reports that the track is very dusty, unsurprising given the amount of building work still going on and the lack of on-track action so far at the circuit. Pictures tweeted by Tech 3 Yamaha mechanic Steve Blackburn show the teams setting in tents along pit lane, much of the infrastructure at the track still missing.
Though the town of Termas de Rio Hondo is small, with limited facilities, the test itself is very popular. VIP tents set up for paying guests for the tests are said to be completely jam-packed, and given the packed press conference when the riders arrived yesterday, it is an indication that South America has been crying out for a World Championship motorcycle race. Despite the poverty of the surroundings, it should be fair to expect the race to be a sellout once tickets go on sale. These are exactly the markets where the motorcycle manufacturers are keen to go racing, and the success of the test alone shows they are ripe for a race.
Riders are set to take to the track tomorrow, With so few riders out there, cleaning up the track will be hard, so the riders are unlikely to be close to a genuine race pace. It is a start, however, the beginning of a new chapter in Grand Prix racing.