MotoGP bikes have at last taken to the track at Argentina, marking the return of Grand Prix racing to South America for the first time in nine years. All of the riders praised the layout, liking the fast and sweeping nature of some of the sections. Other parts are technical and challenging, but the track appears to have several different lines around it, promising good racing when the series alights for the Argentinian round in 2014.
With a very dusty track, and only six machines present to sweep the dust from the track, it is hard to attach any significance to the times. Stefan Bradl was the fastest man on the day, lapping in the low 1'44s, and testing a lot of tires. Alvaro Bautista was the second quickest man, while Cal Crutchlow was nearly a second off the pace of Bradl. Whether that means that the Termas de Rio Hondo track is a Honda circuit remains to be seen, as the dusty track made it hard for the Yamaha to use its advantage in edge grip at extreme lean. We will only get an idea of the real balance of power in Argentina once the full MotoGP grid turns up.
That South America is desperate for a return of world championship racing was clear from the attendance at the test. A remarkable number of spectators turned up to watch the test, with fans venturing from Chile, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia to the test, as well as plenty of Argentinians. Also present at the test were the Minister of Tourism and the Governor of the Province of Santiago del Estero. That they had come to do more than just watch became clear when Dorna announced that they had signed a three-year deal with the circuit to host a race, from 2014 through 2016.
Testing continued on Friday, though a wet start to the day meant there was little action on track in the early part of the test.
Below are the press releases issued after the first day of testing:
Cal Crutchlow impressed with new track in Argentina
MotoGP Official Test Argentina 4th July 2013 23°c
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow took centre stage in a historic moment for South American motorsport today when he became one of the first to ride a prototype MotoGP machine on the impressive new Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina.
Crutchlow completed 29-laps in the pre-lunch session on the first of a two-day test on the super-fast 4.8km track, which is part of a special promotional tour in anticipation of the Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo track featuring on the 2014 MotoGP World Championship schedule.
Booming interest in MotoGP in Argentina was evident again today after fans, media and officials gave Crutchlow a warm and enthusiastic reception on his arrival into Buenos Aires on Tuesday.
A large and passionate crowd gathered to witness Crutchlow put his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team YZR-M1 through its paces on the new circuit, which features 14 fast and technical corners.
As well as giving Argentinian fans a small taste of the high-speed and adrenaline-fuelled action they can expect next year, Crutchlow is on a vitally important data-gathering mission for Yamaha and Bridgestone.
The former World Supersport champion is scheduled to test a wide selection of tyres for Bridgestone, his comprehensive feedback giving the Japanese tyre firm precious information that will be used to help develop the tyre allocation for next year’s race.
Next year’s race will be the first time the sports-mad South American nation has played host to MotoGP since 1999.
Cal Crutchlow - 29laps - 1.49,604 min:
“We have had an absolutely fantastic welcome in Argentina and after seeing the enthusiasm for MotoGP I’m really happy to be finally out on track to demonstrate what a spectacle the fans will see next year. The new track is very impressive and it is a really a good facility that Argentina can be very proud of. The track is still very dirty, so we are just enjoying riding around and learning as much as possible while also feeling the emotion of being one of the first ever to ride a prototype MotoGP bike here. It's incredible how many spectators came to welcome us and see us riding. Hopefully we can put on a good show next year and have a fantastic race because it certainly looks like it will take place in front of a huge crowd. The track has a good mix of long and fast corners and some are tight, so it is very important to get into a good rhythm. I really like Turn 6, which is a long and downhill corner. That is really cool to ride and I think the whole of the MotoGP grid is going to come here and love the track.”
BAUTISTA DISCOVERS RIO HONDO IN ARGENTINA
After a day visiting the fascinating surroundings of Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina, Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista was on track on Thursday for a short test on the circuit that will be added to the MotoGP World Championship calendar in 2014. The Spanish rider arrived in Argentina on Tuesday and spent a day meeting the nation's press in Buenos Aires before heading to the Tucuman region and Termas de Rio Hondo. It was a good opportunity to learn the layout of a flowing and technically demanding circuit and the weather was kind, with the threat of rain holding off and temperatures around 20 C°.
Alvaro Bautista "This is the first time I have ever been to Argentina and it has been a wonderful experience so far. We were given a huge welcome by an extraordinary number of journalists in Buenos Aires and then on Wednesday we had a fantastic day being tourists at Termas de Rio Hondo. We went out on track today to get a first feel for a circuit that looks really nice and has some technically demanding sections. We spent a day studying the layout and on Friday we will work on adjusting the settings of the bike to suit it more.”