Marc Marquez grabbed the holeshot, extended his lead within two corners and never really needed to check his pitboard again as he charged his way to victory Sunday at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. So dominant was his win that Marquez was two-seconds up on the field within two laps and eventually expanded the gap to nearly 15 seconds before relaxing into a nine-second win at the line.
The victory puts Marquez into the championship lead with the next event in a country and on a track, the USA's Circuit of the Americas, where he's never lost a race.
The other race, the one involving the rest of the field, wasn't fully decided until the final lap when Valentino Rossi sliced his way inside at Turn 7 to win a race-long battle for second with Andrea Dovizioso, relegating the Qatar race-winner to the final podium spot. Jack Miller, fast all weekend, seized fourth just in front of Suzuki's Alex Rins (6th). Rins, who started the race in 16th, had steadily cut his way through the field as the race progressed.
Danilo Pertucci finished sixth after a mid-race fight with Miller, Franco Morbidelli and Maverick Vinales. But behind the factory Ducati rider on the final lap, the finishing order changed suddenly when Morbidelli clipped the rear of Vinales' Yamaha, sending both into the gravel with half a lap to go. The late crash moved Takaaki Nakagami into seventh followed by Fabio Quartararo (8th), Aleix Espargaro (9th) and Pol Espargaro (10th).
Marquez's Honda got the perfect start to the race immediately pulled two-bike lengths on the field by the time the pack reached tight, slow Turn 1. A clustered group of Dovizioso, Rossi, Miller and Cal Crutchlow pushed through the first bend and into a battle for second place. Within a lap, however, race direction flagged Crutchlow for a jump start and ordered him to take a ride-through penalty, ending the factory Honda rider's podium hopes.
Within half a lap, Marquez's pace put him well clear of the field. Within three laps in, he was consistenty running a full second faster every lap than the chase group. But behind him, the fight for second was heating up.
As the laps ticked away, Rossi and Dovizioso settled into a pattern that proved predictive of the race's final outcome. Coming out of Turn 4 and onto the back straight, Dovizioso would power by Rossi's Yamaha and open a gap that Rossi could not answer in tight Turn 5. But two corners later at Turn 7, Rossi would slip inside the Ducati for a block pass. Rossi's better corner speed would keep the faster bike at bay until the back straight arrived again.
With 10 laps remaining, Rossi's and Dovizioso's back-and-forth kept the second-through-eighth chase group tightly bunched. This greatly helped Rins, who started from the fifth row, as he began his run toward the front group. Rins was by now turning laps two-tenths of a second faster than the rest of the chase group as he closed in.
But Dovizioso's and Rossi's pace eventually proved too much for the rest. With two laps remaining the pair, with Dovizioso now in front of Rossi, opened a two-second gap on the group behind them. In that pack, Rins, Miller, Petrucci, Vinales and Morbidelli battled for fourth place. Miller with slightly more than one lap to go, took fourth from Rins.
On the final lap, Rossi slipped past Dovizioso in Turn 7 to seize second place for good, ending his 11-race podium drought. Just as Rossi made his move, the two other Yamahas in the top 10 crashed out when Morbidelli clipped Vinales' rear wheel at Turn 5.
Marquez now leads the championship with 45 points to Dovizioso's 41. Rossi sits in third with 31 points.
|12||Maverick VIÑALES||Yamaha||1 Lap|
|21||Franco MORBIDELLI||Yamaha||1 Lap|
|36||Joan MIR||Suzuki||4 Laps|
|53||Tito RABAT||Ducati||10 Laps|
|17||Karel ABRAHAM||Ducati||11 Laps|