A beautiful summer Summer Sunday in Argentina provided a picturesque backdrop for the 3rd round of the 2015 MotoGP Championship. The riders would mount their liveries this week to battle around the Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina. This will be the series’ 2nd trip to the track, after last year’s inaugural visit. After issues last year, it was rather clear that the tire compounds at this track would play a huge factor in the outcome of the day’s competition. Veteran Valentino Rossi elected for a new extra-hard compound tire, while fan-favorite and rising star Marc Marquez made a last second decision not to, A decision which he may prove to regret.
The one thing you may remember from last year was that this track seemed to chew up tires at a significantly faster rate, with many riders complaining about Bridgestone’s ability to meet the demands of the track. As you may remember from an earlier article from us here at Lean Angle, Bridgestone decided this year to create a special extra-hard rear compound available for use by the factory teams specifically for the ArgentinianGP. Only 5 riders opted to use the compound this year, including Yamaha Factory team mates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Marc Marquez had originally planned to run the extra-hard option on his Repsol factory Honda, up until race time when he made a last second on-track decision to swap to the softer hard compound.
It was around lap 7 when the boys at Bridgestone guys pointed out that only two bikes on the track were running in the 1.39 times. The lightning quick Marquez and the Doctor himself, Vale set his sights on team mate Jorge Lorenzo and after a few laps was the head Yamaha on the track. From there, Rossi made relatively quick work of Iannone, who had actually given him a nudge at the beginning of the race while diving into the first corner. You know what they say about paybacks. It was now time to engage in battle with Cal Crutchlow, who would end up losing the position due to swinging wide in a corner and narrowly avoiding a wreck due to being on the dirty portion of the track. From then on, the only thing between The Doctor and Marquez was Dovizioso on his Italian steed. Dovizioso’s performance so far this season has proven that the boys over at Ducati may have finally figured this MotoGP thing out, earning podiums in each of the first two races. With 15 to go, Rossi engaged the dogfight with Dovizioso, passing him in turn 7, the same location he managed to overtake Crutchlow in the previous lap. Only one last fish to reel in: Marquez.
The charge was on. The gap: 4.1 seconds. In race terms, that’s about as big as…oh, the grand canyon. The first lap in this chase, Rossi only gained 2/100 of a second on the leader. But what was yet to be shown, was how well the new Bridgestone extra-hard compound would pay off at the Argentinian circuit. In the next few laps, Valentino seemed to catch fire, he was gaining at least .3 seconds a lap, every lap. The extra-hard compound was starting to show its advantage, and if Marquez was getting updates, he would be starting to doubt his game-time gamble now. With 8 laps to go, Rossi had closed the gap to 2.7 seconds in the first corner, and 2.3 in the last portion of the track. The veteran had begun turning lap times almost a full second than the young superstar leader. Marquez was in sight, that bright orange rear wheel of the Repsol Honda acting as a target on the other end of each corner. With 6 laps to go, Rossi set a new fastest lap record at the Argentinian circuit: 1.39.019 with the track at a blistering 93 degrees. The gap now only 1.5 seconds to the leader.
With 3 laps to go Rossi was nipping at Marquez’s heals. the gap was down to .5 second and closing. Ready the guns, its time for attack. Throw the lap times out the window, no one else has a chance of catching this dogfight anyway. Turn 2, two laps to go The Doctor made his first move. diving to the inside and making the pass before swinging wide in turn 3 and relinquishing control back to Marquez. No holds barred now as the two began to duke it out. Through 3, and 4 before diving hard into turn 5. The two were neck and neck, Rossi on the inside, nudging ahead at the corner entrance, before swinging out and opening the inside line to Marquez. The young gun went for it, diving past the Italian mid-corner before briefly making contact. It seemed both would emerge fine, and for a second like the contact would have no result, but on the exit of the corner, the Repsol Honda’s front wheel lifted, after what appeared to be contact with the back tire of the Movistar/ Yamaha factory machine. This brief mistake was enough to cause Marquez to low-side and slide his machine down the track. He ran after it in hopes of regaining composure, or possibly out of anger even, his arms swinging in the air like windmills. But he was unable to get the bike righted and back on the track, ultimately crashing out of the race.
Rossi’s podium was all but secured. The cheer from the crowd past every grandstand was clearly audible. Marquez, understandably frustrated, threw his hands up, and exited the track. Dovizioso then bumped up to the 2nd position, a familiar new territory for the Ducati rider. And after a last second burst of power through the last corner, Cal Crutchlow would blow past Iannone to take the last spot on the podium. Race direction immediately put the win under investigation due to the scuff between Rossi and Marquez, but ultimately determined that the contact qualified as a “racing incident” and confirmed the victory.
From the beginning of today’s race, the Veteran Rossi considered running on the new extra-hard compound a no-brainer, Bridgestone specifically designed the compound for this track, so who wouldn’t? It turns out that a just-in-time last second guess may have been the nail in Marquez’s coffin. Then, one may argue that with the harder rubber, he may not have jumped to the large 4+ second lead he managed to build. All we know is, after a second year of exciting racing, we are cant wait until next year at Termas de Rio Hondo.