Marc Marquez was the winner of the bizarre Argentina GP on Sunday but it wasn’t a normal race at all. Race Direction decided to split the main event into two parts with a compulsory pit stop because tyre company Michelin felt less confident about the safety of its real slick-tyres. The decision was prompted by a catastrophic rear-tyre failure of Octo Pramac’s British rider Scott Redding during Saturday’s qualifying. TV footage showed tyre treads coming off and outer tyre-shell exploding. The debris coming out at high speed had enough force to damage Redding’s seat unit but thanks to the inner carcass remaining intact, Redding managed to survive. He took his bike off the track and into the gravel but his back was badly bruised by flying rubber pieces. The incident caused the change of format for Sunday’s main event that now had only 20 laps with a mandatory mid-way pit-stop for bike-swap during laps 9 to 11. The race drama continued on Sunday. Although Marc Marquez managed to avoid trouble and finished on top, second-placed Valentino Rossi got lucky that Ducati duo of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso crashed with each other just before the finish, when it looked certain that they would take the two podium places beside Marquez. The third podium spot was taken by Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa.
The second race of new season at Termas de Río Hondo will be remembered more for dramatic events over Saturday and Sunday rather than Marc Marquez’s first win of 2016. In the final qualifying session on Saturday, Octo Pramac rider Scott Redding met with a scary accident after his rear tyre burst at top speed. Following the disaster, Michelin decided to withdraw medium/hard compound tyres and introduced new medium tyre for Sunday’s main event. Riders didn’t feel confident because it was an untested compound. Though a 30-minute practice session was to precede the main race, rains spoiled such plans and officials only extended the warm-up time. On Saturday, the qualifyings were completed despite Redding going out of the reckoning. Marquez also crashed in the final qualifying but still took the top pole position ahead of Valentino Rossi. Jorge Lorenzo was third ahead of Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, Maverick Vinales, Hector Barbera, Cal Crutchlow and Pol Espargaro.
Before Sunday’s race, Riders were informed about the shortened two-part and 20-lap race with compulsory bike-swap pit-stop. However, they were allowed the option of doing so at the end of Lap 9, Lap 10 or Lap 11. Such format had a precedent in 2013 Phillip Island MotoGP, where Bridgestone faced a similar problem and riders were forced to change machines within a three-lap window at halfway mark. As the race began, Lorenzo made a flying start but slipped backwards on the opening lap. Andrea Dovizioso led the field with Rossi and Marquez right behind. Pole-man Marquez made his ground soon and with Rossi, gave a hot chase to Dovizioso. After Marquez overtook Dovizioso, Rossi dropped to the third place. Behind them, Jorge Lorenzo slipped out at turn 1 with 15 laps remaining. However, Lorenzo’s exit was not the lone event as Cal Crutchlow and Aleix Espargaro also slipped at the same corner but they re-joined the race soon. Rossi soon overtook Dovizioso with Iannone right behind. Meanwhile, Ecstar Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales overtook both Ducati riders to take the third place behind Rossi. But Vinales soon fizzled out. Rossi posed another challenge to Marquez and went into the lead once again. Now the top bunch was close to the halfway mark and they prepared for bike-swap. The first riders to do so were Iannone and Vinales even as Marquez and Rossi continued the battle for the top. After the bike-swap, Marquez emerged out first and he had Estrella Galicia rider Tito Rabat at his back. But Rossi soon came out and fell behind Marquez. By now, Marquez had opened a few seconds’ lead over Rossi. With nine laps remaining, Marquez still led the field, Rossi was second, Vinales third, Dovizioso fourth, Iannone fifth and Scott redding sixth. Unfortunately, Redding was forced to retire with five laps remaining and Vinales crashed at turn one of lap 18. More drama came soon. Iannone moved tantalizingly close to Rossi and as the Italian ran wide, Dovizioso pounced to the second spot. With end clearly in sight, Marquez had two Ducati riders on his tail with Rossi dropping to fourth place. At the final corner of last lap, Iannone made an incredible lunge and wiped out Dovizioso and himself in the most unfortunate ending for the Ducati team. The incident promoted Rossi as runner-up with Pedrosa taking the third podium spot. Aspar MotoGP’s Eugene Laverty was fourth, Avintia Ducati’s Hector Barbera fifth; Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro sixth; Aprilia’s Stefan Bradl seventh and Bradley Smith on second Monster Yamaha Tech 3 finished eighth. Estrella Galicia rider Tito Rabat took the ninth place and Aprilia’s Alvaro Bautista was tenth.
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