CAN VINALES MAKE IT TWO IN A ROW?

He did the business in Qatar's opening round, and now Movistar Yamaha's star, Maverick Vinales, will attempt to continue his new-found MotoGP pre-eminence when the championship continues in Argentina this weekend.

After dominating pre-season, Vinales won in Qatar ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and teammate Valentino Rossi, but if he is to make it two on the trot he will have to be at his best to defeat world champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda).

Marquez has won two of the three races recently held on the 4.8km circuit, and in 2016 he defeated lap record holder Rossi and teammate Dani Pedrosa while Vinales was a non-finisher on the Suzuki.

Marquez would dearly love to stamp his authority again, but the circumstances for Vinales are far different after making a sensational switch to Yamaha from Suzuki.

"After the amazing race in Qatar I'm super excited to be back on my M1 this weekend in Termas de Río Hondo," said Vinales. "Now we have the difficult challenge to continue getting good results, Qatar was only the first race of 2018.

"I can feel the pressure a little bit because the level of my rivals is very high, but that motivates me even more to keep working hard. We have to be cautious, work step by step and race by race."

Dovizioso is also a hard charger in Argentina, and was running second in the 2016 race until the last corner when he was taken out by then teammate Andrea Iannone.

After pushing Vinales all the way in Qatar, 'Dovi' will be desperate to continue his strong form on the South American circuit, which is one of the fastest on the calendar with fast sweeping bends, high cambers and hard-braking zones.

Meanwhile, Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki) only has redemption on his mind after crashing out of the opening round while in the leading group. Briton's big hope Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) also fell in Qatar, as did surprise packet Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who was comfortably in the lead before he lost the front end. Zarco won the Moto2 race in Argentina last year.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) made an impressive start to his 2017 campaign with a sixth place in Qatar, and was followed home by Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing Ducati), Aussie Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) and rookies Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) and Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3).

Miller believes his Honda will be strong in Argentina. He said: "Qatar was a good start to the season and I was happy with the result. Now we head to Argentina looking to improve further, on a track that should be a good match for our bike.

"We've been getting better and better each time we get out on the bike and I'm confident we can continue that trend at the next two races in Argentina and Austin, two tracks I enjoy racing at a lot. Termas is a circuit that doesn't see much use, so some caution is required on Friday when the track can be a little dirty, but it doesn't usually take long to clean up. I'm looking forward to the weekend ahead, as they always put on a bit of a special show for the race in Argentina."

Triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) didn't enjoy the best of starts for his new employer in Qatar, so he's another who will be looking to work his way well inside the top 10 in Argentina.

 

Moto2
After a stunning victory first time out in 2017 – and his first in the category – Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) is the man of the moment and it's now up to his key rivals to catch him – including teammate Alex Marquez.

Swiss rider Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia),  Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) and Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40) – the quickest rookie in Qatar – are also set to be challengers.

Representing the continent in South America’s GP is Colombian rider Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team) as he settles into life in Moto2 after riding in the premier class.

Australia's Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) will be looking for points after being taken out by another rider in Qatar.

 

Moto3
This season started in the best possible way for Leopard Racing rider Joan Mir (Honda) with a stunning win in Qatar. Mir will certainly be tough to beat again, although the likes of John McPhee (British Talent Team Honda), Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda), Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda and Aron Canet (EG 0,0 Honda) will be out to spoil the party.

Other guns include Red Bull KTM Ajo teammates Niccolo Antonelli and Bo Bendsneyder, as well as Enea Bastianini (EG 0,0 Honda) and Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM) – the two Italians further down the timesheets than expected in Qatar.

 

Timetable

The three world championship races at Termas de Rio Hondo will be held over the following distances and times:

  • MotoGP: 25 laps, 120.2km, starting at 4:00pm local time (5:00am AEST April 10)
  • Moto2: 23 laps, 110.5km, starting a 2:20pm local time (3:20am AEST April 10)
  • Moto3: 21 laps, 100.9km, starting at 1:00pm local time (2:00am AEST April 10)

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