Maverick Vinales has become the first Yamaha rider since 1990 to win the opening two MotoGP™ races to start the season after a dominant display at the Termas de Rio Honda circuit in Argentina on April 9.
After fellow Spaniard and last year's Argentine winner Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) crashed out of the lead on lap four, Vinales had it all his own way on the Movistar Yamaha for the balance of the 25-lap race. He won by nearly three seconds over teammate Valentino Rossi, while LCR Honda's Cal Crutchlow scored his first points since winning at Phillip Island last year with a fine third position.
Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Honda) and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) were fourth and fifth, in a race that also saw Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Ducati factory pair Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, Aleix Espargaro (Gresini Racing Aprilia) and Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) crash out of proceedings.
Aussie Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) finished in ninth position.
But for Vinales, he continues to do no wrong. He now holds a 14-point (50 to 36) lead in the championship over Rossi, followed by Dovizioso (20).
"I need to say thanks to the team because they’re working so hard – two victories in a row is amazing," said Vinales. "Today I enjoyed it a lot, I was really calm and riding the bike was incredible.
"Marc (Marquez) is really strong in Texas but it’s also one of my favourite tracks. We know we have a competitive bike and I’m confident we can make a good result there."
After a wet qualifying session, the race started on a dry track, but didn't last more than one turn for Lorenzo, who ran into the back of Andrea Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki) and went down – coming on top of a disastrous practice and qualifying.
Unbeknownst to Iannone, he was already in strife himself by that time after jumping the start – a ride-through penalty came soon after and he finished out of the points in 16th.
Marquez bolted from pole position, and with Vinales working his way up to second by lap four all the planets were aligning for a titanic scrap. However, that was scuppered when Marquez lost the front end at turn two – the same place Pedrosa went down on lap 12.
With Vinales in control, attention then turned to the dice between Rossi – riding in his 350th GP – and Crutchlow. The Briton held out the Italian until lap 19, and when a warning light then illuminated on Crutchlow's dash he decided that it was more prudent to simply get to the chequered flag in one piece.
A fast-finishing Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was sixth from the slow-finishing Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing Ducati), Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing Ducati), Miller and front-row starter Karel Abraham (Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati).
Miller said: “The race was the best I felt all weekend and finally I was able to put together the speed I knew we had when it meant something. I made a good start and was sitting with a fast group although I wasn’t comfortable with a full fuel tank in the opening laps and made a couple of small mistakes and lost some time.
"But there were some positives from the weekend and some solid points for the championship. My goal is to be always top ten this season and so far I’m doing that so hopefully we can keep the momentum going at the next race in Texas.”
Meanwhile, for the second year in a row Dovizioso was without luck in Argentina after Espargaro lost the front end riding up the inside of the Italian and took him out.
- Maverick Vinales, Movistar Yamaha, 41m45.060s
- Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha +2.915s
- Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda +4.754s
9 Jack Miller, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +25.665s
Pole position: Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 1:47.512 = 160.9km/h
Fastest lap: Vinales 1:39.694 = 173.5km/h
Championship top 3
Vinales 50 • Rossi 36 • Andrea Dovizioso 20
It was an EG 0,0 Marc VDS duel at the front in Argentina – until halfway through the last lap when Alex Marquez high-sided out of the race, clearing the way for Franco Morbidelli to claim his second win of the season.
Polesitter Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took an impressive second position – the first podium for the new intermediate class KTM chassis – followed by Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) and Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing). Top guns Takaaki Nakagami (Honda Team Asia) and Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP40) crashed out.
“This is an amazing feeling, two victories in a row, just incredible and I hope I can keep this momentum going," said Morbidelli. "I was pushing really hard from the start and very quickly I saw that Álex (Marquez) was going very fast close behind so I was ready for the fight.
"With a lap to go I had +0.3s and pushed even harder for the win and did not know Álex had crashed until I took the chequered flag. It was a pity his race ended like this.”
Aussie Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) was skittled out of contention for the second race in a row – but this time the physical damage was far worse with a broken ankle.
“I don’t know what to say. The bad luck has to stop soon," said Gardner. "I made another decent start and then got caught up in someone else’s accident. I will now fly back to Barcelona where (Spanish surgeon) Dr Mir will assess my ankle which was fractured in the crash and we will decide whether or not I need surgery.”
- Franco Morbidelli, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, 39m50.036
- Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KTM Ajo, +1.683s
- Tom Luthi, CarXpert Interwetten, +10.551s
DNF Remy Gardner, Tech 3 Racing, +23 laps
Pole position: Oliveira, 1:45.616 = 163.8km/h
Fastest lap: Oliveira, 1:43.414 = 167.3km/h
Championship top 3
Morbidelli 50 • Luthi 36 • Oliveira 33
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) staged a stunning comeback from 16th on the grid to survive a last lap attack from British Talent Team rider John McPhee (Honda). Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda) completed the podium as the three rostrum finishers from Qatar again proved a cut above.
The battle for the win all came down to turns 13 and 14 on the final lap, as Mir tried to create a gap and was reeled in once again by McPhee – with the Brit just unable to find his way past in the final corners.
Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing KTM) and Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM) were fourth and fifth, less than a second behind the winner.
- Joan Mir, Leopard Racing Honda, 38m33.377s
- Jorge Navarro, John McPhee, British Talent Team Honda, +0.261s
- Jorge Martin, Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda, +0.339ss
Pole position: McPhee, 1:49.094 = 158.5km/h
Fastest lap: Romano Fenati, Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda, 1:49.415 = 158.1km/h
Championship top 3
Mir 50 • McPhee 40 • Martin 32
Next round: Austin, Texas, April 21-23