Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales gave another riding masterclass in an incident-packed MotoGP race at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, taking the win to become the first Yamaha rider since Wayne Rainey in 1990 to win the first two races of the year.
It was reigning Champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda who leapt into the lead from pole, with Rossi another electric starter from seventh on the grid. In the rush for Turn 1, Marquez led Crutchlow as the pack shuffled behind, with the reigning champion pulling out a significant leand as the Brit backed up the chasing factory Yamaha pairing of Viñales and Rossi.
Viñales soon attacked Crutchlow to take P2, before Marquez suddenly hit the floor at Turn 2 – having been almost two seconds clear.
That mistake gifted Viñales the lead with Crutchlow and Rossi on the chase, the gap holding steady just above half a second – before the man of the moment began to pull away. That left the ‘Doctor’ to hunt down Crutchlow, with the two holding station until Rossi struck with 7 laps to go, getting past the Brit in style at Turn 5 and pulling away for a second consecutive podium in his 350th World Championship start. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow completed the podium in style as top Independent Team rider.
Viñales said: “We did a great job. We made the tyre decision already this morning. I feel really great! The tyre’s grip level was really good the entire time. I feel pretty strong and Michelin is doing a great job, I feel really happy and confident. It’s like we are in a dream.”
The racing behind the top three was intense, and there was all-out war for P4 as Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda battled to get past Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac GP17 Ducatti, with Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamaha), Alvaro Bautista on the Aspar Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati also in the mix.
After a short and spectacular duel between Pedrosa and Zarco, the Spaniard broke free to set the fastest lap before crashing out of the race in the same place as teammate Marquez had done a handful of laps earlier.
Even then, the drama wasn’t done as Dovizioso went wide at Turn 5 soon after, allowing Aleix Espargaro to fire his Aprilia on the inside line before spectacularly losing the front – sliding helplessly into the Italian and taking both riders out the race.
Behind Crutchlow, it was another fantastic day for the independent teams as the dust settled, with Bautista taking fourth and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookies Zarco and Jonas Folger taking fifth and sixth. Petrucci, after running out of rear grip, crossed the line in a solid P7 – ahead of a good ride from his teammate Scott Redding at the head of the next group.
Jack Miller piloted his Marc VDS Honda to another top ten result in ninth behind Redding, with front row start Karel Abraham taking his Aspar Ducati to tenth, just fractions of a second ahead of Loris Baz, who had been forced wide on the opening lap by a falling Lorenzo on the factory Ducati, the five-time world champion riding into the back of Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone.