With no time to rest, Valentino Rossi, Andrea Dovizioso, Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Iannone are en route to Termas de Río Hondo (1100km North West of Buenos Aires) for round three of the 2015 MotoGP World Championship.
One year ago, After it’s inaugural Grand Prix in 2014 – where Marc and Dani took a 1-2 finish – the MotoGP paddock returns to the Province of Santiago del Estero, with Marc looking for back-to-back victories, lay down a vapor trail, and cruise to a 1.8 second win ahead of Pedrosa, with Lorenzo, his season already in tatters, pushing to the limit to finish third. Rossi spent most of the day dogging Pedrosa on his way to a discouraging fourth place finish. What we didn’t know then was that The Doctor would suddenly get a second wind, producing 12 podia in the next 15 races and a solid second place finish for the year, restoring his credibility, confidence and mojo and putting to rest any claim Lorenzo might have had to being the #1 rider on the team.
The remarkable resurrection of the Ducati brand under the guiding hand of Gigi Dall’Igna has finally interrupted the seemingly interminable streak – going on eight years – of Honda/Yamaha domination of podium celebrations in the premier class. Though there has been the occasional Ducati sighting – Dovi twice in 2014, Crutchlow finishing third in Aragon last year, Nicky Hayden third in Jerez in 2011, Rossi himself with three podia in two seasons – it’s been a painfully long time since the Ducati was competitive. The factory team has already rung up two second-place results and a third this season and appears capable of challenging at every track on the circuit. Dovizioso is now a top three rider, and his partner, Andrea Iannone, is right there with him, gaining experience every time out and working on his own alien resumé.
Dall’Igna has moved the Ducati MotoGP program from the outhouse to the penthouse in barely 18 months. Had Aprilia opted to give him his payday and keep him in the fold, he would have likely accelerated their own “program” back to respectability in a third of the time it will now take.
Conventional business wisdom early in the 21st century has it that, in a corporation, no one person is indispensable. I’m pretty sure Ducati brass might take the other side of that argument these days.
Marc & Hiroshi Favorite Tracks
“After a good weekend in Austin, I am feeling relaxed and confident again. Now we travel straight to Argentina for the next round and we have a good momentum which I hope to continue this coming weekend. Argentina is a circuit that I like and it’s the second year we visit Termas de Río Hondo. We had many fans there last year so I hope they all come to support us again this year and we can put on a good show for them.” Said Marc Marquez #MM93.
“The weekend in Austin was complicated due to the weather but we learned a lot. Now we travel to Argentina which is one of my favorite tracks and I had a good race there last year. The track isn’t easy – it has a long straight and many tight corners but I believe the Honda RC213V will work well there. I have a strong teammate to learn from and Dani’s team are all helping me a lot so my confidence is high and I hope to improve from last weekend.” Said Hiroshi Aoyama (Replacing injured Dani Pedrosa).
Behind The Top Three !
MotoGP, like it’s most distant of distant cousins, the NFL, occasionally finds itself with early season contests deemed “critical” by media types and Those in the Know. If Round 3 in Argentina is critical for any rider, it would be Jorge Lorenzo, battling Marquez and himself to remain in the championship conversation. He has finished fourth in each of the first two races, showing some strength early before fading late. An equipment glitch was to blame in the first instance, bronchitis (or faster riders) in the second. Entering the season I had him penciled in at #2 for the year behind Marquez, ahead of both Dovizioso and Rossi, with Pedrosa 5th. He now also has an undeniable aversion to running in the rain which, at some point during the year, will cost him.
The second group forming up behind the top three includes Lorenzo, Iannone, Bradley Smith, Stefan Bradl, and Cal Crutchlow. Kind of group 2A and 2B. If Lorenzo wishes to climb back to the top, he will need to make some noise this weekend. He was competitive here last year; he needs to assert his will on the field, including the Catalan, and come home with some hardware, or look forward to continuing battles with the likes of Maniac Joe and Crutchlow. The suits at Yamaha corporate expect much more from him.
Team Suzuki seems to be getting as much as seems reasonable from Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, both in the top ten in Austin, both with a perceived advantage at short stubby places like Assen and the Sachsenring, and both riders young, talented and aggressive. Points every time out.