Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo made a stunning return to form today, taking third in the Gran Premio de la República Argentina at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.
Starting from second on the grid, Lorenzo catapulted from the line to take the hole shot into turn one, leading the MotoGP pack into the first ever MotoGP race at the circuit.
Teammate Valentino Rossi jumped two places to fourth as the story of the first laps began. What happened next was a flurry of activity with Jorge dropping initially to third with a wide corner and Rossi climbing to second. The positions were not to last as the Yamaha riders shuffled again, Lorenzo climbing back to retake the lead and Rossi dropping initially to fourth before passing Andrea Iannone for third.
With 22 laps to go a brief state of grace saw the Yamaha riders running in first and second. The moment was not to last as Rossi ran wide, dropping to seventh and giving himself a challenge to fight back up the rankings and chase down Sefan Bradl, Dani Pedrosa and Iannone in front.
Rossi began to move forward and showed a fast enough pace to have kept with the ultimate race winner. Unfortunately a mistake by Stefan Bradl under braking pushed him wide whilst running in fourth, costing valuable time and any chance of a podium. He was able to retain fourth, crossing the line less than five seconds from first place.
Lorenzo was meanwhile leading the race, back to his old self and holding off championship leader Marc Marquez for as long as possible. It wasn't until just nine laps remaining that Marquez was able to take the lead, passing on turn five to move up. Lorenzo then did everything possible to hold second but was forced to concede and settle for third on the final lap as Pedrosa was able to pass.
The third place finish moves Lorenzo up to seventh in the standings on 22 points whilst Rossi retains his third position with 41 points.
Bradley Smith, who started from 7th on the grid but slightly dropped back to 9th in the opening laps at the 4,806 meter circuit, regained his composure and proceeded to recover the lost ground fantastically well, with his excellent race pace shining through once again. On lap six, the British rider overtook his teammate to clinch 8th position before firmly setting his sights on the position in front. Smith made an incredible charge to close the gap to the Factory Ducati rider of Andrea Dovizioso, gaining valuable time every single lap and gracefully passing him. As the fuel load decreased on his Yamaha YZR-M1, his speed boosted and the 23 year old set his personal best and fifth quickest lap of the race at the final stages, on lap 20. Today’s result sees Smith confident of a top result at round 4 in Jerez as the MotoGP paddock returns to Europe next week.
Rookie Pol Espargaro rode a notable race to collect his second top eight finish in succession at the fast flowing Argentinian Grand Prix. After having ran competitively during the free practice sessions, the Spanish rider qualified in 11th position, but rocketed up to 8th aboard his Yamaha YZR-M1 on the first lap. The reigning Moto2 World Champion then set a rapid pace and battled with teammate Bradley Smith for the first part of the race. Later on, he caught Factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso, passing him on lap 19. The 22 year old Catalan eventually completed the race in a confidence boosting 8th position, with high hopes for the next round at Jerez in his home country’s Grand Prix, after gaining more valuable experience.
Aleix Espargaro couldn’t take advantage from starting from the second row on the grid. The Spaniard was 10th when he crashed out at Turn 2 on the second lap. Fortunately he was able to pick his bike up and rejoin the race. From that moment Espargaro made a very good race recovering from the 21st to the 15th position. Despite this result, Aleix remains the first open in the Championship ahead of Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama.
It was a very demanding race also for team mate Colin Edwards, who started 14th position on the grid. Colin struggled a lot in the 25-lap long race, losing several positions and finally closed 20th.
The MotoGP paddock will move directly to Spain now for the first European round of the season at Jerez next weekend.
3rd, +3.201 seconds
“I’m really happy, this is probably the most sweet third place in my career in MotoGP, arriving after two difficult races. We have demonstrated that even in not our best shape we can fight with the Hondas and arrive in a proud third position. We want to improve; I want to improve my physical condition still and also the bike and when the moment arrives I think we will be ready to win races. We have to keep improving and have patience and wait for our moment.”
“I had the potential and the pace to end on the podium and especially to fight with the three guys in front. Unfortunately in the first laps first of all I made a mistake and lost a bit but the place I lost some more was when Bradl made a mistake. He arrived too deep in braking and he pushed me out of the track and I lost two seconds on that lap and so the podium.”
Massimo Meregalli, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“It has been a positive race. Considering where we started from on Friday we have done a superb job. At the same time, it is a shame that we lost second place on the last lap and that Vale’s rhythm during the race couldn't be capitalized on at the end to have both riders on the podium. Vale had difficulty stopping his bike in the beginning because of a combination of the hard front and very hot front brake temperatures. This podium gives Jorge back his confidence and now we are going back to Europe to familiar ground with no unexpected surprises to start our practice with on Friday. This race is a great addition to the GP calendar and we look forward to coming back next year with this weekend’s experience.”
“It was a tough challenge today, but overall I am pleased to once again finish with a decent position. Unfortunately, my start was not ideal and the race was actually a similar scenario to Austin. My pace at the end was exactly where it needed to be, as I started to do low 1:40 laps, but as usual I struggled during the first half of the race when the bike is on a full fuel load. It happens on different race tracks, with various setups and on all types of tire, so it seems that I have to find a way to adapt better. I just can’t ride with the same corner speed and I’m not as smooth as I am at the end of the race. But we already have some ideas and will work on it in Jerez as I know I am there in terms of performance. Altogether the team and I are doing a really good job, but we just need to find that missing piece for Jerez, where we can hopefully make amends and can challenge as the leading satellite MotoGP bike which is the main aim at the moment.”
“Of course, it was not a bad race at all, but 8th position is not what I’m aiming for. Especially because I had a really good feeling and a positive rhythm this morning in warm up. However, for some reason I didn’t feel the same at the beginning of the race, possibly because of the full fuel tank so it was a bit harder to manoeuvre the bike around the high speed corners. As a result, the start and the opening laps were difficult for me and after just a few rounds I was already alone. Later on I tried to stay with Bradley, but he was getting stronger and I did not feel too confident with my rear tire, so I decided not to push any harder and risk crashing out. The positive we can take from today is that we have been getting stronger towards the end of the race, and closing in on the riders in front. It is still a big learning process, but we have to be patient, taking it race by race and continue working. Luckily in just a few days of time I will already be back on the bike, trying to fight with the other satellite bikes and aiming for a better result.“
“I’m very disappointed with today’s crash. I need to improve my feeling with the bike at the beginning of the race when the tank is full. I struggle a lot in the first laps, as the front tends to close. Today I crashed without realizing it. It’s a pity because we did a great job in the practices and I had the pace to fight for the first five positions. I look forward to Jerez, where I want to get a good result.”
“It was not an easy race. I cannot ride this bike as I want, I’m not comfortable and I cannot push. Yesterday I had found a good set up but today I struggled a lot. We need to keep on working, analysing the data and test new solutions. I’d like to thank my team for the hard work.”