Spain’s Marc Marquez won an incredible MotoGP race in Argentina that saw world champion and early 2016 series leader Jorge Lorenzo crash out while Ducati riders Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso went down at the final corner on the last lap.
Italy’s Valentino Rossi picked up the pieces to snatch an unlikely runner-up finish on the Movistar Yamaha followed by Spain’s Dani Pedrosa in third, while Ireland’s Eugene Laverty took a sensational fourth on the Aspar Ducati GP14.2.
The race began in dramatic circumstances as Michelin withdrew both of its planned rear tyre compounds on safety grounds following a scary incident for Scott Redding during final practice at the Termas de Rio Honda circuit.
A new medium rear, featuring a stiffer construction, was introduced instead, leaving little time for the riders to get a feel for the new rubber, although an extra 30 minute practice session was held in addition to the 20 minute warm-up on Sunday.
Lorenzo made a flying start but quickly slipped backwards on the opening lap, with Dovizioso taking the lead from Rossi and Marquez after Iannone had a big moment at turn one, pushing Pedrosa out wide.
Repsol Honda’s Marquez was soon climbing all over the rear of Rossi’s M1 and found a way through, with both riders then reeling in Dovizioso on the GP15 and pushing the Italian back to third.
Marquez was trying desperately to edge away at the front from Rossi as drama unfolded behind, with Lorenzo sliding out after losing the front at turn one with 15 laps to go, while Cal Crutchlow and Aleix Espargaro also went down in separate crashes at the same corner, both re-joining the race.
Iannone had hauled himself into fourth behind team-mate Dovizioso, but Maverick Vinales was on the move on the Ecstar Suzuki GSX-RR and shot into third.
Rossi wasn’t prepared to allow Marquez to escape and briefly re-took the lead before pit lane opened, with the riders required to come in to change to their second bike on laps nine, ten or 11 after warm-up had been held in the wet.
Australian Jack Miller also came off on lap four at turn three after making good progress into seventh.
Iannone and Viñales were the first riders to enter the pits on lap nine to change their bikes as Marquez and Rossi battled out front.
Both came into the pits at the same team with 11 laps to go, with Marquez returning to the track in first place while Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Tito Rabat moved second as he had yet to pit.
Marquez was able to put some daylight between himself and Rossi and opened a lead of a few seconds, which he stretched to three seconds with nine laps to go.
Vinales was two seconds down on Rossi in third as Scott Redding made solid progress on the Ducati to go sixth behind the factory Ducatis of Dovizioso and Iannone.
Sadly, though, Redding was forced to retire five laps form the end with a top six finish within his grasp, while Vinales came off the Suzuki as he challenged Rossi for second place, crashing at turn one at the beginning of lap 18.
Iannone then made his move up the inside of Rossi, who ran wide and allowed Dovizioso to pounce on both riders to snatch second place.
Incredibly, Iannone made a lunge at the final corner on the last lap and wiped out Dovizioso, gifting Rossi the runner-up spot with Pedrosa promoted to third.
Dovi used all his strength to push his GP15 over the line for 13th place as Irishman Laverty crossed the line in a magnificent fourth to seal his best premier class finish in his second season, edging Hector Barbera on the Avintia Ducati.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro was next in sixth followed by Aprilia’s Stefan Bradl and Briton Bradley Smith on the second Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine.
Rabat and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) completed the top ten while Aleix Espargaro came home in 11th place after recovering from his earlier crash.
The fallers also included Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Ducati) and b on (Octo Pramac Ducati), who got back on his bike to finish 12th. Crutchlow and Loris Baz retired from the race.
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Results, MotoGP of Argentina:
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 34m 13.628s
2. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 34m 21.307s
3. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 34m 41.728s
4. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 34m 50.170s
5. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 34m 50.339s
6. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 34m 50.873s
7. Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 34m 54.981s
8. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 35m 4.337s
9. Tito Rabat ESP Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V)* 35m 4.611s
10. Alvaro Bautista ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 35m 15.016s
11. Aleix Espargaro ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 35m 22.496s
12. Michele Pirro ITA Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 35m 32.615s
13. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 35m 47.047s
Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) DNF
Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) DNF
Maverick Viñales ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) DNF
Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) DNF
Loris Baz FRA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF
Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) DNF
Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) DNF
Yonny Hernandez COL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF
Riders’ World Championship standings after two rounds:
1. Marc Marquez SPA Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 41 points
2. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 33 points (-8)
3. Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 27 points (-14)
4. Jorge Lorenzo SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 25 points (-16)
5. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 23 points (-18)
6. Pol Espargaro SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 19 points (-22)
7. Hector Barbera SPA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 18 points (-23)
8. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 17 points (-24)
9. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 16 points (-25)
10. Maverick Viñales SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 10 points (-31)
11. Aleix Espargaro SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 10 points (-31)
12. Alvaro Bautista SPA Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 9 points (-32)
13. Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 9 points (-32)
14. Tito Rabat SPA Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V)* 8 points (-33)
15. Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 6 points (-35)
16. Michele Pirro ITA Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 4 points (-37)
17. Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 2 points (-39)