NOW WAR IS DECLARED AND BATTLE COME DOWN
The Dulce River is vast. It looks like a green-beached ocean beside the racetrack of Termas de Rio Hondo. One can only imagine the slimy fanged horrors that crawl and slither out of that immense body of water from time to time.
Just like one can only imagine how much joy Valentino Rossi would get from feeding bits of Marc Marquez to them in the wake of last Sunday’s bizarre race.
His joy would be childlike.
Three important things have been established at the end of Round Two of the MotoGP season.
Firstly, the simmering hatred between Rossi and Marquez, which kind of sat in abeyance last season, has now gone supernova. Make no mistake. This is something that’s going to affect the rest of the season and possibly the rest of their respective careers.
Rossi is hugely pissed at Marquez, and not without good reason. Marquez did not have to do what he did. He was lapping a second faster than Rossi, who was circulating in sixth and just trying to get to the end of the race. Marquez could have passed him cleanly at any time after that fateful corner. He had already passed everyone else after copping two penalties – a ride-through for riding in the opposite direction on the grid, and a drop-a-place for spearing into Asparagus A.
It didn’t matter. His pace was astonishing. His patience non-existent. And so he belted into Rossi, forced him wide and onto the wet grass bordering the track, and then rode off waving “Sorry” as Rossi hit the kikuyu.
The stunt cost Marquez his third race penalty, 30 seconds off his race time, which saw him finish outside the points in 18th. But still one place ahead of an also pointless Rossi in 19th.
So the second important thing that was established was Marquez’s uncompromising determination to win. Was there a doubt before? I don’t think so.
We have all seen his insane last corner attempts on Dovi’s lead, and we have been thrilled and exalted by them. We may have been somewhat less thrilled and exalted had he screwed up one of those passes and wiped Dovi out and hurt him in the process. Rossi was not hurt physically by Marquez’s nudge and subsequent fall. But the pain is in terms of championship points – quite possibly for both of them.
And I wouldn’t be reading too much into the entirely stage-managed apology attempt after the race. Marquez and his manager and a camera crew walked to the front of Rossi’s pit, and were promptly shooed away by Uccio and Lin Jarvis. Rossi was clearly in no mood to perform for the cameras, and his savage post-race interview backed that up.
We can bang on about sportsmanship all we want (and social media certainly did as it squealed about the time a helmet-wearing Rossi went to apologise to Stoner), but you’ve got to understand that it is not all sunbeams and butterflies in MotoGP. The racers are ruthless, determined, OCD psychopaths for the most part. If the minders and cameras were not there, Rossi and Marquez would have rent and torn each other with claws and teeth and rocks and sticks. And the winner would have eaten the still-beating heart of the loser.
Which brings me to the third important thing that happened.
Cal Crutchlow won the race, Honda’s 750th race victory, after an epic battle with Jack Miller, Johann Zarco and Alex Rins, who looked so happy for his hard-fought third-place you’d think he’d won a world title. But no, that was not he important thing. The important thing was Cal’s meltdown deluxe at the post-race presser.
Because of the Rossi-Marquez thing, most of the press had gone to film and record the aftermath, doubtlessly hoping for the tooth-and-claw thing I mentioned earlier. So there were only a few journos parked in front of the podium table. Cal declared this a sign of huge disrespect for him and his life-risking efforts on the track, and therefore the press who did not attend upon him on that day would not be granted an audience with him the next time he won a race.
Presumably because Cal wins so many races, yes?
I’m thinking he should count himself lucky the excitable Argies didn’t storm the podium after hearing God Save the Queen being played. The Falklands War is still fresh in peoples’ minds over there.
Still, he did ride a superb race, as did Rins and Zarco, and even Miller who led for a few laps after a spectacular qualifying session which landed him on pole.
And this was the other Argentinian controversy.
Miller used slicks to qualify on a drying, but iffy track.
The conditions were much the same at the start of the race on Sunday and it was declared a wet race. Miller, being Miller and possessed of testicles the size of boulders, took a chance and put slicks on his bike again. The rest of the field gridded up on wets, then after the sighting lap, wheeled their bikes off the grid and back to the pits to change tyres.
For safety reasons, Race Direction did not want a repeat of what happened at Sachsenring two years ago where most of the grid started in chaos from pit lane, so it delayed the start of the race for half-an-hour.
There are two schools of thought about this. I subscribe to the first. And that is that the bitches on wets should have copped it sweet, started the race as normal and then pitted to change to slicks. This scenario would have seen Jack hammer out a big lead.
What happened instead was a delay of half-an-hour (which allowed the track to dry even more), and then the entire grid (now on slicks) was shunted back three rows (a bullshit handicap), and the race started. Jack was caught on the first lap by Marquez. And had it not been for Marquez’s ride-through penalty that would have ben the last time Jack saw the lead in that race.
So what else happened?
Quite a bit. Zarco punted Pedrosa, who high-sided himself into the air, and headed off home to be X-rayed for a broken arm.
The battle for the lead was sensational to watch. Miller, Zarco, Rins and Crutchlow could all see a top step of the podium, and while all of Australia was willing Miller on, he overcooked a corner and ended up in fourth.
Marquez’s ride through the pack was astonishing. Sure, he was a wrecking ball, but he was for the most part an extremely fast wrecking ball.
Dovizoso finished in sixth (Marquez rounded him up too) behind a determined Vinales who had been leading Rossi around until Marquez put paid to that factory’s hopes.
Tito Rabat found himself in seventh at the end of the race, which was doubtlessly cause for much celebration for the former Moto2 champion.
Iannone was just behind him and was followed over the line by an ecstatic Hafizh Syahrin in ninth.
Lorenzo? Well, he was so shit. At one point he was in last place. But he somehow manged to pip Luthi and Bautista over the line to claim 15th. Morbidelli proved to be too much for Jorge to pass and finished in 14th, and now sits ahead of Lorenzo on the championship points table.
So Austin is next.
Marquez is unbeatable there.
Unless something interesting happens.
2018 MotoGP Round Two Argentina Race Results
- Cal CRUTCHLOW LCR Honda CASTROL 40’36.342
2. Johann ZARCO Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +0.251
3. Alex RINS Team SUZUKI ECSTAR +2.501
4. Jack MILLER Alma Pramac Racing +4.390
5. Maverick VIÑALES Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +14.941
6. Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati Team +22.533
7. Tito RABAT Reale Avintia Racing +23.026
8. Andrea IANNONE Team SUZUKI ECSTAR +23.921
9. Hafizh SYAHRIN Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +24.311
10. Danilo PETRUCCI Alma Pramac Racing +26.003
11. Pol ESPARGARO Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +31.022
12. Scott REDDING Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +31.891
13. Takaaki NAKAGAMI LCR Honda IDEMITSU +32.452
14. Franco MORBIDELLI EG 0,0 Marc VDS +42.061
15. Jorge LORENZO Ducati Team +42.274
16. Alvaro BAUTISTA Angel Nieto Team +42.625
17. Thomas LUTHI EG 0,0 Marc VDS +43.350
18. Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team +43.860
19. Valentino ROSSI Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +52.082
20. Karel ABRAHAM Angel Nieto Team +1’03.944
21. Xavier SIMEON Reale Avintia Racing +1’10.144
Bradley SMITH Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Dani PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team
MotoGP World Championship Points Standings
- Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda GBR 38
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 35
3 Johann ZARCO Yamaha FRA 28
4 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha SPA 21
5 Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 20
6 Jack MILLER Ducati AUS 19
7 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati ITA 17
8 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 16
9 Alex RINS Suzuki SPA 16
10 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki ITA 15
11 Tito RABAT Ducati SPA 14
12 Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 9
13 Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha MAL 9
14 Franco MORBIDELLI Honda ITA 6
15 Pol ESPARGARO KTM SPA 5
16 Scott REDDING Aprilia GBR 4
17 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati SPA 3
18 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda JPN 3
19 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati CZE 1
20 Jorge LORENZO Ducati SPA 1