The MotoGP sprint once again kept motorcycling fans glued to the television during the almost twenty minutes that it lasted at the Argentine Grand Prix. The spectacular short race format reached another level at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit, where a driver who started fifteenth on the grid was able to win a race that barely had twelve laps. Brad Binder destroyed all the pools and did so supported by an outstanding start and a first stop in which he was already fifth. It took him just three laps to take the lead and from then on, with no one in front, he didn’t make a single mistake and held off the Ducatis’ final attack.
In Argentina the same scheme was repeated as the sprint in Portugal. A few explosive first laps of relentless fighting, tense calm at the equator and battle again at the end, with what was left of rubber. Because the soft rear tire goes as far as it goes. From what has been seen in the two events that have been held, it is impossible to push all the laps in a sprint, but it is not allowed to relax for a moment either.
Another of the objectives of these short races was to see ‘secondaries’ in front. Drivers who will take more risks on Saturdays because they didn’t have as much to lose on Sundays. Careers for specialists, in short. With the Argentine podium free of candidates for the title (Binder, Bezzecchi and Marini; and another ‘outsider’ like Morbidelli fourth), it could be considered fulfilled with another purpose.
The protagonists of the great duel on Saturday were Álex Márquez and the current champion, Pecco Bagnaia. The man from Cervera, in his second race as a Ducati rider, showed that there were no chevrons and put up a war with the leader of the Italian brand, until he managed to overtake him in the penultimate corner of the last lap, to finish in fifth position. Maverick Viñales, without a front end fin that he had lost in the heat of battle, finished seventh. While Jorge Martín and Fabio Quartararo, eighth and ninth, took the last points distributed by the sprint.
The cross was for two Spaniards who ended up on the ground, Aleix Espargaró and Joan Mir. Honda’s was the worst unemployed, since he had to be transferred to the hospital in Santiago del Estero with head trauma and a bruised ankle. And his participation in Sunday’s race is in serious danger.
Álex Márquez’s pole position
The new Grand Prix Saturdays have two peaks of interest: the Q1 and Q2 sessions of the premier class, which with the new weekend format have been moved to the early hours of the day; and the afternoon sprint race. In the morning the rain worsened and affected the qualifications in the three categories. The MotoGP race, without going any further, started with the asphalt completely flooded and with all the bikes shod with rain tires.
They went from Q1 to Q2 Fabio Quartararo and an Álex Márquez who would ultimately be the main protagonist for various reasons. First, because a crash in the final moments of Q1 caused his bike to catch fire and make it unusable for the final session, so he started the first attack on time with the only bike available. Still with wet tires, he returned to the box and took a risk with dry tires… and the move went well.
He was not the only one who tried, three other Ducatis started with slick tires in the last stint, but no one could beat the youngest of the Márquez family, who achieved his first pole position in the premier class in Argentina. By the way, two pole positions so far this year that have had the same last name as the protagonist. In Portugal it was Marc and here in Argentina it has been Álex.
Pole positions in 2023 also have a double prize, since the Spanish driver led the grid in the sprint race on Saturday and will do so again this Sunday in the long race. Along with Álex, Marco Bezzecchi and Pecco Bagnaia will start in the front row, although in theory the Ducati should not be the favorites in the long race. If the script is fulfilled and the weather takes a breather on Sunday, the Aprilias of Maverick Viñales (starts fifth) and Aleix Espargaró (ninth) should be the bikes to beat on the Argentine track.
Álex Márquez’s was not the only Spanish pole position of the day at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit. In Moto2, Alonso López from Madrid beat Arón Canet from Valencia in his last lap, while the category leader, Pedro Acosta, finished fifth. And in Moto3, the pole went to the Japanese Ayumu Sasaki, ahead of the Turkish Deniz Öncü and the Brazilian Diogo Moreira. Iván Ortolá was the best Spaniard, fourth, in a small category that will be in charge of opening the race program on Sunday from 4:00 p.m., followed by Moto2 at 5:15 p.m. and MotoGP at 7:00 p.m. :00.
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