The Italians steal some limelight behind a pitch perfect performance from the reigning Champion
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a brilliant victory in Termas de Rio Hondo with a dominant performance at the front, taking the Championship lead in the process to leave Argentina four points clear on the way to Texas. The race to complete the podium behind him was a spectacular tussle, however, and one eventually won by Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as the 'Doctor' made the perfect move on Andrea Doviziosos (Mission Winnow Ducati) on the last lap to secure second and his first podium since Germany last season – an apt way to mark the anniversary of his World Championship debut in 1996.
Marquez took the holeshot from pole as Dovizioso pounced for second, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) losing out from the middle of the front row and Rossi leapfrogging his teammate. Marquez immediately pulled the pin to make a gap, with Rossi then soon attacking Dovizioso but the Ducati rider holding firm.
Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was next to go on the offensive as he dived past the ‘Doctor’ but the move didn’t stick, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) getting past Viñales to tag onto the Australian. Chopping and changing, Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) was next to attack the number 12 Yamaha in the melee – before Miller took Rossi, and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had a stab at getting past the number 46 too.
It was a breathless tussle over the first two laps but one rider was then forced out of it: Crutchlow was given a Ride Through for jumping the start. That took him out of the battle as Dovi, Miller and Rossi found Morbidelli back on their tail and Rossi pounced on Dovizioso just as Morbidelli pounced on Miller in tandem. Spectacular though it was, it was shortlived as both Yamahas then headed wide and the ensuing shuffle reset the battle. Dovizioso and Rossi followed by Morbidelli, Petrucci, Miller and Viñales was the freight train fighting it out for the podium.
As the laps ticked on the Dovizioso-Rossi battle lit up and started to pull away from those behind. Dovizioso blasted down the straights, Rossi made the most of the Yamaha's forte in the corners...the two trading positions at times but able to stay ahead of the battle that now included Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) as he arrived on the scene from 16th on the grid.
As that raged on, the last lap was a relaxed one for Marquez at the front. The reigning Champion completed his stunning performance and took his first win of the year, but the battle for second stayed tense to the line. Rossi lurked behind his prey for the first half of the lap, but at Turn 7 the ‘Doctor’ struck to perfection. A block pass saw the Italian not only get past his compatriot but also create just enough of a gap to keep him ahead until the end; the result Rossi back on the podium for the first time since Sachsenring last season. Dovizioso, meanwhile, although forced to settle for third, achieved his goal of getting on the podium at a track that usually proved tough for Ducati – and he’s only four points off Marquez in the Championship.
The fight for fourth saw Rins and Miller locked in battle and in the end it was the Australian who took the spoils, coming home in the same position as last year and as top Independent Team rider. Rins nevertheless took an incredible fifth after gaining 11 places, with Petrucci ultimately dropping into the clutches of Viñales and Morbidelli – and one last gasp of drama just around the corner for that trio.
Viñales attacked Petrucci, Petrucci held him off and the two Yamahas behind then came into contact, suddenly both on the floor and sliding out as the Ducati escaped for P6. That meant Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) got an even bigger reward for a quality race as the Japanese rider capitalised for seventh, with fast Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) taking P8 and coming home as top rookie. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took ninth and homed in on his pre-race goal of the top eight.
The battle to complete the top ten was another stunner. It was Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who won it and who takes the spoils, but the Spaniard had to do some serious looking over his shoulder for another KTM: that of rookie Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3). The Portuguese rider has been notable in 2019 so far, but less than two tenths off Espargaro and two tenths off the top ten made quite an impression as he scored points for the first time.
The recovering Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) took P12, ahead of Crutchlow, Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the points. And that's all she wrote in Argentina. Now it's time for chapter three at the Circuit of the Americas, traditionally Marquez territory. Can he rule the venue once again and increase his lead? Find out on the 14th April for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.