Having left the wide-open spaces of the Persian Gulf, The Greatest Show on Two Wheels heads south of the equator to Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina. Round Two of the tantalizing 2017 season, The Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, promises to answer a few questions that popped up in the desert two weeks ago. The various and sundry Honda teams, especially, have a few things to prove at this very RC213V-friendly circuit. But is the 2017 bike up to it?

What we know now that we didn’t know two weeks ago is how Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow ended up with the medium front Michelin instead of the hard option. All three blame Michelin for advising them to make the change, which did not work. Marquez and Pedrosa had to nurse their fronts to respectable 4th and 5th places, respectively, while Crutchlow, also blaming his front tire. crashed out of what could have been a meaningful haul of points. Twice. Oh, and before I forget, Maverick Vinales won his first GP on the factory Yamaha and appears to be the next anointed rider.

Johann Zarco had an impressive run to start the Qatar race before crashing out while leading.

Props to Aleix Espargaro, who put his Aprilia in sixth place, and one Jack Miller, who placed eighth on the Marc VDS Honda, punking Alex Rins at the finish. Jonas Folger made the top ten, while suddenly everyone is on the Johann Zarco bandwagon for his seven superlative laps at the start.

We are temporarily suspending the Alien status of Jorge Lorenzo until he cracks the top five in a race. Or the standings. Whichever comes first. This suspension, it appears, could last up to two years. Let’s see how he does Down South.

Tranches Anyone?

At Qatar, Maverick Vinales earned the first of what’s expected to be many MotoGP wins with Yamaha.

Here’s an early look at how my entrants (rider/bike) break down. This will be a work in progress as we approach Valencia. We would love to hear how yours differ. Not really, but go ahead anyway.

  • Tranche 1: Vinales, Marquez, Dovizioso, Rossi
  • Tranche 2: Pedrosa, Iannone, Crutchlow, Bautista
  • Tranche 3: Petrucci, Lorenzo, Zarco, (Rins), Miller, Barbera, A. Espargaro
  • Tranche 4: Baz, Redding, P. Espargaro, Folger
  • Tranche 5: Smith, Lowes, Rabat, Abraham

Once again, I may have let Qatar over-influence me. And before anyone gets too whooped up, these factor in the quality of the bike as well. Bradley Smith is a 3 or a 4 on the Tech 3 Yamaha but a 5 on the first iteration of the KTM. I’m optimistic about both Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera on the Ducati Desmosedici GP16. Lorenzo is probably under-ranked and Bautista perhaps over-ranked. I’m taking a pass on criticism about the rookie rankings until we get to Europe in May.

It’s going to take a while before the image of Jorge Lorenzo in red stops looking weird.

“I hope that it’s the first and the last of this year.”

This is Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone, referring to his unforced crash out of a possible podium in Qatar, as quoted elsewhere. I would argue that this is possibly the most hilarious statement we will hear this season. Dude crashed out of six of his 14 starts last year, some with collateral damage to other riders. His riding style is aggressive. He shatters limbs. After last season, he has one iota of risk aversion in his whole body, compared to none at all previously. All these things cost him the job on the factory Ducati. I expressed concern at the time that he might attempt to over-ride the Suzuki, with similar results. But at least he got the first part right.

Recent History at Rio Hondo

Marc Marquez was victorious in the inaugural Argentine Grand Prix at Rio Hondo in 2014.

Marquez memorably acquainted himself with the place in 2014 when the track first opened. He strolled around in 14th place during FP1, possibly on a Derbi Bullet 50, then cinched everything up, mounted his bike, lowered his visor, and topped the charts in FP2, FP3, FP4, Q2, the warm-up practice and, finally, the race itself. This was his second of ten consecutive wins to open the memorable 2014 season.

2015 was the year Valentino Rossi and Marquez came together late in the race, with Marquez going down and out in what would become his worst premier class season to date. He had started well from pole and appeared to be disappearing early but couldn’t get away. Rossi had started eighth, but found something in the middle of the race (“Here comes Rossi!”) while Marquez’s rear tire was busy decomposing beneath him. It was an all-Italian podium, with Spaniards sucking wind down on the tarmac. Lorenzo, never a factor that day, would come back later in the year for his third title.

The 2015 race saw Valentino Rossi take the win ahead of Andrea Dovizioso.

Last year was the Michelin fiasco, the mandatory mid-race pit stop with Tito Rabat getting in front of Rossi as he re-entered the race, allowing Marquez to get away (Rossi said his #2 bike simply wasn’t as fast as his #1). After the restart, Marquez would be joined on the podium by Rossi and Pedrosa.

Rossi also had the best vantage point to see Andrea Iannone knock out Dovizioso in 2016.

It was also the day Iannone took himself and teammate Dovizioso out of podium contention with the Bonehead Move of the Year, the winner by an eyelash over himself and his similar takedown of Lorenzo in Barcelona later in the season. (Finishing third in the BMY competition was Dani Pedrosa, who accidentally T-boned Dovizioso at Austin in Round 3.)

Quick Hitters

World Superbikes have been racing at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit since 2015. The track is expected to join the MotoGP tour in 2018.

So now we have another Pacific round, this one in Thailand beginning next year. Hurray. The Thai papers are full of allegations of government malfeasance in securing the rights. Whatever. All I can tell you about the Grand Prix of Thailand is that it will be hot, and crowded. Rest assured that we will have our crack research staff on this like a cheap suit once, um, Valencia is out of the way.

Many readers will be amped over the news that potential Rookie of the Year Alex Rins broke his ankle in training last week. This strengthens the hands of those holding Zarco and even Folger cards. Someone who’s not German please tell me why I should root for Jonas Folger. And before you know it some writers are going to start referring to Sam Lowes as “plucky.”

The best part of waking up is Folgers in your Monster Energy water bottle.

Ezpeleta & Co have now dumped the ridiculous “points” system that arguably cost Valentino Rossi the 2015 title. (I wouldn’t argue that, but others would.) They replaced a former system deemed arbitrary with a different arbitrary system and have now returned to the original arbitrary system. These guys need more to do.

Your Weekend Forecast

This is Marquez land. He is two-for-three in races here, having been knocked out of the third. He finished fourth last time out in Qatar due to tire issues decided, in effect, by Michelin. Unlikely to happen again. He loves this place, where the Hondas have historically done well. Cal Crutchlow is licking his chops. Vinales appears unperturbed. Rossi is Rossi, and Lorenzo seems as nervous as a nun in a cucumber patch. Pedrosa and Dovizioso sit together in a corner smiling.

Maverick Vinales leads the championship after Qatar but Marc Marquez has done well in Argentina, taking the pole in each of the last three years.

Weather in greater Termas de Rio Hondo is expected to be hot and wet on Friday, with conditions improving on Saturday and Sunday. This is shaping up to be one of those races where the season could be more easily lost than won. For several riders, it means finishing the race and getting back in the points chase, Cal. For those at the bottom of the food chain it means collecting data and beating your teammate. For the top five, it means take no stupid chances. It might possibly mean watching Maverick lay down a vapor trail. One hopes not.

Not this week. Not in Marquez land.

  • JMDGT

    If Marquez rides as good as those Umbrella girls look he will win. Damn!

    • Bruce Allen

      This is what we’re looking for. Sharply honed insight. Well done.

    • spiff

      I think the Yamahas (including tech3) are very good at finding girls that want me… to leave them alone.

      • Bruce Allen

        You could write for this outfit if you turned on your spellcheck. Almost shot beer out of my nose.

        • Old MOron

          Beer for lunch? Atta boy, Brucey!

  • mikstr

    Go MV!

    • Bruce Allen

      Welcome to the conversation. BTW, nobody who comments on this stuff really likes #93 or #99. Expect to get flamed by some of these guys. But don’t take it personally. They flame me every round, but deep down I think they really like me. 😛

      • Starmag

        ” They flame me every round”
        “Your tranches actually look pretty accurate for a change”-OM
        “your precious Crutchlow”-OM

        • Bruce Allen

          My point exactly. It’s okay, though, because I’ve been married a long time and have a high humiliation threshold.

          • Starmag

            Thanks, you made me literally LOL.

      • Mahatma

        Have you yet warmed to Crutchlow? 😉

        • Bruce Allen

          Couldn’t hardly get any warmer. Almost hot at this point.

      • Gruf Rude

        Not so; as a Honda rider since 1965 I’m inclined to root for them and I have always liked Marquez. I said it last year and will repeat it now, Rossi tried to pull his mind games on Marquez and 93 shoved them back up his backside. Rossi let his nerves get to him and rode dirty, as he has been wont to do throughout his career and got what he deserved. Not that I don’t think Rossi is one of the greatest of all time; he certainly is.

    • Vrooom

      I guess somebody has to route for Lorenzo and his paramour Marquez. 🙂

      • mikstr

        spoken like a true Rossi fan… BTW, where did you see anything in my post about Marquez? I am rooting for the other new guy who will beat your idol….

        • Vrooom

          I’m not as much a Rossi fan as I am not a Marquez/Lorenzo fan. Personally I’d like to see Vinales take the championship.

          • mikstr

            I didn`t realize they were a package deal; any others I should be aware of?

          • Vrooom

            It’s something of a joke due to Marquez apparently interfering with Rossi to help Lorenzo win the championship in 2015. Helping a fellow Spaniard I imagine.

          • mikstr

            “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”…still fail to see how it`s Lorenzo`s fault?

            Back to JLo, I am curious to see how all his critics would have performed in 2013 when he came oh-so-close to beating Marquez to the title despite breaking his collar bone. Name one other rider to pull off such a feat in recent history. He is perhaps not as charismatic as some, but he has proven to be talented and gritty, and a true champion.

          • Bruce Allen

            I think most of my readers (chortle) give 99 more crap than he deserves. Triple world champion in the premier class is nothing to sneeze at. But there’s the rain thing, and he hates Rossi, so half the world is automatically against him. As for riders who have broken bones and almost won the title, I wouldn’t know where to start.

          • Vrooom

            Jorge is talented, as is Marquez. I really don’t have any real hatred for either rider, not their biggest fans by a wide margin, but both are super talented. As far as riders with broken bones nearly winning a title, as Bruce said, if you’re in MotoGP, you break bones. Take Dani Pedrosa, every single year he’s ridden, or nearly he’s broken something, often screwing up his championship chances. Kevin Schwantz in ’94 and Rossi in 2010 are the two examples of coming back from injuries to compete that come to mind as really memorable. Rossi ended up 3rd though (I mostly recall him going out to his bike on crutches), I don’t recall Kevin’s final place. Lorenzo, as are pretty much all top GP riders, is tough in the face of pain.

          • Junker

            Not a fan, but it’s not his lack of charisma. It’s his habit of always blaming someone or something else other than himself.

            Well, that and the giant hole in his game that appears with grey clouds. Can you think of any all-time great in any sport that could be crippled by routine game conditions?

          • mikstr

            His lack of performance in the rain coincides with his crash in 2013. Previous to that, he had enjoyed success in the rain, but I think the 2013 crash has given him cold feet. Analytically speaking, his high corner speed style could be said to be the most seriously impaired by the lack of traction brought on by rain. Not making excuses for him but everyone else on the grid has to ride through it and his recent lack of results in these particular races definitely harms his chances over a championship campaign.

            Back to the topic at hand, I would love to see him get his bearings on the Duc and win some races. Time will tell.

          • Junker

            I like how Marquez pronounces “Jorge” in that breathy Latinate way. Sounds like this:

            https://youtu.be/B6d2FiFv8tU

          • Old MOron

            Talented and gritty, definitely. But a poor champion.

          • mikstr

            Define poor. Championships are not Mr. Congeniality contests, they are rewards for being fastest over a set number of races. Ask Melandri and Gibernau if they think Rossi is a good champion. Ask Roberts what he thought of Spencer after 1983. Marquez has his critics too after some of the moves he has pulled. Senna and Schumacher are reverd, but were they good champions? Depends on who you ask. Good champions are more of an idealistic and romantic notion than reality.

          • Old MOron

            I guess I’m more of an idealist romantic. Cheers!

          • Bruce Allen

            Be wary of talking smack about Brits, Rossi, Bridgestone, 500cc two-strokes, and Nicky Hayden.

        • Vrooom

          I was just fulfilling Bruce’s prophesy.

  • Old MOron

    Crap, I hadn’t heard about Rins’ broken ankle.
    That bums me out. I want him to finish ahead of Lorenzo.

    Your tranches actually look pretty accurate for a change, except I’d rank my boy Zarco on par with your precious Crutchlow.

    • denchung

      Good news! Suzuki just announced Rins is cleared to race. His ankle’s not 100% but good enough to ride.

      • Old MOron

        Ha ha, if he can finish ahead of Jorge with a bad ankle, so much the better 🙂

  • Starmag

    I’m hoping for less crashes. Last week would have been much more interesting without them. After Zarco’s crash the British announcer says “that’s a shame, I’ve never wished so well of a Frenchman”. lol.

    • Mahatma

      I was thinking of Christian Sarron when I watched Zarco in the lead.Was impressive while he was in the lead though.

  • Prakasit

    Note to self, look where you want to go, like Rossi with Dovi and Iannone crashing in front of him.

  • john burns

    will credit default swaps be available as the season goes on?

    • Bruce Allen

      We have retained Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to do the underwriting. Minimum buy-in is $2 million. How much you want?

      • john burns

        I’ll take all the blue tranches i can get, on margin of course.

        • Bruce Allen

          Cool. Eight units in your name. Wire the funds to the usual account within 15 days. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

  • spiff

    I think Mavric is going to upset Marquez. Tha last podium place will be a fight between Dovi, Iannone, and Rossi.

  • spiff

    What?

    • spiff

      I said Go Rossi!!! End transmission.

      • Starmag

        Talking to your stuffed tiger again?

        • spiff

          He is a man eater, and he roots for Vinales.

        • Bruce Allen

          Good one.

  • Vrooom

    As nervous as a nun in a cucumber patch. Have to remember that classic Bruce. Pretty generous putting Bautista in tranche 2, we’ll see. I’d probably move Folger up a tranche based on his performance in the previous race qualifying and finishing, but I’m hoping he’s interesting enough to make the ROY decision interesting. Always great to read your take Bruce.

    • Old MOron

      “Nun in a cucumber patch” was hilarious.

      • Bruce Allen

        Mike Tyson in a spelling bee. Wait, there’s more…

  • Old MOron

    Hey Brucey,

    You used to call Valley and Jorge the Bruise Brothers.
    What are you going to call Valley and Maverick?

    What about Andrea and Jorge? That duo is just begging for a funny name.

    Same thing for Bradley and Pol.

    • Bruce Allen

      Have to give this some thought. Suggestions welcome. Dovi and Dovey is hard to resist, but has no punch. Nobody in tranche five gets a nickname from me; they have enough on their minds. The Blues Brothers has already been done. This stuff is harder than it looks.

      • Old MOron

        Ha ha ha! Dovi and Dovey. And that one came right off the top of your head. Oh well, we have a long season to come up with good names.

      • Old MOron

        How about if we call Brad and Pol “Laverne and Shirley” since they’re sticking together?

        Give us any chance
        We’ll take it
        Give us any rule
        We’ll brake it
        We’re gonna make our dreams come true…

        And how about if Dovi and Jorge are the Odd Couple?
        Back in 2011, Dovi was riding for Tech3. In a certain race, he passed Jorge in the early laps. Jorge declared that Dovi should not have passed him because he wasn’t racing for the championship.

        • Bruce Allen

          I love this. Not sure Dennis Chung would fully appreciate the reference.

  • Old MOron

    Wow, first practice times are in. Vale and Jorge are battling it out for the last point. It’s a little baffling.

  • Old MOron

    Wow, FP2 is even crazier. Where did Karel Abraham find his time? The Ducatis are going well – except for the factory squad.