In a perfect world, Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez, the two brightest young stars in the MotoGP firmament, would have squared off for a thrilling fight to the flag here at the Middle of Nowhere Grand Prix. Marquez, starting from pole, took the hole shot and led the field by almost two seconds when he carelessly lost the front in Turn 2 of Lap 4. Viñales, running second at the time, assumed the lead, laid down 21 1:40 or better laps, and won easily, hardly breaking a sweat.

Marc Marquez tumbles into the gravel after crashing with the lead early in the race.

In winning his first two races on the factory Yamaha, Viñales tied two records dating back to the 1990’s. Kenny Roberts, Jr. won his first two races on a new team in 1999 after having abandoned the Modenas KR3 team for Suzuki. And Wayne Rainey (not Valentino Rossi, not Jorge Lorenzo) was the last Yamaha pilot to start the season with two wins back in 1990, well before Viñales was born. Had Marquez not lost his grits today, both records might still be standing. We’ll never know.

Practice and Qualifying Weirdness

Practice was dry on Friday. Viñales topped FP1 and FP2, with lots of big names way down the order. Some unfamiliar names popped up in the top five – Danilo Petrucci, rookies Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger, and Karel Abraham, of all people, in FP1; both Abraham and Petrucci appeared in the top five again in FP2. Saturday was a wet day, the first ever for Viñales on the Yamaha. Accordingly, in FP3 he slipped all the way down to second place, behind LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, with Marquez in fifth.

Johann Zarco’s starting to make a believer out of Bruce.

Thus was the die cast for the first qualifying sessions of the season – Qatar cancelled theirs due to some Biblical rain – and the separating of the goats into Q1 and the lambs into Q2, but in a Bizarro kind of configuration. The lambs cinched into Q2 included, and I’m not kidding, Petrucci, Loris Baz, Folger, Alvaro Bautista, and Abraham. The goats, relegated to the ignominy of Q1, and again I’m not kidding, included BOTH factory Ducatis, Dani Pedrosa, everyone’s new fave Johann Zarco, and Valentino Freaking Rossi. Rossi and Pedrosa snuck into Q2 on their last laps of the session. They aren’t called Aliens (or Alien Emeritus) for nothing.

Karel Abraham was all-smiles after qualifying on the front row.

Qualifying itself was more or less routine, with the notable exception of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 sitting in the middle of the front row beneath Karel Abraham. Marquez started from pole, going four-for-four in Argentina, with Crutchlow sitting third, Pedrosa 5th and Rossi 7th. Figuratively speaking, the wheels fell off for the factory Ducati team on Saturday, with Andrea Dovizioso slotted 13th and Lorenzo occupying his customary wet weather position of 16th on the grid.

Trouble at the Start

Jorge Lorenzo Ducati crash with Suzuki's Andrea Iannone

Jorge Lorenzo crashed out after making contact with Andrea Iannone’s rear wheel. Iannone received a ride-through penalty, not for this crash but for jumping the start. Photo by Suzuki.

Lorenzo, the Great Spanish Hope of the factory Ducati team, saw his day end in the congested first turn as he tagged Andrea Iannone’s back wheel and quickly ended up in the gravel, the dream of one-upping Rossi in his own Yamaha-to-Ducati defection having morphed into a nightmare. After two rounds, he trails series leader Viñales by 45 points. (Although Marquez trails by 37, his deficit seems much smaller than JLo’s, since Marquez looks fully capable of winning races, while Lorenzo looks fully capable of nothing right now.)

Trouble in the Middle

Cal Crutchlow finds himself the top Honda rider in the race – and on the season, ahead of factory riders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.

Marquez’s gaffe on Lap 4 left a top five of Viñales, Crutchlow, Rossi, Pramac Ducati ex-cop Petrucci and Repsol’s Pedrosa. Petrucci, who would finish seventh, and Pedrosa spent the middle third of the race carving one another up until Pedrosa submitted a carbon copy of Marquez’ fall at Turn 2 on Lap 14. Moments later, on Lap 15, Aleix Espargaro, who has been overachieving on the Gresini Aprilia, lost the front at Turn 1 and collected factory Ducati #1 Dovizioso on his way to the runoff area. Dovi, accustomed to getting creamed by  Iannone and Pedrosa, appeared nonplussed at having been clipped by the likable Spaniard. Ducati team boss Gigi Dall’Igna, shown briefly in his garage at that moment, appeared to be throwing up in his mouth.

After the podium party, to which neither was invited, Pedrosa and Marquez could be seen in their garage, drunk, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders, singing Citizen King’s “I’ve Seen Better Days” in some very ragged Spanish.

Ridiculous Results

Crutchlow, looking strong, managed to hold off Rossi until Lap 19. He chased the Italian around for a few laps before calculating that 16 points were better than none, settling for third and a place on the rostrum. No surprise there. But who would have guessed that Bautista, flogging the Aspar team Ducati, would cross the line fourth, followed by two rookies? Zarco, who is starting to make a believer out of me, came from 14th at the start to finish fifth, while Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Jonas Folger worked his way from 11th at the start to a legit sixth place finish and 10 points. Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal, smiling like the cat who swallowed the canary, allegedly texted his counterpart with the Repsol Honda team, Livio Suppo, after the race, asking Livio if he was interested in a few tips about racing in South America.

Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi have Yamaha riding high after two rounds. They were the only factory riders in the top 10 at Rio Hondo.

Scott Redding on the Pramac GP16, Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda and the aforementioned Karel Abraham completed today’s top ten. Right. That makes eight satellite bikes in the top ten, which last occurred during the 1952 Tour de France.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that both KTM riders, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, finished in the points, putting KTM in the MotoGP books for the first time ever. This is not ridiculous, either. But KTM bosses issuing press releases declaring their intent to title in MotoGP within three years – ridiculous.

The Big Picture

Count Jonas Folger and Alvaro Bautista both find themselves in the top 10 in the points standings after two races.

After two rounds, the big picture looks like a Jackson Pollock canvas. Sure, the Movistar Yamaha team rules the world early in the season; I get that. But Scott “The Whiner” Redding sits in fourth place, as if he belongs there. Rookie Jonas Folger sits sixth. Jackass Miller sits seventh, with Marc Marquez tied for eighth with Alvaro Bautista. WTF? But the most acid-flashback-ish sight on the board is that of triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo tied for 18th place with the helpless Tito Rabat. I did a fast double-check – the walls of my hotel room do not appear to be melting, nor does the flesh seem to be falling off my face in great gross chunks. I’m not having a flashback. Jorge Lorenzo, uninjured, has earned five (5) points thus far in 2017. The bosses in Bologna need to lower their expectations. Right now would be fine.

What does it all mean? Other than Maverick Viñales seizing the 2017 season by the throat, not much. There are 16 races left to go, and the precocious Spaniard is unlikely to win them all. He will face some adversity along the way, allowing the rest of the Alien contingent – Marquez, Rossi and Dovizioso – back into the picture.

Everything has been going Maverick Viñales’ way thus far in 2017.

Viñales admitted to feeling some pressure this weekend, especially in the wet on Saturday. After today’s race, the pressure has fallen squarely on defending champion Marc Marquez, who let one get away from him this afternoon. Whether today’s crash has ruined his season is unclear. What is clear, however, is that #93 needs a win in Austin, where he is undefeated, in two weeks in order to avoid joining Jorge Lorenzo in the very bad place where he now resides.

2017 MotoGP Argentina Race Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha
2 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +2.915
3 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda +3.754
4 Alvaro Bautista Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati +6.523
5 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +15.504
6 Jonas Folger Monster Yamaha Tech3 +18.241
7 Danilo Petrucci Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati +20.046
8 Scott Redding Octo Pramac Ducati +25.480
9 Jack Miller Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +25.665
10 Karel Abraham Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati +26.403
11 Loris Baz Reale Avintia Ducati +26.952
12 Tito Rabat Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +41.875
13 Hector Barbera Avintia Racing +42.770
14 Pol Espargaro Red Bull KTM +43.085
15 Bradley Smith Red Bull KTM +43.452
16 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar +46.219
Not Classified
DNF Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 11 Laps
DNF Aleix Espargaro Aprilia Gresini 11 Laps
DNF Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 12 Laps
DNF Sam Lowes Aprilia Gresini 14 Laps
DNF Alex Rins Suzuki Ecstar 14 Laps
DNF Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 22 Laps
DNF Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse 0 Laps
2017 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 2 Rounds
1 Maverick Viñales Yamaha 50
2 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 36
3 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 20
4 Scott Redding Ducati 17
5 Cal Crutchlow Honda 16
6 Jonas Folger Yamaha 16
7 Jack Miller Honda 15
8 Marc Marquez Honda 13
9 Alvaro Bautista Ducati 13
10 Dani Pedrosa Honda 11
  • Junker

    JL99 goes down in turn 1 on lap 1. He’s morphing from 3-time champ to Maria Herrera.

    • spiff

      I think he regrets letting Ducati play his ego.

      I also wonder if Ducati regets playing his ego.

      • Old MOron

        I recall that Vale was quoted in the Italian media as saying something like, “To make the change takes big balls, so I think Jorge will stay.”
        Maybe Vale played him, too.

    • Bruce Allen

      Too funny! I’m supposed to be the comedian around here. 😂

  • mikstr

    Nice go MV!!! What’s up with Marc? is the new young lad causing him to crack? lol Of course, if the (once) mighty HRC gave him a decent bike it might help his cause… Use some of that precious NM4 engineering, lol

    Another crappy showing for JLo…

  • JMDGT

    A lot of races left. Anything could happen. Vinales has the biggest handicap there is, Great Potential.

    • spiff

      He has proven his skill. I hope he has the focus and wisdom to be a great.

  • spiff

    Okay, I have lots of thought in my head.

    First, the Factory Hondas appear to be unforgiving. All is good until it isn’t. Can’t remember which rider said they preferred one tire over another because, while it didn’t offer the same performance, it did let you know you were approaching the limit of grip.

    My guess is Lorenzo never rode dirtbikes. The Ducati wants to be thrown around, not guided and just glide through the turn. Also I think their electronics are a little to aggressive for a non winged bike. (Where are these new fairings?)

    Last thought (for now). I think the new electronics have leveled the playing field a bit. The factory bikes are still what you want to ride, but there is only so much a new chassis/singarm/fork etc can do. The electronics are only allowing so much power in a certain way. Seems riders have more influence. Brafuckinvo. It appears that we no longer have 15 also rans on the grid. If you are good, now you can prove it. Cal is doing so, now lets see Redding and the others to show up.

    • Old MOron

      It was Bargey Bautista who preferred the softer tire for the reason you describe.

      There is a story about Gorge’s father taking the brakes off his bike so that he would learn to stop by sliding sideways. Don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a good story. On the other hand, Lorenzo definitely rode dirt bikes at King Kenny’s Ranch.

  • john phyyt

    Yamaha 1,2, 5,6.. .. Yes.. and europen brands boast about Grand prix heritage..
    Please!!.. You are ,no doubt well paid ; Señor Lorenzo but it must be humiliating to see how fast you ex-ride is.. I am sure there are no tears for you over at Yamaha.. There may be a place for you when Signore Rossi retires or not.. Now is the time to talk.
    KTM only 43 seconds off the pace. Seems to still be 2 sec a lap. Right in the thick of things. Maybe rejig that chassis.. I can’t help but think that if BMW entered Moto GP they would approach it totally differently.. Note how they ditched beloved front end for conventional forks when they went superbike racing. But of course you know best.

    • spiff

      They are already pondering going to big bang. They are only 2 races in, give them until August. If they haven’t made a breakthrough by August then I would raise an eyebrow. Remember Aprila sucked up until 2017.

  • Starmag

    Poor Dovi, it’s like he has a bullseye on his back at times.
    Paella pizza seems less than savory at this point.
    The Maniac’s ride thru seemed like nit picking the start.
    I predict 2 more wins for Mav will get the Doctor wall built. Will he try to get Mav to pay for it?

    Thanks for including the standings as well as the results.

    • spiff

      I don’t think Rossi will want the wall. He needs access to Maverick’s data.

  • Vrooom

    This is a first, Iannone’s race was screwed up by somebody else. He’s probably got that coming a time or 10. Karel Abraham’s ego probably is probably unimaginably swollen right now.. We’ll never know, Sam Lowes could have given him a run for his money. OK, no. Hard to say you didn’t make the right call on Lorenzo Bruce, he may be 3rd tranche or worse.

    • Bruce Allen

      I may turn out to be right about Bautista, too. A little sore that #93 made me look bad yesterday. Honda has some work to do.

      • Old MOron

        Right about Bautista? You’ve done nothing but berate him for his haircut and his neck tattoos. Of course you’re right about Bautista!

        • Bruce Allen

          Bautista is a prettyboy with a low racing IQ, but he looks like he’s very comfortable on his GP16.

          • Old MOron

            I liked him in his 125 GP days. He was kind of a nutter, like the Maniac Joe, but he got a championship out of it. When he graduated to the bigger classes and things didn’t go his way, he turned his attention to frosting his hair and conspicuous tattoos. I figured he’d lost the plot. But you’re right, he seems to be forming a thesis on last year’s Ducati.

    • Gruf Rude

      I thought Iannone screwed up his own race by flinching the start.
      Amazing that no one jumped the Moto3 start after the red flag guy forgot to leave the front of the grid when signaled to do so.

  • Old MOron

    Great write-up, Bruce! I’m swamped at work right now, so I’ll have to flame you later 🙂

    • spiff

      Write them down, or you’ll forget.

    • Bruce Allen

      Can’t wait. 😉

      • Old MOron

        Okay, so you’re accepting accolades for being right about Bautista. C’mon, he’s an easy one. If you want to be exalted for your MotoGP insight, you have to tranche the likes of Karel Abraham correctly.

        • Bruce Allen

          You’re reminding me of what the Jews say about the Holocaust: Never again. If Abraham shows up on the front row again during my lifetime I will buy you a good cigar.

          • Old MOron

            Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • mugwump

    Moto 3 was, as usual, the most exciting race. Do you not watch?

    • Bruce Allen

      On vacation with limited time available. Couldn’t even watch Moto2. 🙁

  • Gruf Rude

    I don’t think I’m very far out on a limb to predict Yamaha as winner of this year’s manufacturers’ championship. HRC has gotten by through hiring ethereal talent over the years, but they don’t seem capable of designing a truly rideable racing motorcycle.

    • Bruce Allen

      Not lately anyway. They had it going on back in 2012-13 when Marquez graduated from Moto2. Yamaha has scoped out the ECU, that’s for sure.

  • elgar

    Great race weekend, lots of drama and a great display of rider talent or lack thereof.
    Is it just me or does JLo look like a track day newbie on that Duc? Seemed so tentative during practice and qualifying…body language spoke volumes.

    • Junker

      He went down faster than a Kardashian. They’re going to call him Deep Throat if he keeps it up.

  • Old MOron

    I would just love it if Cal were the best Honda rider this year. I bet Lucio Cecchinello would love it, too. Did you see his giddy smile during the post-race presser. How very, very cool that satellite teams are doing well.