LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow won his 3rd career MotoGP victory at Argentina in a race full of drama even before the start.
The drama reached its peak when reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi had collided on lap 20, with Italian slid off after his bike veered into the still wet grass off the track.
Marquez remained on his bike and resumed the race to take 5th place at the chequered flag, having overtaken Rossi’s teammate Maverick Vinales on the final lap 2 corners earlier.
However, Marquez’s position was shortlived as Race Direction has deemed it was “irresponsible riding” on the part of the Spaniard and had docked 30 seconds off his finishing time, resulting of him been classified as 18th, one place ahead of Rossi.
Both Marquez and Rossi are out of the points for the race. This is another setback for the Repsol Honda squad as Dani Pedrosa suffered a DNF on Lap 2 after coming into contact with Johann Zarco.
That resulted in Repsol Honda scoring zero point for the team championship, and it hasv you been relegated to 7th overall in the standings.
Crutchlow’s LCR Honda team now leads the team championship with 41 points, thanks to his 4th place in Qatar and 3 points from teammate Takashi Nagaaki, who finished P13.
The race was delayed by 20 minutes as all the riders except for Alma Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller pitted for a switch to slicks from wets after the sighting lap. The Australian has taken a gamble by opting for slicks out of the pitbox during the sighting lap.
While the riders lined up for the compulsory starting grid half an hour to the start, most parts of the track started to dry out, and checks by officials suggest that slicks could be used instead of wet tyres despite the race having been declared as a wet race moments earlier.
Miller, being the only rider not to have pitted for slicks, get to start the race out in front by 2 rows as the rest were given a penalty for having pitted. Upon completion of the warm-up lap, Marquez had stalled his Honda on the grid and had to force it to fire up again.
The reigning champion defied orders from 2 officials to get to the back of the grid and went back to his slot for the red lights to go off.
Miller got the holeshot and lead the field to the first corner, with Pedrosa and Zarco in pursuit, followed by Marquez.
Within a lap, Marquez had caught up with Miller and overtook him. Behind them, Zarco was trailing Pedrosa and made a daring move, forcing the Spaniard to go wide into a wet patch and promptly crashed out of the race. Meanwhile, Race Direction imposed a ride thru penalty for Marquez for ignoring the orders to move to the back of the grid.
Miller led for nearly 2/3 of the race before he was overtaken by Zarco, and moments later by Crutchlow.
Crutchlow’s win, coupled with a no-points finish by Marquez and a sixth-place by Andrea Dovizioso, put him in the points lead, the first time a British rider has led the championship since Barry Sheene in 1979.
Zarco grabbed second place and briefly led the contest headed into the penultimate lap. Suzuki’s Alex Rins, who also led the contest late, took the final podium spot, his best finish in MotoGP.
Miller finished fourth after leading the race early on. Maverick Vinales (5th) improved what had started as a dismal weekend for the Yamaha factory rider. Dovizioso finished 6th and was well off the pace in the dry and only somewhat better in the wet.
Aviantia Ducati’s Tito Rabat had his best-ever MotoGP finish after a strong weekend for the satellite Ducati rider. Andrea Iannone took eighth, just in front of MotoGP rookie Hafzih Syahrin (9th) who had the best weekend of his early, top-division career in just his second race.
Miller’s teammate Danilo Petrucci completed the top 10.