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April 23, 2014 | By MotoGP
The question on everyone’s lips ahead of the inaugural Grand Prix Red Bull de la Republica Argentina at the recently updated Termas de Rio Hondo circuit will be whether can anyone can get past Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez, who has been in spectacular form in the first two races of the season
Whilst for every rider the circuit will be a new challenge, Marquez showed last year in Austin that he is one of the fastest to adapt to new layouts and conditions. And with the pace he has been showing so far, many will see him as the clear favourite as MotoGP™ travels to South America for the first time since 1999. His ability to make the hard Bridgestone rear tyre work has arguably set the bar even higher for his rivals, as tyre issues both with the rear and front have plagued those that are considered regular front runners.
Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa is arguably an exception to that, having also rode a brilliant race in Austin last time out, though with the commonly used medium rear compound. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo will be doing all he can to put the disastrous start to season behind him – first crashing out of Qatar on the first lap, and then jumping the start in Austin before finishing 10th. As much as bike set-up, the Mallorcan will be aiming to regain the mental strength that has stood him in good stead over the years.
His teammate Valentino Rossi has shown that he can still keep up with the front-runners, though struggled with a fast-degrading front tyre in Austin. If he and new crew chief Silvano Galbusera can overcome these issues, Rossi could once again be a podium contender. His previous employers, Ducati Team, had a great race in Austin, taking their first dry podium in over a year with Andrea Dovizioso keeping his nerve to guide home the Desmosedici GP14. His teammate Cal Crutchlow on the other hand will find it tough, after fracturing the little finger on his right hand in a crash during the race and having subsequently also had surgery on his right forearm.
The satellite bikes have been putting on a great show for the riders since the start of the season. Pramac Team’s Andrea Iannone in particular will be one to watch, as he had his Ducati in a podium position for a significant stretch last time out before suffering the same front tyre issue as Rossi. Monster Yamaha Tech3 duo Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro both demonstrated a willingness to go fairing to fairing with the likes of LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, which is great news for MotoGP, though might leave their team managers with a few more grey hairs. GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, alongside Bradl and Crutchlow, all tested at the Argentinian track last year, and are likely to have an advantage in the first free practices.
The “Open” class bikes on the grid will have their work cut out trying to hunt down NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro, who is looking ever more comfortable on his Yamaha-powered machine. The likes of his teammate Colin Edwards, GO&FUN’s Scott Redding, Drive M7 Aspar duo Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama, as well as Pramac’s Yonny Hernandez are showing improvements with every session and should have the possibility to challenge. The other riders to line up under the “Open” regulations are PBM’s Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes, Iodaracing’s Danilo Petrucci, Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham, as well as Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera and Mike di Meglio.
Following Bridgestone’s tyre test there last year with Bautista, Bradl and Crutchlow, the tyre manufacturer has opted to bring a symmetric rear, with both the fronts and rears set to be of the harder compounds to cope with the tyre-punishing track.
World Championship Standings MotoGP™
1- Marc Marquez SPA Honda 50
2- Dani Pedrosa SPA Honda 36
3- Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha 28
4- Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati 27
5- Aleix Espargaro SPA Forward Yamaha 20