Round Preview: MotoGP Finally Returns To Argentina

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It’s already been a tough task to predict MotoGP so far in 2022, and now the paddock heads back to the Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo and some unchartered premier class territory for many. The season is just starting to heat up and it could be anyone on the podium in Argentina!

There are only nine permanent riders who have raced MotoGP machinery at Termas de Rio Hondo more than once
There are only nine permanent riders who have raced MotoGP machinery at Termas de Rio Hondo more than once.

There are only nine permanent riders who have raced MotoGP machinery at Termas de Rio Hondo more than once and of those, even less return to take on the track on the same bikes as they were riding on our last visit. So it really will be an interesting weekend, with even the rookie class of 2020 such as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) back in at the deep end with zero track experience on premier class machinery.


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KTM seems the best place, as the Austrian factory currently have the best seat in the house in two of three Championships, heading the standings in the Constructors’ and Teams’ title fights for the first time ever. The aforementioned Binder is only two points off the top in the fight for the riders’ crown too, and teammate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is in the top five after catapulting himself up the table by 16 places thanks to that awesome win in Indonesia.

As MotoGP returnS to Argentina for the first time since 2019, plenty has changed – so could it be another unpredictable weekend in South America?
As MotoGP returnS to Argentina for the first time since 2019, plenty has changed – so could it be another unpredictable weekend in South America?

Oliveira is also one of the only nine riders on the grid who’ve previously raced the track with the same factory with which they return to tackle the challenge in 2022 too, as Brad Binder faces the opposite challenge of first premier class touch. Can they tame Termas and lead the three leaderboards of the coveted Triple Crown?

At Tech3 KTM Factory Racing, meanwhile, the rookie duel continues and it’s still split between the two by the single point taken by reigning Moto2™ Champion Remy Gardner in Qatar. Gardner also took his first ever Grand Prix podium at Termas de Rio Hondo, so will be hoping to add to his tally as Raul Fernandez arrives with only one Moto3™ appearance at the track in 2019.

Remy has been keen to show off some of his skills after being hit with some bad luck last round...
Remy has been keen to show off some of his skills after being hit with some bad luck last round…

Just down pitlane, Ducati have an interesting array of experience. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) is one of the most veteran on the grid having first raced the venue in 2015, with only three riders beating his tally. However, it’s only two events at the track with Ducati that the Australian has to his name… but however again, Termas was the stage for his only premier class pole so far after his awe-inspiring masterclass on slicks on a drying and definitely-not-yet-dry track back in 2018. Can he turn his experience into his first podium of the season?

One rider who arguably did that last time out was another Ducati rider with experience at Termas: Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), who stormed to third in Lombok. He also has two Moto2™ wins in Argentina, but the Frenchman has only tackled the track on a Yamaha and KTM in the premier class, so both he and teammate Jorge Martin – who remains on the hunt for his first points of the year – take on the venue on Borgo Panigale machinery for the first time. So too does Luca Marini, and it will be interesting to see the Mooney VR46 Racing Team battle as Marco Bezzecchi arrives as a full blown rookie.

Ducati have an interesting array of experience. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) is one of the most veteran on the grid having first raced the venue in 2015.
Ducati have an interesting array of experience. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) is one of the most veteran on the grid having first raced the venue in 2015.

And then there’s Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team). If Qatar was a tough start, Lombok was only slightly less bitter as the Italian struggled to score. We have, however, seen Bagnaia paint MotoGP™ poetry on now many an occasion, and he’ll be hoping his 2019 experience at Termas, then on an Independent Ducati, will count for something and help him get back in the hunt for the podium as a minimum.

Finally, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) arrives in the truly best seat in the house as he continues to lead the Championship. After a disastrous start to the race in Lombok down in P20 at one point, the Italian brought it back to get another handful of points by the flag despite very little experience in the wet. Having passed that challenge, the next is Termas de Rio Hondo as the number 23 aims to keep and extend that lead – riding at the track for the first time in the premier class.

Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) arrives in the truly best seat in the house as he continues to lead the Championship.
Enea Bastianini arrives in the truly best seat in the house as he continues to lead the Championship.

Over at Yamaha, there’s plenty to discuss too. Qatar was a disappointment for reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) before incredible wet weather grip in Lombok saw the Frenchman slice up into second for his first MotoGP™ podium in the rain. But the Iwata marque – and Quartararo especially – looked hard to bet against in the dry in Indonesia, so it’s a mixed bag so far in 2021, with both disappointment and searing pace on show.

El Diablo has raced at Termas before, in 2019, and although only once it was with Yamaha. Teammate Franco Morbidelli has one more MotoGP™ race in Argentina under his belt, but he’s tackled the track on two different machines. Morbidelli had a pretty solid weekend in Indonesia too, so what will the two factory guys have for Termas? The Iwata marque have already won at the track twice with two different riders.

Fabio scored his first ever wet weather podium last round and will be looking to build on scoring early points.
Fabio scored his first ever wet weather podium last round and will be looking to build on scoring early points.

Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Team) is, meanwhile, one of the three most experienced riders on the grid at Termas – but all his races, including podiums, were with Ducati. Now he faces a new challenge of taking on the track on the YZR-M1, and after a technical issue stopped him early in Indonesia, he’ll want to get back in the points as a minimum. On the other side of the garage the vibe was the opposite in Lombok, however, as Darryn Binder steamed up inside the top 10 and was as high as eighth before a fair but aggressive move from his brother, no less, saw the younger South African classified 10th. That’s put him top in the battle for top rookie so far in 2022 though, and it was truly a stunner that will have lifted his confidence even if Argentina proves dry – at a track where he already has a Moto3™ podium.

So what about Suzuki? In some ways dark horses of consistency – despite some high profile difficulties including that Free Practice fire for Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and a seriously tough qualifying for his teammate, 2020 MotoGP™ Champion Joan Mir, in Indonesia. Rins has a fifth and a seventh so far and Mir two sixth places, but they’ve been there on race day in the wet and the dry – just lacking an extra step to get into the podium fight. Can they make that in Argentina? Rins arrives for his fourth race at the venue on the Suzuki, a rare slew of experience, and it’s where he took his first premier class podium. Mir has raced there before too, in 2019. 

So far, after what we saw in testing, it feels like there’s a pool of potential bubbling just under the surface of some more muted results for Rins…
So far, after what we saw in testing, it feels like there’s a pool of potential bubbling just under the surface of some more muted results for Rins…

For Honda, Lombok promised much and delivered little. After Marc Marquez’ huge Warm Up highside it was Pol Espargaro battling alone in Repsol Honda Team colours, and he did take some points on the new RC213V’s debut in the wet but it was a far cry from the podium and race-leading escapades of Qatar. Qatar will bring the number 44 some good hope on the way into Termas though – as will Honda’s record of four wins at the track, with both Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow – and Pol Espargaro is one of the three riders expected on the grid who’s raced at the venue since 2014, in his case with Yamaha and KTM. Will that experience help him blast out the blocks on the Honda? And what will the update on Marc Marquez’ condition be?

At LCR Honda Castrol, Alex Marquez faces the track for the first time in MotoGP™ and takes on a new challenge, although he has been on the podium there in the lower classes, whereas Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) has a couple of previous MotoGP™ experiences at Termas under his belt, and both with Honda. That will be interesting as the all-new RC213V takes on the circuit and the Japanese rider will want to leverage that to move further forward after a more muted start to 2022.

MotoGP fans are holding their breath after Marquez' massive accident. It is still unknown if he will compete this weekend.
MotoGP fans are holding their breath after Marquez’ massive accident. It is still unknown if he will compete this weekend.

At Aprilia, the experience-ometer is high too. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) is the final one of the likely three riders who have raced in every MotoGP™ race at Termas de Rio Hondo, although not all with Aprilia. The RS-GP is also a different beast this season, and in Qatar we saw serious form before a tougher Lombok so the Noale factory shouldn’t be counted out of fighting at the front. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) is also a former winner at Termas, and has raced the venue on two other machines prior to 2022. What can Aprilia do this season with a mixture of experience and fresher, fighting fit form?

It’s all to play for in Argentina, with another 25 points on the table and so far still anyone’s game to take the Championship lead, stand on the podium or even take that coveted win. Will experience count for much as we return to the land of Tango? Or is it all-change once again? Find out on Sunday the 3rd of April as MotoGP™ goes racing for the Gran Premio Michelin® de la Republica Argentina at 15:00 (GMT -3)!


MotoGP Championship Top 5 (Full Standings Here)

1 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – Ducati – 30
2 Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – KTM – 28
3 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – Yamaha – 27
4 Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – KTM – 25
5 Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) – Ducati – 24


Moto2
We’ve seen two stunning runaway wins so far in 2022, with Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) proving the class of the field in Qatar and then Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) putting in a history-making masterpiece in Mandalika. Now it’s more fresh turf for the newer faces in the field, so can Vietti and Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40) keep their 100% podium record rolling? And what will Chantra have in store off the back of his maiden win?

Starting with the most recent winner, there’s a good omen from back in 2019 as the Thai rider has both experience and success in Argentina, having taken his first Moto2™ top ten at the venue in only his second race in the class three years ago. That could bode well, but if experience is to prove king then Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing), third overall as it stands, is arguably in the best position as he arrives with two previous podiums at Termas de Rio Hondo. Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has ridden the track too, although suffered an injury at the venue in 2019, and Jake Dixon (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team) also knows Termas – and the Brit was on pole and the pace last time out before his crash. 

Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) put in a history-making masterpiece in Mandalika.
Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) put in a history-making masterpiece in Mandalika.

It will be interesting, then, to see if Vietti and Canet can come out swinging in the face of experience, with more podiums for the two this weekend likely to prove statements of intent: three podiums at three very different tracks and in very different conditions would go a long way to prove their speed is here to stay throughout the season.

On the other side of the coin, there are a few riders looking for a lot more than they took home in Indonesia. One is rookie sensation Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who had a much bumpier start to his season than many anticipated, and he’ll be taking on Termas for the first time ever. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) did some great damage control on race day in Lombok but had an overall tougher weekend after fighting for the podium in Qatar, and Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing) will be keen to re-join that postcode too.

Make sure you tune into the close and fast paced action Moto2 has to offer!
Make sure you tune into the close and fast paced action Moto2 has to offer!

Moto2™ also has home hero Gabriel Rodrigo (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) on the grid, with the Argentinean intermediate class rookie looking to make a step forward. Sean Dylan Kelly (American Racing) also has paternal ties to Argentina and so begins a fortnight of important races, and that’s also true of compatriots Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) in many ways, who will also want to make the most of Termas to head into Texas on the front foot.

After three years of waiting, the time has come to return to the land of tango and Moto2™ couldn’t be better poised for another stunning race weekend. Tune in at 13:20 (GMT -3) as the intermediate class take on Termas de Rio Hondo!


Moto2 Championship Top 5 (Full Standings Here)

1 Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – Kalex – 45
2 Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40) – Kalex – 36
3 Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) – Kalex – 29
4 Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – 25
5 Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – Kalex – 24


Moto3
2022 marks a long-awaited return to the Autodromo de Termas Rio Hondo, and for the Moto3™ class it promises an interesting weekend. The last time we raced at the venue it was Jaume Masia on top, before his tenure with Red Bull KTM Ajo although the Spaniard was still on a KTM. Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team), Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing), Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power), Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) and most recent winner Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) are the other names who’ve found some success in the land of tango, but for the majority of the field it’s unchartered territory. Once again, that could prove key – or a great leveller for many.

Masia will be hoping to repeat his success, and he’s the only returner who’s been on the podium at the track, which is an understatement for taking victory from pole. But Foggia’s show of form last time out – seconds clear despite Mandalika being a brand new venue for everyone – is a warning shot for the field, and he had pace in Qatar to come from the back.

Only a handful of names have raced at the venue before as the lightweight class takes on Termas de Rio Hondo.
Only a handful of names have raced at the venue before as the lightweight class takes on Termas de Rio Hondo.

For Migno, meanwhile, the pace was there again at Mandalika, but the bad luck hit too as Sasaki misjudged a last lap move and both went down. Both will be heartened by more good speed but looking to hit back, and the Japanese rider earned a Long Lap penalty for his error that he’ll have to overcome. Add in Suzuki as he settles in at Leopard, and Toba looking for his second podium of the season, and the veteran armada is a substantial one to overcome.

Izan Guevara (Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team), however, had some stunning speed on new turf and the number 28 took his first podium of the season. He duelled it out with teammate and 2021 title challenger Sergio Garcia (Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team) too, who seemed like he could have had the pace to try and cut into Foggia’s lead but couldn’t make a break for it and had to settle for fourth. Will both the GASGAS riders be back up at the front once again? So far you wouldn’t bet against it, although Garcia missed the 2019 Argentina GP race due to a crash in Warm Up – so it’s new turf, in terms of race distance, for both.

Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) will be looking to score more points after his win in the rain at Mandalika.
Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) will be looking to score more points after his win in the rain at Mandalika.

Meanwhile Lombok also saw a new name on the podium: Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP). The Spaniard took an emotional rostrum finish and in some style, slicing his way back through despite a Long Lap penalty. Could that open the floodgates to see the former Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion at the front more often? And what about Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)? The Turk was only just off the podium after the heat of the last lap battle as his 2022 pace continues.

However, the rookies will be aware that many of the more experienced riders in the field, including the likes of Garcia, Guevara and Öncü, don’t have experience in Argentina. Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) more than many as he races at the closest he has to a home Grand Prix for the moment – and after taking that sixth place in Qatar and then a front row in Indonesia before some bad luck on Sunday.

Leopard Racing's new arrival heads the timesheets ahead of Guevara and rookie Muñoz

Mario Aji (Honda Team Asia) will be wanting to replicate his pace after a stunning home weekend and first points too, and Scott Ogden (VisionTrack Academy) likewise took his first points in Lombok – creating a good building block for the Brit. Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia) will now join the fold too after injury kept the 2021 Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup Champion sidelined from the first two rounds, but there are plenty of debutants and they’ll all see opportunity in Termas de Rio Hondo.


Moto3 Championship Top 5 (Full Standings Here)

1 Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) – Honda – 34
2 Sergio Garcia (Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team) – GASGAS – 33
3 Izan Guevara (Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team) – GASGAS – 28
4 Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) – Honda – 25
5 Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) – KTM – 24

 

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