After the rain of Saturday’s Qualifying, the riders were greeted with cool but dry conditions for Sunday’s race at the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit in northwest Argentina.
Everyone all made good clean starts as the lights went out. Britain’s John McPhee (Starting from pole position) initially lost the lead on the run down to turn one, but regained it quickly after profiting from a more than generous slipstream pulling him down the back straight into turn five. The lead would be disputed continuously throughout the race, as no rider has sufficient power to ever fully pull clear. With such small machines, and only around 40bhp, slipstreaming is a crucial element of racing in the ‘cadet class’. When a group of riders finally pulled away at the front, it numbered eleven competitors.
The race-craft that was required and indeed displayed by these young riders was of the highest quality. Particularly for none more so than Qatar winner, Joan Mir. The Spaniard had looked competitive during Friday practice, but was amongst the riders caught out by the weather in Qualifying. As such, he had to fight his way through the field, having started from P16.
He rode through the field and avoided the chaos which unfolded behind him as Niccolo Antonelli and Romano Fenati came to blows on the second lap. The former being forced to retire, and the latter earning an investigation from the stewards. There was also misfortune elsewhere as with just 10 laps to go, the hometown hero – Gabriel Rodrigo crashed out at turn five. Lorenzo Baldassarri and Fabio Di Giannantonio followed suit the very next lap.
The racing was intense all throughout the field, as every position was fiercely contested. With the championship containing a staggering 31 riders, there is desperation everywhere from these youngsters (most of them between 16-19 years old) to be noticed and sought after by teams in Moto2. Riders who are only just starting their grand-prix careers – such as Kaito Toba and Tony Arbolino – were challenging and beating more seasoned competitors such as Niccolo Bulega, Jakub Kornfeil and Jules Danilo.
And it is not just the boys taking the spotlight. 20-year old Maria Herrera fought her way up through the pack on her AGR-Team KTM machine to fifteenth place, and a coveted championship point. It has not been an easy road for the girl from Toledo, Spain. But having signed for a new team during the off-season now seems to be beginning to flourish in the Grand-Prix paddock.
But it was fellow compatriot, Mir, who eventually claimed the spoils. Back-to-back victories and a maximum complement of 50 points from the two opening rounds puts him in early command of the championship. McPhee once again had to settle for the second step on the podium, again still defying much of the pre-weekend expectation. Jorge Martin, on the Del Conca Gresini Racing machine, the front runners more than honest. His podium finish a just reward for his efforts.
Race Results – Top 10: (1) Joan Mir, (2) John McPhee, (3), Jorge Martin, (4) Phillip Oettl, (5) Andrea Migno, (6) Livio Loi, (7) Romano Fenati, (8), Tatsuki Suzuki, (9) Juanfran Guevara, (10), Kaito Toba
Eddie Hocknull @EddieHocknull