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Yamaha's Maverick on top form for Argentina GP

Motorsport
West of Buenos Aires and east of the Andes – MotoGP moves to Termas de Rio Hondo this weekend for Round 2 of 2017. It’s the modern series’ fourth visit to Argentina, with Honda’s Marc Marquez taking the first win, Valentino Rossi the second for Yamaha and Marquez hitting back in 2016.

But despite the weather problems in Qatar, the man on the move in 2017 is still new Yamaha signing Maverick Vinales – and he was in podium contention last season in Argentina, making him even more of a threat this weekend.

Team-mate Rossi – winner in 2015 in South America – also created some Sunday magic in Qatar. Despite poor pre-season form, the nine-times world champion was back with a bang when the lights went off. This will be his 350th Grand Prix, and he’ll want to make it a showstopper.

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New Yamaha signing Maverick Vinales leads the championship after a win first time out for Yamaha in Qatar. Picture: MotoGP.com

But you can never write off Marquez; he chose the wrong tyre in Losail but kept it on the road and rode for points in an impressive show of commitment to the long game. He has won twice at Rio Hondo and this could be a good place for a fighting comeback. Ironically, he probably considers his own team-mate Dani Pedrosa his biggest threat; the quiet little man from Sabadell has been consistently quick in pre-season testing and has also done well at this circuit in previous years.

The venue has also been good to the Ducati Team, with a double podium on the cards last year until disaster struck at the final corner. The Borgo Panigale factory has also shown form this year with Andrea Dovizioso’s stunning ride to second in Qatar. Jorge Lorenzo had a difficult first race, but he’ll have more track time under his belt after a private test in Jerez; put him down as a 6-1 outsider.

Andrea Iannone’s pace on the Suzuki was right up there in Qatar; a mistake cost him a result, but if he keeps it together he could surprise in South America; don’t expect the same from team-mate Alex Rins, however; Qatar’s top rookie will be riding with a small fracture in one ankle from a crash in training, which will turn his go-fast knob down a little.

Moto2

After a stunning maiden victory first time out in 2017, Franco Morbidelli is now the man to catch. Team-mate Alex Marquez will be out for revenge after qualifying only 0.023 off pole and then battling with grip to come home fifth. Tom Lüthi took on Morbidelli head-to-head throughout the latter half of 2016, and his mission, as with Takaaki Nakagami, third in Qatar will be to stop Morbidelli gaining momentum too early.

Miguel Oliveira took the new KTM chassis into the podium fight first time out, but his South African team-mate, Moto3 title-holder Brad Binder, is still at the wrong end of a very steep learning curve. More likely to challenge for a podium is Fabio Quartararo, the quickest rookie in Qatar.

Moto3

2017 started the best possible way for Honda’s Joan Mir; now it’s time for Argentina - and a chance for the top riders to strike back. Mir will be full of confidence and tough to beat - but look out for British Talent Team rider John McPhee, also Honda-mounted, fresh from his best dry result yet in Qatar.

The man who completed the all-Honda podium at Losail, Jorge Martin, will also be a threat at the front, carrying through his momentum from an impressive end to 2016, while Aron Canet, who lost out on a podium finish by 0.034s, will be out to prove a point.

Junior Binder brother Darryn delivered an impressive debut ride on the Platinum Bay KTM, finishing 13th in Qatar; look to him for a top 10 finish in Argentina.

IOL Motoring

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