Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina – Maverick Vinales became the first Yamaha rider since Wayne Rainey in 1990 to win the first two races of the year, taking a stunning win as drama hit the grid behind.
Team-mate Valentino Rossi created another miracle in second, with Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow completing the podium in style.
South Africa’s Binder brothers were both back in the points, as Brad fought back for a dismal 24th on the grid to finish ninth in his second outing on the new Moto2 KTM, while younger brother Darryn finish 12th in a hard-fought Moto3 race.
Honda’s reigning champion Marc Marquez leapt into the lead from pole, with Rossi another electric starter from seventh on the grid. In the rush for Turn 1, it was Marquez leading Crutchlow as the pack shuffled behind, with the champion then making a stunning break for it as the Crutchlow held up the chasing Yamahas of Vinales and Rossi.
After a great start from a difficult grid position, Ducati Team’s five-times world champion Jorge Lorenzo crashed out on the first lap when he bumped fairings with Suzuki’s Andrea ‘Maniac’ Iannone – who stayed on but was then given a ride-through penalty for jumping the start that dropped him out of contention.
Vinales soon passed Crutchlow to take second, before the first of the high drama hit up ahead and Marquez – almost two seconds clear in the lead - suddenly hit the floor in Turn 2.
That left Vinales in the lead with Crutchlow and Rossi on the chase and the gap holding steady just above half a second - before the man of the moment began to pull away. The Doctor was left to hunt down Crutchlow, with the two holding station until Rossi struck with seven laps to go, getting past in style at Turn 5 and pulling away for a second consecutive podium, in his 350th Grand Prix race.
There was all-out war for fourth as Marquez’s factory Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa battled to get past Ducati privateer Danilo Petrucci, with Johann Zarco (Yamaha Tech 3), Alvaro Bautista (Ducati) and Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso getting in the mix.
After a short but spectacular duel between Pedrosa and Zarco, the Honda man broke free to set the fastest lap of the race – before disaster struck for Pedrosa as he crashed out of the race in the same place as team-mate Marquez had done a few laps earlier.
Even then, the drama wasn’t done as ‘DesmoDovi’ went wide at Turn 5 soon after, as Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro took the inside line, only to lose the front and slide helplessly into the Ducati and take them both out of the race.
Bautista finished fourth with fellow privateers Zarco and Jonas Folger (Yamaha) fifth and sixth. Petrucci, suffering from lack of rear grip, came home a solid seventh – ahead of an impressive fight-back from team-mate Redding at the head of the next group.
Jack Miller was ninth, ahead of surprise front-row starter Karel Abraham (Ducati).
The days of the ‘Kalex Cup’ seemed to be over with both KTMs, a Tech 3, a Speed Up and a Suter in the top 10 – but it was a Kalex rider on the top step of the podium, won under intense pressure by Franco Morbidelli as team-mate Alex Marquez crashed on the final as he pushed to catch the championship leader.
Polesitter Miguel Oliveira (KTM) took an impressive first podium for the new intermediate class KTM chassis as he came home second after Marquez’ crash, with Qatar podium finisher Tom Luthi (Kalex) third after another signature solid ride.
Morbidelli got the holeshot, with the front row shuffling for position until he and Marquez began to pull away. Marquez stayed on the chase, closing in steadily before dramatically high-siding out in his attempts to force a pass on his team-mate.
Oliveira avoided the fallout to take an impressive first podium in Moto2 with Luthi scoring his second podium of the year in third.
Fourth after a solid ride was Kalex rider Lorenzo Baldassarri, with Tech 3’s Xavi Vierge completing the top five just ahead of Italian veteran Simone Corsi (Speed Up). Francesco Bagnaia (Kalex) was top rookie, seventh in a tight midfield, just beating Suter rider Sandro Cortese to the line.
There was another incredible rookie performance in ninth as reigning Moto3 world champion Brad Binder put in a stunner, still suffering from an arm injury and fighting his way up from 24th on the grid.
Hafizh Syahrin (Kalex) rounded out the top 10.
Joan Mir took his second race win in a row, staging a stunning comeback from 16th to survive a last lap attack from British Talent Team rider John McPhee. Jorge Martin completed the all-Honda podium as the three rostrum finishers in Qatar proved a cut above the pack in another classic Moto3 battle.
Martin took the lead off the line from polesitter McPhee and Nicolo Bulega (KTM) got a little bogged down off the line. Romano Fenati (Honda) was a big loser as the lights went out; he then made contact with compatriot Niccolo Antonelli on the fight back. Antonelli retired as a result and Fenati was left with a mountain to climb.
Already climbing his own mountain was Mir, as he made serious progress up from his starting position to get into the front group. That group soon settled into a classic Moto3 freight train, with lead positions changing between Martin and team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio, McPhee, Aron Canet (Honda), Philipp Oettl (KTM) and Bulega.
Then Qatar GP winner Mir arrived on the scene; as the pack shuffled, the lead group of five began to pull away, with Mir leading McPhee, Martin, Oettl and Andrea Migno (KTM). They were soon clear at the front and ready for a final showdown.
In the end, it all came down to Turns 13 and 14 on the final lap, as Mir tried to create a gap and was reeled in once again by McPhee, who narrowly failed to find his way past in the final corners.
Martin completed the podium, just a little too far back for a final attack, with Oettl beating Migno for fourth, followed by Livio Loi (Honda), a comeback from Fenati, an incredible ride from Tatsuki Suzuki (Honda) and a solid result for Juanfran Guevara (KTM).
Grand Prix rookie Kaito Toba (Honda) a former Asia Talent Cup champion, rounded out the top 10.