The best moment
In 2015, during the second visit of the Championship to Termas de Río Hondo, Andrea Dovizioso finished in second after a brilliant race, a result that up to now has been the best race finish for Ducati in Argentina. Andrea has always gone well at this South American track, but for various reasons has not been able to capitalize on the good sensations the circuit of Termas gives him. In 2016, for example, Andrea and his team knew how to manage a race run in flag-to-flag format. Just after the start, he climbed three positions and shortly after, he and his Ducati took the lead. In the middle of the race and after changing bikes, he dropped to fifth place, but in typical Dovizioso style, meaning with his characteristic patience, he made a comeback in which he overtook Maverick Viñales, Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi. Then with two laps to go, in spectacular fashion, he overtook Iannone and Valentino in the same corner, the number 5. With second place in his pocket, and one corner to go, he was then knocked down by Andrea Iannone who had missed his braking point. In an honorable move, Dovizioso picked up his Ducati and, after pushing it the last 300 meters of the race, crossed the finish line exhausted.
Termas de Rio Hondo data
Termas is considered to be a hard circuit on tyres, mainly due to the small amount of activity the track receives, with just a few races throughout the year. The riders are, especially in the first practices, lapping on a dirty and slippery surface. Added to this are an abrasive asphalt and a layout with strong acceleration at steep lean angles - turns 6 and 11 for example - where the tyres are stressed to the limit.
Turn 5 is where the strongest braking happens, and where riders exert a force on the front brake levers of 6.3 kg over 6.1 seconds, making it one of the most demanding corners of the entire season.
It ranks just after Phillip Island, the fastest track on the calendar, with average speeds of above 170 km/h.
In 2016, tire problems led Race Direction to decree the race take place under the flag-to-flag rule, reducing it to 20 laps and a mandatory bike change before the 11th lap. To complicate an already critical situation, on Sunday rain appeared, causing the race to be held on a half-dry asphalt, which made the 2016 GP at Termas de Rio Hondo even more "entertaining".
The Argentine track layout has a long straight of 1076 meters, which somehow starts in the exit of turn 3 and continues in constant acceleration by the curve 4, and when the bike is finally straight it is launched at 280 km/h. The top speed reached on the straight is 340 km/h, and it decelerates to 75 km/h before turn 5.
The braking points are complicated because it’s a relatively new circuit in the championship in which the riders are only ever there for the GP. This, together with "friendly slipstreaming", means that this braking point is the best way to climb positions. It is where more position changes take place and where the Ducati can express its two greatest virtues: engine performance and incredible braking efficiency.
Braking for turn 7 is also a good place for passing. This braking point is reached after aggressive acceleration where the rider who intends to pass looks to put himself parallel to the outside of the previous corner - which is on the left - so when taking turn 7 - which is on the right - he is able to pass his competitor on the inside.
The critical points
One of the most critical points of Termas de Río Hondo is turn 2, where last year there were 8 crashes, including that of Marc Márquez while leading the race.
Turn 1 is another "hot spot", as Jorge Lorenzo has fallen there the last two years. In 2016 while riding alone, he went off the track after slipping on a wet area; in 2017 after touching with Andrea Iannone. In 2016, on that same turn 1 there were no fewer than 20 crashes, of which 16 were in the MotoGP class and 6 were during the race.
Turn 13 also deserves to be considered tricky because it is the last overtaking point. It's where Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso made contact in 2016; and where in 2014 on the last lap Romano Fenati, running 4th ahead of Jack Miller, Alex Márquez and Livio Loi, clinched the win; it’s where Cal Crutchlow beat Andrea Iannone in 2015 and where, that same year, Petrucci was taken out by Aoyama. In short, any end-of-race duel can be decided in turn 13.
Dovizioso at Termas de Rio Hondo
The Argentine track has seen Andrea score some quite good results. He finished second in 2015, a position he would have repeated in 2016 if he had not been involved in a braking incident in the last corner of the race with Andrea Iannone. Last year Dovizioso's weekend was compromised by a bad Friday, which led to him not qualifying for Q2 on Saturday. All this came together in a finale where he was knocked down by Aleix Espargaró after mistaking his brake point. That was the only DNF for Andrea until the final race of the year.
Lorenzo at Termas de Rio Hondo
Jorge arrives in Argentina with two intentions: to redeem himself after a bad start to the championship in Qatar and to rediscover the style and determination that took him to the third podium step at the Termas circuit’s first World Championship race in 2014. An error in tyre choice, crashes, contact with other riders ... after that first year various adverse circumstances have crossed Lorenzo’s path at the GP of Argentina. Something that both he and the entire Ducati team is determined to change next weekend. His pace in the last GP at Qatar was same as those at the head of the race and Lorenzo will arrive in Argentina with the determination to try for any decent position.
1. The Argentine circuit is the second fastest in the championship after Phillip Island, with an average speed of 177 km/h, and intense turns such as No. 6, which is taken in 4th at 220 km/h , or the longest straight, where speeds of 340 km/h are reached.
2. This will be the 14th edition of the GP of Argentina and the 5th that will be held at Termas de Río Hondo. The first time that the championship arrived in Argentina was in 1961, which was also the first time that the championship held a race outside of Europe.
3. The GP of Argentina last year was the second race of the 2017 season in which the fewest number of crashes occurred. There were a total of 30, well below the 140 that were recorded, for example, at the San Marino GP.
4. If Andrea Dovizioso or Jorge Lorenzo manage to win next weekend, it will be the first time for a Ducati in Argentina. If Andrea keeps the lead after this second GP, it will also be the first time that a Ducati will lead the championship after the first two races of the year.
5. Last year the winners were Joan Mir in Moto3, Franco Morbidelli in Moto2 and Maverick Viñales in MotoGP, the same riders who won in the previous race held in Qatar.
6. Márquez has achieved pole position in every one of the 4 races held at Termas de Río Hondo so far. He won in 2014, crashed in 2015, came back to win in 2016 and crashed again in 2017.
7. Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Rossi, Pedrosa and Zarco, five of the strongest MotoGP riders, had to go through Q1 in last year's GP, on a day affected by weather.
8. Alvaro Bautista got 4th position in last year’s race with Team Aspar’s Ducati, matching the best result for the Spanish team in MotoGP. Curiously, this was also in Argentina, in 2016, but on that occasion with Eugene Laverty as rider.
9. On a Ducati, Karel Abraham qualified 2nd for the starting grid of the GP of Argentina in 2017, which was the best qualifying result of his career. It is the only time he qualified on the first row in his 178 races.
10. Michael Doohan, one of the best riders in history, had 3 wins in Argentina, and it was precisely in Argentina where he had his last GP victory 20 years ago.
11. Arthur Wheeler won the 1962 Argentina GP in the 250cc category at the age of 46, making him the oldest rider in the history of the World Championship to win a race.
12. Since the 2004 season, the starting grid has 3 riders on each row, a rule that at that time was only applied to MotoGP. It would not be until 2011 when the riders in the other categories also began in this start configuration, abandoning the traditional grid of 4 riders per row.