What did we learn from the first day of practice at the brand new Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina? We learned that Marc Marquez and Jack Miller learn tracks very quickly indeed. We learned that Moto2 is tight as ever. We learned that South America has been crying out for a round of MotoGP almost since the moment the series left Argentina for the last time in 1999.
And we learned that a brand new track always faces teething problems the first time it appears on the calendar. In Argentina, the biggest problem is a dirty track, covered in sand, wreaking havoc on the tires. That, though, is a relatively easy problem to solve: a few more sessions and a grand total of 90 different bikes circulating will clean the track up very quickly.
If anyone was in any doubt as to whether building a circuit in a small town in the middle of the Argentine pampas was a good idea, the crowds lining up to get into the circuit on Friday morning should have dispelled their fears. Reports were that the fans were queuing to get into the track at 7am on Friday.
That is quite unheard of in Europe, where the first day of practice is always a good day to spend at the track if you want to explore it and see the action from various points around the circuit. The Argentina round is reportedly already a sell out, with 70,000 tickets sold and only VIP passes left on the open market.
This bodes well for the future of the event, and justifies the investment made by government in the facility. If the aim is to attract tourists to Termas de Rio Hondo, and put the town on the map, they have clearly already succeeded.
Why on earth would you organize a MotoGP race in what is effectively the middle of nowhere? The answer is as simple as it is obvious: money. Dorna are being well paid by the circuit to bring the three Grand Prix classes to the little town of Termas de Rio Hondo in the heart of the Argentinian pampas.
And in case you should start to rail against Dorna’s greed, it is fair to point out that a significant part of that money will also go to the teams, to pay transport costs and to cover at least part of their annual budget. Some of that money, but not all.
A more relevant question might be why would a circuit in the middle of nowhere pay Dorna a massive amount of money to come race there? If it’s in the middle of nowhere, then surely they are unlikely to make back at the gate what they paid to Dorna to organize the race? They won’t, but that is not necessarily the point.
The circuit, after all, is not paying most of the fee. The vast majority of the cash (indeed, probably all of it) is being paid by the regional authorities, with help from the central government. The regional tourism promotion council is counting on the increased profile of the Santiago del Estero province attracting more visitors to the region, and to Argentina in general.
In essence, the Argentinian government and the Santiago del Estero province are making the same gamble as the province of Aragon did for the circuit at Alcañiz. They hope that by raising the visibility of the area to the outside world, more people will choose to visit, and that will being more revenue to the region and boost the local economy.
This weekend marks the return of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing to the South American continent, and the MotoGP paddock is slowly making its long and arduous journey to the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo.
Revamped in 2012, the MotoGP Championship had to pushback its 2013 plans, amid construction concerns and issues with a certain petroleum company having a beef with the Argentinean government.
That being said, MotoGP machines are in Argentina now (we hope), and will be on the circuit come Friday. We’ve already introduced to you the design of the Termas de Río Hondo circuit, now take a lap around the nearly three-mile circuit with former Grand Prix Champion Franco Uncini.
One of the benefits of having contacts in the MotoGP paddock is occasionally getting info that comes in handy. At the end of last season I happened to ask a friend about the July 2013 test at the new Argentina circuit.
I’d been thinking that this round looked interesting; and as I love to go to new tracks, I was thinking seriously about attending MotoGP’s first visit to the Autódromo Provincial Termas de Río Hondo.
The trip from California to Argentina sounded good in theory. It was a shorter journey than flying to Europe, right?
The Argentinian round of MotoGP will be the first time a major racing series has visited the Termas de Rio Hondo, the brand new circuit in northern Argentina. As the track is still so new, the circuit designers – Dromo Racetrack Design from Italy – have produced some background material containing key facts about the circuit.
Alongside the list of facts, there are also a couple of interesting infographics giving a better idea of what the track is like. There is a track map showing the elevation change on the circuit. But most interesting of all, is the map created using simulation software to estimate which corner will be taken in which gear, and what speeds will be reached.
As a primer to getting an idea of what to expect this weekend, these infographics are great place to start. Action starts in Argentina on Thursday.
Cal Crutchlow is to miss the Argentinian round of MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. The Factory Ducati rider is still recovering from surgery on the hand he injured during the race at Austin, and is not yet fit enough to race. Crutchlow will be replaced by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro in Argentina.
After his crash at Austin, Crutchlow was originally diagnosed with just a dislocated little finger on his right hand. However, when the swelling on the hand refused to subside, Crutchlow went in for further scans on his right hand in California. There it was found that the finger was still dislocated and was also broken.
The 2014 Dakar Rally is finally done, after two weeks of hard racing across Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Despite a slow start to this year’s Dakar, KTM’s Marc Coma took his fourth career win of the iconic rally raid race, aboard KTM’s all new KTM 450 Rally race bike.
Finishing almost two hours clear of his nearest competitor, teammate Jordi Viladoms, Coma took the lead on Stage Five and never looked back. The Spaniard’s fourth Dakar win came primarily from consistent riding, which saw Coma slowly rise in the rankings as Despres and Barreda made mistakes and encountered technical difficulties with their machinery.
“Without the right people behind me it would have been impossible to win,” said Coma. “We have worked very well throughout the race and also before. Last year I went through a very difficult situation not being able to compete because of injury and I came back to win the race. I think this says a lot about the people I have around me. I am very proud of this victory. What was key to winning the Dakar was not to make any mistakes.”
Marc Coma dedicated his win to his late teammate Kurt Caselli, who tragically died during the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000. Caselli filled in for Coma in the 2013 rally, earning himself great praise for his assention in the ranks, and two stage wins. Coma’s victory is a fitting tribute to the American rider.
At the time of this writing, racers in the 2014 Dakar Rally are now officially halfway through their ordeal, but before they could lay claim to their rest day on Saturday, they first had to contend with the 400 km of Stage Six. Thankfully temperatures weren’t as hot as they were on Thursday, but that did not make the day any easier.
It was a good outing for Sherco, as another of its riders took the top honor’s for the day, this time it was Alain Duclos who finished first for Sherco; which helped the French rider move into third overall in the standings, and bring some publicity for the small French/Spanish brand.
His movement in the rankings was also helped by the withdrawal of Chaleco Lopez, as the factory KTM rider wreaked his bike, and injured himself in the process. In contention for a podium in this year’s Dakar, his presence will be missed at the front, though he is not the only top contender absent in the rankings, as its seems impossible for Cyril Despres to overcome his mistakes on Stage Four and Stage Five.
Trailing Duclos by one minute on Stage Six, Marc Coma solidified his top spot in the overall rankings, and now leads HRC’s Juan Barreda by over 42 minutes. Not an insurmountable lead for Barreda to overcome, but the Spaniard on his Honda will have his work cutout for him if he wants to bet his fellow countryman and KTM’s well established game plan.
Riders will take Saturday off, as it is their rest day, and while the day will be a much welcomed reprieve, we are sure many will have their thoughts on Eric Palante, whose body was found today on the Stage Five course. No word yet on his cause of death, but with the 100 degree whether yesterdat, heat likely played a factor.
Day four of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw some interesting events, as riders competed on machines that they had to prep themselves the night before, as a part of the first “marathon” stage. Racing over 353 km in Argentina, between San Juan and Chilecito, for Stage Four, riders had another tough day of racing, though favorite Cyril Despres had arguably the worst of it.
Just 9 km from the finish line, and likely to take the outright lead in the process, Despres’ Yamaha YZ450F Rally encountered an electrical short, which caused the race bike to stop working. The mechanical would cost Despres 40 minutes in time, and drop him down to sixth overall, 41 minutes behind Dakar leader Joan Barreda.
Barreda too though would have a tough outing, crashing and losing time to a very fast Marc Coma, who finished third for the day. Coma and his KTM now sit only three minutes and ten seconds behind Barreda and his Honda for the outright lead.
Winning the stage was Spain’s Juan Pedrero, with Chaleco Lopez finishing second, only 29 seconds back.
After Joan Barreda’s Stage One win, Honda is continuing to make its presence felt in the 2014 Dakar Rally. This time Britain’s Sam Sunderland took the stage win honors (his first stage win in his career), though the HRC rider was followed closely in time by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez of Chile, who was just 39 seconds back.
Two minutes back from his teammate, Barreda continued his pace (despite hitting a cow), and was third fastest for the day.
Noticeably absent from the front of the pack were Dakar favorites Marc Coma (9th) and Cyril Despres (10th), as they battled the 359 km from San Luis to San Rafael. Coma attributed his result to a stone that got wedged between the gearbox and the shift — as a result he is now seven minutes back overall.
Meanwhile Despres’ difficulties stemmed from the Frenchman taking a crash in what was likely the fastest stage of the rally. Unhurt from his tumble, Despres will have to overcome a six minute eighteen second deficit overall.
The first stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally has come and gone, and while all the focus has been on multiple rally winners Cyril Despres (Yamaha) and Marc Coma (KTM), it was in fact Joan Barreda from the HRC factory team who took the first stage win.
A strong start for Honda’s rally racing program and the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike, Barreda’s stage win, though only 37 seconds quicker than Coma’s finish, solidifies Honda’s spot as a contender in this year’s Dakar — thus making the 2014 edition a true three-way battle royale.
Good money is still on Coma and Despres though, who are well within striking distance of Barreda, with 12 stages of racing still remaining. With only 180 km of timed “special” course on Sunday, the day’s racing was short and tight. It will be interesting to see how Monday’s longer 359 km special stage should sort the field out. Stay tuned.