Britain’s Cal Crutchlow is on top of the world after a stunning win in an Argentinian Grand Prix full of drama and controversy.
The drama started before the race had even started, when race organisers delayed the start of the race due to track conditions that had seen all but one rider head out onto the track with the wrong tyre choice. On a damp but drying surface, only pole position rider Jack Miller had correctly chosen slick tyres, but the delayed start gave his rivals a chance to change their rubber for the race start.
More controversy followed as world champion Marc Marquez stalled on the reformed grid, breaking the rules by riding his Honda the wrong way up the track to take his place at the back of the grid.
Marquez quickly overhauled Miller, who had several clear rows behind him due to the rest of the grid being penalised for pulling into the pits while he remained on the grid during the delay, but as expected race direction hauled the Spaniard in for a ride through penalty for his grid infringement, which saw him rejoin just inside the top 20. That was to be the first incident in a race of madness for Marquez. His wild lunge on Aleix Espargaro was penalised by being made to drop back a place but worse was to follow when he knocked off the legendary Valentino Rossi at Turn 13 as he aimed to take seventh place on lap 20 out of 24. Marquez stayed on board and crossed the line in fifth, but another penalty ensued and the world champion left Argentina with no points on the board.
But alongside Marquez’ madness, an absolutely thrilling race was developing out front, with Miller and Crutchlow involved in a four-way battle with Johann Zarco and Alex Rins.
Miller made a small mistake and slipped back, while Rins couldn’t quite match the pace of the other two. Zarco pushed all the way to the line, finishing just 0.251 seconds from the winner, but the Brit rode smartly and with great confidence to take the win and become the first Briton to lead the premier class since Barry Sheene in 1979.
“It’s not an unexpected win,” Crutchlow said after the race. “I thought that it would be between Marc and I today and when Marc got the penalty I was able to take it easy. Today I felt that I could ride away at the front but I didn’t want to take risks on the damp sections of the track. Because of the damp, we went for the softer front tyre and it was too soft for me, so I was staying out of the slipstream and looking after it.
“I’m really pleased. We were genuinely battling for the podium in Qatar and in Austin aiming for top five again.”
Of the other Brits, Scott Redding scored the first points of his Aprilia career in 12th, while Bradley Smith crashed out on the 17th lap.
In the championship, Crutchlow leads the way after two rounds, on 38 points, three ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, who came home a distant sixth in Argentina. Zarco remains the best of the Yamaha runners, on 28 points, with Maverick Vinales fourth on 21, one ahead of Marquez.
The championship now has a weekend off, before heading to Texas for the Grand Prix of the Americas on April 22.