Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
After a breathtaking, rollercoaster weekend in the Algarve, Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing returns just four days later, this time in Latin America. MotoGP lands in Northern Argentina for the Argentine Grand Prix (Gran Premio de la República Argentina if you're well cultured).
The Autódromo Termas De Río Hondo is where the second round of the championship will take place. The 14-corner clockwise circuit is a moderate 4.8 kilometres in length, with about a quarter of its length being the one kilometre straight between turns four and five, although riders will have been building speed from the exit of the third turn.
Whilst the motorcycling world is still buzzing from the excitement of the Portuguese Grand Prix, and the first-ever sprint weekend in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the aftermath has not been without controversy and consequence.
Enea Bastianini suffered injuries in the sprint race after a collision with Ducati stablemate Luca Marini, thus forcing him to miss the Argentine Grand Prix. Ducati has not opted to replace him. Miguel Oliveira, who enjoyed a great showing for the majority of his home race weekend, was involved in an incident with Marc Marquez after the Spaniard's botched overtake attempt resulted in a DNF for the pair. Oliveira was initially declared fit to race in Argentina but upon further assessment, the Portuguese rider was pulled out of the race.
Similarly, Marc Marquez had a penalty to serve as a result of his incident with Oliveira in Portugal and was also forced out of the Argentine race due to hand injuries. Marquez's penalty has become a cause for controversy. As per the wording of the regulations, Marquez would have to serve his penalty (a double long lap penalty), but as he's set to miss the race due to injury his penalty would go unserved. The FIM stewards have however decided to postpone the Spaniard's penalty until when he's next fit to race, likely to be the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit Of The Americas, an anticlockwise circuit at which Marquez has historically been impeccable. Repsol Honda have made it public in an official statement that they intend to appeal the penalty against Marquez.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, defending champion Francesco Bagnaia got off to a perfect start, winning the sprint race and main Grand Prix in Portugal. However, Ducati has never won in Argentina, a statistic that Bagnaia and Ducati will be looking to put an end to. Whilst Ducati have never won at the Termas De Rio Hondo, it remains the only venue for Aprilia's one and only win in the premier class after Aleix Espargaro's heroics last year. With Aprilia seemingly improving their package and Maverick Viñales finding the form to match his first name, it would be a fool's error to not consider them contenders.
Argentina will host a reduced grid, a reminder of the dangers that befall motorcycle racing but also a presentation of an opportunity to some. Amidst the controversy, politics, and noise that surround the sport, once the lights go out in Argentina the only sound that will matter will be that of the nineteen 300-horsepower motorcycles that will make-up the grid.