Argentina MotoGP 2014
 
 

“On this circuit you could stuff it up on the inside and just crash across the finish...”

--- Moto2 rider Sam Lowes describing the thrilling final corners of the circuit.  Pretty much what happened in the Moto3...


It has to be said that we were dreading this one...


Predictions of disaster were widespread, and the extensive delays in getting solid track information, accommodation and other services seemed to support these prognostications.


We were just wrong.


It is a fair old trek to get here; but for those hardy few who made the inaugural MotoGP of Argentina, it was like they had died and gone to MotoGP heaven.


Yes, there were some teething problems.  Yes, the country isn’t quite up to the higher European standards we are accustomed to. But yet, there was magic here.  We were all on an adventure together, and everyone felt especially privileged to have been a part of it!


Let’s start right at the core:  the circuit.  Definitely the entire facility had an “unfinished” feel to it, but full credit to the authorities who got their priorities straight -- the track itself.  Fast, flowing, not overly technical, and with many opportunities for overtaking; with a brilliant game-deciding chicane right on the finish line a la classic tracks such as Assen and Istanbul.


Moto2 Rider Sam Lowes talked us through some of his first impressions of the track: the broad sweeping 1st corner where you have to hold your line tightly, especially in the first lap ruck. The long back straight which is slightly uphill, demanding more horsepower than is apparent on the TV.  The uphill corners 9 & 10 with huge cambers that allow you to maintain speed throughout (what fun!), but you have to get your line just right entering 9 as it will dictate the next 3 corners. And the brilliant final sector culminating in the finish-line chicane which he predicted would be a showdown for at least one race (and he was right big time!)


The track suffered from an excess of dirt and debris which had the track sweepers out between every session furiously cleaning. This had a significant impact on racing lines - as if you leave the “clean” line, you are in significant danger of sliding and losing time or worse. We hope this fault will be corrected for next year.


There were a number of other “teething” problems - large TVs which didn’t always work; insanely long toilet queues; and a frustrating “ticket” system for purchasing food and drink -- but again all these can be easily corrected. The worst problem by far was the exit traffic on all days, but apexing on Sunday where despite hanging around the track until 19:00, we still experienced total gridlock and a 1.5 hour drive to cover the 7km to the hotel. 


But far far outweighing these problems was the track itself, the super-enthusiastic, near sellout crowds, and superb assistance and friendliness of all the staff on the ground.  The VIP Village was excellent - all customers have open paddock access, a viewing terrace with TV view and a grandstand on the aforementioned final corner.



The town of Las Termas de Rio Honda opened its arms wide to accommodate the biggest thing to hit them since the Conquistadores!  The place looks to be a sleepy resort town with spas and a recreational lake.  The MotoGP hit them like a tsunami. Restaurants that were constantly full all the time had frantic waiters running to and fro like they were on their 6th Red Bull, providing first class service to the legions of MotoGP teams and visitors. Street vendors abounded, and just walking through the town at night was like a visit to a fun fair. There was a huge Red Bull “Fun Zone” with performances, music, stunts and more. Needless to say, all the hotels were totally full; the two hotels we used were of excellent standards.



Our weekend officially started Thursday evening with a happy hours in our 5* hotel. Ducati and the BT.com team were staying there, so it was nice to get a chance to chat to some of these folk after hours...  We had dinner with Gino Rea and got some of his impressions from walking and bicycling the track that day.  The amazing thing about the town is that it is a small place, and all the teams and riders are staying there.  In our restaurant for example we had Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards, Bradley Smith to name just a few....


On Friday morning, our VIP customers Jim and Maureen from Scotland joined me for a walk around the entire track along the service road.  This was brilliant... At just under 5km, we took in all three morning sessions. The MotoGP bikes along the back straight were awesome -- they hit the gas just out of turn 3, and keep it wide open until the brake marker at the end of the slightly uphill street.  Not everyone got this perfect - as Michael Laverty lost the front end exiting the turn 5 hairpin, and slid out right in front of us. Rising to an ovation, the as usual upbeat Irishman gave us a wave and scootered off!


The evening featured dinner with our good friends, the Moto3 team RW Racing and their riders Ana Carrasco and Scott DeRoue.  About 30 seconds into any conversation with Ana and you will realise that she is just “one of the boys” and fully intends to kick all their butts! Go Ana!!  Scott is fresh from a successful few years in the Red Bull Rookies cup, and we expect a lot from him in the future.  We meet Colin Edwards and he instantly offers a place in his Texas Tornado Boot Camp for Ana. What a guy!


Saturday, like the previous days, dawned overcast and threatened rain. However the weather turned nice, and the day perfect!  We had our fist experience of the VIP Village.  Situated atop the MotoGP pits (Ducati)., the facility is brilliant.  Private viewing terrace with panoramic views and a large TV; a private grandstand on the thrilling final corner, and - best of all - open paddock access! Brilliant - as our VIP guests confirmed what we have been saying for years: “Once you have gone VIP there is no going back!”  With the open paddock, we had the opportunity to meet many riders, explore garages of our friends such as Pramac Ducati and Honda Gresini, not to mention Moto2 and Moto3 teams. 


For us, the qualifying session of note was Moto3, where our sponsored rider Jakub Kornfeil qualified a superb 4th place. Our other boy, Brad Binder, had the bad luck to be right behind Masbou when he lost the front end, and poor Brad had no where to go but up and over, prematurely ending his qualifying session.  He was fine thankfully - will need new leathers!


In Moto2 we were chuffed that our partners Honda Gresini’s Federal Oil Moto2 put Belgian Xavier Simeon on the front row. Our two riders didn’t fare so well. Sam Lowes had been having setup issues all weekend, which may have contributed to his nasty crash in the session.  We later learn that a footpeg went through his leg, and we caught up with him (in fact helped him) limping out of the circuit in the evening, but as always cheerful and committed to race!  Gino Rea’s new team AGT Racing is still trying to learn the bike, and qualified near the back of the grid.


Saturday night we opted to take in the town.  The place was a town-wide party with every pub and restaurant fill to brimming, a huge Red Bull “Fun Zone”, street vendors 5 to the corner, and people all over the place. The atmosphere was electric! Most riders, sensibly, stayed in...


You couldn’t ask for a more perfect Sunday race day. Clear and sunny, a light breeze, and an almost sellout crowd.  For the first time in ages, I spent almost the entire day in the grandstands.  Our stand on the first corner had great views, albeit the large TV was pretty flaky.  The stand was over-sold so I ended up sitting on a stair; but no real harm done, and all the locals were very friendly, some even spoke English! I was with Aussie guest Shaun and as far as we could tell, we were the only foreigners in the packed stand.  Very enthusiastic fans - they even did “the Wave”!


The Moto3 race was the highlight of the day, with a 3-way duel to the very last corner; just as Sam had predicted there was chaos on the chicane with leader Jack Miller being bumped by 3rd place Romano Fenati who bounced pass both he and Alex Marquez to take a thrilling win!  He later got a penalty point, but the result stood -- good decision by Race Direction.


The ride of the race for Moto2 went to our hero Sam Lowes.  Starting on his number, 22, while in pain with a partially debilitated right leg, he carved his way through the pack to ultimately take a sensational 8th place!


MotoGP went largely as predicted -- we were pleased to see Jorge Lorenzo get in front and stay there for some time, but ultimately he was always going to lose to Marc Marquez who looks invincible this season. Good results for Rossi and Bradl as well. Our friend and the local hero Yonny Hernandez also went according to plan - holding 10th for most of the race until as predicted tyre wear lost him three positions at the very last few laps.  The less said about our partner Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista the better... Hasn’t finished a race this year.


At the end of the day we caught up with the guys who had the hardest job this weekend - SEL Logistics.  This is the team that moves the paddock. Going to Argentina was tough enough with the variable customs and other uncertainties, but moving the entire paddock from remote Tucuman to Jerez to be in place by Wednesday morning was going to be an heroic challenge! With 4 planes to fill, and an airport boasting TWO gates (event Jerez has 3!) they could only load one plane at a time in a single loading bay. The chief loader said on Sunday afternoon that he wouldn’t get to bed until 20:00 Monday, and would fly out on the last plane crack of dawn Tuesday! Kudos for the entire SEL team for a brilliant job!! (pictured are project manager Rob (l) and CEO Piers)


Following terrible traffic Saturday night, in which we turned around and headed back to the track to spend a few hours and a few beers) in the lovely Motor Museum, we headed straight for the museum Sunday.  A couple of hours (and a few beers!) were deemed sufficient time to permit the traffic to die down.  Wow, were we wrong. The 6km/11 minute journey to the hotel took nearly 1.5 hours; and THAT only because we abandoned the road, drove over a kerb, down a dirt slope and joined a dirt road into town!  We will be talking to the circuit about this...


Team AGT Racing and rider Gino Rea did not have a great result - Gino held off Japanese newcomer Tetsuta NAGASHIMA to prevent the wooden spoon, however he did finish the race and the team has learned a lot... We were honoured to join them for drinks and dinner later, and many thanks to Aussie Shaun for his contribution of a bottle of “Bundy” (Bundaberg Rum) :-)  A lovely way to finish the weekend.  Sadly I couldn’t stay up for the tradtional Red Bull party -- having to leave the hotel at 0600 Monday for the hour drive to Tucuman and 30 hours of flying...


Next year I’ll take the evening flight! :-)


Most people were put off by the lack of solid information (hotel accommodation was only sorted out in Feb/Mar!), the distance and the fear that it would all be a disaster; leaving us with just 3 customers at the event -- the smallest MotoGP in our history. It was like they had won the lottery!  With everything pretty well worked out now, there is no excuse to stay away from this, probably the most exotic of all MotoGP events.


WE are sure to be back!!


-Gordon Howell

Tour director



Book next year’s race (at 2014 prices) here.

 

GOAL!!!!!

las termas de rio hondo, Argentina 25-27 Apr 2014

Credits:

Gordon Howell (GH) Pole Position travel guide


Special thanks to Team RW Racing and riders Ana Carassco & Scott DeRoue as our guests and riders Gino Rea and Sam Lowes for sharing their experiences with us.

Some reasons to go to the Argentina MotoGP

See all our photos from the event! Click here...Argentina_Photos.html
See all our photos from the event! Click here...Argentina_Photos.html

Brilliant VIP Village with paddock access

Our first visit to Argentina (and the first of MotoGP for many years) defied predictions of gloom and delighted teams and fans alike!

Don’t miss the stunning motor museum at the track

Lovely wide open and fast track

They do “the wave” before the MotoGP.  Looking towards the Ducati stand

A great stunt show from the Red Bull biplane

Sam Lowes is assisted out of the circuit Saturday evening

We take in the town atmosphere and the yummy empanadas Saturday night

The grandstands were near capacity.  Outs was in fact over-full...

The guys responsible for moving the paddock to here and then on to Jerez - Ron and Piers (and the rest of their small hard working team!)

Closing drinks with Team AGT and Gino Rea