If you were asked what the strangest race start you’ve ever seen is, chances are you might say the six-car race at the 2005 United States Grand Prix. Well, prepare to have that beaten, because what went on during this weekend’s MotoGP race in Argentina was utterly bizarre.
A damp circuit meant pretty much everyone was ready to start the race on wet tyres, but shortly before the start, everyone decided that actually, the track was probably dry enough, so pushed their bikes to the pitlane to swap to one with slicks. Everyone, that is, except for pole-sitter Jack Miller. He’d already decided to start on slicks, so he stayed on the grid. What that should have meant is 23 bikes starting from the pit lane, and one – yes, one bike starting from the grid.
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That would have been hilarious enough, but the organisers decided that having 23 bikes racing out of the pit exit on cold slicks on a damp track was too dangerous, so they delayed the start.
Understandably, Jack Miller and his Pramac Ducati team were furious with this. That’s because their decision to start on slicks anyway had given them an enormous advantage which, with the delayed start, had now been nullified.
After a bit of a delay whilst arguments were had, a solution was reached: all bikes would restart from the grid, but in an effort to preserve the legitimate advantage Miller had gained, the rest of the field would line up on the grid five rows behind him. Yes, this actually happened.
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But the comedy wasn’t done with yet – oh no. Just as we were getting set to finally start the race, Marc Marquez stalled his bike. Normally this means a rider has to push his bike to the pit lane and restart from there, but Marquez had other ideas. He ran forwards, bump-started his bike, and then rode back to his grid slot.
The race finally got going and Marquez was hit with a ride through penalty for that ludicrous display on the grid. But the controversy wasn’t over yet.
Whilst flying back up through the field, Marquez was raising eyebrows with a few aggressive overtakes – sure, some weren’t the cleanest, but that can be par for the course in MotoGP. However, all hell broke loose when one of his passes resulted in a rider falling off – and that rider was Valentino Rossi.
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Marquez eventually finished fifth but was hit with a 30-second time penalty for ‘unsportsmanlike riding’ dropping him out of the points. He went to the Yamaha garage after the race to try and apologise to Rossi, but the team didn’t want to know.
Amidst all the drama, Cal Crutchlow took the victory ahead of Johann Zarco and Alex Rins, whilst Miller slipped to fourth. The race will go down as a classic – but not necessarily for the right reasons.