“It was like I farted…” | Chaos and confusion at notorious 2018 Argentina MotoGP

Remembering a bizarre 2018 Argentina MotoGP event where Marc Marquez makes himself an enemy of everyone around him and officials get into a bother

Jack Miller, 2018 Argentina

This weekend sees the MotoGP circus head out far west to South America for the first time in more than three years with a return to the secluded Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina.

Located in the north of the country, closer to Argentina’s border with Bolivia than the capital city Bueno Aires, the venue has long been regarded as an unusual choice for MotoGP with its lengthy transfer times that require a special charter flight for most teams and riders.

Nevertheless, it has become something of an obscure favourite since its inclusion to the schedule in 2014, the combination of occasionally iffy weather conditions and a slick surface from minimal round-the-year use providing a fairly unique challenge.

It has also delivered some classic moments over the years, namely team-mates Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone’s last lap collision in 2016 - which cost Ducati a double podium and Iannone the wrath of bosses that ultimately led to him being dropped at the season’s end.

However, this year’s return to Argentina is a great opportunity to take 90mins out of your day to watch back a bizarre 2018 edition of the race brimming with confusion, a surprise winner and a solidifying of Marc Marquez’s status as perhaps MotoGP’s most divisive legend/villain.

The strangest MotoGP start you’ll ever see

An image tells a thousand words, but in this case the sight of Jack Miller glancing over his shoulder to find the remainder of the grid lining up a few rows behind poses a thousand questions instead.

Indeed, with Argentina’s famously unpredictable weather throwing a rainy curveball prior to the start, riders and engineers found themselves debating on the grid which tyres to throw on. While the circuit looked wet on the grid, the conditions remained warm so that any break in the rain would allow the track to dry up.

Already starting on pole position for the first time after slick gamble in qualifying paid off handsomely, remarkably only Miller pulled the same trick again when it came to setting off on the warm-up lap.

What followed was a farcical situation of 23 riders diving for the pit lane to swap bikes fitted with dry tyres before making their way to the end of the pit lane, leaving the Pramac Ducati rider alone on the grid.

Sensibly deciding you couldn’t have 23 out-of-order bikes attempting a racing start once the pit lane exit turned green, the riders were sent back to their pit boxes as FIM officials scratched their heads as to what to do next.

After all, since Miller had predicted correctly, it was argued he shouldn’t then be penalised with the field taking up their spots next to him given they were responsible for the odd situation they now found themselves in.

The solution was to leave Miller in his grid spot, with second down to 24th lining up in order but four rows behind. Perhaps not the best solution - even if social media went wild at the sight of this massive gulf on the grid as though Miller had accidentally taken up the wrong grid slot - but it at least ensured a quick restart.

Marc Marquez throws his weight around

Perhaps a touch flustered by the drama around him, Marquez - lining up sixth (+ 4 rows) - then proceeds to stall his Repsol Honda.

Under regulations the Honda man should have allowed the grid to set off on their warm-up lap and return to the pit lane where he’d then start. However, in a display of rather questionable arrogance, Marquez proceeds to use the gap ahead to try a jump-start of his faltering RC213V.

He succeeds and despite protestations and gesticulations of the track officials ordering him to take his bike to the pit lane, rides backwards up the track and returns to his grid spot to start as intended. You only have to watch rivals’ bewildered arm waving that they are unhappy he has been allowed to do so.

Eventually the race gets underway, Miller making the most of the gap to lead the opening lap on the Pramac Ducati, before a scolded Marquez claws his way to the front on lap two.

Perhaps sensing he knows a penalty is coming his way, Marquez gets the hammer down and finds himself leading by more than three seconds when the call comes that he must take a ride-through penalty.

Dropping him to 19th, despite the margin to the front now, the slow pace over the full race distance means there is still a chance for him to land a decent result.

Marc Marquez vs Valentino Rossi

With the sketchy conditions having broken up the field in the early laps, Marquez’s penalty leaves an unusual front group of four battling it out for the win: Miller (Pramac Ducati), Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha), Alex Rins (Suzuki), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda).

While the notion of a front group of satellite racers isn’t unusual today, it’s worth noting only Crutchlow and Miller had achieved success at this level previously, while Tech 3 and Pramac were yet to succeed either.

However, while this quartet played cat and mouse in the evolving conditions, further back Marquez was keeping the attention on him as he rode fast and loose in a desperate attempt to make up ground.

He certainly wasn’t making friends, biffing Aleix Espargaro out of the way as he gained a spot and sitting up Takaaki Nakagami as he slipped beneath his Honda.

However, with eight laps still to go, Marquez was up to eighth position and still rising, his next target a forlorn Andrea Dovizioso, his anticipated title rival who no doubt thought he’d gotten a freebie with the Spaniard’s penalty, only to watch his slice through with six laps remaining.

Nevertheless, Marquez’s story was far from over as he set off in chase of sixth position, held by his old foe Valentino Rossi.

A duo with a history of gnarly moments on track - not least during the infamous 2015 Malaysian MotoGP - things came to a head again as Marquez dived from a long way back up the inside of the right-hand hairpin, catching Rossi unawares. 

With the gap disappearing, the pair knock shoulders, sending both wide. Rossi falls on the wet grass, Marquez continues… but the 30secs penalty come the flag would render his result superfluous as he plummeted to 18th.

Cal Crutchlow prevails in thrilling four-way fight

Though it was Marquez dominating the headlines with his drama-filled antics, there was plenty of action keeping fans entertained up at the front as the lead four jostled for position, each taking a stint in the lead over the final ten laps.

In the end it was Crutchlow - the only seasoned race winner of the quartet - who’d win out with an inspired performance that would relieve Zarco on the penultimate lap, relieving the Frenchman of an elusive first win he is still chasing to this day.

Bizarrely, it also handed him the championship lead briefly, becoming the first satellite rider since 2004 to do so.

So, a race for the ages. Indeed, much has been said about the Argentina MotoGP over the years, but perhaps we should conclude this article with a quote from Miller and that iconic shot of him several metres up on his rivals at the start…

“It was like I farted…”