stories joanmir alexrins
The members of the MotoGP paddock were waking up after a long winter when they received some terrible news; on a calm night during the southern hemisphere summer, on 2021 February 6th, the Termas de Río Hondo circuit was ablaze. The VIP building began to burn, and the fire spread until much of the paddock’s main block was reduced to ashes. Only a day later, work began on planning and reconstruction - the Boxes, Press Room, Hospitalities and Race Direction, and several other areas had to be completely rebuilt.
A year on from the devasting fire, after a painful absence of two years for MotoGP due to both the Covid-19 pandemic and the destruction of the circuit, the World Championship caravan returns to Argentine soil with an even more fervent welcome than usual. Although the start of the weekend was not without its troubles…
One of the cargo planes that brought the freight from the previous race in Lombok (Indonesia), suffered a breakdown and a forced technical stopover in Mombasa (Kenya) and this forced the organisers to cancel the first day of free practice in Termas. This abrupt change of plans forced the World Championship to reinvent itself with a day focused on the enjoyment of the fans, who had already gathered by the thousands in the Fan Zone on Friday!
ALEX RINS: "It's great to be here. I like this track and I think it really suits my bike and my style. The atmosphere and the warmth of the people is always impressive”
“It's great to be here”, Alex Rins - who has always performed at a high level on the Argentinian asphalt - told the fans. The rider from Barcelona took his debut MotoGP podium here in 2018, and despite a tougher time of things in 2019 he made a great comeback that ended in fifth place. In fact, in all his appearances here, Rins has finished in the Top 5 all but once. “I like this track and I think it really suits my bike and my style”, enthuses Alex, happy to return to Argentina, “the atmosphere and the warmth of the people is always impressive”.
Joan has only contested one race here in the top class, in 2019, and he was unable to complete it due to having to pit in mid-race. “It was only my second race in MotoGP, and we lacked experience, but now I am at a higher level and I have more experience overall, so I am convinced that it will go well”, he adds. The Mallorcan hopes that it will be just as good as when he won at Termas in the Moto3 class.
And for the team, what difficulties arise when returning to a track not ridden for three years? Claudio Rainato, Joan Mir's Engine Management Engineer, explains: “Motorcycles and tyres have evolved, even in a relatively short space of time, so it's like going to a new circuit and having to do a reset. It’s almost like starting from scratch”, explains the Italian. Electronic data collected in the past is useful, but not very useful; “From the point of view of electronics, it’s actually better to have a recent base to work from, and then to handle the data from the past only as a reference. It’s more useful and important to work with the data from the last races”, he underlines. “This track will test the team, the riders, and the tyres because in the first sessions the asphalt will be quite dirty”.
MANUEL CAZEAUX: "There is a great atmosphere here. and being able to to race in places we’ve missed is something that motivates the entire paddock. In addition, the crowd are so supportive”
Although there are promising signs for the squad…
“The track is favourable for our bike because it has a very twisty central layout, and our bike can be very competitive there. In the past we have struggled on the straight, but I think this year we can be quick there too with the new engine”, he adds.
There is plenty of positivity coming from the team’s Argentinian representative too; José Manuel Cazeaux, is working in his home country this weekend, and Alex Rins’ Crew Chief is feeling the love; “There is a great atmosphere here, and being able to leave Europe to race in places we’ve missed is something that motivates the entire paddock. In addition, coming back here where our expectations are high, and the crowd are so supportive, is something phenomenal”.
Born in Mar del Plata, this weekend ‘Manu’ balances his job as Crew Chief with a heavier-than-normal workload with the media and fans. "It's logical that the local press would ask more from me here," he says, “It involves more work but absolutely no pressure, and I like meeting people."
The engineer believes that Suzuki and Rins will continue to be competitive on this track. “In 2017 Alex came here injured and he suffered a lot, he even fell. But then, in 2018, he got his first podium finish and we had a fantastic weekend. In 2019, Saturday was difficult and from then on he had good pace and came back to fifth place”, he recalls, while dreaming of a new victory. "Winning here would be special, more special than ever, because it's Argentina and because we haven't won since Aragón 2020. After a very bad year and it would be great."
Manu believes that the only unknowns to check are the condition of the asphalt, and the potholes on the surface. “Some car races are held here and we have to see how that affects us,” he says. The tyres will be the other challenge: “We haven't run with the newly built Michelin carcasses but I don't think we'll have any difficulties,” he concludes.
Stay tuned to see how Suzuki fare on their return to Argentina!