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Marquez takes MotoGP win in Argentina as Lorenzo crashes out

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Marc Marquez stormed to his first win of the 2016 MotoGP season in Argentina on Sunday as defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo crashed out early on.

Marquez arrived in Argentina looking to build on his second place finish in Qatar two weeks ago, having endured a torrid pre-season with Honda.

The Spaniard took pole position with relative ease on Saturday despite crashing in Q2, but the biggest talking point came courtesy of a tire failure for British rider Scott Redding.

Concerns about the rear Michelin tire compounds in Argentina prompted the stewards to enforce mandatory bike swaps and reduce the race distance from 25 to 20 laps.

The opening laps featured a spirited fight for the lead between Marquez, Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and the Ducati duo of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, with Marquez eventually hitting the front on lap three.

Lorenzo quickly began to struggle, dropping down the order before suffering a fall at Turn 1 that left his Yamaha bike with damage, forcing him to retire from the race.

Up front, Marquez and Rossi diced for the lead before heading into the pits to swap their bikes at half distance, with mere tenths of a second separating them.

However, Rossi began to struggle with his second bike, allowing Marquez to slip up the road and establish a lead that he would see through to the checkered flag.

“I’m really happy with this win because we’ve worked very, very hard during the pre-season, in Qatar and here,” Marquez said.

“Honda is working very well and I feel the support; we’re going in the same direction, and that’s the most important thing.

“It’s a special win, not only because it’s the first one of the year but also because with the team, we managed the situation very well, and after what happened in Australia on a similar occasion [in 2013 when he was disqualified for mistiming his mandatory bike swap], it was important for us to do well.

“I knew that the first part of the race would be tough because it was still damp in some places, and with the first bike I hadn’t felt as good as with the other one even during practice. I knew that the second part of the race was the key.

“I pushed 100% in the first five laps after the bike change, I opened a gap and after that I just kept the distance.”

Rossi became embroiled in a close fight for second and third with Dovizioso and Iannone in the closing stages, with the Ducati riders leading him heading onto the final lap.

However, Iannone lost control at Turn 12, crashing into his teammate and sending both into the gravel to allow Rossi a free pass up into second place. Dovizioso got his bike going again to cross the line 13th, but Iannone was recorded as a retirement.

Dani Pedrosa also benefitted to finish third for Honda ahead of surprise package Eugene Laverty in fourth and Hector Barbera in fifth. Pol Espargaro finished sixth ahead of Stefan Bradl and Bradley Smith, while Tito Rabat and Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top 10.

The next MotoGP race takes place at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on April 10.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).