until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


From unpacking to front row: Marini and VR46’s hectic 12 hours

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

While plenty of heroic stories emerged from the first day at Termas de Rio Hondo amid huge logistical drama, there’s perhaps no better rags to riches story than that of VR46 rider Luca Marini, who handed his team its first ever front-row start for Sunday’s MotoGP race barely 12 hours after his Ducati arrived at the track.

VR46 was the team most affected by the breakdown of a 747 jumbo jet carrying MotoGP freight from the previous race in Indonesia, and Marini’s bike – plus the entirety of the team’s equipment – was stuck in Kenya en route, triggering the first race of the weekend to rush replacement parts to the plane and get it to Argentina.

That eventually happened in the early hours of Saturday morning, with the first cargo crates arriving at the track around 2am. That left VR46 working through the night not just to prepare Marini’s machines but to build up the entire garage infrastructure needed to go racing.


“It’s been a little bit crazy, that’s for sure!” team boss Paolo Nieto told The Race after Marini qualified third.

“But I’m so happy and I have to say thank you to all the team because they worked so hard. We started working at half three in the morning and it’s been a long day, but in the end it was a fantastic result and this gives you much more caffeine!

“It’s an important day for us because it’s the first time that the VR46 team in MotoGP has made a front row, so I’m quite happy.”

It wasn’t just good luck and hard work that ensured VR46 was able to prepare Marini’s bikes well enough to fight for pole position, with veteran team boss Nieto explaining that it was also smart about how to best use its time once it realised its equipment would be late arriving in South America from Africa.

“The good thing was that on Thursday we made a schedule on the floor with tape of where we needed to put the flight cases and everything else, and we laid the carpet,” he explained.

“When the cases arrived, we were so quick to fix everything. That was really important, because normally you lose a lot of time just thinking about how you’re going to fix the box.

“In two and a half hours, everything was in place. It was a great job from all the team, and then we were able to start working with the bikes. We had to prepare the gearbox, they arrived from a race in rain conditions so we had to prepare everything, and it was tough work – but we did it.”

The team was admittedly aided by a late change to Saturday’s schedule – which meant the lesser-affected Moto2 and Moto3 classes took centre stage in the morning and meant MotoGP bikes didn’t need to be on track until lunchtime, when an ultra-compressed afternoon of action got underway.


That bought the teams an extra four hours compared to the original schedule, and Nieto admitted this was a move that made all the difference for VR46 when it came to being ready to fight for its best yet position in qualifying.

“It was important that Dorna made the schedule that meant we started working at midday,” he admitted. “That was really important for us because if we didn’t do it like this we wouldn’t have had enough time to prepare everything.

“In the end, the riders arrived like a normal day, two and a half hours before the first practice. For them it was more or less a normal day!”


Marini might not be as confident for the full 25-lap race distance as he was for a single flying lap in qualifying, but he was adamant that as long as his ever-growing confidence and experience continues to expand in the race, he’d be happy with the result.

“My team did an amazing job to prepare for me two separate bikes when it wasn’t so easy for them,” said a grateful Marini.

“They did the work of two days in only eight hours, and it’s great to be here. It’s a good result for them and they can sleep well.

“I feel comfortable in the time attacks, but I feel like we’re going in a good way with everything, starting to fix a lot of things and the feeling from the start of the day was really good. I expected to be strong and fast, but we’ll see in the race what happens.

“Warm up will be very important because I didn’t feel as good with used tyres and we have to analyse the data from FP2 and make some changes.”

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