World champion Marc Marquez spoiled Valentino Rossi’s anniversary celebrations with success from pole in the Grand Prix of Argentina on Sunday.
Nine-time champion Rossi lined up on his Yamaha in second hoping to mark 20 years as a world championship rider with a second successive victory at the Rio Honda track.
But Marquez spiked the 37-year-old’s quest as the Spaniard opened his 2016 account at the second attempt.
Rossi raced in second until the Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone sneaked past the Italian veteran with two laps to go.
With fourth place looming, the motorcycling legend then received a massive slice of good fortune as the Ducati pair touched and crashed out on the final bend to leave him with a fortuitous runner-up spot on his landmark weekend.
Despite missing out on the win Rossi was all smiles at making his first podium of the year.
With an ongoing investigation into tyre safety after a Michelin tyre delaminated in qualifying the race was shortened to 20 laps with riders having to switch bikes midway through.
And Rossi said he had struggled after the change of machine.
“On the first bike I was fast, I could fight with Marquez and start to have fun. But with the second bike I never felt the same.
“Then the two Ducatis arrive, and without them touching I couldn’t have made the podium.”
Dovizioso, second last year, had led early on from Rossi until Marquez nipped past to take control on lap three.
Jorge Lorenzo, aiming to follow up his win in the opening race in Qatar a fortnight ago, crashed out on lap five, his Yamaha sliding from underneath him on bend one.
Marquez emerged from the change of machine in front of Rossi and on target to get his title defence up and running at the second attempt.
The two-time world champion, who overcame a crash-hit session to grab pole, won at the Rio Honda track in 2014.
With rain holding off despite threatening black clouds he held his nerve to win from Rossi with Marquez’ Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa in third.
Thankfully Marquez did a better job of staying on his bike than he did on the podium, falling backwards off it in his elation at the trophy ceremony.
Of his 25th grand prix win Marquez, who now leads the championship standings, said: “It was difficult.
“Rossi tried to push me on every lap and it was tough because there was not much difference between the bikes.”
Earlier, France’s world champion Johann Zarco won the Moto 2 race to make up for his disappointing start to the season, a low key 12th in Qatar.
Zarco recorded his ninth success at this level by beating Briton Sam Lowes with Germany’s Jonas Folger in third.
Malaysian 17-year-old Khairul Idham Pawi, on a Honda, claimed his first career win with victory in the Moto3 race.
Starting on the third row, Pawi conquered a treacherous, wet track to win by a huge 26 seconds from Spain’s Jorge Navarro on another Honda and pole-sitter Brad Binder of South Africa on a KTM.
1. Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda 34:13.628
2. Valentino Rossi (Italy) Yamaha 34:21.307
3. Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda 34:41.728
4. Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Ducati 34:50.170
5. Hector Barbera (Spain) Ducati 34:50.339
6. Pol Espargaro (Spain) Yamaha 34:50.873
7. Stefan Bradl (Germany) Aprilia 34:54.981
8. Bradley Smith (Britain) Yamaha 35:04.337
9. Tito Rabat (Spain) Honda 35:04.611
10. Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Aprilia 35:15.016
11. Aleix Espargaro (Spain) Suzuki 35:22.496
12. Michele Pirro (Italy) Ducati 35:32.615
13. Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati 35:47.047
. Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Honda 19 Laps
. Andrea Iannone (Italy) Ducati 19 Laps