Looking ahead of the Moto3 race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, after Free Practice and Qualifying, it looked like Aron Canet was going to run away with the win after being untouchable throughout, but it all went wrong for him during the race.
Canet quickest during the warm-up
The clouds that covered the skies the previous day had finally passed and the sun was shining as the 250cc riders took to the track for the warm-up session prior to the race. Canet once again dominated as he was able to settle into his pace setting lap times under the 2:17 minute barrier, and again he sat the fastest time of 2:16.427.
This time was not far off the Circuit Record Lap set by the late Luis Salom back in 2013, but it was Canet’s own pace as he claimed pole ahead of the race with a time of 2:14.644. Philipp Oettl (Sudmetall Schedl GP Racing) was second fastest and Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) was third.
Del Conca Gresini Moto3 teammates Fabio Di Giannantonio and Jorge Martin, and Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) also managed to lap under the 2:17 minute barrier, but it would be Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) and Fenati who would join Canet on the front row.
Canet leads into turn one of the race
Canet got a fantastic start and managed to lead heading into the first corner, he immediately looked as if he was going to pull away from the pack, but Mir kept in touch as the rest of the pack sorted themselves out behind them on the first of 18 laps.
They almost all made their way through it cleanly until towards the end some riders were seen running off at the end of the pack. Rookie Manuel Pagliani (CIP) came off at turn 11 of the track; he had ran into the pack of the rider in front and ended up in the gravel. He appeared unhurt and was able to re-join.
Canet was leading the race and had managed to pull away and extend a one second lead over Mir who had also managed to break away ahead of the others. There was an intense battle for third involving many riders. Fenati was making his way through the pack and was rubbing up against his former teammate Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) as they battled it out; he made his way past and was in fourth behind Martin after he went on to pass Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) as well.
Crashes lead to a red flag on the third lap
Then, Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) came of at turn nine on the second lap. He was straight up to his feet but was angry and pounding the tyre wall. He was unable to recover the bike which was terrible for him especially as a red flag was produced moments later.
Rookie, Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) came off at turn 14 on the third lap of the race. When he went down he was at first unable to get up. A Marshall had to stand with a portable tyre wall in front of him as the flag went out and another Marshall ran with a stretcher to help recover him. The Japanese rider was able to get back to his feet though and made his way back to the pits ready for the quick race restart procedure,
Quick race restart procedure got underway
All of the riders made their way out on the track bar Bendsneyder. Even Toba was able to make it out, even though he was released from the end of pit lane at as the others began their warm-up lap despite causing the red flag.
The riders lined up on the grid for the race that was now to be run over 12 laps and the grid positions were to be determined from lap two meaning the front row was made up of Canet, Mir and Martin.
Canet once again leads into turn one
The lights went out again to restart the race and once again it was Canet who led into the first corner of the race. This time he was closely followed by the 2016 winner at COTA, Fenati; Mir followed on from the two leading the rest of the pack but soon lost third position to Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3). Toba started the race from the pit lane.
Fenati this time was all over the back of race leader Canet, and it was not long before he made his move up the inside of a turn but Canet soon passed him back before Fenati made another attempt that was this time successful and he took the lead. Fenati began the second lap of the race in front ahead of Canet, Di Giannantonio, Mir, Martin, Bulega, Bastianini, Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo), John McPhee (British Talent Team) and Juanfran Guevara (RBA ROE Racing Team) who made up the top 10 for now.
When they crossed the start-finish line to begin the third lap however, Canet managed to make his way back to the front using the slipstream of the Italian’s Honda. Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) passed Guevara to take 10th but they soon switched back, and McPhee moved up to eighth.
Battle between Fenati and Canet continues for the lead
Fenati wasn’t going to let the lead go so easy, especially being aware of how fast Canet can be once he settled comfortably into his pace as reflected in the build up to the race. Using the slip stream down the main straight, Fenati got back in front but then ran wide at turn 12. Canet then went up the inside a few corners later and then was seen staring directly at Fenati in n attempt possibly to intimidate or make a point to the Italian, but all it gained him was second as Canet nearly ran off track.
Once again Canet took the lead heading down the start-finish straight ahead of Fenati. Mir hand Martin had gone ahead of Di Giannantonio in fifth and Bulega followed. McPhee overtook Bastianini to take seventh and then Bastianini lost another place to Binder.
Canet crashes out of the lead after huge high-side
The third lap was a troublesome lap as not only Toba crash for a second time during the race, this time at turn 12 (fortunately he was once again unhurt but it was an early end to his day this time). Then Di Giannantonio went wide at turn 10 of the track; he was able to quickly recover.
The biggest disappointment however came from race leader Canet. As he exited turn 19 of the track and began to accelerate, the rear of his Honda flicked him up and over the bike, he slammed down onto the track and began to slide before becoming tangled with the bike as they slid into the gravel.
Canet quickly got up to his feet, the adrenalin would have helped, but then however he realised he was hurt and fell to the ground. He had to be stretchered off by the Marshalls from the side of the track. Fortunately he was able to walk back to his pit garage although he was looking incredibly and understandably disappointed as he more than deserved the win after all his hard work throughout his performance at COTA.
Fenati had a comfortable lead in COTA
It meant that Fenati was now the race leader and he had a decent gap behind him between him and second place Mir. Martin was in third for a while until Di Giannantonio managed to recover the lost positions and was in third before the fifth lap ended. As they crossed the start-finish straight, he was able to go on to take second from Mir and quickly began to pull away in pursuit of Fenati leaving Mir, Martin and Bulega to battle for fourth.
Martin was soon able to overtake Mir to take third but the Spaniard who has won the two opening rounds fought back. Martin then lost another place to Di Giannantonio but then as they headed down the start-finish straight with five laps remaining Bulega used the slip stream to go from fifth to second.
Battle for second was on
Bulega remained second as they started the next lap, Di Giannantonio and Martin followed and it appeared that Mir was starting to fall off the back of them. As they battled, they were unaware that the pack behind, that were battling for sixth, had caught them and were very much due to attack at any moment.
Entering turn 12 at the end of the straight with four laps remaining, Martin was back up to second bringing his teammate with him passed Bulega using the slip stream. Mir then passed Bulega but then was coming under attack by Bastianini, who also slotted past Bulega, who soon lost another place to McPhee.
Amazing save from the rookie
Then, amazingly, Nakarin Atiratphuvapat made a fantastic save at turn nine of the track. The rear of his Honda Team Asia Honda tried to flick him up and out of the seat but he was able to hold on. His legs went up in the air, and he landed down on his feet. He brought the bike to a stop as he slid alongside it before slowing down enough to hop back on and continue with the race.
The battle for second continued
Just two laps remained and Di Giannantonio had managed to break away slightly from the group battling for second that was now made up of eight riders. Martin stayed in touch with his teammates as Bastianini plucked off Mir from the rear of the original pack. Heading down the straight Martin was able to pass his teammate to take second.
Bulega was back up to the front of the group ahead of Bastianini, McPhee a, Mir and Guevara. Bastianini passed Bulega heading into turn one as they began the final lap of the race. Guevara then was able to overtake Mir pushing him down to eighth.
The two Del Conca Gresini Moto3 teammates battled it out as they made their way down the final straight. Di Giannantonio took an alternative line to try and avoid others benefiting from his tow. It worked and he remained second heading into turn 12, but then Bastianini shot past Martin and tried to pass Di Giannantonio but then ran wide and had to quickly slot back in to fourth. One final attempt from Martin proved successful however and he managed to just beat his teammate to the line.
Fenati claims second win in COTA
Fenati won the third round of the Moto3 season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas; his second consecutive win at the track after he won in 2016. He crossed the line with a comfortable lead, 4.504 seconds ahead of Martin who collected a third consecutive podium, and Di Giannantonio finished the race in third.
Bastianini was fourth ahead of Bulega and Guevara who just stole sixth position from British rider McPhee who ended up seventh in America. Mir ended up eighth; a result he was clearly disappointed in after winning the first two rounds of the season.
Oettl was ninth ahead of Binder in 10th. Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA ROE Racing Team) was 11th ahead of Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46), Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Sniper), Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Livio Loi (Leopard Racing) who collected the last championship point available.
Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) finished just outside the points in 16th ahead of the highest placed Mahindra rider, Marco Bazzechi (CIP). Rookie, Ayumu Sasaki finished in 18th ahead of his SIC Racing Team teammate Adam Norrodin. Rookie, Tony Arbolino (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was 20th ahead of Albert Arenas (Mahindra Gaviota Aspar) and the only female in the pack, Maria Herrera (AGR Team) in 22nd.
Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) was 23rd ahead of Atiratphuvapat who was 24th after recovering from his amazing save. Rookie Pagliani, Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Mahindra Gaviota Aspar) and rookies Patrick Pulkkinen (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) and wildcard Gabriel Martinez-Abrego (Motomex Team Moto3) completed the list of finishers in 28th.
After three rounds, Mir remains the championship leader on 58 points but Martin has managed to close the gap with his third consecutive podium and is currently just six points behind on 52 points. British rider McPhee is third on 49 points and Fenati’s win means he is fourth with 45 points. Migno is fifth ahead of Di Giannantonio, Oettl, Canet, Guevara and Loi who complete the top 10