There was no telling who would win the third round of the MotoGP season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The season so far…
Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) has had a great start to the season winning the opening rounds, and as well as his teammate Valentino Rossi carrying the experience and looking competitive and determined this season, both looked like they could quite possibly beaten Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) who crashed out at the last round but has won in Texas every year since the track was added to the calendar in 2013.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was quietly strong and consistent and rookie, Johann Zarco (Monster Tech3 Yamaha)… well there is no telling what he is capable of after his extremely promising start to the season. Throw in to the mix the thought that Jorge Lorenzo may have found his feet on the factory Ducati and we were on for a great race.
Vinales looks to steal Marquez’s crown in Texas
Throughout the build up to the race, a battle was on between Marquez (who holds the records) and Vinales who has been fast and confident. A screamer of a fast lap from Marquez at the end of Qualifying of 2:02.741, which is just over a half a second slower than his record at COTA, snatched him pole position and he was joined on the front row by Vinales and Rossi.
The clouds had cleared, the sun was out and the temperature was up for race day at COTA. This was a significant difference from the day before when it was overcast and humid, and the cooler temperatures caught many riders out as the sessions were filled with crashes.
Rins out after fracturing wrist after crash
Alex Rins was ruled out of the race after fracturing his wrist when he came off his Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR. And bravely, Karel Abraham (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) who had fractured his ankle and done ligament and tendon damage, was still racing after his crash.
Marquez quickest during the warm-up
On the morning of the race, Marquez was quickest on the track with a low 2:04 minute lap. Not far off his pace was Vinales in second. Pedrosa was third quickest, Rossi fourth, and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow was fifth quickest, and also the quickest independent team rider.
Pedrosa leads the start of the Americas GP
The riders lined up on the grid after the national anthem was sung and presentations were made in the sky. When the race got underway it was Pedrosa, who got a fantastic start from the front of the second row, who led into the first corner of the 21 lap race. The Spaniard ran wide but was able to retain his lead meanwhile behind him, pole position man Marquez had made his way up to second.
Behind the Repsol Honda riders, the Movistar Yamaha riders followed. Lorenzo of all people had also managed to slot in behind Vinales in fourth, in fifth on his Ducati. Crutchlow, rookies Zarco and Folger and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) made up the order of riders that followed.
Vinales makes an attempt on Rossi
Vinales took a look up the inside of his teammate, Rossi; the Spaniard was possibly still angry over the incident on track the day before where Vinales displayed his frustration towards is teammate, who was unaware that he had spoiled his lap. However, Lorenzo managed to accelerate past Vinales on the main straight but then as they headed into turn 12, Vinales was able to bite back and remained in fourth.
Instead Lorenzo lost a position to Zarco who managed to pass him further around the first lap. Lorenzo then became the prey of Crutchlow who was right on his tail as Lorenzo appeared to be struggling to make the Ducati turn. Behind Dovizioso, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) bypassed Folger to take ninth.
Disaster for Vinales who ends his winning streak with a crash in COTA
Disaster then struck for championship leader, Vinales. When in fourth, he crashed out of turn 18 on the second lap; it was game over for the Spaniard in COTA. He slid out of the race and ended up in the gravel, the air protection system in his leathers went off. He appeared unhurt but looked incredibly disappointed as he had to return to the pits. Moments later, poor Abraham crashed at turn 10 of the track on lap three. Like he needed any more injuries?
During the fourth lap of the race, a battle broke out between Reale Avintia Racing teammates Loris Baz (Desmosedici GP 15) and Hector Barbera (Desmosedici GP 16) for 13th position on track. Barbera was soon off the hook from his teammate who crashed out of the race at turn nine a few laps later when the front folded from under him; unfortunately Baz was unable to make a magnificent save like the day before.
Meanwhile at the front Rossi, who was in third behind the Repsol Honda riders, appeared to be dropping off the back of them slightly and was coming under pressure from Zarco who managed to set the fastest lap so far on lap five.
Zarco makes his move on Rossi
With 15 laps of the race remaining, Zarco made an attempt to pass Rossi on the inside of a left-hand corner, turn four. The two Yamaha riders almost came together and as a result, Rossi was forced to run wide on to the painted run-off area. Although he did not lose the position to the French double Moto2 champion, he gained ever so slightly on the two Hondas as he ended up having to cut the corner to prevent a crash.
Race control deemed him to of having gained an advantage and it was later announced that he was to be penalised at the end of the race; a mere 0.3 seconds were to be added on at the end of the race which seems negligible but could also prove extremely vital depending on how things panned out.
Repsol Honda teammates fight for the lead
The fight was on for the lead of the race as Marquez began his attack on his teammate, Pedrosa with 14 laps to go. Marquez passed Pedrosa at turn 10 but Pedrosa immediately retaliated at turn 11. Marquez was able to make his pass stick on the next lap though, however Pedrosa made sure he kept in close company to seize any opportunity that should arise.
Pol Espargaro forced to retire
Unfortunately for Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), his weekend came to an early end as the engine on his new KTM popped. He was forced to pull to the side of the track off the race line helplessly as smoke poured out of the exhaust. He had no choice but to retire from the race.
With 11 laps remaining, Marquez had built up a slight lead on Pedrosa. Pedrosa was able to close in significantly on him at turn 10. On the next lap he made an attempt to pass him but Marquez managed to outbrake him. Still, Pedrosa remained all over the back of him.
More incidents on track
The lap was eventful as the newly engaged, Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) crashed out at turn 11. He slid off but was able to recover his bike and swiftly return to the race. Then, things just kept getting worse over the weekend for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini boys.
Aleix Espargaro first returned to the pits as he was having issues with his front tyre; his crew changed it and he returned to the track but he had lost an awful lot of time. Then Sam Lowes crashed out of the race at turn 13. The front folded and he slid out ending a frustrating weekend earlier than expected.
Changes amongst the ranks
There were further changes throughout the field over the next few laps as Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) overtook Folger to take ninth from the rookie, Crutchlow ran wide but was able to recover and continue with the race, and Marquez, in response to the pressure from his teammate, set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 2:04.889.
With six laps remaining, Iannone found himself on Lorenzo’s tail in pursuit of eighth, as Crutchlow was chasing down Zarco for fourth. Iannone must have took much delight in passing the person who replaced him at Ducati. He was successful with four laps to go, as further back Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) passed Miller to take ninth. Zarco did not make it easy for Crutchlow when he passed him though immediately retaliating but eventually Crutchlow was able to make it stick.
Rossi overtakes Pedrosa and cancels out penalty
Ahead of them though, Rossi made an important move as he managed to overtake Pedrosa on the inside of turn 19. Within a few corners he had a 0.7 second lead on the Spaniard which in turn cancelled out the penalty that he was due to receive at the end of the race. Pedrosa’s pit crew tried to advise him on the penalty but it was too late by the time they made their improvised sign.
Marquez retains his crown in Texas
The race came to an end and Marquez won his fifth race at the Circuit of the Americas since it was added to the calendar in 2013, remaining the King of Austin. He finished 3.069 seconds ahead of Rossi in second and Pedrosa completed the podium after finishing third, just over two seconds back from the Italian when the penalty was added on.
Crutchlow was fourth, he finished as the highest independent team rider which gave him a pass into parc ferme with the podium finishers, and also got him a hat! Zarco was the most successful rookie in fifth. Dovizioso was sixth in the race ahead of Iannone who finished the race in seventh. A late move from Petrucci in the closing stages saw him steal eighth from Lorenzo who ended up ninth meaning that Petrucci was the second highest placed Desmosedici GP17.
Miller was 10th ahead of rookie Folger in 11th who is hoping to become more of an aggressive rider as he comes to terms with life in the MotoGP class. British rider, Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) was 12th ahead of Rabat, Barbera and Bautista who managed to collect the last championship point available in Austin, after recovering from his crash to finish 15th. Just outside the points was Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Aleix Espargaro finished the race in 17th, two laps behind.
Rossi tops the championship after COTA
The results from Austin mean that Rossi is now leading with regard to the championship. He is now on top with 56 points, just six points ahead of his teammate Vinales who collected a DNF and remains on 50 from his two race wins. Marquez’s win put him up to third on 38 points. Dovizioso is fourth with 30 points, and just one point behind, Crutchlow is fifth as the top independent team rider with 29 points.
Pedrosa’s podium means he is sixth ahead of the highest placed rookie, Zarco who is one point ahead of his teammate, Folger in eighth. Redding is ninth as the second highest placed Ducati and Miller completed the top 10.