While yesterday’s Grand Prix of the Americas didn’t provide the blockbuster battle between Marc Marquez and Maverick Vinales, the Texan showdown had plenty of drama and intrigue that sets the championship up nicely as it heads to Europe after the opening three rounds.
Qualifying had proved to be a battle royale between the two Spaniards, who were almost a second faster than third placed Valentino Rossi, with world champion Marquez taking pole by the slenderest of margins.
Away from the lights it was another Spaniard, Marquez’ team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who set the pace but Vinales’ hopes of making it three wins out of three were ended as early as lap two, when he crashed out at turn 18 of the bumpy Circuit of the Americas track.
That left Marquez to overhaul his team-mate and take a fifth win at the Austin circuit, his 11th straight win on United States soil, and put his title defence back on track.
Behind him, wily Rossi passed Pedrosa to take second, overcoming a 0.3 penalty imposed on him for cutting a corner. The Italian legend hadn’t actively sought to take an advantage, but was forced wide by MotoGP rookie Johann Zarco.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow overtook Zarco to take fourth on the line, while multiple world champion Jorge Lorenzo had his best result since joining Ducati, but was still a lowly ninth, and the third Italian bike home.
Scott Redding was the best of the rest of the Brits, in 12th, with Bradley Smith one place out of the points on the new KTM in 16th. Sam Lowes crashed on his Aprilia.
The result means that Rossi moves to the top of the points standings. With three podium finishes, the Italian legend is the only rider in the top six of the championship to have finished ever race. He is six points ahead of his Movistar Yamaha team-mate Vinales, with Marquez 18 points adrift in third.
Speaking after the race, Marquez said “This was a crucial race because after Argentina it was important to come back in the best way, so we are really happy with this result. Although I won, it was difficult, because the temperature was much higher than yesterday. Five minutes before the start, I said to my chief mechanic, ‘Okay, let’s use the hard tyre’ because I knew that I would push the medium front tyre a lot. In the beginning I was just trying to understand the limit because I hadn’t tried it a lot on Friday. I was behind Dani and when I saw that he was struggling a little bit and Valentino was challenging, I said, ‘Time to attack.’ I was able to win, and I’m happy to be back in the championship.”
Rossi added: “It was a great surprise for me and for the team because we were struggling very much with the new bike, especially during the winter. I think we need more time to understand the setting and the way to ride it, but at the end this bike is very good, especially in the race and with the used tyres. I’m so happy, because today I wasn’t so far from the front and it’s also the best result of my career at this track, so it’s good. When I saw ‘Viñales out’ I started to think ‘I’m on top of the championship standings’. I felt good and I also saw Dani having some problems, especially on the right, so I said ’maybe those four points are important’ and in fact it was like that. For me the penalty wasn’t right. The problem is we either do it like this, or we crash together at a very dangerous point. But for me, though accepting Race Direction’s decision, the mistake was made by Zarco.”
The next round of the MotoGP world championship takes place at the Jerz circuit in Spain, on the weekend of 5-7 May. If you are going to head over then make sure you are covered with our Travel Insurance tailored for bikers.