World champion Marc Marquez’ reign as the master of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) ended yesterday, after he crashed out of the lead of this year’s MotoGP race at the Texan track, allowing Suzuki’s Alex Rins to overtake Valentino Rossi and take his first win in the class.
Marquez had won all six Grands Prix held at the facility since its introduction for the 2013 season, and he looked to continue that trend after setting pole position and running up a near four second lead before he crashed out on lap eight of the 20 lap race.
Despite trying desperately to restart his Repsol Honda, Marquez was forced to retire in what was a tough day for Honda. Two laps earlier, Britain’s Cal Crutchlow had suffered a similar front end crash on his RC213V, while Jorge Lorenzo retired the third factory Honda with a mystery technical problem on lap 11.
With Marquez out, Rossi led the way on his Yamaha. It is almost two seasons since the Italian legend last won a MotoGP race, but Rossi’s sheer consistency means that he remains a regular front runner in the toughest motorcycle racing championship in the world.
Rossi held the lead until lap 17, when Rins made his move and, despite Rossi maintaining pressure right until the end, the Spaniard held on by less than a second to take his first win and Suzuki’s second victory since returning to MotoGP at the end of the 2014 season.
“It’s incredible,” said Rins “I’m very happy to win the race here! In warm-up this morning we tried a different set-up and it didn’t work in the way we expected, so we reverted to the usual settings for the race and we won, it’s super! I managed the pressure well, even though I suffered a bit in the last laps. When I crossed the line all the feelings hit me at once. I just want to say a big thank you to all my team, everyone in Japan, and all the people around me!”
Rossi, 40, pushed hard on the final lap but couldn’t quite find a way to repass Rins. With 20 points for second place, Rossi moves up to second in the championship, three points behind Andrea Dovizioso.
After the race, Rossi commented: “I’m very sorry for missing out on the victory, because when I saw Márquez crash I said to myself ‘Maybe I can do it’, but after that Rins arrived. Sincerely, I pushed to the maximum, the race was very fast, I did one good lap after another, but in the end he was better than I was. I was riding very well, and I wasn’t able to overtake him. It’s a shame because I haven’t won for a long time, but we are strong, and we will try again next time. On a positive note, I tried everything today, I rode a very good race and stayed in front for a long time. Riding on the limit, unfortunately I made some mistakes. Maybe if had done everything perfectly I could have tried to attack on the last lap again. So, mixed feelings: on the one side, I’m sorry about the victory, and on the other side it’s a great result after a great weekend. I was strong and I rode a very good last lap, but I didn’t want to do anything too crazy because 20 points are very important for the championship, which is still very open. It looks like we are strong this year and that the bike has improved, and these are the most important things, because maybe we can fight at the front many times this season.”
Marquez was unhurt in the crash but was understandably disappointed not to make it seven out of seven at COTA. He said: “We have had six amazing years here but today I made a big mistake. When I arrived in the garage I said sorry to the team and now I’d like to say sorry to the fans because it was my mistake. It’s different to make a mistake fighting for fifth and fighting for the win, the level is there. We’re only nine points off the lead. It’s true, we made a mistake but we are human and this can happen. We need to learn from it and understand and come back stronger in Jerez.”
Crutchlow was another disappointed after a strong showing that saw him qualify on the front row of the grid. “Obviously I’m very disappointed with today’s result here at the Circuit of the Americas,” he added. “It seemed that I got a good start and managed to be on the pace with the front guys, Marc had a little bit of a lead but I felt comfortable in the position I was in. Unfortunately I started to feel some issues with the turning of the bike, the front tyre was not giving me a great feeling and when I crashed I think I made a mistake because the engine was snapping on the braking. I locked the front in turn 11 going on to the back straight and it was the end of my race. It’s my first mistake of the year and I’m disappointed to make it here because we could have capitalised on some great points (in the championship), but we have to look forward to Jerez now which is another great circuit and we hope to do a better job there. I want to thank my team who produced a great bike all weekend and we’ll look to try and improve it in Jerez in two weeks’ time.”
Third in the race went to Australian Jack Miller, with Dovizioso salvaging third after a disappointing qualifying session saw him start from 13th on the grid. With three races of the championship completed, just nine points separate the top four riders, with Dovizioso leading on 54 points, three ahead of Rossi, with Rins third on 49 and Marquez on 45.
Round four takes place at Jerez in Spain on the weekend of 3-5 May.
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