GP of the Americas, qualifying roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
The MotoGP™ World Championship headed out for a titanic 15 minute Q2 session. All eyes were on Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as he was expected to again walk the field at a track that he has made his own. The Spaniard opted for the softer option front and rear while Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR) went with the medium front option.
It was Lorenzo who struck first, immediately setting a 2’03.613, the fastest lap of the weekend up to that point. Not only was this the fastest lap of the weekend, but it was also Lorenzo’s first 2’03s, having only previously managed mid 2’04s.
But Marquez responded immediately and dropped to a 2’03.188, just over a second off his own pole record and 0.425s faster than Lorenzo’s time. After their first runs were complete, Lorenzo was the only rider within a second of Marquez.
Their battled continued as Lorenzo dropped his time to a 2’03.257, 0.069s behind Marquez and the closest a rider had been to him throughout the entire weekend. Neither would be able to improve their time, despite getting tantalisingly close on multiple occasions.
This meant for the fourth consecutive year, Marc Marquez secured pole position at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas. Not only did he continue his domination of the Texas track, but Marquez also claimed the 60th pole position of his career and will have his first back-to-back starts from pole since the German and Indianapolis GPs in 2015.
After a difficult start to the weekend, Lorenzo was relieved to take second place and gave Marquez something to think about as he got within a tenth of him. It’s clear the Majorcan has the pace to stick with Marquez for a lap, but can he do it over race distance?
The gap was slightly larger to Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in third, the Italian 0.387s behind his teammate and 0.456s back on Marquez. He may not have challenged for pole, but Rossi remains adamant that the front row will allow him to stay with the leading duo. Interestingly, Rossi used his bike with winglets to secure third, one of the first times he has used the winglets to achieve a fast lap. This is Rossi’s first back-to-back front row starts since the Malaysian and Australian GPs way back in 2013.
Fourth and leading the Ducati charge in the session was Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team). The Italian has been strong over the course of the weekend and he had been one of the few able to consistently get within a second of Marquez. Unfortunately Andrea Iannone will be demoted to seventh for Sunday’s race as a result of his attempted last lap pass in Argentina. Expect big moves from the Italian into Turn 1 after the lights go out.
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) produced the fifth fastest time and will be moved to fourth as a result of Iannone’s penalty. Back in 2015, Viñales started from 12th on the grid at the Circuit of the Americas, riding to ninth in the race. If he can again gain at least three places in the race, Viñales could very well be looking at a first visit to the podium. COTA was the scene of Viñales’ first Moto2™ victory in 2014.
Sixth in the session and the leading Independent Team rider, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) will move to fifth on the grid for Sunday’s race. After two difficult opening rounds, Crutchlow is out to remain upright and score his first points of the year.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) completed the top ten. From Viñales in fifth to Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati) in 12th, under a second split the eight riders. While the leading four may be in a league of their own, the battle for the top ten looks tighter than ever.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) did not participate in Qualifying due to a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot after a Friday fall. It was announced during the FP4 session that the Australian will miss the race and return to action in Jerez.
The sun shone down on Qualifying for the Moto2™ World Championship, the track improving with each and every lap. Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) immediately set the pace with a 2’08.850s on just his fourth lap, over a second faster than the existing pole record. A rapid lap in the bank, the Spaniard then shifted his attention to making up for the time lost to rain in FP3 and tweaked his race setup.
With ten minutes remaining the red flag was brought out after Efren Vazquez (JPMoto Malaysia) fell at Turn 7. He immediately received medical attention trackside and was transported off the circuit via ambulance. The Basque rider regained consciousness while being transported to the circuit medical centre before being flown to the University Medical Center Bravkenridge via helicopter.
Qualifying would resume for the final ten minutes, producing a swarm of frantic fast laps in the dying seconds of the session. But Rins’ time would go largely unchallenged, Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) improving to a 2’09.066 on his final lap. Zarco was also under the pole position record by a considerable amount but unable to dip into the 2’08s like Rins.
2015 Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas race winner Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was another to set an early benchmark lap. Like Zarco, he would improve his time late in the session to secure his third place position on the front row, eventually able to set a 2’09.100. The Brit remains astoundingly confident of his ability to remain with the front-runners; able to set competitive times even on 20 lap old tyres.
The top three proved in Argentina that they’re able to match each other’s pace and produce thrilling racing. They’ll be out to do the same again on Sunday as both Lowes and Rins hunt their first wins of the 2016 season.
Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) will lead the charge from the second row, the Swiss rider having had mixed fortunes since switching to Kalex machinery. Only 0.008s behind him was teammate and countryman Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) who is out to defend his championship lead.
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing), Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) made up the top ten.
All of the top eight riders were under the 2015 pole record and within half a second of Rins. Morbidelli was almost half a second behind Corsi in eighth, two clear groups emerging in Qualifying.
The third round of the Moto2™ World Championship begins at 12:20 Local Time on Sunday.
After a shower just before the lunch break, Qualifying began under heavy skies but with the rain holding off. The track was not yet fully dry as the pit lane opened and riders first went out with wet tyres. As the activity increased, the track quickly dried. Most riders did just two laps on their wet tyres before returning to the pits for slicks with over half an hour to go. Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) was the first to hit the track with slicks, soft in the front and rear.
The Moto3™ World Championship Qualifying began to pick up stream as Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) began to improve his times, dropping under the 2’20 barrier with 27 minutes remaining. Slicks were now clearly the choice for the remainder of the session even though times were still three seconds off the pace of FP2.
Everything looked to be progressing well until the rain flag was brought out with 20 minutes remaining. Riders out on track pushed for a final fast lap before any water settled on track. The field would soon be sent back to the pits once again. Riders returned, but many kept their helmets and tyre warmers on, ready to go back out on track as soon as the rain stopped.
With ten minutes remaining riders were back out again with slick tyres fitted. Was a hectic battle for pole position just beyond the horizon? Several riders down the order would improve their time, but none inside the top ten saw their positions changed.
This saw Oettl secure the first pole position of his career. The German rider has frequently shown well in practice but has struggled to complete a single fast during Qualifying. His work ethic saw him complete more laps than any other rider in the early part of the session. A 2’18.398 may have been three seconds off the pole record, but he was still half a second faster than anyone else in the session.
Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) will line up second on the grid, repeating his front row start from Argentina. The last two times Navarro has started from the front row he has gone on to finish on the podium, a foreboding sign for Sunday’s race. With 29 points, Navarro is just seven points shy of the lead in the championship. As both of his rivals start outside the top ten, Austin could be a perfect chance for the Spaniard to grab the points lead.
For the first time in 2016, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) will start from the front row as the Italian took third in the session. It has so far been a disappointing start to the year as he has claimed just 11 points and has only once scored points.
Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) will head the second row of the grid. The entire top five took huge benefit from setting a banker lap during the first dry period of the session.
In just his third World Championship race, Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) will start sixth. This comes just a week after the Malaysian produced a spirited ride in Argentina to challenge for the podium before falling at the final corner.
Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing), Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold), Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) and Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) formed the top ten. Times were more spread out than usual due to the unusual conditions of the session. Many of the big names and championship hopefuls in the lightweight class missed out on the top ten, unable to make the most of limited dry track time.
Championship leader Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will start in 12th place while Qatar GP winner Nicolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) will launch from down in 30th place.
Karel Hanika (Platinum Bay Real Estate) crashed at Turn 14 with Stefano Valtulini (3570 Team Italia) suffering a third crash of the weekend at Turn 15.
Racing begins for the Moto3™ World Championship at 11:00 Local Time on Sunday.