GP of The Americas, raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
All eyes were on Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the MotoGP™ World Championship lined up at the head the grid for the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas. The Spaniard went into the race with a perfect record on America soil; winning every MotoGP™ race he had started in the United States. While Marquez was quietly confident, there were a number of riders who were looking to return to the front once more.
Amongst them was Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), the 2015 MotoGP™ World Champion having suffered an uncharacteristic crash during Warm Up. Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) was another ready to make an impact, having qualified fourth; he started in seventh after his penalty from the Argentina GP.
All of the factory Yamaha and Ducati riders opted for medium tyres front and rear while pole-man Marquez chose the soft front with medium rear. The Circuit of the Americas has always been a challenging circuit for tyres and all who lined up knew that their choice on the grid would make a significant difference.
Roaring off the line, Lorenzo grabbed the lead into Turn 1 but ran wide on exit, allowing Marquez to move ahead. The field all made it through the opening corners safe, Lorenzo in second with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) hot on his tail. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) also made a good start and used the power of the Ducati to slide into second down the back straight.
As Dovizioso came through, so too did Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar), the Spaniard finding himself in fourth at the start of the second lap after starting in ninth. Espargaro had gone against the norm and opted for soft front and rear, the extra grip giving him a clear advantage in the opening laps.
For the third race in a row, Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) would crash at Turn 1.
The third lap began with Rossi crashing out of the race at Turn 2, losing the front mid corner. All the while Marquez and Dovizioso ran away at the front, Lorenzo defending his third place position. For the first time in 25 races, Rossi failed to finish in the top five.
Marquez continued to hammer home his advantage, leading Dovizioso by a second midway through the fourth lap of the race. Action intensified further down the field as Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) attempted to make up for a poor start to the race, battling hard with Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich).
Lap after lap, Marquez extended his lead and after only five laps his fourth straight win in Texas looked certain. But the remaining two spots on the podium were wide open, Lorenzo getting past Dovizioso with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) waiting patiently behind.
After a strong start, Aleix Espargaro began to drop back and soon Andrea Iannone passed him.
At the start of the seventh lap Pedrosa had a huge moment on the front end going into Turn 1, losing control of his Honda and ploughing into Dovizioso. For the second race in a row, another rider would take down Dovizioso. Pedrosa would be able to re-join, but Dovizioso’s race was over, the Italian leaving the circuit distraught but fortunately without major injury.
At Turn 11 on lap eight both Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) fell off as the crashing continued. Each was able to remount the race but the leading four now had huge gaps between them, separated by at least three seconds. All the falls had also promoted Iannone to a provisional podium in third place. The Team Suzuki Ecstar duo meanwhile continued to dice it out for fourth place, Viñales also running the softer rear but had opted for the medium front, which gave him increased braking stability.
Chaos unfolded behind, but Marquez remained cool, calm and collected as he upped his pace to the 2’04s, almost half a second faster than Lorenzo’s laps. Each lap saw Marquez set a new fastest lap of the race. None of the top three were able to make major progress on the rider ahead, unlike the Suzuki pair who continued to slug it out. Viñales would dive up the inside, only to have Espargaro come back past him soon after.
With ten laps to go, Dani Pedrosa would pull into the pits as his bike was too damaged to continue. In a true sign of sportsmanship, Pedrosa went to the box of Dovizioso to apologise for the incident and explain that it was not intentional.
The rhythm of the race continued, Viñales now a second clear of his teammate as all of the top seven riders were spread out on track. Even though he was now over six seconds ahead of Lorenzo, Marquez’s pace remained over half a second faster as he asserted his dominance at the Circuit of the Americas with each lap.
As many had predicated, Marquez walked to victory and crossed the line 6.107s ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. For just the second time in his career, Lorenzo takes to the podium at COTA as he ended the race second. Andrea Iannone rounded out the podium with a safe ride to third place.
Maverick Viñales secured his best ever premier class finish with fourth ahead of his teammate Aleix Espargaro, a great day for Suzuki with a double top five.
Scott Redding, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Michele Pirro (Octo Pramac Yakhnich), Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) and Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
As the Championship returns to Europe, Marquez leads with 66 points a solid 21 points clear of Lorenzo in second. After failing to finish the Americas GP, Rossi slips to third with 33 championship points as clear gaps are already emerging.
Starting in pole position for the first time in 2016, Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) looked to be back to his best as the Moto2™ World Championship lined up on the grid for the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas. There were a number of developments down the grid, Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) lining up on a completely rebuilt bike in ninth.
All riders in the intermediate class opted for the same tyre combination: medium front and hard rear. Riders had been experiencing a drop in the tyres after four or five laps in practice.
The lights went out and it was Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) who led the 28 rider field uphill into the tight Turn 1. His lead wouldn’t last as Alex Rins and Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) slipped back past him, a number of other riders sent wide but all remaining upright. A strong first lap would see Rins cross the line over half a second ahead of second place, several aggressive moves from Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) helping to bunch the group up.
Lowes continued on like a man possessed, pushing his way through on Aegerter with ease and setting his sights on Zarco. Before the second lap was over, Lowes was leading the second group and frantically pushing to stop Rins from running away even further. On the second lap it was also announced that Axel Pons (AGR Team) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) were handed ride through penalties for jump starts.
Immediately in the 2’09s, Lowes broke away from the chasing pack and quickly reduced Rins’ lead to under a second. Zarco remained in third as Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) did all he could to get past, the German running off track on multiple occasions as he looked for his chance. As Folger dropped back, Aegerter took up his cause and hunted for a way through on Zarco. The battle for third allowed Lowes and Rins to extend their advantage.
Able to consistently produce laps in the 2’09s, Lowes was able to slowly eat into Rins’ lead a tenth at a time. There was no such steady progress in the chasing group as Aegerter slammed through to third, his teammate Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) following him through at Turn 12 as he got past Zarco on the brakes. With Zarco no longer slowing him down, Aegerter immediately set his personal best lap of the race with clear track now ahead of him.
On lap seven, Rins was able to respond to Lowes’ challenge and open his lead to over half a second once more. Behind, Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) battled with Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) as the pair joined the battle for the final podium step. After a slow start to the race, Zarco was able to get himself back to the head of the group.
Zarco would not have it his own way as Luthi cut back ahead of him once more, the French rider now sandwiched between two Swiss riders with Aegerter behind in fifth. The second group would continue to brawl, Corsi and Nakagami capitalising on every chance they were given.
Lowes and Rins went through the motions of their dance at the front, the Brit edging in ever so slightly before Rins responded to maintain the gap at just over half a second. Lowes worked hard to stay with Rins as Zarco did the same with Luthi, all the while Nakagami edged closer and closer to a potential podium return. The Japanese rider tried an unconventional line at Turn 11, but was unable to stop his bike and dropped down to fifth.
With five laps remaining, Zarco once more awoke and pulled himself back into third. Nakagami continued to show well, but soon found himself pushed off at Turn 1 by Simone Corsi, the Italian stealing the inside line. This gave Zarco breathing room once again, by this stage the podium seemed set as Lowes was now over a second back on Rins.
But Folger had other ideas, the German, having had a quiet race at the back of the chasing group, burst into life as he began to battle with Luthi for fifth place. With this the final lap of the race began, Corsi once again throwing it up the inside at Turn 1, this time passing Luthi without issue.
For the third time in his intermediate class career, Alex Rins took victory. The Spaniard dominated the field and crossed the line two seconds ahead of Lowes who was in turn over six seconds ahead of Johann Zarco.
Aegerter would take fourth ahead of Folger.
Simone Corsi, Tom Luthi, Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team), Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) and Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) completed the top ten.
For the first time in his career, Lowes leads the Moto2™ World Championship with 47 points, but Alex Rins sits just a point behind on 46 and Zarco also remains in contention with 45 championship points. Luthi slips to fourth in the standings as he leaves Austin with 43 points.
At the start of lap six, Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) pulled into the pits with a clutch issue. It would be a disastrous day for the Leopard Racing team as Miguel Oliveira fell at Turn 6, retiring soon after.
Luca Marini (Forward Team) suffered a fall at Turn 11, brining Robin Mulhauser (CarXpert Interwetten) down with him. Both were unharmed.
Efren Vazquez (JPMoto Malaysia) continues to receive treatment at a local hospital, having being diagnosed with a compressed T12 vertebra and a fractured right ankle after falling during Qualifying.
The start of the Moto3™ World Championship race was delayed due to an oil spillage down the back straight. Riders and teams calmly sat in the pits and waited for the oil to be cleared. Just 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, riders lined up on the grid, the sun shining down and burning off many of the clouds overhead. As is often the case, the entirety of the field opted for medium front and rear tyres.
For the first time in his career it was Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) who started from pole, but a near perfect start saw Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) get the holeshot into Turn 1. The Spaniard immediately began to push, taking Oettl and Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) with him through the opening corners.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) started 12th and was up to sixth after just half a lap, Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) making similar progress further down the order. As the field crossed the line for the first time, Navarro would have a lead of over 0.7s as Fenati nipped up the inside of Oettl for second. The leading trio had a clear second advantage, Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing) heading the chasing group as they attempted to close the gap.
Fighting in the second group was fierce as the likes of Binder, Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing), Kornfeil and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) all tussled for supremacy. All the while Navarro set successive fastest laps to extend his lead, but on the fourth lap Fenati upped his pace and began to close in, setting the first 2’16 of the race which would soon be followed by Navarro’s first 2’16.
Although clear gaps of over a second would appear at the head of the race, riders in the leading five would continue to trade fastest sectors. As the seventh lap began, the gap between Navarro and Fenati dropped to under a second for the first time since the start of the race. With the leading two chasing each other and Binder and Quartararo dicing over fourth, Oettl was having a lonely race in third position, the German focusing on setting consistent times.
At the start of lap 8, Navarro made a mistake into Turn 1 and allowed Fenati to slide through with ease. Fenati tried to break away but Navarro rallied and attempted to close in on the KTM rider. But the gap would remain at around half a second for several laps, Fenati always able to respond when Navarro closed in.
Further down the order a number of battles continued to roar, Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) muscling his way inside the top ten. Oettl’s lonely Sunday ride came to an end with seven laps to go as he found himself followed by Quartararo and Binder, the French rider slipping through at Turn 1 with ease. The double CEV Champion wouldn’t go unchallenged as Oettl continued to look up his inside at every chance he got.
Another mistake at Turn 1 on lap 12 from Navarro would cement Fenati’s lead, the Italian opening a gap of over two seconds. The gap would continue to grow and the top two steps of the podium look set it stone. Quartararo continued to circulate in third, Oettl now half a second behind the French rider with five laps to go.
Having started from 30th, Qatar GP winner Niccolo Antonelli saw able to produce an incredible ride to get inside the top ten and battle with fellow Italian Enea Bastianini, who had started on the front row. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) would join the Italian pair for a spirited battle.
Disaster would strike with three laps to go for Fabio Quartararo, his KTM encountering a problem that saw him rapidly lose positions. This promoted Oettl back onto the podium and lifted Binder to fourth. Drama would continue as on the penultimate lap Antonelli slid off at Turn 5. Knowing a potential podium was now on the cards, Binder put it all on the line on the final lap to get past Oettl. The South African was clearly having front-end issues but continued to push ahead. A perfect slipstream allowed Binder to grab third position down the back straight, able to hold off the German to the line.
Fenati took his first race win since the French GP in 2015 as both Navarro and Binder returned to the podium. Binder leads the championship by three points, Navarro sits second with 49 points. Thanks to his win, Fenati moves to third with 38 points.
Phillip Oettl and Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing) would seal the top five in the race. Locatelli taking his second top five finish in as many races.
Enea Bastianini, Aron Canet, Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV), Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Nicolo Bulega wrapped up the top ten. Quartararo would eventually end the race in 13th place.
Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) was given a ride through penalty for irresponsible riding and causing Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) to crash the first corner on the second lap.
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) and Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) came together at Turn 1 after several laps, both able to remount before retiring.