As expected, Marc Marquez has dominated the MotoGP™ round at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Texas, converting his pole position on the factory Repsol Honda into a ridiculously dominant six-second victory over world champion Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha). Ducati Team's Andrea Iannone was third.
It was Marquez's fourth win on the trot at COTA, at a circuit where he is as dominant as Phillip Island was to Aussie star Casey Stoner.
“I’m very happy with how the whole weekend has gone," said Marquez. "This is a circuit that I like, one of my favourite, but there were some unknowns here because just before the race we decided to run the soft front tyre. In the end the team advised me very well, because the change gave me the good feeling with the bike that I had partly lost in the warm-up.
"I have to thank them all, as well as the Michelin technician. When I asked, they told me that I would be okay for the first 12-15 laps, and then after that I would have to manage the situation more, which is exactly what happened.
"In these first three races of the year, we’ve made good use of the situations that we’ve encountered.”
While Marquez slowly inched ahead from the start of the 21-lapper — missing Aussie Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) after he crashed in practice and broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot — the battle for second place was shaping to be a tight one before Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) crashed on lap three and then a short time later Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) lost his front end under brakes — his RC213V then torpedoing into the Ducati of luckless Italian Andrea Dovizioso.
It was the second race in a row where Dovizioso was taken out by another bike — Argentina was his teammate, Iannone — and instead of heading to Jerez in two weeks' time with a solid points haul he is stuck on 20pts after his second place in round one.
Marquez increased his lead in the standings to 21pts (66 to 45) at COTA, with Lorenzo now in second place ahead of Rossi (33), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 28), Pedrosa (27) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati, 25).
Others to crash at COTA were Loris Baz (Avintia Racing Ducati), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), with all three remounting to finish the race — albeit well down the order.
Further up the pack, Iannone finished his first race for the season, and the top six was completed by Ecstar Suzuki pair Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati).
Pol Espargaro was seventh from Michele Pirro (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati), Barbera and Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
Pedrosa remounted after his crash but only completed a few laps before returning to the pits — and then making a beeline straight to Dovizioso's garage to apologise.
Miller says he will be back for Jerez in two weeks' time.
"This is a really physically demanding track and… in the interests of safety it was better to give this race a miss," said Miller. "We tried all the options with physiotherapy and a pain killing injection for FP4 but it didn't work.
"I'm sorry for the team but this is racing and now I just want to be fit for the next race in Jerez. It's unlucky but I've learnt a lesson from pushing too hard on a cold tyre in practice. The most pain is coming from my ankle, one of the screws in the plates from the earlier injury maybe moved a little bit when my foot hit the track."
1. Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 43m57.945s
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha +6.107s
3. Andrea Iannone, Ducati Team +10.947s
DNS Jack Miller, EG 0,0 Marc VDS
Pole position: Marquez, 2:03.188 = 161.1km/h
Fastest lap: Marquez, 2:04.682 = 159.1km/h
Championship top 3
Marquez 66 • Lorenzo 45 • Rossi 33
Polesitter Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) were the stars in America as they went 1-2, with world champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsports) in third.
It was Rins' third win in the intermediate class, and he said: “It was an incredible race and I just tried to push hard from the beginning. The last lap when it started to rain a little bit, my balls came up a little bit! Anyway, thanks to all the people who came here to support me and we’ll keep pushing the next race.”
Dominque Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) took fourth from Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP).
It's now tight at the top of the standings, with Lowes on 47pts from Rins (46) and Zarco (45).
1 Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas HP 40, 41m22.174s
2. Sam Lowes, Federal Oil Gresini, +2.091s
3. Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, +7.737s
Pole position: Rins, 2:08.850 = 154km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Lowes, 2:09.994 = 152.6km/h
Championship top 3
Lowes 47 • Rins 46 • Zarco 45
Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM) made it three different winners in as many races as he cruised to victory ahead of Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0, Honda) and South African Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
“In the first part of the race my thinking was that Navarro would go first and far away," said Fenati. "But I never gave up and I pushed and push very hard to try and make my rhythm. My feeling with the bike was fantastic since yesterday in the free practice. I didn’t lose concentration and lap-by-lap I tried to make consistent laps.”
Polesitter Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing, KTM) was fourth from Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing KTM) and world No. 3 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Honda).
Binder only got past Oettl on the final lap to claim the final spot on the dais, while there were dramas for Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) and Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing KTM) who were nobbled by crashes and mechanical problems respectively.
Binder leads the championship on 52pts from Navarro (49) and Fenati (38).
1. Romano Fenati, SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM, 41m14.868s
2. Jorge Navarro, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, +6.612s
3. Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Ajo, +10.535s
Pole position: Philipp Oettl, Schedl GP Racing KTM, 2:18.398 = 143.4km/h
Fastest lap: Fenati, 2:16.842 = 145km/h
Championship top 3
Binder 52 • Navarro 49 • Fenati 38
Next round: Jerez, Spain April 22-24
Images courtesy of MotoGP.com