Repsol Honda reigning champion Marc Marquez extended his winning streak in the U.S. to six, taking an easy win at Circuit of the Americas by a country mile over Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso who had himself fought off several challenges from Yamaha former world champion Valentino Rossi. Confirming that Losail was an outlier, and tightening the standings at the top of the premier class food chain, COTA was revealing.
A clean start led to a leading group of Dovizioso, Marquez, Rossi and Bradley Smith on the Tech 3 Yamaha. Marquez went through on Dovizioso on Lap 5 and road quietly into the sunset, coasting to the win by 2.3 seconds over Dovizioso and 3.1 seconds over Rossi. Lorenzo launched a late charge to finish fourth, followed by Andrea Iannone on the #2 Ducati, Smith and Cal Crutchlow, who was not able to maintain the winning speeds he showed in practice. Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales claimed 8th and 9th, respectively, and Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci continued to impress in 10th place.
Practice is Occasionally Better than the Race
Q2 was a great example of why the qualifying format of MotoGP is occasionally better than the race. Where else can you see Marquez jumping off his broken bike, the CHECK ENGINE light red, climbing the wall, sprinting 200 yards to his cold #2 bike with the wrong tires, flogging it across the start/finish line seconds before the checkered flag waved, then pushing his RC213V harder on the flying lap to a new track record and his third consecutive pole in Austin? I don’t think any other rider on the grid could manage that.
Add to his natural ability and quality equipment the fact that he’s seeing Austin on the big bike for the third time, and knows exactly where he is on the track. He already knows the correct line here. Now all he has to do is pick the right tires and keep it on the track through turn 1. His lap at the end of qualifying, after an extended sprint, with a big moment, on a #2 bike he described as having “setting not so good,” trashed the previous record by four-tenths. Close to inconceivable.
You get the sense Marc Marquez has GPS in his head and can pretty much go as fast as he wants. He rides a million dollar bike like it was a miniature BMX in the dirt in 5th grade.
Jorge Lorenzo Prays for No Rain
Weather was iffy all weekend, at a track that is rapidly gaining a reputation as the most demanding on the 18-round calendar. It is, likewise, becoming increasingly clear that Jorge Lorenzo cannot compete in the rain.
The consecutive crashes at Assen and the Sachsenring in 2013 involved wet weather, and it appears he’s lost his ability to push in the wet. His FP2 in the wet was another example. There was a race or two last year where he failed to post due to the wet. Though the weather ended up not being a factor during the race today … There’s still the damnable Catalan.
The Brits seem to be getting it together. Both Crutchlow on the CWM LCR Honda and Scott Redding on the EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda (yes, those team names actually include back-to-back acronyms and what looks like a soccer score) made appearances in the top three during practice sessions, with CC 2nd in both FP2 in the wet and FP3 in the dry. Redding ran 3rd in FP1 before qualifying 6th. Let’s not forget young Danny Kent, the great hope of soccer hooligans everywhere, dominating the Moto3 race. Dominating at a track like Austin says you’re good at everything. Sam Lowes’ first win in Moto2 was even sweeter. Could Crutchlow or Redding break into the top three?
MotoGP Life Away from the Spotlight
One looks at the bottom four qualifiers and cannot help but ponder how far the mighty have fallen:
- Nicky Hayden, the 2006 World Champion, qualifying 22nd for Honda in his 200th grand prix start.
- Alvaro Bautista, sporting a 125cc world championship in 2006 and a second place finish in the Moto2 class in 2008, in 23rd for a thoroughly grateful Aprilia Racing Gresini team.
- Alex de Angelis, with 3rd place finishes in the 250cc class in 2006 and 2007 and an 8th place finish in MotoGP in 2009 sitting 24th for Octo IodaRacing.
- And, finally, unwilling and unmotivated, Marco Melandri, the #2 Aprilia rider on loan from WSBK, lollygagging in 25th place. His credentials include a world championship in the 250cc class in 2002, and second overall in MotoGP 2005 aboard the factory Honda. In case you’re thinking it’s obvious that Melandri is washed up, he spent the last four seasons in WSBK finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 4th, the last aboard the Aprilia
Happenings in Moto2 and Moto 3
The Moto2 race was led by Kent going away, but the fight for second place was ferocious. The racing surface appeared to be “dirty.” Kent’s margin the largest in Moto3 history. Whoda thunk? The residual battle for second place, won by 15-year old rising star Fabio Quartararo, was high quality stuff.
Almost as riveting as the MotoGP Q2.
The French teenager Quartararo has it going on in Moto3. His star is, as they say, ascendant. The fact that rookie Alex Rins leads the series indicates the depth of talent at the top of the Moto2 food chain, although something’s up with Tito Rabat.
Kent is a certified winner in Moto3 and needs to move up to Moto2 to determine if he’s the real deal or what. His team earned a 1st and a 3rd at COTA. Not a bad weekend. Let’s see what happens in Argentina and Jerez first.
Lowes ran a great race for his first win in Moto2. The sun seems to be rising on The British Empire, at all three GP levels. It’s hard to visualize Crutchlow on the podium again, but then, I can’t remember the last time I heard the British national anthem during a podium celebration either.
A Small Confession
Having grown up as a committed Washington Redskins fan I developed an intense dislike of all things remotely related to the state of Texas, from the state flag to the aw-shucks attitude of the coach of the Dallas Cowboys coach may he ever rot in … I digress. But I must admit that the Circuit of The Americas is well-designed and deserves its reputation as the most challenging circuit on the tour. I thought COTA was going to take the place of my home track in Indianapolis. As it turned out, Laguna Seca lost. But this place seems built for motorcycles, and the riders spend an enormous amount of time in turns. Great changes in elevation. Better than Indianapolis. Way better.
Fast Turnaround to Argentina
The crews are working frantically to get the grid packed up, stuffed into the three 747’s Dorna keeps for this purpose, and head off for South America, a nine hour flight, then cutting their way through triple canopy jungle to reach the garage area, portaging their trailers through snake-infested rivers, in time for practice on Friday. It’s no picnic being on one of these crews. And Rio Honda is a little bit off the beaten path.
We’ll bring you the race preview on Wednesday, with results and analysis on Sunday evening.
|2015 MotoGP COTA Top Ten Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||–|
|2||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+2.354|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+3.120|
|4||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||+6.682|
|5||Andrea Iannone||Ducati Corse||+7.584|
|6||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+10.557|
|7||Cal Crutchlow||CWM LCR Honda||+16.967|
|8||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki ECSTAR||+19.025|
|9||Maverick Vinales||Suzuki ECSTAR||+38.570|
|10||Danilo Petrucci||Pramac Ducati||+41.796|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 2 Rounds|