After an exhausting, confusing and ultimately revelatory weekend in Argentina, MotoGP boogies 4500 miles north to Austin, deep in the heart of Texas, for Round 3 of the 2016 season. Since its inception in 2013, the pretentiously-named Circuit of the Americas has hosted an annual Honda clambake, the other teams invited mostly to fill the grid and add to the festival atmosphere. Repsol Honda pretty boy Marc Marquez has started and won from pole all three years, and looks ready to do the same on Sunday.

Yeah, about those tires…

Before examining the prospects for the riders and teams on Sunday, let’s take a few moments to savor the ridiculous spectacle that was the Grand Prix of Argentina, including:

  • The great 2016 tire fiasco which, we trust, will not be repeated this year;
  • The weather, ranging from apocalyptic heat on Friday to rain and treacherous track conditions on Sunday;
  • The outstanding performances turned in by Marquez, Aspar Ducati’s Eugene Laverty, Suzuki hot property Maverick Vinales, Avintia Ducati’s Hector Barbera and factory Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso, last seen pushing his GP16 across the finish line after getting de-pantsed by teammate and road hazard Andrea Iannone;
  • The rhetorical tour de force of Cal Crutchlow, who, after the race, put on a masterful display of conditional verb tenses explaining why he coulda, woulda and shoulda podiumed after crashing twice during the race. In doing so, he finished in a dead heat with the racing surface at Rio Hondo in the widely-followed Abrasiveness Challenge;
Was it an earthquake that caused the Ducatis to fall? No, it was One Andrea’s Fault. We sincerely apologize for this pun.
  • The feast-to-famine fortunes of the factory Ducati team, the Dueling Andreas having gotten the best of Valentino Rossi, moments away from a double podium finish, that put on display for the world the alarmingly low racing IQ of The Rider Formerly Known as Crazy Joe Iannone. Dovi’s post-race comments did little to hide the disdain with which he holds his teammate and lend credence to the speculation that he may jump to Suzuki next year. With Lorenzo rumored to be weighing a switch to Ducati in 2017, Iannone’s comportment may become a topic of conversation in Jorge’s contract negotiations;
  • The bitterness and acrimony directed toward Ducati Corse by pretty much every non-Ducati pilot on the grid, blaming the Italian factory for the entire tire fiasco and flaming Dorna for kowtowing to Dall’Igna and Company;
  • In the junior classes, an incredible come-out-of-nowhere Moto3 win by Khairul Idham Pawi for the first win ever by a Malaysian rider in any class, and by a full 26 seconds! (Tickets for the Sepang round in October sold out 11 minutes after the conclusion of the race.) An unthinkable Malaysian 1-2 finish was spoiled only by the terrible luck of one Adam Norrodin, who went high side a few seconds before the flag and had to push the remains of his bike across the line, limping badly, for the best 11th place finish you’re likely to see this year. Fellow Malaysian rider Hafizh Syahrin, with a competitive 6th place finish in Moto2, currently sits in fourth position for the year, ahead of luminaries such as Alex Rins, Jonas Folger and Danny Kent. Having attended the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix, these young men will return home as deities in their historically polytheistic culture. Kudos to all three.
Adam Norrodin got up limping after this high side but still managed to push his bike across the finish.

Recent History at COTA

The last three years of what I think of as the Texas Grand Prix can be summed up in two words: Marc Marquez. He finished semi-comfortably in front of teammate Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo in 2013, becoming the youngest rider ever to win a premier class race. He overwhelmed Pedrosa in 2014 by over four seconds, with Dovizioso a further 17 seconds behind on his Ducati. Last year it was Dovi finishing second and Rossi third in a generally uneventful race.

Marc Marquez is a perfect three-for-three in Texas.

I’ve recently reviewed a number of my predictions from the past seven seasons, most of which have been terrible. The single exception came from the COTA results article in 2013, a bit of which is reproduced here:

Suddenly, everyone else on the grid looks old, slow and uptight. Each time he’s interviewed, Marquez comes across as a happy, humble, regular kind of guy. Watching him come up through the 125s and Moto2, like a hot knife through butter, you got the clear impression he was going to be successful one day in the premier class. In only his second race onboard the Honda RC213V, he has now come of age, at a track he is liable to dominate for the next decade. In doing so, he has become my favorite to win the 2013 world championship.

OK, so we know now that the happy, humble thing was an act, that he is as steely-eyed and aggressive as they come, fully capable of hatred, anger and loss of emotional control. Big deal. These guys, as a species, are as competitive as anyone on the planet. To compete at a championship level in motorcycle racing, you can’t be a cuddly little puppy; you need to be a miniature Rottweiler with a bad disposition, as long as you remember to smile and wave at any MotoGP video cams aimed in your direction.

Maybe it’s the omnipresent champagne spray that keeps Marc Marquez’s face clear of stubble.

A final thought concerning Marquez: Either he gets professionally shaved every morning on race weekends, or he hasn’t yet started shaving. I have never EVER seen him with any kind of stubble on his chin. One imagines him at home in Spain, dozens of lithe Spanish cuties hanging all over him, wondering what to do. (Too bad he’s no longer on speaking terms with Vale, who could probably give him a lesson or 12 in that area.)

WSBK and Nicky Hayden

A couple of DNFs put Nicky Hayden 8th in the WSBK standings but he does have three top-six finishes in six races.

Several fans of this column have commented recently wondering a) why MO doesn’t assign me to cover World Superbike and b) how Nicky Hayden is doing in Triple A ball. The answer to the first question is that I don’t really follow WSBK, along with the fact that MO can only stand so much of my gibberish. As to the second, Nicky, fronting the Honda World Superbike team, sits in 8th place after this past weekend with 41 points. Series leader Johnny Rea, MotoGP Wannabe, has gathered 131 points on the factory Kawasaki team. It appears Hayden’s hope of becoming the only rider to win world championships in both series is, at best, premature.

Your Weekend Forecast

Marquez for the win, followed by Pedrosa and Dovizioso or Rossi.

As for the weather, at this time is calling for cloudy and breezy conditions, temps in the low 80’s, with a chance of rain on Sunday morning. Anything short of a tornado or freak blizzard falls under the heading of “Honda weather,” the hotter the better.

Team Yamaha must feel somewhat dispirited after last weekend, with Lorenzo having struggled all weekend and Rossi extremely fortunate to podium. Iannone gets sent back a full row on the starting grid after his brain fart on Sunday, and COTA is not a layout that will be super friendly for the Suzukis.

Jorge Lorenzo needs to bounce back from a poor weekend in Argentina.

If you have access to the live broadcast – seriously, think about subscribing to the Dorna video feed – the race goes off at 3 pm EDT. We’ll have results and instant analysis right here on Sunday evening.

  • JMDonald

    Even if a track is in the wheelhouse of a certain rider he still has to ride the race. There are a lot of variables in any contest. I wish all the riders well. I just wish some riders a little more well than others. You know who you are.

  • john burns

    Was it an earthquake that caused the Ducatis to fall? No, it was One Andrea’s Fault.

    Go Bruce Go!

    • spiff

      Ha, I see what you did there.

    • Bruce Allen

      That, sir, is outstanding. Had the crash occurred at Laguna, I would ask you to take a bow. Getting very close to the Ultimate Joke Format, the setup for which follows: Q: “What’s the difference between a tribe of pygmies and a girl’s track team?”

      • DKing

        One is a group of cunning runts, the other is….well, you know. 🙂

        • Bruce Allen

          What about a lost golf ball and Lady Godiva?

          • DKing

            hmmmm…no clue on that one!

          • Bruce Allen

            A hunt on a course. I know, right?

          • DKing

            Aaaahhh…I should have guessed that. Very similar to the first one..

        • Old MOron

          Oh! That so reminds me of a joke that I won’t post here, but I WILL tell you over a beer some day.

          • DKing

            Sounds excellent. I was just thinking we must not have many female posters, otherwise we surely would have been flamed by now!

    • General_Lee_82

      It’s been a few decades since High School Spanish – but isn’t “San” Spanish for “Saint” ? So from now on, I will refer to him as “San Andrea’s – Patron Saint of Bone Head Moves

  • john phyyt

    Mr Allen is quite anauthority and clearly loves Moto GP and he acknowledges that this love does not extend to Super-bikes which , most would acknowledge,
    are very similar.

    My Point.
    Three classes of racing is too many. I understand that the “lower”
    classes provide excellent racing and are a breeding ground etc etc
    BUT interest and money are concentrated in the top class which is as
    it should be.

    As a first step I would suggest a combination of the two other classes to try and get the best of the fresh talent on to true mini gp bikes immediately. It
    could be seen a retirement class as well with a much more open
    approach taken to forward development. Imagine Rossi against a
    sixteen year old on futuristic carbon/electric/fusion creation. Then
    it could be sold off as a going concern to pioneer new circuits and
    ideas which would then be adopted by the highest level.

    Moto GP must be preserved as the pinnacle and not be subject to distraction.

    • Bruce Allen

      John, it’s not that I don’t love WSBK, it’s just that I haven’t spent enough time around it. (Yes, I’ve compared it to Triple A baseball, while MotoGP is the major leagues. I’ve also said that there is no discernible difference between 190 mph in WSBK and 200 in MotoGP.) If Sean Alexander said he would add WSBK to my “portfolio,” I would gladly bring my out-of-round POV to Rea, Hayden and the rest.

  • Starmag

    Oscar Levant: “A pun is the lowest form of humor – when you don’t think of it first.”

    Never apologize. It ruins the groan.

    • Old MOron

      Aye, that was a good one.

  • Old MOron

    Crutchlow’s masterful display of conditional verb tenses, HA HA HA! I’ve never heard anyone take the piss out of Cal so cleverly. Bravo!

    PS: lucky for Cal, DickRubble wasn’t around to berate his malformed conjugations.

  • spiff

    Rumor has it Lorenzo has a deal with Ducati. It becomes official at Jerez.

  • DKing

    I’m hoping that once Lorenzo makes up his mind, we will see less bone head moves by Iannone, and he goes back to the slightly less maniacal Iannone we had last year. The Andrea’s must be feeling a rediculous amount of pressure to be the #1 Ducati rider with the prospect of Lorenzo booting one of them out.

    • Old MOron

      I wonder if Gigi is letting them sweat in order to prepare them for next year. Having Lorenzo as a teammate will probably be stressful, so Gigi may want to see who handles stress better. If this is/was his plan, it kind of bit him in the ass last Sunday.

      • DKing

        Yes…it sure did! If Lorenzo does join Ducati, it will also be interesting to see if that will help his rain riding ability or not, since the Ducatis have generally been good in the rain, but he can’t seem to keep it together when the track is wet.

  • Old MOron

    Woo-hoo, I just checked the schedule. Moto GP FP1 runs from 07:55 – 08:40, and FP2 from 12:05 – 12:50. I’ll watch one before work, and one on my lunch break. Happy Friday!

  • Old MOron

    Just saw on that Miller plans to ride in FP2. Good news.

  • Old MOron

    Holy crap! What happened during the parade lap?
    I watched the morning warm up, and everything was fine. Lorenzo had a crash on his final lap, but he and the track were fine.
    I went to get breakfast during the parade lap, and when I got back for the start of Moto 3, there appears to have been oil all over the track! There’s all sorts of kitty litter all over the place, and the start of the Moto 3 race is delayed.
    Who spilled oil on the track? Did it happen during the parade lap? What a joke.