On a nice spring afternoon outside Austin, Texas, Repsol Honda supernova Marc Marquez, looking much the way he did in 2013 and 2014, put on another clinic, winning the Grand Prix of the Americas from pole for the fourth consecutive year. The win makes Captain America 10 for 10 in premier class tilts run in the United States.
I used to think that bingo was the only game in which one could be bored and anxious at the same time. Today’s race – a procession, punctuated by life-threatening crashes – felt like an evening in the church basement.
Yamaha rider and defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo knew, sitting next to Marquez on the front row at the start, that his only chance for a win today would occur on Lap 1, by getting in Marquez’s business, throwing the young Catalan off his rhythm, and trying to get away. So determined was he to accomplish this that he narrowly avoided running off the track at Turn 1 and again at Turn 11, running ragged with cold tires, too much fuel, and no rhythm of his own. It didn’t work, and Marquez took the lead he would never relinquish.
The front group included Valentino Rossi, Ducati’s hard luck Andrea Dovizioso and factory Honda afterthought Dani Pedrosa. Rossi got caught in traffic and fell back to around 6th, where he and Pedrosa jousted for a short while. At Turn 3 of Lap 3, Rossi lost the front at speed and slid well into the gravel, removing around a dozen sponsor logos from his leathers, his day over. Our crack research staff tells me this is the first time in the last 25 races that Rossi has finished outside the top five.
While Marquez was disappearing, Lorenzo took firm control of second place, having gone through on Dovizioso on Lap 5. Lap 6 saw Ducati Maniac Andrea Iannone go through on Suzuki #2 Aleix Espargaro into 5th place. Pedrosa was dogging Dovizioso in the battle for third place on Lap 6 when the broadcast switched to his front camera. Seconds later, Dovizioso’s bike filled the frame just in time to get poleaxed by Pedrosa, as the Spaniard lost the front in Turn 1 and his suddenly riderless bike creamed the Ducati. How Pedrosa’s Honda missed Dovi’s left leg is a mystery. The Italian’s day was over, but Pedrosa climbed back aboard his RC213V and turned a few more laps before calling it a day.
Everyone Please Take Three Steps Forward
With Dovizioso and Rossi out and Pedrosa trailing the field, the remaining riders behind Lorenzo received promotions of three spots. Kind of like going from private to lieutenant in ten minutes. Iannone, running relatively cautiously after the debacle in Argentina when he took out teammate Dovizioso in a painfully stupid move, was, suddenly, contending for a podium. The two Suzukis, experiencing their own rebirth of sorts, found themselves contesting fourth place in a battle Maverick Vinales would eventually win over Aleix Espargaro.
Octo Pramac Ducati’s Scott Redding was winning The Battle of Britain, enjoying life in 6th place while Cal Crutchlow, on the LCR Honda, and Bradley Smith, on the Tech 3 Yamaha, were slugging it out for seventh. On Lap 8, Crutchlow, in an unforced error that was undoubtedly somebody else’s fault, slid off the track into the runoff area. Scant seconds later, with Smith apparently rubbernecking at Crutchlow’s misfortune, the Tech 3 rider fell, his careening bike missing the back of Crutchlow’s ankles by mere inches. Both men remounted the remnants of their bikes and were the last two riders to see the checkered flag.
A Moment of Reflection
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow are incomprehensibly lucky to be walking around tonight. This is the second week in a row that Crutchlow narrowly avoided a disaster he didn’t even realize was happening. Such is the nature of MotoGP, with objects moving at speeds uncontemplated by our Creator or the slow crawl of evolution (take your choice), lives hanging precariously in the balance. Some riders, like Crutchlow and Dovizioso, may be lucky enough, or blessed enough, to tell stories about these things to their grandchildren one day. Others, like Marco Simoncelli and Shoya Tomizawa, will never have grandchildren to hear them. When a Jorge Lorenzo gets irritated by the stupid antics of an Alvaro Bautista and talks about risking his life every time he climbs aboard, he’s not just whistling “Dixie.”
The Big Picture
If you had suggested at Sepang during winter testing, when Marquez was lapping 1.5 seconds behind Lorenzo, that he would be leading the championship by 21 points after three rounds he probably would have suggested that you get your head examined. Yet here we are. The other anomalies in the top ten include Tech 3 Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro sitting fourth despite seeming to be having a difficult year, swarthy Ducati pilot and underachiever Hectic Hector Barbera sitting sixth, and Ulsterman Eugene Laverty sitting ninth. Laverty’s euphoria from last week was short-lived, as he went from a highly fluky fourth place to four points in a week. Still, not bad for a guy on a two-year-old Ducati.
Okay, so I’ve never been a big fan of Cal Crutchlow, who has always, in my opinion, talked a better race than he rides. He so rarely mans up and takes the blame when things go wrong. So I may be forgiven for enjoying seeing him sitting in last place, 0-for-2016 after three rounds. Looking forward to the article on the MotoGP website – it should appear tomorrow or Tuesday – in which he explains who was to blame for today’s crash and how he skillfully avoided getting shattered by Smith’s unguided missile. As they say in Coventry, hard cheese old boy.
And another thing. Jack Miller, the Great Aussie Hope, so cool and fast he was allowed to skip second grade, was declared out of today’s race after two more heavy crashes this weekend. Honda is so anxious to locate the second coming of Casey Stoner, and the kid’s ambition is so large, he’s going to seriously injure himself or someone else out there, generally riding out of control and creating huge piles of brightly painted and utterly trashed carbon fiber. Dude needs to think about a step back to Moto2.
A Final Thought Before Returning to Europe
Everything’s big in Texas – from the state itself, which takes 24 hours to drive across, to the iniquity of its junior U.S. senator. COTA maintains the tradition, with the most corners (20) in a MotoGP circuit (Red Bull Ring in Austria has nine), the longest straight on the tour, the steepest hill, seating for 120,000 fans, etc., etc. But seriously, let’s just get it over with and rename the track the Marc Marquez Circuit. Better yet, how about the Circuito Marc Marquez, since Texas was originally a northern state of Mexico before Sam Houston and his boys shoved the locals across the Rio Grande way back when.
Round Four touches off in Jerez in two weeks. In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye on the Lorenzo to Ducati and Vinales to Yamaha rumblings, and will have them for you in full once they’re official.
|2016 MotoGP Circuit of the Americas Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||–|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||+6.107|
|4||Maverick Vinales||Suzuki Ecstar||+18.422|
|5||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki Ecstar||+20.711|
|6||Scott Redding||Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati||+28.961|
|7||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+32.112|
|8||Michele Pirro||Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati||+32.757|
|9||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||+34.592|
|10||Stefan Bradl||Aprilia Gresini||+40.211|
|11||Alvaro Bautista||Aprilia Gresini||+45.423|
|12||Eugene Laverty||Aspar Ducati||+47.127|
|13||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||+47.426|
|14||Yonny Hernandez||Aspar Ducati||+51.190|
|15||Loris Baz||Avintia Ducati||+1:12.929|
|16||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||+1:19.952|
|17||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+1:28.036|
|–||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||10 Laps|
|–||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||15 Laps|
|–||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||19 Laps|
|2016 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 3 Rounds|