It’s looking like to be a long year for everyone in Moto GP who isn’t named Marc Marquez. The 21-year-old Spanish motorcycle racing genius came to Austin, Texas’ Circuit of the Americas still in pain from a leg broken seven weeks ago.
Then he blew everyone away by a second or more in every practice and qualifying session, took the lead from the start – except for a bizarre incident, see next paragraph – and cruised away to easily win over his Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa.
Everyone else might as well have entered the supporting races, particularly Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, who made a huge error at the start by massively jumping the start from his second-row starting spot.
He was already at the first row when he realized his mistake, hit the brakes, then decided he might as well just go and take his penalty. He led the first lap, rolled into the pits for his drive-through, then re-entered dead last and managed to claw back to 10th lap crash and DNF at the first race in Qatar. It’ll be a long road back if he hopes to be a contender for this year’s title.
“I wasn’t thinking and was distracted and I made a big mistake in the start,” he said. “I made the best start of my life! But it was illegal so I had to enter the pits and pay the penalty … I want to say sorry to the team as I destroyed my race.”
Behind the dominating Repsol duo, Ducati was looking impressive, with Andrea Iannone holding the final podium place for much of the race before Stefan Bradl and Andrea Dovizioso burst past with six laps to go. Valentino Rossi, after his usual middling start, was looking very strong, passing everyone in his way and pulling up on his friend Iannone`s tail section, then suddenly slowing and dropping back to a final eighth place.
“We destroyed the front tire completely on the right side,” said Rossi. “Unfortunately after seven or eight laps the front was gone and I had to go three seconds slower. It’s a pity because we could do another podium, which was the perfect target here in Austin, unfortunately no way.”
Iannone, who dropped back to seventh place, suffered a similar front tyre issue on his Pramac Ducati. Gresini Honda’s Scott Redding, who fell on the last lap of the race, likewise spoke of ‘destroying’ his front tyre.
Andrea Dovizioso ended up surviving the carnage and tire issues to take third, Ducati`s first podium since 2012. Behind him came Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda, also complaining of front tire problems. “I struggled so much with my front tire. It was unbelievable and I started to grain after 10 laps and I can be happy to finish the race.”
The remainder of the top 10 were the Tech 3 / Monster duo of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro (both relieved to finish after crashing out of the first race at Qatar), then Iannone, Rossi, Aleix Espargaro, and Lorenzo.
Cal Crutchlow was running his Ducati in the top 10 but obviously with difficulty. He then pitted for a new rear tire, but almost immediately after rejoining he had a bad crash and was stretchered away. Things looked bad initially but the latest reports say his injuries are no worse than a (very painful) dislocated finger. He plans to be ready for the next race in two weeks.
Austin’s Moto 2 race was something of a crashfest, with a remarkable eight out of 34 riders bouncing out of the race. There was a tense battle up front with several leaders making errors, leaving Moto 2 rookie Maverick Vinales to take a well-deserved victory in only his second race in the class. He finished four seconds ahead of polesitter Esteve Rabat and Dominique Aegerter.
There was chaos at the first corner when the race got underway, with Josh Herrin (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing), Mattia Pasini (NGM Forward Racing), Axel Pons (AGR Team), Nico Terol (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2), Sam Lowes (Speed Up) and Luis Salom (Pons HP 40) all involved. Of that group only Herrin, Terol and Salom were unable to finish the race and all riders were OK.
Possible winner Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing) crashed out on lap two taking Julian Simon (Italtrans Racing Team) with him, though the latter remounted to finish 23rd. There were crashes too for Louis Rossi (SAG Team), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Gresini Moto2) and Jonas Folger (AGR Team), though they too escaped injury.
Behind the front three Mika Kallio Marc (VDS Racing Team) missed the podium by just over a second, while Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing) also made the top five.
Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2), Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team), Alex De Angelis (Tasca Racing Moto2) and Tech 3 pair Marcel Schrotter and Ricard Cardus completed the top ten.
Australian teen Jack Miller took his KTM to an impressive hard-fought win, leading the entire race, under pressure the whole distance. At the end, he was ahead of Romano Fenati – a protegé of Valentino Rossi – and Efren Vazquez. Marc Marquez’ younger brother Alex was also in the mix until the final corner of the last lap, when he lost the front end and crashed.
With two wins under his belt, Miller is looking strong for this year’s title chase.
Moto GP Standings after two of 18 races
1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 50 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 36
3. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 28
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 27
5. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM Mobile Forward Racing, 20
6. Andrea Iannone, Italy, Pramac Racing Ducati, 15
7. TIE, Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda / Nicky Hayden, USA, Drive M& Aspar Honda, 13
9. Bradley Smith, U.K., Tech 3/Monster Yamaha, 11
10. TIE, Pol Espargaro, Spain, Tech 3/Monster Yamaha, / Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Ducati Team 10
Next race April 27, Rio Honda, Argentina