Did anyone really think that would end any other way?
By Boris Mihailovic – Images by AJRN
The bookies don’t even take bets on this one anymore. Marquez is going to win at the Circuit Of The Americas (soon to be renamed the Circuit Of The Marquez) even if he starts an hour later.
The race itself was entirely processional. Marquez led almost from start to finish and the racers behind him were once again wondering what planet the toothy little rat-bastard really comes from. Marquez did start from fourth on the grid (instead of pole) after being penalised for (cop this) slowing down Vinales, who was on a hot lap during Qualifying.
Race Direction is clearly not mucking around after the unseemly screeching that accompanied the fishwives-in-a-marketplace Argentine MotoGP. Rossi, who hefts the biggest swinging salami in MotoGP (Marquez may be world champion, but Rossi is MotoGP as far as MotoGP is concerned), was in several meetings with Carmelo Ezpeleta in the lead-up to the COTA.
Carmelo then went and had meetings with the FIM MotoGP stewards.
The FIM MotoGP stewards then issued the following statement:
“All teams and riders must be advised that the Permanent Bureau, which decides on the philosophy of how strict the Championship should be, has communicated to the FIM MotoGP Stewards that starting from this weekend’s Grand Prix they should adopt a more severe approach when assessing possible infringements of the regulations and imposing penalties.”
The bold text is theirs, not mine.
Translated, this new philosophy means, “Oi! You! Marquez! Cut it out! Stop running into people, stop riding the wrong way on a racetrack, stop winning everything, stop riding too fast and smiling too much, stop pretending like this is the first time you’ve raced a bike…just stop being Marquez.”
The full statement can be read here:
So the immediate fallout from that was Marc being penalised three grid places for slowing Vinales down in Qualifying. I saw the incident, and ordinarily there would be some hot-blooded Latin arm-waving on the track, some questioning of ancestry, and nothing else.
But in the super-heated climate that currently attends Marquez, the stewards acted… and then I guess everyone kinda stood around looking shamefacedly at each other afterwards.
The penalty made no difference.
Marquez was off the line and into that nasty uphill hairpin of Turn One and then he was gone. He consistently lapped in the high 1:54s and low 1:55s and made everyone else look ordinary. It was a Mick Doohan-type of total domination.
He won by a bit more than three seconds, but only because he slowed down on the last lap to blow kisses to the crowd. The lap before, he was more than seven-and-a-half seconds ahead of Vinales.
Vinales, Iannone and Rossi had a bit of ménage à trois going on in the first half of the race, and it did briefly look like any of them might be in for a chance at second. All three were charging hard at the start of the race. They knew if Marquez got away there would be no catching him.
They knew that and still they could do nothing about it when it happened. But they tried, and with Iannone at the pointy end anything was possible.
He could ride into Marquez and take him out. He could pass Marquez and crash, taking Marquez with him. He could crash into Marquez, take them both out, as well as Rossi and Vinales, and then get stomped by Lin Jarvis in the Medical Centre.
That is the berserk glory of Iannone.
And Iannone did pass Marquez for one brief and splendid moment, instantly realised he could see the Face of God, and settled back down again. It was all pretty much done by lap five. Marquez was gone and getting goner.
Behind him, Championship leader Cal “Shut-up doubters!” Crutchlow cemented his hold on the championship by crashing out of the race (imagine that?) on Turn 20, while Dani Pedrosa offered up a brilliant broken-wristed performance carved from the very rock of tooth-gritted determination to finish seventh. He was only 18-seconds behind the winner.
Vinales, Iannone and Rossi finished in that order, each three seconds apart from the other, and so it went back down the line. Dovi brought it home four-and-a-half seconds adrift of Rossi, while Zarco tried very hard and was only a second or so shy of the Italian.
But there was some actual racing behind this lot.
Tits Rabbit was having a blinder of a round and finished in eighth, as was a broken-collarboned Jack Miller (ninth) and Asparagus A (10th) on his Aprilia.
Jack and Aleix ganged up on Lorenzo and passed him hard, but clean. Lorenzo sat up and made angry head-shakes at them all, and later whined that Race Direction only acts if contact is made between racers. Clearly he missed Race Direction acting on Marquez for merely slowing Vinales down. Jack later said Jorge was riding a “weird wide line” and that he was able to pass him either around the inside or outside.
The track itself was the source of all sorts of complaints from the racers. It had always been bumpy, but instead of resurfacing it, the Texans got the equivalent of a massive grinding wheel and tried to grind down the bumps. They failed. The bumps remained, but because there was now so much dust and debris on the track (some of it took out Miller’s screen), the racers got to ride those bumps blind. It was quite the powdery spectacle down that long back straight.
Hafizh, who had munted himself hard during Warm Up, munted himself again during the race, and got to sit in the pits and watch the race with a dizzy Abraham and a confused Rins.
Petrucci struggled and finished behind Lorenzo, which was a new development for both of them. While Cal “The Best Since Barry” Crutchlow remounted after his bingle and beat both Morbidelli and Simeon to Not Last Place. But not Luthi. Luthi had him.
And so now the nonsense is over.
No-one really takes the first three fly-away rounds seriously. Marquez was always going to win his 93rd race at the COTA, he should have won in Argentina, and it was good of him to let Dovi take the chequered flag at Qatar. The championship begins for real in Jerez on the 6th of May.
Circuit of the Americas MotoGP – Round 3 – Race Results
- Marc MARQUEZ – SPA – Repsol Honda Team 41’52.002
- Maverick VIÑALES – SPA – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +3.560
- Andrea IANNONE – ITA – Team SUZUKI ECSTAR +6.704
- Valentino ROSSI – ITA – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +9.587
- Andrea DOVIZIOSO – ITA – Ducati Team +13.570
- Johann ZARCO – FRA – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +14.231
- Dani PEDROSA – SPA – Repsol Honda Team +18.201
- Tito RABAT – SPA – Reale Avintia Racing +28.537
- Jack MILLER – AUS – Alma Pramac Racing +28.671
- Aleix ESPARGARO – SPA – Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +28.875
- Jorge LORENZO – SPA – Ducati Team +31.355
- Danilo PETRUCCI – ITA – Alma Pramac Racing +34.993
- Pol ESPARGARO – SPA – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +37.264
- Takaaki NAKAGAMI – JPN – LCR Honda IDEMITSU +39.335
- Alvaro BAUTISTA – SPA – Angel Nieto Team +40.887
- Bradley SMITH – GBR – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +48.475
- Scott REDDING – GBR – Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +49.995
- Thomas LUTHI – SWI – EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +51.115
- Cal CRUTCHLOW – GBR – LCR Honda CASTROL +59.055
- Xavier SIMEON – BEL – Reale Avintia Racing +59.747
- Franco MORBIDELLI – ITA – EG 0,0 Marc VDS +1’00.513
MotoGP Championship Standings following COTA
- Andrea DOVIZIOSO – ITA 46
- Marc MARQUEZ – SPA 45
- Maverick VIÑALES – SPA 41
- Cal CRUTCHLOW – GBR 38
- Johann ZARCO – FRA 38
- Andrea IANNONE – ITA 31
- Valentino ROSSI – ITA 29
- Jack MILLER – AUS 26
- Tito RABAT – SPA 22
- Danilo PETRUCCI – ITA 21
- Dani PEDROSA – SPA 18
- Alex RINS – SPA 16
- Hafizh SYAHRIN – MAL 9
- Pol ESPARGARO – SPA 8
- Aleix ESPARGARO – SPA 6
- Jorge LORENZO – SPA 6
- Franco MORBIDELLI – ITA 6
- Takaaki NAKAGAMI – JPN 5
- Scott REDDING – GBR 4
- Alvaro BAUTISTA – SPA 4
- Karel ABRAHAM – CZE 1