Round Three – COTA
The King Is Dead
Long Live The King
My fellow grit-eyed fanatics who endure the early fly-away rounds of the MotoGP will understand when I say MotoGP is a sport that destroys perfection at every opportunity.
It is a cruel and beautiful spectacle of immense courage, with blistering demonstrations of seemingly impossible skill and commitment. And it rewards and it crushes the riders with equal ambivalence. It is very much an allegory for life in that respect.
Reigning World Champion, Marc Marquez, came to the Circuit of the Americas (who even knew there was more than one America?) in Austin, Texas, numbered like the Biblical Beast – 6 starts, 6 poles, 6 wins. He’s actually won there 13 times, but in the Premier class, his dominance is indeed Biblical.
The next day, he flew out of the US with 7 starts, 7 poles, and a fat DNF.
And now the championship looks very different.
Marquez has always been able to bank 50 certain points in a season – COTA and Assen.
Now he is fourth after three races. I doubt very much he will stay in that position, but I reckon we’ve all worked out that nothing in MotoGP is certain.
Except maybe the fact that Cal Crutchlow will crash his brains out. A man can certainly bet on that certainty.
And I’m going to start putting money on Vinales not ever being able to capitalise on a good grid position.
In the lead-up to the race, the usual Pom commentators were all about the Marquez. I do not blame them. It looked like a given. He was unbeatable in Practice and Qualifying, and his win was a foregone conclusion – except it’s MotoGP, remember?
So when they lined up, I dragged myself out of my bed at stupid o’clock in the morning, levered the dog off the couch, got myself a coffee, and settled back to watch the Beast smash them all again.
Interesting grid, I thought after seeing Qualifying.
Jack Miller was enthroned in fourth and Petrucci, whose seat is up for grabs at the end of the year (and in just a few rounds we will know things we are only guessing about now), was back in eighth. His team-mate, Dovizioso had not done anything impressive in Qualifying and was back in 13th.
Rossi had been consistently fast in the lead-up, walking a bit like a gunslinger after his strong performance in Argentina, and was in second.
Next to him was Cal in third, but I felt, deep in my waters, where that would end up. In fifth was Asparagus P – granting KTM the highest grid position the up-and-coming Austrians had ever had.
Maverick was in sixth, just ahead of Rins and Petrucci, while the news kids, Quartararo, Morbidelli and Bagnaia surrounded a depressed Lorenzo like jackals around a wounded lion.
The Circuit of the Americas has two things to recommend it. The grid girls are the smilingest, and it is a brutal track. They say the most physically challenging of them all. It is also bumpy, with poor grip, and a fierce first turn which almost always result in tears.
But not on this occasion. It was all clean. Marquez had the hole-shot, and was closely followed by Rossi, Crutchlow, Miller and Rins. Dovizioso found redemption by quickly levering himself into sixth. Lorenzo went backwards to 15th, and everything appeared to be going to Marquez’s program.
He quickly started to eke out a lead, and try as Rossi might to stay with him, Number 93 can be uncatchable a lot of the time.
We were treated to two jump-starts this round. Both Vinales and Mir did not remain statue-still between the red lights going on and the red lights going off, and both copped ride-through penalties.
Vinales, clearly awash with rage and despair, gave himself an extra penalty by riding one of those new long penalty corners, before also cruising through the pits radiating angst. It was funny watching his pit-crew trying to explain his bizarre actions to each other in pit-lane.
Four laps in Crutchlow explored the Texas gravel, and Marquez as already 1.6 seconds clear. In two more laps he was three seconds ahead.
Rins began his charge early and gave Miller something to chase when he passed him. Lorenzo, pulled over, his Repsol Honda once again failing to proceed (it also lunched a chain in Practice), and was dinked back to the pits looking like a sooky thunderstorm.
And then Marquez fell off. Three times actually. He low-sided, then he picked the bike up and it fell over. Then he tried to bump-start it and it fell over again. So he just kinda lay there on his back for a few seconds doing the mathematics of the championship table in his head.
My heart soared. Rossi was in front for the first time since 1865, it seemed.
But behind him Rins was gaining, steadily, like a slow-dripping tap filling a bucket. Behind Rins, Jack Miller was enjoying the solitude of the bloke who’s faster than everybody except the two blokes in front.
Rins eventually passed Rossi with four laps to go. His Suzuki and his riding style clearly able to get the best out of his tyres. And while Rossi was obviously lining him up for a last-lap eat-my-shit stunt, two small corner errors cost The Doctor the win.
Rins’ was beyond ecstatic. His first MotoGP win revealed him to be an immensely humble and likeable rider who was as amazed to have beaten his idol Rossi as he was to stand on the top step of the podium.
This was Suzuki’s first win since Vinales brought them some joy back in 2016.
Miller finished eight seconds shy of Rossi and Rins, and Dovizioso (who now leads the Championship) was another whole second behind him for an important fourth.
Maverick managed to finish in 11th, just ahead of Iannone, but quite a bit behind Nakagami, whose Honda was the only Honda to see the chequered flag.
And now, as they say in the classics, Laughing Time is over.
The European rounds await. Nine tiny little points separate the top four riders.
And Rossi’s feeling mighty fine.
2019 MotoGP – Round Three
COTA MotoGP Results
|1.||Rins A.||Team Suzuki Ecstar||41:45.499|
|2.||Rossi V.||Movistar Yamaha||+0.462|
|3.||Miller J.||Alma Pramac Racing||+8.454|
|4.||Dovizioso A.||Ducati Team||+9.420|
|5.||Morbidelli F.||Petronas Yamaha SRT||+18.021|
|6.||Petrucci D.||Ducati Team||+21.476|
|7.||Quartararo F.||Petronas Yamaha SRT||+26.111|
|8.||Espargaro P.||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||+29.743|
|9.||Bagnaia F.||Alma Pramac Racing||+30.608|
|10.||Nakagami T.||LCR Honda||+31.011|
|11.||Vinales M.||Movistar Yamaha||+34.077|
|12.||Iannone A.||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||+34.779|
|13.||Zarco J.||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||+42.458|
|14.||Oliveira M.||KTM Tech3 Racing||+44.272|
|15.||Rabat T.||Reale Avintia Racing||+44.623|
|16.||Abraham K.||Reale Avintia Racing||+44.740|
|17.||Mir J.||Team Suzuki Ecstar||+48.063|
|18.||Syahrin H.||KTM Tech3 Racing||+1:07.683|
|DNF||Lorenzo J.||Repsol Honda||Retired|
|DNF||Marquez M.||Repsol Honda||Retired|
|DNF||Crutchlow C.||LCR Honda||Retired|
|DNF||Espargaro A.||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Retired|
2019 MotoGP – Round Three
MotoGP Championship Points Standings
|1.||Dovizioso Andrea||Ducati Team||54|
|2.||Rossi Valentino||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||51|
|3.||Rins Alex||Team Suzuki Ecstar||49|
|4.||Marquez Marc||Repsol Honda Team||45|
|5.||Petrucci Danilo||Ducati Team||30|
|6.||Miller Jack||Alma Pramac Racing||29|
|7.||Nakagami Takaaki||LCR Honda||22|
|8.||Crutchlow Cal||LCR Honda||19|
|9.||Espargaro Pol||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||18|
|10.||Quartararo Fabio||Petronas Yamaha SRT||17|
|11.||Morbidelli Franco||Petronas Yamaha SRT||16|
|12.||Vinales Maverick||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||14|
|13.||Espargaro Aleix||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||13|
|14.||Bagnaia Francesco||Alma Pramac Racing||9|
|15.||Mir Joan||Team Suzuki Ecstar||8|
|16.||Oliveira Miguel||KTM Tech3 Racing||7|
|17.||Lorenzo Jorge||Repsol Honda Team||7|
|18.||Iannone Andrea||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||6|
|19.||Zarco Johann||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||5|
|20.||Rabat Tito||Reale Avintia Racing||1|
|21.||Syahrin Hafizh||KTM Tech3 Racing||0|
|22.||Abraham Karel||Reale Avintia Racing||0|
|23.||Smith Bradley||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||0|