MotoGP heads to COTA
Crutchlow leads the MotoGP standings into America
After a heart stopping Argentina GP the paddock moves to the Lone Star State and the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Long, technical and challenging there has only been one man on the top step to date: Marc Marquez to date. The Repsol Honda man has been widely panned as the villain of South America, will the #93 back off the aggression a little now he is in the land of The Donald…?
“After a good start to the season in Qatar, we got no points in Argentina, but I was feeling good on the bike in both races, which is positive. The season is long and the most important thing is that our level is there. Now we go to Austin, a good circuit with a good atmosphere and great memories: it was the place of my first pole and my first MotoGP victory and we’ve been able to be strong there since then, so it’s a good place to try and get a good result. That said, every season is different: the bikes, the tyres, the conditions. This year some work was done to reduce the bumps, so we’ll see how the track is. As we’ve done so far, over the weekend we’ll focus our work on the race setup, and then on Sunday we’ll see where we’re able to finish.”
Marquez’s record at COTA is gobsmacking. He has been the lone star of qualifying and race day since the track joined the calendar in 2013 and even took his first ever premier class win there that year, in what was only his second ever race. Since then, Marquez has been unstoppable in Texas. But the run up to the event this year has been a different one, with a P18 and a dramatic Argentina GP the latest entry on the rider from Cervera’s CV, which was immediately followed up with a social media gabfest or epic proportions with millions of armchair experts mashing their keyboards while covering them in spittle.
The winner in Argentina was, of course, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), and the now three-time GP winner even leads the standings. Incredibly he is the first Brit to do so since 1979. Cal was a wee bit pissed off that bugger all media turned up to the scheduled interview after his victory, as the media pack chased down Rossi and Marquez around for a soundbite. He might come out swinging this weekend…
Fellow Independent Team rider Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) took pole at Termas de Rio Hondo and is on a roll too, and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Johann Zarco went from pole in Qatar to podium in Argentina. Can they keep this early season momentum rolling for the Independent runners?
“The Circuit of the Americas is a very nice track, although it is physically truly tough and I think it’s maybe even one of the most technical circuits of the year, because we have 20 corners and it’s not easy to go really fast. But after the nice podium in Argentina, I’m still very happy about the feeling I could gain on the bike and I hope to have this great feeling again from the first practice on Friday on in order to prepare the race in the best possible way and to be able to fight for another podium. Why shouldn’t we think about our first victory as well? I want to dream about it and live this dream at the maximum.”
Marquez is expected to lead the challenge, but the factory ranks are brimming: key Argentina GP rival Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) has a good record at COTA, including a second place last year, and that could set up some fireworks. Fellow Iwata factory rider Maverick Viñales will be another big name to watch as always, so will Yamaha be able to come out swinging? Or will the men in red strike back?
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) came sixth last year but the 2017 Championship runner up has two podiums at the venue in 2014 and 2015, and teammate Jorge Lorenzo is equally another former visitor to the rostrum in Austin.
‘DesmoDovi’ took P6 in Argentina after winning the opening round, but is only three points off Crutchlow at the top of the Championship – a strong position as we head for Round 3. With three of the men he considers title rivals taking zero points home in Argentina – Marquez, Rossi and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), it was a solid weekend in the standings for the Italian.
After undergoing successful surgery to his right wrist one week ago, Dani Pedrosa has begun his rehab period and, although he’s obviously not yet at 100%, will join Marc Marquez in the United States to try and take part in the third round of the MotoGP World Championship in Austin.
“Since the operation, I started feeling a bit better every day. I’ve been doing exercises to gain mobility and reduce the inflammation. Little by little I’m recovering muscle tone, and this allows me to see some progress. From here it’s difficult to know our real possibilities. We’re going to a difficult track and until I’m back on my bike I won’t be able to really know my situation. But what’s clear to me at this moment is that it’s well worth it to travel and try. An important part of my strength to go to Austin comes from your messages of support, so thank you very much to all of you.”
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took his first ever premier class podium last time out at Termas de Rio Hondo and will want to use that as a springboard into good results at COTA.
Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) likewise took his best ever result in Argentina, finishing inside the top ten and as top rookie, an impressive showing from the 23-year-old Malaysian.
“I’m really happy with the results that we’ve done in the first two races and I’m looking forward to the Grand Prix this weekend. I try to do the same or end up even better. Before Austin I prepared myself with some training in the boot camp of Colin Edwards. So, my physical condition is good, I improved step by step and I’m more than ready for this third round. I can’t wait to meet my team again and I hope I can give my best to them yet again.”
And what of those so often frontrunners? Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing)? Texas will tell in time if they can move forward.
Both Álvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham will again be giving their maximum at the Circuit of the Americas to score a solid result before the championship returns to Europe, especially having both missed out on the points at Termas de Río Hondo.
“We will work hard from the first moment in Austin to improve the feeling with the bike and enjoy the best possible weekend. We know that once we fix a few small details there might not be a huge difference to the lap time but the position should improve significantly. We head to the United States feeling very motivated for the last race before we return to Europe and we want to go back there in good shape. It hasn’t been the start to the season that we would have lived but we will keep working non-stop in every session to improve the bike. Termas was difficult because of the weather but we found some positive things that should prove useful in the future.”
“This is the last of a run of races outside Europe and it takes place at a difficult circuit, which features a lot of high-speed direction changes, elevation changes and blind corners. I go there feeling eager to do a good job and to keep working hard to improve on the results we have had in the first couple of races of the season. Since the race in Argentina I have stayed in America and competed in a Spartan Race last week, which was good fun and I also came away with a good result.”
Are you ready for another round? The mood is electric as we head for the Circuit of the Americas, with Marquez chasing a record sixth win at the track and more at stake than simply another trophy.
It will make for an early start to the week for us in Australia with the lights scheduled to go out at 0500 Monday morning AEST.
MotoGP World Championship Points Standings
- Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda GBR 38
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 35
3 Johann ZARCO Yamaha FRA 28
4 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha SPA 21
5 Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 20
6 Jack MILLER Ducati AUS 19
7 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati ITA 17
8 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 16
9 Alex RINS Suzuki SPA 16
10 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki ITA 15
11 Tito RABAT Ducati SPA 14
12 Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 9
13 Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha MAL 9
14 Franco MORBIDELLI Honda ITA 6
15 Pol ESPARGARO KTM SPA 5
16 Scott REDDING Aprilia GBR 4
17 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati SPA 3
18 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda JPN 3
19 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati CZE 1
20 Jorge LORENZO Ducati SPA 1
After his hard-fought victory in strange conditions at the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) tops the Moto2 standings after holding off the challenge from young guns Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to take his fourth intermediate class victory. The Circuit of the Americas now awaits – a track the veteran crashed out at last year – so will he be able to keep the hard chargers behind him for a second consecutive race?
Challenging the Italian all the way to the line in Argentina was Vierge. Converting his first pole position to a career best equaling second, the Spaniard looked impressive all weekend – can he get his first ever Moto2 win? Just behind him in third place at Termas was Oliveira, as he continues to prove he’s in with a shot at the title with the KTM machine this season – he sits nine points adrift from Pasini in the Championship, so he’ll be fired up to close the gap.
Pons HP40 rider Lorenzo Baldassarri’s fourth in Argentina – coinciding with his P2 finish in Qatar – means he heads to Texas as Pasini’s closest Championship challenger. Can he pick up his first Moto2 win of the season? And what of Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS)?
He lost the chance to fight for the win in Qatar with a rear brake issue, while in Argentina, fifth in the strange circumstances was a solid result for the former Moto3 World Champion to have left with. A fourth in COTA last year will give the Spaniard confidence he can challenge for the podium this weekend.
Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) had a quiet weekend in Termas, qualifying in P15 and taking the checkered flag in ninth. Nevertheless, the Italian sits just six points back from his compatriot and as we saw in Qatar, the future MotoGP rider is more than capable of race victories this season…
It’s far from a five-horse race for the win, though. Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) won here in 2015 to claim his maiden Moto2 win, then in 2016, he came across the line second – so it’s a track the Brit seemingly enjoys. A great venue, then, for him to claw back some Championship points after a DNF and a P13 so far this year.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) crashed out of the Argentina GP too, but there’s no doubt the South African has the pace to compete with the frontrunners this year. However, this will be his first time riding a Moto2 machine at COTA, after missing last season’s round through injury.
Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) could be another top contender, having been the top rookie so far after two points scoring finishes, including seventh last time out. But last year’s runaway Moto3 winner here Romano Fenati (Marinelli Snipers Team) will look to build on his first two races of the season on board his Kalex machine as he looks to challenge Mir for the ´Rookie of the Year´ crown.
Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) superbly picked up his best ever Moto2 finish in Argentina, crossing the line in a jubilant sixth to round off a very good weekend for the Australian. The 20-year-old will be looking to back that up and take that step into being a regular top ten runner in seasoon 2018.
And let’s not forget we have an American gunning for glory at his home race in the intermediate class this year, as Joe Roberts (NTS RW Racing GP) takes to the COTA track in front of his home fans. In the wet, Roberts brilliantly qualified tenth on the grid in Argentina on an ever-improving NTS machine that’s new to the Moto2 class. The 2015 MotoAmerica 600 Superstock Champion was at COTA with MotoGP legend Kevin Schwantz in March, so you can bet the 20-year-old will have taken some tips from the former World Champion.
Last year’s podium finishers have all moved up to the MotoGP class, so it’s time to put three new names on the trophies this time around.
Moto2 World Championship Standings
- Mattia Pasini (ITA) KALEX – 38 points
- Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA) KALEX – 33 points
- Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) KALEX – 32 points
- Xavi Vierge (SPA) KALEX – 28 points
- Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM – 27 points
- Alex Marquez (SPA) KALEX – 27 points
After the difficult-to-judge #ArgentinaGP with the battle between wets and slicks, it’s Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) who heads to Texas as the Championship leader after Qatar winner Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) gambled BIG on the Warm Up lap. Canet came second in Argentina and Martin eventually fought his way back into the points in P11, so the heat is on for Round 3.
Last year could give us some clues as to what awaits in Austin. Canet had searing pace all weekend and could well be an early favourite, but the now-graduated Romano Fenati took the Spaniard on in the race – and Canet made a mistake, crashing out. Will he remember the speed, or the slide into the gravel?
Martin was on the podium last year, however, and so was teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio. ‘Diggia’ also put it on the podium last time out, so the Gresini duo will be gunning for glory.
But Argentina was a headline stealer for one man alone: Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP). The Italian took his first GP win and in some style, also putting KTM back on top for the first time since Mugello and Andrea Migno. He’ll be walking tall into Texas.
However much the odds stack one way or the other, though, the race will always decide.
Moto3 World Championship Standing
- Aron Canet (SPA) HONDA – 40 points
- Jorge Martín (SPA) HONDA – 30 points
- Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) KTM – 27 points
- Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) HONDA – 26 points
- Lorenzo Dalla Porta (ITA) HONDA – 25 points