Can Marquez return to dominance on what is a happy hunting ground for the the #93 Repsol Honda

COTA joined the MotoGP calendar in 2013 and only Marquez has tasted victory in Texas

Following an exciting Argentina GP where Vinales once again stamped his authority, the paddock begins the journey north to the USA and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX.

MotoGP 2016 - Circuit of Americas, Austin Texas
MotoGP 2016 – Marquez leads at Circuit of Americas, Austin Texas

The beautiful purpose-built racetracks in the world in one of the jewels of the central US, and the Circuit of the Americas is a unique venue both in location and layout – as well as its MotoGP history with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) the only premiere class victory since its inclusion in 2013. 

The Circuit of the Americas, Texas
The Circuit of the Americas, Texas

Michelin is also back in the Americas and with 20 corners of almost every possible configuration, elevation changes and 1.2km long straight – the longest one the calendar – the COTA track deserves respect and concentration and is certainly a layout that demands a lot from tyres and riders alike.

Marc Marequez at the Circuit of the Americas in 2016Marc Marequez at the Circuit of the Americas in 2016
Marc Marequez at the Circuit of the Americas in 2016

In 2017, the MotoGP pack has shuffled as the paddock touches down on American land. After a difficult weekend with weather in Qatar, it was Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who made good on his preseason promise – and the Yamaha man did it again in Argentina, where Marquez fell from a lead of almost two seconds.

Maverick Vinales

“The next round is Austin and I’m happy because I won my first race there in Moto2, I’ve always been very strong here. I also did one of my best results in America the last year, so I think it‘s a good track for my riding style. I love the up and down track, with lots of elevation, so I’m so excited to see how my M1 will work here and how I’m going to feel riding the Yamaha. I’m confident and I know that I can do another good race weekend.”

Maverick Vinales

In terms of points, the pressure is on for the rider from Cervera to hit back – and it seems there could be no better stage than Marquez’ hunting ground. That also means that a Viñales win this weekend would be more than simply another 25 points.

Last year it was the number 93 with the best hand early on. With a combination of aces, holds and jokers, Marquez took back a crown he has won 75  per cent of the time he’s raced for it – and he was the man making the decisions and reading those around him. Viñales is now the man with the poker face, and his record at the track also makes for ominous reading.

Marc Marquez

“After the Argentina race, I’m happy to go to a track I love as much as Austin, although of course I would have preferred to arrive there in a better position. Anyway, another race weekend is about to start and we’ll give 100% to try to get our first podium this season. I have great memories of Austin, and for me it’s one of the best venues on the race calendar. I like the layout of the track, as it has many different types of sections and corners and lots of elevation changes. I also love the “American” style, with all the fans enjoying the sport and the fun at the track, so let’s get back in action and see how it goes there.”

Provided by Michelin
Provided by Michelin

A podium in Moto3 on his way to the crown in 2013 prefaced his first Moto2 victory as a rookie the following year – something Viñales pointed out at the time as having been one race earlier than the number 93 managed in his explosive rookie season in the intermediate class. 2014 saw Viñales take his first top ten as a MotoGP rookie, before last year he completed the top four – a good omen ahead of the weekend if he is to challenge Marquez.

Behind the reigning Champion, the man with the best previous form is his teammate Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa took second in 2013, second in 2014, missed 2015 through injury and was again fighting for the podium last year before a mistake saw him crash out of contention – as it did for Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), who could be the wildcard of the weekend once again.

Dani Pedrosa apologising to Andrea Dovizioso
Dani Pedrosa apologising to Andrea Dovizioso last year at COTA after taking them both out

Dani Pedrosa

“We had the chance to spend a few days back home in Europe, to rest a little and also to do some good training, and now I can’t wait to get back on my bike in Austin. It’s a pity we didn’t get points in Argentina, but we’ll put that behind us and concentrate on the positives. Now that we know more about our bike, we’ll work to improve the stability and the general setup, and hopefully we can take another step this weekend. I like the circuit and visiting Austin and the fans are really fantastic there, so let’s hope for a good weekend in Texas!”

Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

Despite struggles in practice and testing, the ‘Doctor’ has now made it two podiums out of two – and says his pace before his mistake last year at COTA makes him believe he could have challenged for the win. It was a difficult first two outings at the track for the number 46, but 2015 saw a leap forward in position and 2016 another in pace – so Rossi could prove one to watch once again, with a little more luck than last year.

Valentino Rossi

“I’m happy to be in Texas. I really like Austin. The first two races of the season went well and I hope to improve the performance of the first days of free practice. We have much work to do, but I’m confident in my bike and in my team. Austin is a very difficult track and I love riding here. I have an account to settle with this track because last year in the warm-up I made a big step for a strong race but unfortunately I made a mistake. This year I want to try to have a good race. I also really like the atmosphere at the American circuit and I come to this place always very happily.”

Valentino Rossi got to share some of the champagne with victor Vinales in Argentina
Valentino Rossi got to share some of the champagne with victor Vinales in Argentina

The Ducati Team of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo will also be looking for more luck in Texas. ‘DesmoDovi’ saw his Argentina GP cut short after being collected by Aleix Espargaró (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and at COTA last year the Italian’s luck wasn’t much better – getting taken down as Pedrosa crashed.

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo pictured at COTA in 2016, has moved to Ducati for 2017, and has yet to complete a full race

Key on the agenda for Dovizioso will be a solid finish with no drama, which will also be a priority for new teammate Jorge Lorenzo. After a run off early on in Qatar and then a first lap crash in Argentina, the ‘Spartan’ hasn’t yet played a full hand in red. COTA will be a good chance to really open his account, as the venue has previously seen him on solid podium form.

This is now how Lorenzo will want to end up in Texas
This is now how Lorenzo will want to end up in Texas

Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is also looking for a turnaround. After a crash in Qatar and getting caught in a first lap incident with Lorenzo in Argentina – as well as then being penalized for a jump start – the ‘Maniac’ wants to convert his speed into points this time round.

MotoGP 2016 - Round Three- COTA - Podium - Moto2
MotoGP 2016 – COTA Moto2 podium – Alex Rins centre, won in 2016 and will be looking for a strong performance this year having moved up to the premiere class

Rookie teammate Alex Rins should also have a slightly less challenging weekend, having won at the venue in Moto2 and had more time for his ankle fracture to recover following a motocross accident before the Argentina GP. Rins will be looking to take back the honour of top rookie after ruling in Qatar, but there will surely be stiff competition from Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger.

Jonas Folger

“I am excited for the next round in America, especially after the Argentina GP, where we had such a good weekend. We learnt a lot there, but the area that I improved the most in was myself, plus we made some really solid steps forward with regards to the start of a GP. So, I will take all the positives from there to Texas and I’m certain that we can make some more progress and seize a high point scoring finish, just like we did at the last round. I really like the COTA circuit and it’s physically demanding nature, and after the good result at the last event, I have a high level of optimism. I feel confident on the bike and we are all keen to get going, so I am very excited about riding my Yamaha at this awesome track.”

Provided by Michelin
Provided by Michelin

Zarco, who stunned to lead his first ever race in Qatar, had another incredible outing in Argentina as the reigning Moto2 Champion dueled it out with some of the best of the best. Crossing the line to complete the top five, the Frenchman’s confidence will be even higher at COTA – as will that of his teammate, who was only one place behind Zarco in Argentina.

Johann Zarco

“The Circuit of the Americas is impressive and I am confident that I can seal a good result there with my Yamaha. The layout is demanding because there are twenty corners and it’s certainly physical. However, I have a good record in Texas and I have finished on the podium twice in the past two years in Moto2. At the moment, my feeling on the YZR-M1 bike is great and after the 5th place finish in Argentina, I want to stay on this level. Yet, when we start, I will stay relaxed and I will work with the team and on myself because, at this venue, it’s vital to understand the direction that we need to head towards as there are so many corners. If you make one small mistake, it takes almost half a lap to recover, so therefore, it’s more important to work on the rider and to find the perfect line on the asphalt, rather than focusing too much on finding the ideal setup. Nevertheless, I am keen to race in America, and I will go there with a high level of motivation because, at the moment, my feeling is wonderful.”

Aleix Espargaro lost the front taking the inside line
Aleix Espargaro proved a challenger in Qatar but lost the front taking the inside line in Argentina, while Jack Miller is consistently top 10

With such incredible performances so far throughout the field, it could be anyone’s game. Aleix Espargaró was stunning in Qatar, Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) is fourth in the standings, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) has made the top ten home and Alvaro Bautista bounced back to P4 last time out for the Pull&Bear Aspar Team.  

Jack Miller
Jack Miller was forced to withdraw from the COTA GP last year due to a foot injury, having been unable to complete practice sessions and is sure to be looking forward to the track in 2017

Alvaro Bautista

“We are looking forward to arriving in Austin after a good weekend in Argentina, but this is a quite different track with different demands. We will try to work as well as possible to find the same feeling as Argentina and head into the race with a good pace and a good set-up so that we can fight for a top five finish again. Austin has some hard braking and acceleration zones as well as some mixed sections with a variety of direction changes. It will be tricky to find a set-up there because when you get the bike working well in one sector it tends to be compromised in another. We will give our best as always and hopefully we can have the same outcome as the last race.”

Alvaro Bautista
Alvaro Bautista

Karel Abraham

“I have taken some time out on the way from Argentina to Austin to take the opportunity to relax and avoid the time change with Europe. I have also been able to keep my training up and get ready for the next challenge. Austin is a difficult circuit for the Ducati, and especially for me. It has a lot of hairpins and sharp turns, it is not one of my favourite tracks but anyway, neither is Malaysia and we had a pretty good test there in February. I am looking forward to this Grand Prix, it will be difficult but I hope it can positive again like Argentina.”

Karel Abraham
Karel Abraham

Reale Avintia Racing head to the United States of America looking forward to a good result, after two points-scoring races in Qatar and Argentina. For this weekend, riders Hector Barbera and Loris Baz have higher goals and are determined to fight for the top ten, on a track that should suit the characteristics of their Ducati Desmosedici GP.

Hector Barbera

“We head to the Circuit of the Americas and I think it could be a good track for Ducati. It’s fast and it features long straights where power will be important. I’m not at my best moment with the bike, but I believe this race can be the turning point to change this situation. I’m physically strong and I just need to find the limit of this bike to close the gap to the front.”

Hector Barbera
Hector Barbera

Loris Baz

“I hope to continue in the same direction of the first two races. We have to keep working on some aspects of the bike and see how the weekend goes. We have some ideas to test during practice and I think we can do well in Texas after two solid races in Qatar and Argentina. I like the track and even though I miss a little bit of speed on the straights, I want to get the best possible result on Sunday.”

Loris Baz
Loris Baz

Argentina saw Red Bull KTM Factory Racing score their first points with Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith. That could be more difficult over the technical 22-corners of COTA, but the Austrian factory are on the board and here to stay, ready to race at another new track.

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro and teammate Bradley Smith have added KTM’s first championship points to the tally in Argentina with the hope of adding more at COTA

Michelin and the Circuit of the Americas

The high abrasiveness of the 5,513km COTA circuit, along with the stresses that the tyres are put through over the large number of turns, means the rubber will have to work very hard throughout the weekend to give the riders optimum grip and durability. With the data gathered from last season’s race, where Marquez won on Michelin rubber, the Michelin Technicians have been able to assess the information and prepare the best tyres most suited to the characteristics of the track.

The Circuit of the Americas during the 2016 MotoGP round
The Circuit of the Americas during the 2016 MotoGP round

To cope with this challenging circuit the allocation of Michelin Power Slicks will feature a soft, medium and hard compound for both the front and rear. These tyres will be identifiable by a white band, no band and a yellow band respectively.

Valentino Rossi at COTA in 2016
Valentino Rossi at COTA in 2016

The rear compound tyres will also incorporate a harder compound right-hand-side to give it an asymmetrical performance suited to the track’s design. To combat any wet weather the Michelin Power Rain tyres will be available in soft (blue band) and medium (no band) compounds, but with good weather expected it will be unlikely these tyres will be used. However following the changing conditions experienced at this year’s previous two Grands Prix, anything can happen.

MotoGP World Championship Classification following Round 2
  1. Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) 50 points
  2. Valentino Rossi (ITA – Yamaha) 36 points
  3. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) 20 points
  4. Scott Redding (GBR – Ducati) 17 points
  5. Cal Crutchlow (GBR – Honda) 16 points
    … 7. Jack Miller (AUS – Honda) 15 points
MotoGP 2016 - Round Three- COTA - Podium - MotoGP
MotoGP 2016 COTA Podium – Lorenzo, Marquez and Iannone celebrate their 2016 podium positions

Can Franco Morbidelli make Texas three in a row in Moto2

Texas awaits for the intermediate class – with one man wearing the target

It was a teammate tango to remember at Termas de Rio Hondo, as Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Franco Morbidelli and Alex Marquez disappeared into the distance before some last lap drama saw Marquez highside out on the chase – and now motivation will be even higher for both riders, as one seeks to keep his stranglehold on the standings and the other looks to reload.

Franco Morbidelli
Franco Morbidelli will be the man to beat at Texas, having taken the first two wins of the season and a 10-point lead in the Moto2 championship

Miguel Oliveira was the closest challenger to the two on pace in Argentina, and the Portuguese rider gave the new KTM intermediate class chassis its first podium finish – also his first in Moto2 – as he hunted the lead duo down. With pace from Qatar confirmed at Termas de Rio Hondo, now the target moves forward again to become a first win for man and machine.

Miguel Oliveira was a strong contender in Argentina, a feat he will try to repeat at COTA.

Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) called his rostrum finish in Argentina lucky, but the Swiss rider knows consistency is key and has so far had exactly that. That’s less true of key rival Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) after the Japanese rider suffered a difficult qualifying and then DNF in Argentina, but the season is only just beginning – and there are many kilometers left to run even before the paddock returns to Europe.

Tom Luthi took third in Argentina and Qatar and will be looking to improve on those results to close the championship gap
Tom Luthi took third in Argentina and Qatar (pictured) and will be looking to improve on those results to close the championship gap

There’s also previous good form in Texas from Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) and Speed Up to contend with – as previous winner Sam Lowes graduates, veteran Simone Corsi remains and will fight it out in signature style.

So with all the 2016 podium finishers at the Circuit of the Americas having moved to MotoGP, the story in 2017 will certainly have a different ending, what remains to be seen is whether Morbidelli can author another masterclass, or someone else can turn over a new page.

Remy Gardner
Remy Gardner suffered a broken ankle in Argentina

Australian Remy Gardner suffered a broken ankle after being taken out by another rider in Argentina and at the time was assessing whether surgery would be required for his injury.

Moto2 World Championship Classification
  1. Franco Morbidelli (ITA – Kalex) 50 points
  2. Thomas Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) 36 points
  3. Miguel Oliveira (POR – KTM) 33 points
  4. Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA – Kalex) 21 points
  5. Xavi Vierge (SPA – Tech3) 18 points
    … Remy Gardner (AUS)

Mir leads Moto3 into Texas with 10-point lead

Having taken two wins in a row prior to Texas Joan Mir will be aiming for more of the same

Two races into the Moto3 World Championship there’s a clear leader as we head for round three: Leopard Racing’s Joan Mir. A full fifty points on the board after a win and another win, not even a P16 grid position in Argentina could keep the Mallorcan down – so the target for the grid is clear: catch Mir if you can.

John Mir leads the Moto3 field in Argentina
Joan Mir leads the Moto3 field in Argentina

So far the closest challenges have come from British Talent Team rider John McPhee and Del Conca Gresini Moto3’s Jorge Martin, as the two riders completed an identical podium in Argentina to that of Qatar. McPhee has been there or close in both, but Martin believes he was lacking a little to be able to move up the rostrum. Now, will be on it from FP1 in Texas as motivation gets higher and higher.

John McPhee
John McPhee looks to be strong competition for leader Joan Mir

The field is far from a three-horse race, however. A combination of bad luck, trouble and circumstance has hit many of those sure to soon get back to making big impressions on the fight at the front.

Martin’s teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio, Niccolo Antonelli and Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KT Ajo), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Philipp Oettl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing) – all riders with previous podium form, and Oettl on pole last year. And then there’s last year’s winner Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers)…

Image: Gold and Goose
Bo Bendsneyder in Argentina – Image: Gold and Goose

There are also two riders who haven’t yet found their expected form in the season, and will be hoping to start reappearing on the rostrum sooner than soon: last year’s runner up Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and 2015 FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Champion Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) – both in the top ten last year at the Circuit of the Americas.

Nicolo Bulega (ITA-KTM), fastest Moto3 overall - Sky Racing Team VR46 sophomore’s Day 2 time fastest overall
Nicolo Bulega may prove a podium contender after a top 10 result at COTA last year
Moto3 World Championship Classification
  1. Joan Mir (SPA – Honda) 50 points
  2. John McPhee (GBR – Honda) 40 points
  3. Jorge Martin (SPA – Honda) 32 points
  4. Andrea Migno (ITA – KTM) 21 points
  5. Romano Fenati (ITA – Honda) 20 points