After the events of Argentina two weeks ago, Marc Marquez is a rider under fire. The conduct of the reigning world champion was called into question after a chaotic race which saw him stall on the grid, bump start his machine by riding backwards down the home straight, collide with his arch-rival, and ultimately score no points. At the Circuit of the Americas, the focus is on the Spaniard even more than normal.
From the moment he stalled on the grid at Termas de Rio Hondo, the red mist seemed to descend for Marquez as his composure deserted him. The messy attempt at passing Aleix Espargaro was clumsy at best, dangerous at worst, while the collision with Valentino Rossi was always going to trigger a media storm, with The Doctor accusing his rival of “destroying the sport”.
While one can understand Rossi’s anger, the claim that Marquez has caused such damage to the sport is utterly preposterous, although that doesn’t mean lessons can’t be learned in the 93 camp. His impatience was visible as he charged through the field and given he had such an obvious pace advantage over his competitors, a little bit of racing room wouldn’t have gone amiss.
In many ways, Austin may well be the perfect venue for Marquez to visit under the current circumstances as there may well be quite a lot of ‘racing room’ between himself and the rest of the field. In five visits to COTA, Marc is undefeated both in qualifying and the race, and none of those victories were in any way under threat. A Marquez victory from pole position in Texas is the nearest thing to a cast-iron certainty in motorcycle racing and Repsol Honda will be hoping for six out of six. Failure to achieve that will see questions of a very different nature being asked.
The factory squad remain at full strength following Dani Pedrosa’s recovery from a wrist injury sustained in his race-ending crash in Argentina but the Honda rider everyone is chasing lines up in the LCR garage. Round two winner Cal Crutchlow touches down in Texas as MotoGP championship leader for the first time in his career and the first Briton to lead the premier class since 1979. With COTA known to favour the Hondas, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Cal will take the overall lead back home to Europe.
The Ducatis didn’t fare well here last year and amidst the mayhem of Argentina, it was almost overlooked how uncompetitive Andrea Dovizioso was at Termas de Rio Hondo. The Italian failed to build on his Qatar victory, limping home in sixth, although events elsewhere made that look quite a useful result. With Marquez likely to score big this weekend, Dovi will surely be looking to do the same and ensure he starts the European swing at least on terms with his title rival.
Yamaha’s early season form has been another confusing topic with Rossi securing a podium finish in Qatar, a race which saw Maverick Vinales lap as quickly as anyone in the closing stages, but Argentina was an underwhelming experience for the boys in blue. Putting the Marquez controversy to one side, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Honda rider served a ride-through penalty, yet still beat both factory YZR-M1s on the road. The 2018-spec machine is still clearly a work-in-progress and both Vinales and Rossi would probably take a rostrum if it was offered their way.
With that in mind, Johann Zarco cannot be discounted as he looks to show his factory counterparts the way home again. The Frenchman caught Valentino Rossi’s attention with a bold overtaking manoeuvre here 12 months ago and it wouldn’t be a surprise to find the two battling on track again this time. Likewise, Alex Rins and Jack Miller will be keen to build on sensational showings two weeks ago and with both sporting lower-class victories here in the past, don’t rule out another podium challenge.
Moto2 has seen two contrasting races this season with Francesco Bagnaia following up his Qatar victory by sinking without trace in Argentina. As a result, Mattia Pasini wrestled away the championship lead with his first win in almost a year, pipping Xavi Vierge to the flag, but the title battle is still to take shape with several riders showing promising form. Whatever happens, the Grand Prix of the Americas will be a special occasion for one Moto2 rider in particular as Joe Roberts becomes the first American to race in a Grand Prix on home soil since 2015.
As far as Moto3 is concerned, Aron Canet leads the way despite failing to win either of the first two rounds. The Spaniard didn’t win here last year either but how he didn’t remains a total mystery, having surrendered an enormous pace advantage to an aggressive Romano Fenati. Aron will be determined to atone for last season’s slip-up and take control of the lightweight class.
As always, The Checkered Flag will have full coverage of all three classes throughout the weekend.
Americas GP: Previous Winners