With one weekend to catch our breath after the heart stopping Argentina GP, the paddock moves from the tango of the south to the Lone Star State and the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Long, technical and challenging, Austin is a modern classic – and so far, there has only been one man on the top step: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
The number 93’s record at COTA is shimmering. He has been the lone star of qualifying and race day since the track joined the calendar in 2013 – even taking his first ever premier class win there that year, in only his second ever race. Since then, Marquez has been unstoppable. 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.
The winner in Argentina was, of course, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), and the now three-time GP winner even leads the standings – the first time a Brit has done so since 1979 – as we head to Austin. 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?
Marquez is expected to lead the challenge, but the factory ranks are brimming: his Argentina GP sparring partner Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) has a good record at COTA, including a second place last year, and that could set us up or 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.
Pedrosa is one question mark as we head for COTA. After crashing out in Argentina and then undergoing surgery on a broken radius, the ‘Little Samurai’’s solid record at the track may have to wait another year until a new entry is lodged.
New entry was the theme of the day for Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) at Termas de Rio Hondo, however. The Spaniard took his first ever premier class podium last time out and will want to use that as a springboard, and Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) likewise took his best ever result to end the race in the top ten as top rookie in an impressive showing. 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.
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. Friday practice begins at 9:55am (GMT -5) on 20th April, before the lights go out for the race at 14:00 on Sunday 22nd.