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: 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.
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.
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. And 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.
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. Tune in on April 20th at 10:55 (GMT -5) for the first Moto2™ Free Practice session, with the race getting underway at 12:20 (GMT -5) on April 22nd.
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. The lights go out for the third round of the year at 11:00 (GMT -5).
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