The one and only North America stop in the 2017 MotoGP World Championship proved interesting for the season and the record books with Marc Marquez solidifying his unblemished record at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas. Five years, five races and five wins.
The reigning World Champ put in a dominant performance besting teammate Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi under sunny skies, in near perfect track conditions. It wasn’t exactly easy though.
Despite starting from pole position it was Pedrosa with the early lead followed by his Repsol comrade and a pair of factory YZR-M1s ridden by Maverick Vinales and Rossi. The four riders peeled off from rest of the 18-rider pack.
Whether it was bad luck, or a still too cool front Michelin tire, Vinales crashed out of fourth position in the final series of righthand corners in the back half of the 3.43-mile circuit. This allowed Frenchman, Johann Zarco to inherit the position followed by Cal Crutchlow and the Ducati Corse factory bikes of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo.
The lead riders kept each other honest until Marquez was able to sneak by his teammate on Lap 8 with the Spaniard able to better “manage” the race, and his Michelin slicks.
“I could go faster at the time,” commented Pedrosa in regard to the initial laps of the race. “But I knew I had to take care of my tires. All weekend I had problems getting the correct tire life.”
Pedrosa says it was the front tire that was the primary culprit — wearing excessively on the right side. The problem proved to be a thorn in his program slowing down toward the end of the race, allowing Rossi to move past unchallenged.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t keep Valentino behind at the end but I’m happy overall,” he concludes. “Now I’m looking forward to Jerez which is a track that I like.”
“I was just trying to understand where the limit [was] of the tire,” said Sunday’s race winner during the post-race press briefing. “I was behind Dani trying to manage the race. Then when I saw that he was suffering a little bit I said, ‘ time to attack’.
And attack he did, recording a string of laps in the 2:05-range before dipping into the 2:04-range marking the best lap of the race on the 15th go around.
Meanwhile Zarco continued to apply pressure to Rossi with the Italian having to run off track for a moment to avoid an incident. He rejoined the race in a better position which warranted a 0.3-second penalty by the race commission.
“For me it’s not right,” said Rossi after the race. “I have two choices. I do it like this or we touch. And we touch. Zarco is always very fast – he has great potential but this not Moto2.”
“If you want to overtake you have to overtake. For me he has to stay more quiet,” seethed Rossi.
As the laps wound down Crutchlow would fend off Zarco, with Dovizioso slotting in behind. The sole factory GSX-RR Suzuki of Andrea Iannone caught and passed his former employer, Ducati, and their new rider Jorge Lorenzo. His teammate Alex Rins wasn’t able to start the race as he broke his wrist on Saturday.
The KTM MotoGP team successfully completed their first race in America, with Bradley Smith at the helm finishing 1:22 behind Marquez’s Honda. Pol Espargaro would retire early after Lap 12.
MotoGP packs up and heads east to Jerez, Spain for Round 4 taking place the weekend of May 7.
Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas Results
1. Marc Marquez (Honda)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
4. Cal Crutchlow (Honda)
5. Johann Zarco (Yamaha)
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
7. Andrea Iannone (Suzuki)
8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati)
9. Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati)
10. Jack Miller (Honda)
11. Jonas Folger (Yamaha)
12. Scot Redding (Ducati)
13. Tito Rabat (Honda)
14. Hector Barbera (Ducati)
15. Alvaro Bautista (Ducati)
16. Bradley Smith (KTM)
17. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia)