It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were headed to Circuit of the Americas wondering how long it would take for rookie upstart Marc Marquez to win his first MotoGP. What a difference a year makes.
Marquez ended up winning in Texas last year for his debut win in the MotoGP class and he went on to win five more races en route to capturing the MotoGP World Championship in his rookie season. And he’s started this year by winning the opening round in Qatar.
So instead of wondering when Marquez would win, now we’re left wondering when Marquez will be beaten. Judging by his performance at COTA last year, that first loss of 2014 might not happen this coming weekend – even though he is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered while flat tracking in the off-season.
“Since Qatar I’ve been focusing on getting my leg stronger and my body fitter in preparation for the Austin race this weekend,” Marquez said in a team release. “This track is one of my favorite tracks; I had a good race here last year where I have good memories of taking my first win in the MotoGP class. We’ll have to wait and see the situation with the new rules for this year, but anyway we will be focused on our work. Thankfully, the majority of hard turns are left handers at this track which is easier on my leg as I’m still not 100 percent fit.”
Marquez’ teammate Dani Pedrosa finished third in the season opener in Qatar and he’s also a fan of COTA, the Spanish veteran having led 12 laps last year before being passed by his young countryman. Still, Pedrosa ended up second.
“I’ve had a good training week at home and now I’m looking forward to get to Austin, to see the team and ride at a track I like,” Pedrosa said. “We had a good race there last year and we’ll have to see how the bike works there this year. I hope to ride well and that we are greeted by the usual good atmosphere in America at this second visit to Austin for the Red Bull GP.”
For the MoviStar Yamaha team, Qatar was a race of mixed emotions. Valentino Rossi fought for victory with Marquez and ended up second, but Jorge Lorenzo crashed out of the lead on the very first lap.
“I really want to go to Austin, especially after the first race in Qatar,” Rossi said. “The season started well but now we need confirmation. Last year I made one of the worst races of the season in Texas, and this year I want to see if we can be competitive everywhere. Getting a good result in Austin would mean a lot for me and for Yamaha. It would mean that the direction taken is the right one. We will try to do our best to be competitive also on the Austin circuit. I’d like to have fun like I did in Qatar.”
Lorenzo is just hoping to get his season started after Qatar’s disaster.
“After a very disappointing race result in Qatar I look forward to racing at Austin to try to get a good result and forget as soon as possible all the things that happened in Losail,” Lorenzo said. “COTA track was not one of the best tracks for us last year. We had some difficulties to adapt our bike to the layout and lack of grip, but finally we found out how to manage for the race. In the end we got a good result and we finished only three seconds behind the winner. I guess this year the pace could be even better because our bike has made one step ahead with the new seamless and the chassis is pretty good. Also, I feel almost perfect, physically at 100 percent and that is so important to try to fight for the victory elsewhere.”
After opening the season with an eighth-place finish in Qatar, Nicky Hayden is hoping for a good result at the first of two home GPs for the former World Champion. Last year, Hayden finished ninth at COTA on the factory Ducati in Texas and says he struggled with portions of the track. He’s hoping to cure that on his Drive M7 Aspar Honda this year.
“A home Grand Prix is always something very special and I really look forward to getting there, seeing all the fans that support me so much and getting back on track,” Hayden said. “Austin is really a great track, it is a very state of the art facility – safe, long, and wide – but honestly last year there I didn’t get on with it great and was never able to be fast, especially in the first half of the track. That’s got to change this year and even though I know the acceleration off those slow corners won’t be kind to us, all the changes of direction should suit me and this bike well. So let’s hope we can get a result to make the home crowd proud.”
Ducati had a solid opening round in Qatar with Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Last year, Crutchlow was fourth at COTA on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha and he’s hopeful of a good result at a circuit he likes.
“We are looking forward to the race at Austin, because it was a track I did well at last year,” the Brit said. “I’d never even tested there and we finished strong with a fourth place, so I’m really looking forward to riding the GP14 on this track. The guys worked 100 percent in Qatar after my crashes; I gave them a little bit of work to do. It was a disappointing race because of the electronics problem that we had, but it was good that we finished the race in sixth.”
Crutchlow and Dovizioso tested the GP14 at Jerez in Spain last week, but bad weather hampered the proceedings. Still, they were able to test the “full factory” electronics that they will use in Austin.
“We have to be happy and positive about the fact that we reduced the gap to the leaders by half in Qatar and confirmed the improvements we made in the tests,” Dovizioso said. “We know we’ve still got a long way to go, however, to be competitive and I think that some of the next few tracks will be difficult for us this year, starting with Austin. But that track is so nice and I am really looking forward to racing there again this weekend.”