Always expect the unexpected. The GP of the Americas proved the truth of this, in an extraordinary afternoon of surprises.
The biggest came from former King of Cota Marc Marquez, who sprang into the lead from pole position, and was better than three seconds clear when he crashed under braking at the end of the long straight on the ninth lap.
Marquez Crashes, Rins Wins COTA MotoGP
Unable to restart his Repsol Honda, he handed the lead to fans’ favorite Valentino Rossi (Monster Yamaha).
But the 40-year-old veteran was not alone, and with four laps to go his constant companion Alex Rins was able to pounce. Rossi fought back to the end, but the Ecstar Suzuki had looked after its tires better than the Yamaha, and the 23-year-old Spaniard went on to take a narrow but historic first premier-class win.
“I have no words. I have dreamed about this since I was a child,” said Rins.
Dropping back by the finish, Australian Pramac Ducati rider Jack Miller had to nurse his choice of soft tires front and rear as factory Mission Winnow Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso closed remorselessly, after starting from 13th on the grid.
In the end, Miller hung on to a first dry-weather podium by less than a second. Dovizioso had the consolation of taking the championship lead.
Marquez’s indiscretion was not the only Honda disaster. Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was having a difficult race when he coasted to a stop with a mechanical failure. Hard-pushing independent-team rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) had been running strongly in third when he fell off after only five laps.
Second factory Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales and Rins’s Suzuki team-mate Joan Mir both suffered ride-through penalties for jumped starts. This left a chance for a career-best result for Petronas Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli, who was fifth ahead of second factory Ducati teamster Danilo Petrucci.
Fabio Quartararo’s seventh was also a best-yet for the Petronas Yamaha rookie; and likewise for ninth-place fellow class rookie Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati), who was less than a second behind Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM).
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) came through for a close tenth, the only Honda finisher, with Vinales taking 11th ahead of Andrea Iannone (Aprilia) at the end.
The last points went to Johann Zarco, class rookie Miguel Oliveira (both Red Bull KTM) and Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Ducati).
Dovizioso (54) heads the title fight from Rossi (51), Rins (49), deposed leader Marquez (45) and Petrucci (30).
COTA MotoGP Results 2019
Luthi Wins Moto2 At COTA
Swiss veteran Thomas Luthi, returned to Moto2 after a fruitless single season in MotoGP, returned to winning ways with a clear win at CotA, outpacing Dynavolt Intact Kalex team-mate Marcel Schrotter, with both of them leaving early leader Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex) to a distant battle for fifth.
It was the 32-year-old former 125 champion’s 12th Moto2 win.
But it wasn’t an all-Kalex podium, with Speed Up rider Jorge Navarro coming through steadily to take third place from Marquez with three laps to go.
One lap later, another returned veteran snitched fourth. Mattia Pasini, who retired at the end of last season, was back as substitute rider for injured Garcia in the Flexbox HP40 Kalex team. In his first time on a Triumph-powered Moto2 bike, the Italian was better than two seconds clear of the fifth-place fight.
Marquez, his tyres sliding badly, had his hands full fending off Luca Marini (SKY VR46) and a hard-pushing Sam Lowes (Federal Oils Kalex). Veteran Simone Corsi (Tasca Kalex) was a close eighth.
Rookie Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex) took a third successive top ten, comfortably ahead of team-mate Andrea Locatelli in tenth. Remy Gardner (ONEXOX Kalex) got back to the head of a five-bike battle for 11th.
Gardner had been pushed wide on the first lap avoiding a falling Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), who had been unable to avoid the suddenly slowing Jorge Martin ahead of him. Baldassarri won the first two races, but was out of the third.
Likewise the luckless Xavi Vierge (EG-VDS Kalex), starting from 20th after getting mired in Q1, and out in a three-bike tangle on the first corner, along with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Speed Up) and American rider Joe Roberts (Kalex).
Also out early on, Red Bull KTM rider Brad Binder, retiring with clutch trouble.
Baldassarri retained a narrow points lead, 50 to Schrotter on 47 and Luthi (45); then Gardner (38) and Marquez (36).
Moto3 Win To Canet At COTA
Aron Canet took a fine tactical win, his first since 2017 – the Sterilgarda KTM rider rising above a chaotically close brawl on the final lap to lead over the line by almost a full second.
Late-race leader Andrea Migno narrowly lost out to his Bester Capital KTM team-mate Jaume Masia for second place. Masia, who took a maiden win at the last race, had come through from the middle of the pack.
It was KTM’s first podium lock-out sinced Le Mans last year.
Inches behind, the best of the Hondas, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kommerling Honda) narrowly ahead of pole starter Niccolo Antonelli, whose SIC58 Honda team-mate Tatsuki Suzuki had led from laps five to 12, only to slip off under the pressure of the pursuit.
The pursuit was packed up close, from second to ninnth within one second. Tony Arbolino (Snipers Honda) was sixth, the Sama KTM of Raul Fernandez, Alonso Lopez (EG Honda) and Celestino Vietti (SKY VR46 KTM).
With early title leader Kaito Toba crashing out, Masia took over the table, equal on points but with better placings than Canet on 45 points each. Dalla Porta (13th today) is next, equal on 32 points with Antonelli.
There was to be no surprise after fans had waited through a barren morning for MotoGP qualifying. As every year since the first visit to CotA in 2013, it was the thrilling brinkmanship of Marc Marquez that put his Repsol Honda on top of the time-sheets.
It was accomplished with the usual brinkmanship, on a slippery and bumpy track washed clean by heavy rain that had seen all morning free practice cancelled, and in windy conditions that triggered several violent tank-slappers at top speed down the long straight.
“Today was a strange day, and qualifying was so windy it was shaking the bike. I don’t have the best set-up, but I was able to be constant and do two fast laps in a row,” he said.
Having dominated FP4, Marquez consolidated his position with a time close to the race record, although some 1.6 seconds slower than his all-time best lap, taking an advantage of better than a quarter of a second over the next man.
That man was a jubilant Valentino Rossi (Monster Yamaha), back on the front row for the first time this year, as the 40-year-old’s early season renaissance continues, following his fine second place in the last round in Argentina.
“It was difficult, but I feel good on the bike; we have good balance and a good setting for the dry. Now we wait for the conditions and to make a tyre choice that will be very open,” he said.
Equally delighted was third-fastest Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), after deposing top Ducati qualifier Jack Miller (Pramac Ducati) from the front row to lead the second. Alongside him, Pol Espargaro gave the Red Bull KTM its best-yet grid position, with yesterday’s time-sheet leader Maverick Vinales (Monster Yamaha) sixth, barely a hundredth of a second slower.
Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) leads row three from Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati), the last rider within a second of Marquez; rookie Fabio Quartararo completes row three; Petronas Yamaha team-mate Franco Morbidelli rounds out the top ten. Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda) ended up 11th after coming through from Q1, as did Petrucci; Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati) was 12th, after crashing early in Q2.
This left factory Ducati rider and Qatar GP winner Andrea Dovizioso with a hard task at a difficult track, heading the fifth row after finishing only third in Q1.
German Marcel Schrotter claimed a second pole position in three races in the last qualifying of the day, as Moto2 positions shuffled in the closing stages of a sunny but very windy session.
The Dynavolt Intact rider first displaced team-mate Tom Luthi; but by the end the Swiss veteran had been dropped to fourth to lead row two, as both Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex) and finally former CotA winner Sam Lowes (Federal Oils Kalex) made it to the front row.
Schrotter described dire conditions, with “not much grip and a lot of wind on some corners”.
Red Bull KTM rider Brad Binder had come through from Q1, but was also pushed off row one, ending up fourth ahead of Jorge Navarro on the Speed Up.
Returned veteran Mattia Pasini, substituting for injured Flexbox HP40 Kalex rider Augusto Fernandez, leads row three from class rookie Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM) – also through from Q1, and Simone Corsi (Tasca Kalex); with Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Kalex) completing the top ten.
Argentine podium finisher Remy Gardner was left in 18th after a gust of wind triggered a heavy crash early in the session; Argentine GP pole qualifier Xavi Vierge was also out of luck, the EF-VDS Kalex rider unable to escape from Q1, to start from 20th place.
American rider Joe Roberts (KTM) was 22nd.
Moto3 did the pioneering work on a drying track, with relative veteran Nico Antonelli (SIC58 Honda) half-a-second clear of front-row first-timer Raul Fernandez (Sama Angel Nieto KTM) and new Kommerling Honda rider Gabriel Rodrigo.
As usual, times were dropping as the track dried, and long-time session leader Darryl Binder (CIP KTM) was dropped to fifth, alongside the man who beat him to second in the last round in Argentina, Jaume Masia (Bester Capital KTM). Both these KTM riders had won through from Q1.
Alongside them, Sterilgarda KTM’s Aron Canet, whose hopes of the front row were dashed with a late slip-off.
Second SIC58 rider Tatsuki Suzuki leads an all-Honda row three from John McPhee and Alonso Lopez; Marcos Ramirez, also through from Q1, rounded out the top ten, one place ahead of Leopard Honda team-mate Lorenzo Dalla Porta, another to slip off.
Yesterday’s leader and former double winner Romano Fenati (Snipers Honda) was alongside in 12th.
Weather Hits COTA
Bad weather and cautious local regulations meant that after a morning of waiting all Saturday morning FP3 sessions were cancelled at Austin.
Although a biblical deluge had abated by the time schedule free practice was due to commence at 9am, rain was still falling … but more seriously, there was thunder and lightning about.
A local bye-law bans track action is not allowed if there is any electrical storm within eight miles of the track. Fans were kept outside the gates until 10:30, marshals were bused back indoors and trackside cameras removed … twice, the second time after hopes of running shortened FP3 sessions were thwarted by the return of lightning to the region.
Only MotoGP was able to run a single further free practice, the “untimed” FP4, as scheduled after the two Moto3 qualifying sessions. By the end of that 30-minute session, the sun was out and the track dry enough for slick tyres.
On the same day, over in Europe, Assen’s Saturday first Superbike race also fell victim to a different weather system, as unseasonal snow made the Netherlands circuit unrideable. Race One was postponed until Sunday.
Riders Calling for Some Repaving at COTA
Widespread rider criticism of the Austin bumps – blamed more on a shifting clay subsurface than F1 cars – was a hot topic at Friday evening’s Safety Commission, with feelings mixed. On the one hand, the track layout is hugely popular; on the other the state of the surface makes it no better than marginally fit for MotoGP.
According to Danilo Petrucci, while all accepted that a full resurface was not possible, “we proposed to resurface the worst places: turns two, six and nine, and also 18.”
KTM Joins Swingarm Spoiler Party
The swing-arm spoiler took another turn on Saturday, with KTM fitting a carbon-fibre scoop visually similar to that used the day before by Honda, as the companies that had joined the unsuccessful protest against Ducati at Qatar now hastened to copy them.
KTM’s version appeared for the first time for Saturday’s FP4, which started off damp. Competition chief Pit Beirer, questioned by pit-lane reporter Simon Crafar, said it was simply a rain diffuser.
“Since something which creates downforce is not allowed, then it must be a rain deflector,” he said; adding that it would be removed in the dry. True to his word, it was gone for qualifying.
The day before, Marquez had underlined the humour of Honda’s assertion that their device is aimed at improving swing-arm stiffness – breaking into laughter after saying as much, then admitting that in fact there was an aerodynamic benefit, with downforce affecting the braking point.
However he did not use it on Saturday, when he was as dominant as usual at this track.
Lorenzo Suffers Problems in Qualifying
Jorge Lorenzo suffered a costly replay of two problems that have previously afflicted his new Repsol Honda team-mate Marc Marquez, both of them coming at once.
Firstly, having got through from Q1 to Q2, the chain jumped the sprocket as he was about to start his second timed lap. The same thing happened to Marquez in free practice in Argentina a fortnight ago.
This left Lorenzo to repeat Marquez’s sprint back to his pit down the long CotA pit lane. Marquez did the same in 2015, after he had a bike failure in qualifying.
Back then the youngster managed to claim pole position. Lorenzo’s run was slower, revealing that he is still recovering from injuries, and though he went out again, by the end he qualified just eleventh.
Nicky Hayden’s Number 69 Retired
Nicky Hayden’s famous racing number 69 – inherited from his father Earl Hayden – has been retired from MotoGP. A ceremony on Friday, attended by his family and friends, marked the honour, one of a number of tributes to the last American to win a GP World Championship.
Nicky’s father Earl used 69 during his AMA dirt-tracking career, later explaining the advantage was “it was the same whether you were upside down or right way up”; eldest son Nicky took it over for his successful AMA career then brought it with him to MotoGP.
A solemn ceremony to formally retire the number strayed towards the wrong side of mawkish, but recovered on a groundswell of respect and affection for the fallen rider. Earl Hayden and eldest son Tommy joined Dorna and FIM chiefs at the top table, with the rest of the family in prominent attendance.
Speaking on their behalf, Tommy said: “Nicky had a lot of success on the track, but I think we agree he made just as big an impact off the track.”
This reflected the paddock-wide view of Nicky as a man universally liked and admired within racing.
Later in the day, the MotoGP paddock and track marshalls joined family at friends at “Hayden Hill”, the grass berm at Turn 18, where his title-winning Repsol Honda was on display. The bike was to appear again on the front of the grid on race day.
Nicky was the middle and most successful of three racing brothers, with the last of them – Roger Lee – retiring from US Superbike racing at the end of the 2018 season.
He narrowly defeated Valentino Rossi for the 2006 MotoGP championship in a last-race shoot-out. The ever-popular Kentucky rider died after a collision with a car while training on his cycle in Italy in 2017.
Two other numbers have been retired in MotoGP – Kevin Schwantz’s trade-mark 34 and rather more surprisingly Loris Capirossi’s 65.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Back at the dawn of their invasion of the motorcycle industry, the Japanese mantra was “copy, but improve”.
Honda have clearly not forgotten the value of this. On the first day at CotA, one of Marquez’s pair of factory Repsol Hondas emerged with a copy of Ducati’s controversial swing-arm scoop.
It is the same part with which HRC teased technical director Danny Aldridge in Argentina, proposing it first at a downforce device, so that it was banned, but submitting it again the next day as a tyre cooler, whereupon it was approved.
Honda and all the other manufacturers except Yamaha had protested Ducati’s use of the device at round one in Qatar, only to be over-ruled, eventually by the appeal court. We can expect to see other manufacturers copying in the races to come.
Riders Views on Crutchlow Argentina Jump-Start Penalty
While jump-start victim Cal Crutchlow insisted he had “moved on” from the ride-through penalty that robbed him of a podium finish in Argentina, rival riders were torn between approval of a firm rule and sympathy for the disproportionate severity of the penalty.
Crutchlow had inched forward on the start line, explaining that he was moving onto tip-toe, and seemed to have stopped again before the lights went out. The Stewards Panel, headed by new chairman Freddie Spencer, judged otherwise, and the 2018 Argentine GP winner was dropped to the back of the field as the consequence of the resultant ride-through … the penalty that is dictated by the rules/
Rossi summed it up clearly on race eve, saying: “The only way to have a clear rule is that you don’t move … but I think we speak tomorrow about the penalty.”
Dovizioso had a similar view. “It will be important. It was clear that Cal didn’t gain anything and didn’t do it on purpose. I thin it is very hard to accept that for Cal. It’s bad to lose a race like this, very bad.”
Marquez said: “I agree – but it is the best way … to have a solid rule.”
Crutchlow and team owner Lucio Cecchinello met with the stewards on race eve. Cecchinello said later: “We will all have a discussion on how to amend this rule.”
Miller Gets Big Laugh with “Between the legs” Comment
Straight-talking Australian Jack Miller raised a laugh at the pre-race press conference when asked what had made the difference, after his very strong start to the year.
“It’s the big thing between my legs,” he said.
He quickly elucidated … “the engine.”
It made all the straights a huge pleasure, “particularly when there’s a Suzuki in front of you,” he laughed.
Having switched from a year-old Ducati GP17 in his first year on the Italian bike last year to a factory-spec GP19 this year, he said the difference was significant in all areas, but particularly in terms of horsepower.
The extra power allowed a valuable change in riding style. “I don’t have to brake like an idiot and cook the front tyre.”
COTA Injury List
The injury toll from the first two races was felt mostly in Moto2, four absentees, although only three replacement riders.
MV Agusta’s Stefano Manzi, who suffered a right wrist fracture in an early race crash in Argentina, was replaced by fellow-Italian Gabriele Ruiu (18); while Jesko Raffin again stepped in to replace Steven Odendaal on the NTS. Odendaal is still recovering from complications following a testing crash.
SKY VR46 rider Nicolo Bulega, who had arm-pump surgery after retiring late in the last round, was not replaced.
But all eyes were on the substitute for Flexbox HP40 Pons rider Augusto Fernandez – none other than race-winning veteran Mattia Pasini, who had been unable to secure a full-time ride this year.
In Moto3, Aleix Viu again replaced Albert Arenas on the Angel Nieto KTM.
· Moto2 rookie Jake Dixon was ruled out of the race after suffering concussion in a heavy crash on the Angel Nieto Kalex in morning FP1.
Riders Talk COTA Bumpiness
Bumps, bumps and more bumps – interspersed with low grip – were the talk of track at CotA, with riders universally bemoaning that the fantastic layout was spoiled by a sub-standard surface.
Fresh efforts to improve the situation did win some positive remarks, but the general feeling was in line with Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci’s comments at his press briefing after the first free practice. “It’s unbelievable why we are riding here.” The layout was “unbelievable in a positive sense, but the asphalt unbelievable in a negative sense.”
The blame falls less on sharing the circuit with F1, which at other circuits leads to severe ripples late in the braking zone, and more on a clay sub-surface, causing undulations at unpredictable parts of the track.
A highly visible double bump on the downhill entry to Turn Two is one, causing Moto2’s Xavi Vierge to go flying; others are in the middle of the main straight.
It is all the more upsetting because the 20 corners of the third-longest track of the year (behind Silverstone and Malaysia, at 5.513 km – 3.426 miles) make it a fascinating challenge – but the poor surface imposes restrictions to speed and cornering line.
Last year the track surface was shaved in places, but riders report that it actually made it worse.
This year there has been further milling at the first two corners and at Turn 18, and a complete resurface at Turn 10, a very fast left-hand kink over a blind brow. For Rossi, the overall condition of the track was “not so bad – better than last year”.
Riders complained of dirt and a lack of grip, but Marquez’s FP1 time was marginally quicker than in the same session last year, although slightly warmer conditions would have helped with that.
MotoGP Friday Practice
Marc Marquez’s domination of the Circuit of the Americas came under threat on the first day of practice, in a hectic end as riders scrambled to secure a top ten finish, against the forecast of bad weather tomorrow. But the threat to the Repsol Honda rider’s superiority was narrow enough … with Monster Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales’ time of 2m 3.857s a mere 0.044 of a second inside his best time.
Marquez had moved back in between the factory Yamahas with his own final lap, with Valentino Rossi third fastest, one tenth down on the Honda. Title leader Marquez has never been beaten at the Texan circuit, and is aiming for his 13th straight win (in two classes and at three circuits) on US soil.
The arrival of the Yamahas in the closing laps displaced Jack Miller (Pramac Ducati) from the top three. He had followed Marquez to set an erstwhile fastest lap, but was dropped to a close fourth by the finish.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was fifth; then Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) overcame the one-lap bogey that plagued him in Argentina, placed sixth.
Another impressive run put Pol Espargaro’s Red Bull KTM an unaccustomed seventh, while Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) pushed through into eighth, ahead of top rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo, in the closing stages.
Yet another fast rookie, Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati) ended up tenth, pushing factory Mission Winnow riders Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci to a disappointed eleventh and 13th, sandwiching Joan Mir’s Ecstar Suzuki. Both will be hoping forecasts of dire weather tomorrow do not come true.
Mir was the last rider within one second of Vinales – an impressive top dozen at a long track with a lap time of more than two minutes.
Jorge Lorenzo’s difficult start on the Repsol Honda continued, the Spaniard placed 16th; ditto for new Red Bull KTM rider Johann Zarco, who was 17th.
Moto2 COTA Practice 2019
Dynavolt Kalex team-mates Marcel Schrotter and Tom Luthi took control of a Kalex-dominated Moto2 practice, with the new Triumph engines putting them within just over one second of the track’s best Moto2 lap, in spite of low grip.
Kalex chassis took all but two of the potentially vital top 14 spots – to go straight through into Q2 should tomorrow morning be wet. The interlopers were a pair of Speed Up chassis, with class rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio seventh and team-mate Jorge Navarro ninth.
The best KTM was a disappointing 15th – the factory Red Bull bike ridden by Brad Binder.
Only the top ten riders were within one second of Schrotter’s 1m 9.982s, a wider spread than MotoGP.
Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex) was third, with Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Kalex) pushing through to fourth at the end, ahead of former CotA winner Sam Lowes
(Federal Oils Kalex) and double 2019 winner Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex) in sixth.
Impressively sandwiched between the Speed Ups in eighth was veteran Mattia Pasini (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), in his first ride of the year, and his first on the new Triumph Moto2 bikes. Pasini was replacing injured Augusto Fernandez.
Argentine podium finisher Remy Gardner (ONEXOX Kalex) completed the top ten.
Joe Roberts (Team American Racing KTM) was 21st.
Moto3 COTA Practice 2019
In Moto3, returnee Romano Fenati (Snipers Honda) took an advantage of almost three tenths over a quartet of Hondas – but the 2016 and 2017 CotA winner was himself two seconds off the track’s best time, set last year by Aron Canet.
Fenati, his career rescued after his suspension from Moto2 last year for dangerous riding, dominated an afternoon session where times were already dropping fast after a dusty start to the day.
Leading the close-packed pursuit were SIC58 team-mates Tatsuki Suzuki and Niccolo Antonelli; then Leopard Racing’s Lorenzo Dalla Porta and second snipers rider tony Arbolino, before Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max team) on the top KTM.
The top ten was completed by Kornfeil (KTM), Rodrigo (Honda), Sasaki (Honda) and Migno (KTM); with Argentine race winner Jaume Masia and runner up Darryn Binder (both KTM) 15th and16th, potentially out of the crucial top 14 going straight into Q2, should the weather be wet tomorrow morning.
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