Reigning champ settles for second but has his sights set on Spanish rival as VR46 Motogp rumours denied
Jorge Lorenzo kept his cool in Texas to take a strong second place and keep runaway title leader Marc Marquez in sight.
The reigning Motogp champion finished behind Marquez in the opening round in Qatar, then crashed out in Argentina last week and was determined not to make the same mistake again. He said: “The problem in Argentina was a little bit with the Michelins, a little bit with the patches of water – but I didn’t have the patience to stay calm and understand that I couldn’t win. I could have had third place there like Dani (Pedrosa) did. Because I wasn’t used to the conditions and thought it was safer than it was.
“I regret that now, but it’s the past and I can’t change it – but today you can see that I have learned. I’ve crashed, and I have to try not crash again. There will be tracks where I feel strong enough to win and that will be my target. I can be happy, though, because I did the best result I could do in Austin – and we’re only 21 points behind after a crash and going to tracks where normally I go better.”
However, despite taking a conservative approach, it still wasn’t an easy race for Lorenzo, who was left fighting brake issues in the early part of the race that nearly ruled him out of contention altogether.
Losing some of the grip advantage he had enjoyed over the weekend to a slippery track (caused in part by a light shower of rain just before the race), his lack of feeling from the front end saw him repeatedly run wide – and almost off the track.
“I had a lot of confidence with braking all weekend, but today with the hard rear and with a full tank of gas I don’t know what happened; I couldn’t stop the same. We had a lot of problems with the bike running wide and not turning very well.
“Sometimes it happens – I was faster than I expected in Qatar and got the lap record, and here I was slower than I expected, but everyone else had so many problems I was OK, even if Marc did what he has done for four years. We just couldn’t stop him.”
Once Lorenzo had settled into a rhythm he was able to build a big gap back to third place and avoid the chaos that was going on further down the field with many riders crashing out.
He added: “Riders who are fighting for the championship crashed and this year we’re going to see more mistakes than the last four or five years, so the important thing now after crashing in Argentina is to not crash any more and to reduce the gap to Marc in the next few races.
“It’s very important to stay in second place at this moment, and with Dovi, Rossi and Pedrosa crashing we have one target: Marc.
“Last year we left here with a 29-point disadvantage, and now it’s only 21. Heading back to Europe we feel that maybe we can make the difference with the Michelins and the electronics, so let’s see if the hopes match with the reality!”
Rossi was forced to counter rumours in the Spanish press that his Team Sky VR46 squad were interested in taking over the final spot on the 2017 Motogp grid, after reports that he would expand his development squad to the premier class.
However, Rossi admitted that while the team are planning an expansion for next year, it will be not to the premier class but instead to the intermediates.
“I hear the rumours we will apply for the grid spot. I know Motogp have one free place and I spoke with Carmelo, but for us it is impossible – we are not able to enter Motogp and we are not interested. Next year we will race in Moto2 with Sky − that is enough.”
With Rossi firmly out of the running, paddock speculation is now suggesting that Sito Pons will instead return to Motogp for the first time since he ran Alex Barros and Troy Bayliss in 2005. Rumoured to be keen on running the first satellite Suzuki, the team’s former Moto2 world champion Pol Espargaro has been linked to the ride. A decision will be made on who the spot is allocated to by the end of April.