Why next race is key for Viñales

Reign­ing world champ ready to let it all hang out in bid for vic­tory at favourite track

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week In Mcn - SIMON PAT­TER­SON MOTOGP RE­PORTER simon.pat­ter­son@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

We’re two rounds into the 2017 Motogp cham­pi­onship and the hotly an­tic­i­pated duel that we’ve all been wait­ing for be­tween reign­ing cham­pion Marc Mar­quez and new boy won­der Mav­er­ick Viñales has yet to hap­pen. But that could all change this week­end.

The trip to COTA (Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas) couldn’t come at a bet­ter time for Mar­quez, af­ter mak­ing his worst ever start to a Motogp sea­son since grad­u­at­ing to the class in 2013. The 24-year-old cur­rently sits eighth over­all, a huge 37 points off the ti­tle lead with only a fourth place fin­ish to his name in 2017.

Com­pare that to the sen­sa­tional start that Viñales has made with two wins and a huge points haul that could be cru­cial come the sea­son fi­nale at Va­len­cia in Novem­ber.

And while the mo­men­tum in the cham­pi­onship race is with Viñales, this week­end is the per­fect chance for Mar­quez to strike back as the cham­pi­onship moves to a track he’s en­joyed suc­cess at.

Com­ing off the back of four straight wins at the Texan track, he knows that it’s some­where that suits both his rid­ing style and his bike to a tee, play­ing to the strengths in the slower stop-start cor­ners to make up for the time lost in its fast sweep­ing bends. But while that plays to his strengths, he’s not the only hard-brak­ing, fast ac­cel­er­at­ing Spa­niard around this year.

Viñales’ great­est challenge this week­end might not be his rid­ing style but rac­ing a dif­fer­ent bike, as he ap­proaches the week­end no longer on his sweet-han­dling Suzuki of last year but on a Yamaha that’s lower, slower to turn and es­sen­tially been de­vel­oped by Lorenzo and team-mate Valentino Rossi.

But that hasn’t been much of a hin­drance to him so far this year, and it could well set us up for an epic show­down if he can find the pace to run with Mar­quez.

Dom­i­nant as he might have been in the open­ing two races of the sea­son, the ques­tions mark still hangs above Viñales’ head – and will con­tinue to do so un­til he gets the chance to en­gage his old spar­ring part­ner of child­hood days in one-on-one com­bat.

He’ll be just as keen as we are to see that bat­tle un­fold and find the mea­sure of Mar­quez for the first time since their days in the Span­ish cham­pi­onship as kids – and with it would come a vic­tory that is more im­por­tant than just the 25 points that are up for grabs.

Not only is there a huge psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tage to beat Mar­quez at a track where the Honda man ex­cels, there’s also a good chance to ex­tend his cham­pi­onship lead fur­ther if he can force an er­ror.

Af­ter adopt­ing a con­ser­va­tive style in 2016 to make the most of mis­for­tune for Rossi and Lorenzo and cruise to ti­tle suc­cess, Mar­quez’s crash in Ar­gentina last time out could be a sign that he now re­alises that ap­proach won’t work against Viñales, with the Yamaha rider barely putting a foot wrong since he first jumped on the M1.

If that’s the case, then we could be in for an epic re­turn of the old loose and ag­gres­sive Marc Mar­quez – and with that ag­gres­sive mind­set ready to take on the ul­tra-re­fined pack­age of Viñales and Yamaha, we could well be in for a race week­end to re­mem­ber!

Will Viñales still be num­ber one af­ter round three at COTA?

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