Mo­toGP: USA

Marc Mar­quez ar­rived at COTA with two goals: first, to put the bad blood of Ar­gentina be­hind him, and to score a 12th suc­ces­sive vic­tory on Amer­i­can asphalt. The reign­ing world cham­pion fully achieved one tar­get, but not so much the other. Some fans who s



Mar­quez had al­ready de­cided that the safest way to deal with the first race since Ar­gentina was to get out front and stay well away from ev­ery­one else; which is ex­actly what he did. He was sec­ond into the first cor­ner be­hind Ian­none and took the lead brak­ing into Turn One. And that was that. By lap four he was a full sec­ond ahead of Ian­none; by lap 10 (half-dis­tance) the gap had grown to 4.8 sec­onds, over Viñales, and on the penul­ti­mate lap he was 7.5 sec­onds ahead, be­fore cruis­ing to the flag, 3.5 sec­onds ahead of his com­pa­triot. Who knows what he might have done if any­one had been able to put him un­der pres­sure?

‘My strat­egy was clear,’ he said. ‘We worked all week­end to try to do this kind of race: to push from be­gin­ning to try and open a gap. I had no mo­ments, ex­cept touch­ing a kerb on one lap. It’s been a

spe­cial week­end be­cause I felt a spe­cial mo­ti­va­tion and a spe­cial pres­sure, but I like that! I like to speak on the track, so for that rea­son I tried to open a big gap. I feel sweet on the bike and I en­joyed riding a lot. Now we go to Eu­rope, to some com­pletely dif­fer­ent tracks — nar­rower and smaller — but the base we have with the bike is re­ally good.’

Viñales com­fort­ably saw off Ian­none in the last half of the race, and al­though he didn’t have any­thing for Mar­quez, he left COTA op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture after a dis­mal run through the sec­ond half of 2017. ‘We are com­ing,’ he said. ‘We are not yet at our max­i­mum level, but we are start­ing to un­der­stand how to go fast with the 2018 bike. All the de­tails mat­ter; so if you miss one thing, you can­not push hard. We have made some small changes here and they give me more con­fi­dence. The big im­prove­ment is in the elec­tron­ics.’

Ian­none had a lonely ride once he lost con­tact with Viñales. In­deed, much of the pack was spread out be­cause COTA’s mostly tight cor­ners don’t make for great rac­ing. In Qatar the top 15 were cov­ered by 23 sec­onds; at COTA the gap was 41 sec­onds.

Ian­none was de­lighted any­way be­cause this was his first podium with Suzuki, in his 21st race with the fac­tory. ‘Every­thing last year was dif­fi­cult in ev­ery way,’ he said. ‘Last year I strug­gled a lot

dur­ing brak­ing, so it was al­ways dif­fi­cult to over­take. Now the balance of the bike is bet­ter. But Marc is an­other story at this track.’

Rossi had started strongly, com­plet­ing the first lap be­hind Mar­quez, Ian­none, Viñales, and Crutchlow, whom he quickly over­took. He spent much of the rest of the race chas­ing Ian­none, hop­ing for a podium fin­ish. But it wasn’t to be. ‘I had some mo­ments with the front tyre, es­pe­cially in some fast cor­ners, so after that the risk was too great,’ said the nine­time world cham­pion. ‘The medium front was a bit too soft, but there was no way I could make the hard work.’

Qatar win­ner Dovizioso com­pleted an­other ex­cel­lent dam­age-lim­i­ta­tion ex­er­cise, just as he had done at the pre­vi­ous race. He spent the early laps with Zarco and Crutchlow, un­til the Briton slid off. After that he hunted down Zarco, pass­ing the French­man’s M1 on the back straight with four laps to go. ‘The Du­cati has a horse­power ad­van­tage, but it doesn’t work so well here,’ ex­plained the Ital­ian, who raced with Du­cati’s full aero for the first time this year. ‘You en­ter the main straight in first gear, so we don’t re­ally have a power ad­van­tage from first to sec­ond to third to fourth, be­cause this phase is more about anti-wheelie than power.’

Pedrosa’s race to sev­enth was heroic. He had tried chas­ing the two men in front but couldn’t quite go with them. ‘I felt very bad in warm-up,’ he said. ‘In the race I dealt with the pain as much as I could, then tried to keep my pace. This track is very tough phys­i­cally, so it was very dif­fi­cult be­hind Dovi and Zarco be­cause it was dif­fi­cult to ap­proach and at­tack them. And when you are hurt, you are a lot less pre­cise, so peo­ple can at­tack and pass you.’

After all the bump­ing and barg­ing at the pre­vi­ous race, there was only one real in­ci­dent at COTA when Miller slid past Lorenzo at Turn One with a few laps to go. Miller was chas­ing Ra­bat at the time, with Aprilia’s Aleix Es­par­garo right be­hind them. The trio fin­ished eighth, ninth and 10th, cov­ered by three-tenths of a sec­ond! Miller, who rode all week­end with a cracked col­lar­bone sus­tained in a mountain-bike fall, ex­plained that his ap­par­ently cheeky move on Lorenzo was un­in­ten­tional.

‘As I hit the bottom of the hill be­fore Turn One, the front started lock­ing, then com­ing up the rise the front end was bounc­ing off the bump stops, then when I got to top the front re­ally started lock­ing,’ he said. ‘I was deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion as best as I could. It was ei­ther go wide, but then he was so wide I thought I’d give it a go up the in­side. It was a late move, but his pace was drop­ping. I went to say sorry after the race, but he didn’t want to ac­knowl­edge me.’

Lorenzo fin­ished 11th, just ahead of fel­low GP18 rider Petrucci. The fi­nal points went to Pol Es­par­garo (Red Bull KTM), rookie Takaaki Nak­agami (Marc VDS Honda) and Al­varo Bautista (Ni­eto Du­cati). There were three fall­ers: Crutchlow, Hafizh Syahrin (Mon­ster Yamaha), and Alex Rins (Ec­star Suzuki).

Both fac­tory Yamaha riders fin­ished in the top four

Ian­none cel­e­brates his first ever podium for Suzuki

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