The Citizen (KZN)

Vinales tops sprint podium in Austin

- – AFP-

– Maverick Vinales (right) leapt away from pole position and cruised to victory in the MotoGP sprint race at the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin on Saturday.

The Spaniard, who smashed the lap record in qualifying, built a lead of more than a second on his Aprilia and rode serenely to the line as behind him three compatriot­s fought for the other podium places.

“I want to keep going. The level was amazing,” said Vinales, punching the air, before stepping up to the podium.

Vinales completed the 10 laps in 20 minutes 27.825 seconds, 2.294sec ahead of seven-times winner at the Circuit of the Americas, Marc Marquez on a Gresini Ducati.

Jorge Martin increased his championsh­ip lead with third on a Pramac Ducati, 4.399sec behind the winner, while teenage rookie Pedro Acosta, on a GasGas, was fourth.

Marquez said he was not entirely happy with his performanc­e.

“Was a bit harder than I expected,” he said.

“In the first lap I was quite strong but then I started to feel not so good. Then I decided to wait for my moment. I was in front of the group. When Pedro attacked me, I said ‘OK, now is the time’. I was half-a-second faster in the next lap and then I opened a gap.”

Martin crashed twice in morning qualifying and started from the second row of the grid.

“Today was a tough race. I struggled quite a lot in the middle of the race with some issues but to finish on the podium is amazing. We are super-constant. This is the most important thing.”

The other Aprilia rider, Spaniard Aleix Espargaro, was fifth, with Italian Enea Bastianini sixth for factory Ducati.

Martin moved to 67 points in the championsh­ip, 24 ahead of Bastianini. South African Brad Binder, who was 12th on a KTM, is another point behind.

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