The Americas Grand Prix – for the fifth consecutive season – went to Marc Marquez, as the Spaniard took his first victory of the season in scorching weather conditions on Sunday afternoon. The Repsol Honda team achieved their first podium of the season and their first double podium since the Catalan Grand Prix last season, with 1st and 3rd. Splitting the two Hondas was Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who not only took 2nd and his best ever result at COTA but also the lead of the championship for the first time since Malaysia 2015. 2017 is already looking like a season we will cherish.
As the lights went out, it was formation flying into turn one for Repsol Honda, with Dani Pedrosa leading Marc Marquez through the first few turns. Valentino Rossi was in 3rd with the likes of Jorge Lorenzo moving through from row two to challenge him, taking series leader Maverick Vinales for 4th.
Following all the squabbling, a shock was about to rock COTA. Coming through turn 18, Maverick Vinales crashed out in a shower of sparks, throwing his M1 Yamaha into the Texan dirt for his first DNF of the year. The Spaniard looked like he had been rattled all weekend, following a fallout with teammate Rossi in qualifying and a dual with Marquez for pole position. Either way, he cost me £15 after I backed him to break Marquez’ stranglehold on the circuit.
This promoted reigning double Moto2 champion Johann Zarco to fourth, immediately giving the Frenchman hope for a podium challenge. However, with 15 laps to go, Rossi and Zarco would have their first fallout of the season. After a slight mistake by the 9-time champion at turn one, Zarco got a better run through the fast turn two, before pouncing on Rossi at turn three. Valentino, maintaining the racing line through the turn two and three section, was forced to take evasive action as the Frenchman barged his way in. Not too long after, Rossi was handed a 0.3 time penalty which was to be added on to his time at the end of the session, having gained time on Pedrosa up ahead – although in the eyes of many, it was involuntary course cutting. The incident continued in the post-race press conference, with Valentino saying that “the problem is Zarco”. More on that as the season unwinds.
By this time, Marc Marquez had taken the lead away from Dani Pedrosa and had began to clear off into the distance. Pedrosa did take another stab at retaking the lead at turn 12, but ran wide on exit and allowed Marquez to hold on, which was how it remained to the end.
Further down, there was a big scrap between Iannone, Miller, Petrucci and Lorenzo. Iannone took his best result on the Suzuki thus far with 7th, ahead of Danilo Petrucci who beat Lorenzo and Miller – the Australian starting the year with three top 10 placings.
There was a high number of crashers in the race, with Loris Baz, Sam Lowes, Karel Abraham and Alvaro Bautista all hitting the floor, with Pol Espargaro retiring his KTM, as well as Aleix Espargaro having numerous problems with the Aprilia. Alvaro did remount to gain 1 point.
Cal Crutchlow caught and passed Johann Zarco to take 4th place and remain 5th in the championship after his podium in Argentina. Zarco finished 5th with his joint best finish in the premier class.
The battle for 2nd however was yet to be settled. Valentino Rossi was closing on Dani Pedrosa and in the closing laps, he took the 2nd place on the road. He eventually pulled clear by over two seconds to take second ahead of the former double 250cc champion.
In the end though, Marc prevailed and what a sensational way to kick-start his season too! He’s flying high but as Wayne Rainey once said, “It’s the start of the ground war” when we hit Europe. Jerez is the next round and you can be sure to tune in to see who will be our Spanish Grand Prix winner. Rossi won there last season and will be looking to repeat the feat.
The gap at the top of the championship tree is a mere six points, with Vinales slotting into 2nd. 12 points further back is Marc Marquez and then it’s the first Ducati, in Andrea Dovizioso – already 26 points down on Rossi.
The next race is Jerez and as ever, there will be unrivalled coverage across the weekend, with qualifying, warm-ups and race day commentary on Twitter as well as a shed load of content flying fresh off the press online!
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko