2014 Circuit of the Americas MotoGP | Austin GP Preview

2014 Circuit of the Americas MotoGP | Austin GP Preview
Drive M7 Aspar's Nicky Hayden

2014 Austin MotoGP Preview

Though he broke his leg six weeks ahead of the opening round of MotoGP at Losail’s Qatar, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez wasted no time.

The reigning MotoGP Champion diced with Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi, and took the win – his first premier-class win at Qatar. He also took the pole at that opening round.

This puts him in the most optimal position ahead of round 2 of 18 this weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. The 21-year-old, who became the youngest rider ever to win a MotoGP title at 20 last season, also has extra incentive; he was the winner during COTA’s debut last season.

This makes the Austin a special circuit for the Spaniard. He took his first-premier class win there, and was also the first one to taste victory at the long, 3.426-mile track featuring 20 corners.

And with the three-week break between Qatar and COTA, Marquez had additional time to focus on getting his broken leg back to fitness.

“Since round one I’ve been focusing on getting my leg stronger and my body fitter in preparation for the Austin race this weekend,” Marquez says. “This track is one of my favorites, I had a good race here last year where I have good memories of taking my first win in the MotoGP class.

“We’ll have to wait and see the situation with the new rules for this year, but anyway we will be focused on our work. Thankfully the majority of hard turns are left handers at this track which is easier on my leg as I’m still not 100% fit”

Rossi, who finished 0.259 of a second behind Marquez at Qatar, will seek another podium. The 34-year-old Italian will also work for a better finish than the sixth he achieved last season at COTA.

“I really want to go to Austin, especially after the first race in Qatar. The season started well but now we need confirmation. Last year I made one of the worst races of the season in Texas, and this year I want to see if we can be competitive everywhere,” Valentino Rossi says.

“Getting a good result in Austin would mean a lot for me and for Yamaha. It would mean that the direction taken is the right one. We will try to do our best to be competitive also on the Austin circuit. I’d like to have fun like I did in Qatar.”

As for the nine-time World Champion’s teammate, Jorge Lorenzo didn’t have the best start to 2014. Though he got to turn one first at Qatar, he made an unusual mistake  and crashed on the opening lap. Last year at COTA, the two-time MotoGP Champion Lorenzo finished third.

“After a very disappointing race result in Qatar I look forward to racing at Austin to try to get a good result and forget as soon as possible all the things that happened in Losail. COTA track was not one of the best tracks for us last year. We had some difficulties to adapt our bike to the layout and lack of grip but finally we found out how to manage for the race,” Jorge Lorenzo says.

“In the end we got a good result and we finished only three seconds behind the winner. I guess this year the pace could be even better because our bike has made one step ahead with the new seamless and the chassis is pretty good. Also, I feel almost perfect, physically at one hundred per cent and that is so important to try to fight for the victory elsewhere.”

Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa finished third at Qatar, and also third last season at COTA. He and Marquez, along with Rossi and Lorenzo, are the only Factory riders this season. You can expect podiums from these riders once again this season.

Behind the factory bikes there’s much interest garnering for a few riders that battled for podium positions at Qatar, including GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl and Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith. Unfortunately, all three crashed out at Qatar. But the speed was there.

The Ducati Team of Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, which is running under the MotoGP Open-option rules, will be looking for stronger results. The team is dialing in its GP14 prototypes, and will hope for better results than the seventh and ninth finishes at COTA last season (Dovizioso, former-Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden, respectively). At Qatar, Dovi finished sixth, followed by Crutchlow in sixth.

One rider that impressed at Qatar was NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro. He showed his Yamaha is fast, and finished just outside of the podium. His younger brother, Pol, suffered mechanical issues aboard his Monster Yamaha Tech3 machine at Qatar. He will look to finish up front at his second race.

Pramac Racing Ducati’s Andrea Iannone also showed much speed at Qatar, and even after suffering a crash he was able to finish. He finished 10th last season at COTA.

As for the Americans, Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden and NGM Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards will get the fans roaring. Both are now on competitive machinery, though Edwards has cited that he still needs to adapt his riding style, with Hayden lacking a bit of top-end power, MotoGP reports.

Completing the grid in Austin will be Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham, Drive M7 Aspar’s Hiroshi Aoyama, Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez, Avintia Racing duo Hector Barbera and Mike di Meglio, Iodaracing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Scott Redding and the PBM pairing of Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes.

2014 Circuit of the Americas MotoGP on TV

Austin MotoGP will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 Sunday, with coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET. Fox Sports 2 will provide qualifying action at 7 p.m. Saturday.

2014 MotoGP Point Standings (after one of 18 rounds):

Pos. Rider Bike Nation Points
1 Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 25
2 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 20
3 Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 16
4 Aleix ESPARGARO Forward Yamaha SPA 13
5 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 11
6 Cal CRUTCHLOW Ducati GBR 10
7 Scott REDDING Honda GBR 9
8 Nicky HAYDEN Honda USA 8
9 Colin EDWARDS Forward Yamaha USA 7
10 Andrea IANNONE Ducati ITA 6
11 Hiroshi AOYAMA Honda JPN 5
12 Yonny HERNANDEZ Ducati COL 4
13 Karel ABRAHAM Honda CZE 3