2016 Austin MotoGP Preview | Circuit of the Americas
Since the Circuit of the Americas joined the MotoGP Championship in 2013, only one rider has claimed victory – Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.
The now-23-year-old Spaniard was also a rookie in that 2013 season, and his first-ever premier-class win occurred at COTA, which was eventually followed by his debut MotoGP title that same season. Marquez not only won every race in Austin- he also claimed the victories from the pole.
Heading into 2016 MotoGP, the two-time premier-class champion had a rough off-season as the Repsol Honda team battled the aggressive throttle nature of the RC213V – an issue Marquez had struggled with throughout 2015 MotoGP when he finished third overall.
But Marquez earned a podium at the season opener in Qatar, and followed that up with a win last weekend at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina. This gives Marquez the points lead with 41 as the series heads for the fourth-straight year to COTA, which is the only US-MotoGP race this season due to a lack of contract between Dorna and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The man trailing Marquez by eight points after two of 18 rounds is nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, who extended his Movistar Yamaha MotoGP contract through 2018.
Rossi just missed the podium in Qatar, but was able to earn second in Argentina after the two riders ahead of him – Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso – crashed.
Rossi’s luck is not too good at COTA; he only finished on the podium there once with a third last year. There’s no doubting Rossi’s largest challenge will once again be Marquez.
As for Rossi’s teammate, who dominated the season opener in Qatar, he suffered his first DNF of the season after crashing early in Argentina. His YZR-M1 suffered extensive damage, and his race was over. This was also his first DNF since the San Marino GP last season. Lorenzo is fourth in points with 27 – two ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who finished second the past two seasons at COTA.
Last week, it looked as if the Ducati GP16 pilots would earn podium positions, but as Iannone attempted to overtake his teammate Dovizioso, the two crashed. Iannone was unable to finish, and was penalized a three-place grid penalty. As for Dovi, he pushed his GP16 across the finish line in Argentina to earn 13th.
Dovi has luck in Austin, earning two podiums aboard Ducati Desmosedici machinery. As for Iannone, he has tallied four DNFs straight counting last season.
Another rider that crashed while pushing in Argentina was the man who impressed throughout the preseason, Team Ecstar Suzuki GSX-RR pilot Maverick Vinales. While battling with Rossi for the podium, he crashed out.
Eugene Laverty earned the top “Independent Team” spot aboard his Aspar Team MotoGP Ducati with fourth in Argentina. This was Laverty’s best-ever MotoGP finish as he is in a tight battle with fellow Indpendent Team riders – Monster Yamaha Tech Pol Espargaro (19 points) and Avintia Racing Ducati’s Hector Barbera (18). Laverty has 17 points.
The Aprilia Racing Team had its best finishes since rejoining MotoGP last season with Stefan Bradl (seventh) and Alvaro Bautista (10th) both finishing in the top 10. As the Aprilia RS-GP improves, the team is now chasing points instead of treating the rounds like extended test sessions.
As for Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Yonny Hernandez (Aspar MotoGP Team) and Loris Baz (Avintia Racing), each rider had a rought start to the season due to DNFs. None were able to finish in the first two rounds as unfortunate crashes ended their races prematurely.
The action gets underway at 9:55 local time Friday, April 8, for the first Free Practice. beIN will provide coverage of 2016 Circuit of the Americas MotoGP; check your local TV listings for coverage.
Photos by Ara Ashjian
2016 MotoGP Point Standings (after two of 18 Rounds):