2017 Austin MotoGP Preview
When Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA) joined the World Championship schedule in 2013, Marc Marquez was in his rookie season of the MotoGP class. That year, after finishing third in the Qatar season opener, Marquez dominated in COTA, claiming his first-ever MotoGP win.
With that victory, the then-20-years-old Repsol Honda RC213V pilot became the youngest rider to ever win a premier-class race. From there Marquez continually built upon MotoGP history, and claimed three titles to date.
Marquez is the undisputed king of Circuit of the Americas; he has won every race held there from pole without barely any threat from other riders.
The 2017 MotoGP Championship heads to Austin for its only stateside visit this week for round three of 18.
“After the Argentina race, I’m happy to go to a track I love as much as Austin, although of course I would have preferred to arrive there in a better position,” Marquez says.
“Anyway, another race weekend is about to start and we’ll give 100% to try to get our first podium this season. I have great memories of Austin, and for me it’s one of the best venues on the race calendar. I like the layout of the track, as it has many different types of sections and corners and lots of elevation changes. I also love the ‘American’ style, with all the fans enjoying the sport and the fun at the track, so let’s get back in action and see how it goes there.”
Due to his record at COTA, Marquez is the obvious favorite. But this year the threats will be greater than ever, especially from his fellow Spanish countryman Maverick Vinales.
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP newbie dominated all pre-season tests, and won the opening two rounds in 2017 MotoGP in Qatar and Argentina, respectively. With a fourth in the opening race at Losail, and a DNF due to a crash at Termas de Rio Hondo, the 24-year-old Marquez is having his worst start to a premier-class season.
Marquez is eighth in the points with 13, trailing Vinales by 37 points, and second-place’s Valentino Rossi by 23 points. Marquez has no better venue than COTA to garner some points as he chases a fourth MotoGP title. Vinales will likely be the deciding factor, though.
While competing in the Moto3 class, Vinales claimed second in Austin during the track’s debut year in 2013—the same year Vinales claimed the Moto3 title. The following year in Moto2—his only year in the intermediate class—Vinales claimed victory at COTA. While with Suzuki in 2015 and 2016 MotoGP, though, Vinales finished 9th and 4th, respectively.
“The next round is Austin and I’m happy because I won my first race there in Moto2, I’ve always been very strong here,” Vinales says. “I also did one of my best results in America the last year, so I think it‘s a good track for my riding style. I love the up and down track, with lots of elevation, so I’m so excited to see how my M1 will work here and how I’m going to feel riding the Yamaha. I’m confident and I know that I can do another good race weekend.”
Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa will also present a huge threat. Pedrosa finished runner-up behind Marquez at COTA in 2013 and 2014, though missed 2015 due to injury and DNF’d last season due to a crash.
Nine-time World Champion Rossi also crashed out of contention last season, but has already made some impressive comebacks this season for two podium finishes.
As for the factory Ducati Team riders, Andrea Dovizioso arrives in COTA after DNF’ing in Argentina from a crash caused by Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro. Dovi also crashed out last season. His luck this season is far better than Ducati GP17 newbie Lorenzo; the five-time World Champion has struggled with the Desmosedici throughout the season, finishing 11th in Qatar and crashing out of Argentina.
Also looking for better performances will be Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone, who has yet to claim any points this season. The “Maniac” Iannone crashed out of Qatar, and finished just outside of points in 16th in Argentina.
Iannone’s rookie teammate Alex Rins has won at COTA in Moto2, and has some time to further recover from a fracture ankle sustained during an MX training crash just ahead of the Argentina GP. He’ll look to take back the top rookie position from Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo of Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger. These RC213V Independent Team riders impressed in Argentina, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
There has been some serious performances so far this season, which will make the odds of winning even harder for Marquez. These riders include Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing Ducati), who is fourth in the standings; Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS); Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team); and the Red Bull KTM Factory racing score their first points with Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith.
The Austin MotoGP round begins at 9:55 a.m. local time Friday from the 20-corner Circuit of the Americas.
2017 MotoGP Point Standings (after two of 18 rounds):