2017 Austin MotoGP Friday Practice ResultsThere is one undisputed king at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA), and his name is Marc Marquez. Though the start to 2017 MotoGP season began un-Marquez like, the 23-year-old Spaniard finishing fourth at Qatar and crashing out of Argentina, the reigning MotoGP Champion returned to the top of the time sheets Friday during free practice for the Grand Prix of the Americas.Marquez, who won every MotoGP round from pole at COTA since the 20-corner circuit joined the World Championship in 2013, was untouchable. He finished Friday with a best lap of 2:04.061—0.286 of a second ahead of rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3).
Finishing third, 0.390 of a second behind Marquez, was the man who dominated so far this season—Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales. Marquez’s fellow Spanish countryman led the opening free practice, but now has some additional pressure after his rival ascended to the top of the time sheets.“Today went well enough and in the second session I started to feel more comfortable on the bike, but there are some areas of the setup where we need to keep working hard, especially to improve the feeling with the front,” Marquez says.“The positive is that over the course of the day, we were able to complete a lot of work and try all the tires, even the soft one, to see how the bike reacts. In the afternoon we also took a step forward with the electronics, finding a good enough base, although we also want to sort out some more details there to improve the bike’s behavior on the bumps. I look forward to tomorrow, to continue the good work on the bike and on myself as well, I also can improve in T4.”Vinales also commented: “I’m really happy, we were working really hard for the race. We are quite confident, I know we can do a very good job. I’m working good, I’m working hard on the bike, I feel that I’m on a good level. We still have to work on the electronics in many places. I’m feeling great, that is something important. We were focusing on ourselves. We’re doing a good job all the time, we are trying to improve step by step. Important for us is working for the race, preparing for the last ten laps, because that’s where we can improve.”The Italian who finished on the podium at the opening two rounds, nine-Time World Champion Valentino Rossi, finished fourth by a slim 0.005 of a second ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.Rounding out the top 10 were Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, who has the fastest timed speed at COTA with just over 214 mph, LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Jonas Folger, Octo Pramac Racing Ducati’s Scott Redding and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone.As for five-time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, the Ducati Team GP17 pilot continues to struggle, finishing 11th—1.221 seconds behind Vinales.The top Aprilia RS-GP pilot was Arpilia Racing Team Greinis’s Aleix Espargaro, who finished 14th. The top Red Bull KTM Factory Racing time went to Aleix’s brother, Pol Espargaro, who finished 20th, 2.442 second behind Vinales.As for crashes, Pull&Bear Aspar Team’s Karel Abraham smashed his Ducati Desmosedici at turn 11, and Reale Avintia Racing Ducati’s Loris Baz crashed at turn one. Team Suzuki Ecstar rookie Alex Rins experienced some mechanical issues on his GSX-RR, but was able to complete practice on his backup Suzuki prototype.The MotoGP grid returns to COTA at 9:55 a.m. local time Saturday for free practice three ahead of qualifying, which begins at 2:10 local time.Photography by Ara Ashjian