Under perfect conditions Thursday during the first opening MotoGP practice at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales struck first.The 22-year-old Spaniard who has dominated so far in 2017 MotoGP, winning the opening two rounds from the pole in Qatar and Argentina, posted a quickest time of 2:04.923 around the 20-corner COTA track.
As expected, the battle was between Vinales and Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, the three-time MotoGP Champion who has won every premier-class race held at COTA since the track joined the World Championship in 2013.But it wasn’t that much of a battle between the two Spaniards as the opening free practice is basically a shakedown sessions. Marquez would finish 0.577 of second behind Vinales. Completing the top three was Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, the GP17 rider who has set the fastest speed at COTA of over 214 mph. He finished 0.681 of a second behind Vinales.“It’s my first time here at COTA with the Yamaha M1 and I felt great, the bike is working so good,” Vinales said after FP1. “We still have to work on the electronics but we are happy with the set-up. The bike is working at 100%. Of course we still have to work hard, especially in preparation for the last laps of the race, but I’m happy and confident. I’m sure that we can do a really good weekend.”Marquez also commented: “Today I felt quite good on the bike. We did two long runs with the two bikes set up differently, one with a setup similar to what we used in Argentina and another very different in order to understand which works better for this track this weekend.“Overall, the feeling wasn’t so bad; I think we did a good job on used tires and we found a good pace, though we have a margin for improvement, especially on the electronic side. The circuit has changed a lot from last year, as it’s now very bumpy. This afternoon we’ll try another tire and we’ll work more on the bike’s setup, also looking to cope with the bumps better.”The rookie Johann Zarco on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 followed in fourth, 0.867 of a second off the pace, just ahead of Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista. The Independent Team rider Bautista was the final rider to post within a second of Vinales, finishing 0.910 of a second behind.As for Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo, he finished sixth, 1.094 seconds behind. Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi was eight quickest, 1.369 seconds behind Vinales.There was one crash. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow tumbled at turn six, but walked away unharmed. Also, Red Bull Factor Racing’s Pol Espargaro had a scary moment when his rear wheel kicked out, but he stopped safely in the run-off area.Stay clicked to Ultimate Motorcycling for Friday’s second free practice ahead of 2017 Austin MotoGP.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.