2018 Austin MotoGP Preview

Following a controversial performance last Sunday in the Argentina MotoGP at Termas de Rio Hondo, Marc Marquez heads to the Lone Start state as the dominate rider at Circuit of the Americas.

The 25-year-old Repsol Honda pilot is the only premier-class rider to ever win at Austin’s COTA since the track joined the MotoGP calendar in 2013. For 2018, it’s the only stateside MotoGP on the calendar.

2018 Austin MotoGP Preview Honda's Marc Marquez
Honda’s Marc Marquez

Marquez has not only won the Grand Prix of the Americas for the past five-consecutive years; he has claimed all victories from pole at the 3.43-mile circuit containing 20 corners and a 3/4-mile rear straight.

But there’s more – when it comes to success in America, Marquez has won every stateside MotoGP race he has competed in since joining the premier class in 2013: five at Austin, three at Austin and one in Laguna Seca.

2018 Austin MotoGP Preview Honda Marquez and Yamaha Rossi
Honda’s Marc Marquez and Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi

Marquez’s season started off with second behind Qatar race-winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). He finished 18th after three penalties at last weekend’s round two at Termas de Rio Hondo; the major 30-second penalty was after he collided with nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, sending the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 pilot to the ground. Rossi would later state he doesn’t feel safe around Marquez.

Heading into Austin MotoGP, Marquez focuses on the positives: “After a good start to the season in Qatar, we got no points in Argentina, but I was feeling good on the bike in both races, which is positive. The season is long and the most important thing is that our level is there.

“Now we go to Austin, a good circuit with a good atmosphere and great memories: it was the place of my first pole and my first MotoGP victory and we’ve been able to be strong there since then, so it’s a good place to try and get a good result. That said, every season is different: the bikes, the tires, the conditions. This year some work was done to reduce the bumps, so we’ll see how the track is. As we’ve done so far, over the weekend we’ll focus our work on the race setup, and then on Sunday we’ll see where we’re able to finish.”

2018 Austin MotoGP Preview LCR Honda Cal Crutchlow
Honda’s Cal Crutchlow

Marquez can use another win in Austin if he wants to start working towards a fifth premier-class title. After two of 19 rounds in 2018 MotoGP, Marquez is fifth in the overall standings with 20 points – 18 behind the series leader and Argentina winner Cal Crutchlow.

This is the first time a Brit led the Championship since 1979 (Barry Sheene). Crutchlow, who claimed his third career-MotoGP victory in Argentina, still has much work ahead for this season.

The LCR Honda Castrol pilot leads Dovizioso by three points; Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco by 10; and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales by 17.

Yamaha's Valentino Rossi 2018 Austin MotoGP Preview
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi

The Honda riders do have the advantage on American soil; Marquez and Pedrosa have won the past 14 MotoGPs held on American soil. Crutchlow has the incentive to add to this number, especially since he provided Honda with its 750th Grand Prix win in Argentina.

Pedrosa was questionable at COTA because the RC213V pilot underwent surgery on a broken forearm due to a crash in Argentina. But Repsol Honda confirmed Pedrosa will ride this weekend.

The factory Yamaha duo of Rossi and Vinales will also be on the hunt for their first win of 2018. Rossi will seek redemption after his 19th-place finish at Argentina following the Marquez incident. He finished second last season at COTA behind his rival.

2018 Austin MotoGP Preview Yamaha's Maverick Vinales
Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales

Ducati’s Dovi finished sixth last season, but has finished on the COTA podium in 2014 and 2015. As for his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo continues to struggle aboard the Ducati GP18 Desmodedici, though he also has finished on the podium at COTA with Yamaha.

Other riders to look out for at COTA are Alma Pramac Racing Ducati’s Jack Miller, who claimed the pole and fourth in Argentina, along with Zarco and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, the latter two riders who joined Crutchlow on the podium in Argentina.

2018 Austin MotoGP Preview Suzuki's Alex Rins
Suzuki’s Alex Rins

Round 3 of 2018 MotoGP gets underway with the first official free practice on Friday ahead of Saturday qualifying and Sunday’s race. Can Marquez go six for six from pole?

2018 MotoGP Point Standings (after two of 19 rounds):

Pos. Rider Points
1 Cal Crutchlow 38
2 Andrea Dovizioso 35
3 Johann Zarco 28
4 Maverick Viñales 21
5 Marc Marquez 20
6 Jack Miller 19
7 Danilo Petrucci 17
8 Alex Rins 16
9 Valentino Rossi 16
10 Andrea Iannone 15
11 Tito Rabat 14
12 Daniel Pedrosa 9
13 Hafizh Syahrin 9
14 Franco Morbidelli 6
15 Pol Espargaro 5
16 Scott Redding 4
17 Alvaro Bautista 3
18 Takaaki Nakagami 3
19 Jorge Lorenzo 1
20 Karel Abraham 1
21 Aleix Espargaro 0
22 Bradley Smith 0
23 Thomas Luthi 0
24 Xavier Simeon 0