Marc Marquez reclaims his COTA crown with a seventh MotoGP win at the Texan track, and second of the season, in the 2021 Americas Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, second place for Fabio Quartararo means the Frenchman will have his first chance to wrap up the world championship next time at Misano, with title rival Francesco Bagnaia recovering to a distant third.
Marquez had snatched the holeshot from fellow front-row starters Quartararo and Bagnaia at Turn 1.
But while Bagnaia, chasing a third win after a third pole in a row, surprisingly slipped back to sixth, Quartararo crucially kept pace with Marquez in the early stages.
When Marquez began building a lead, rookie star Jorge Martin made an attempt to pass Quartararo, but the Monster Yamaha rider held firm.
All riders chose the hard front tyre, with Jack Miller – frustrated at being left tenth on the grid after dominating practice – was the only rider to fit the hard rear. All other riders were on the soft rear except Valentino Rossi and Luca Marini, on the medium.
After some careful early laps, Miller carved steadily through the field and briefly threatened Martin for a podium at the midway stage of the 20 laps, only to then lose pace and drop back towards team-mate Bagnaia.
Miller was fuming after last-lap contact from Mir (again) forced him wide and cost him places, making his feelings clear as he grabbed the reigning world champion’s helmet and shouted a warning into the Suzuki rider’s face and on the slowdown lap.
Martin, struggling in the closing laps, was caught and then passed by the recovering Bagnaia. Martin was then given a long-lap penalty for not surrendering enough time when he ran off track, leaving him fifth.
Meanwhile, Marquez rode into the distance, his lead reaching over four-seconds for his and Honda’s second MotoGP win since last July’s Jerez arm injuries.
Quartararo had little need to risk his title lead in pursuit of Marquez and, having begun the race 48 points ahead of Bagnaia, is now 52 points in front of the Italian and will be crowned champion if he can keep his lead above 50-points next time out.
Warm-up leader Takaaki Nakagami fell from an early sixth behind Bagnaia, with Johann Zarco – riding for the first time since arm pump surgery – then tumbling at Turn 1. Aleix Espargaro completed a brusing weekend with a fifth fall from his Aprilia.
Mir had a Kevin Schwantz-style helmet and racing number this weekend.
MotoGP was returning to COTA for the first time since the 2019 event, after which further resurfacing work was carried out on around 40% of the track (Turns 1-2, 9-10, 16-19, plus the back straight) to alleviate bumps.
However, bikes and riders were still being badly kicked around, especially through Turns 2 and 10, and more work will be needed if MotoGP is to return in 2022.
COTA has the most corners (20) in MotoGP, including the slowest of the season at just 50km/h (Turn 11). The following back straight is the longest in MotoGP at 1.2km and ends with the hardest braking on the calendar, from over 330km/h to less than 60km/h.
Maverick Vinales withdrew from the COTA event after the tragic death of his young cousin Dean Berta Vinales in last weekend’s Jerez WorldSSP300 race.
The next MotoGP round will be the second Misano event, and Valentino Rossi’s final home race, on October 22-24…
|Austin MotoGP, COTA – Race Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||SPA||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||41m 41.435s|
|2||Fabio Quartararo||FRA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+4.679s|
|3||Francesco Bagnaia||ITA||Ducati Team (GP21)||+8.547s|
|4||Alex Rins||SPA||Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)||+11.098s|
|5||Jorge Martin||SPA||Pramac Ducati (GP21)*||+11.752s|
|6||Enea Bastianini||ITA||Avintia Ducati (GP19)*||+13.269s|
|7||Joan Mir||SPA||Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)||+13.406s|
|8||Jack Miller||AUS||Ducati Team (GP21)||+14.722s|
|9||Brad Binder||RSA||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||+15.832s|
|10||Pol Espargaro||SPA||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||+20.265s|
|11||Miguel Oliveira||POR||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||+23.055s|
|12||Alex Marquez||SPA||LCR Honda (RC213V)||+24.743s|
|13||Andrea Dovizioso||ITA||Petronas Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+25.307s|
|14||Luca Marini||ITA||Sky VR46 Avintia Ducati (GP19)*||+26.853s|
|15||Valentino Rossi||ITA||Petronas Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+28.055s|
|16||Iker Lecuona||SPA||KTM Tech3 (RC16)||+30.989s|
|17||Takaaki Nakagami||JPN||LCR Honda (RC213V)||+35.251s|
|18||Danilo Petrucci||ITA||KTM Tech3 (RC16)||+42.239s|
|19||Franco Morbidelli||ITA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+49.854s|
|Aleix Espargaro||SPA||Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP)||DNF|
|Johann Zarco||FRA||Pramac Ducati (GP21)||DNF|
Official COTA MotoGP records:
Marc Marquez SPA Honda 2m 2.135s (2015)
Fastest race lap:
Marc Marquez SPA Honda 2m 3.375s (2014)