With the surface all dried up after an earlier shower, Marc Marquez took little time to drop into his favourite 2:04s and put a one second cushion between himself and unsurprisingly Andrea Iannone. While the Italian lost some ground to the Yamahas later on, the Repsol Honda man posted very consistent times regardless of the tyre combination he had on throughout the session.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at COTA:
The much talked about rain eventually came true just as the premier class was finishing things off and then made an appearance on and off throughout the final Moto2 practice session. Despite the occasional rain flags, track conditions didn’t worsen too much and the intermediate class got very close to bettering the weekend’s best time.
Alex Marquez was the first to attempt that and the Spaniard went on to lead for most of the session before the championship leader took over with seven minutes left on the clock. Mattia Pasini overcame all the troubles of Friday and dethroned Miguel Oliveira from his domination in every other session.
The premier class joined the party on Saturday morning with the threat of rain looming large over them. The circuit started dry but just as bumpy and it looked like we may get a routine practice session for much of its duration, until rain started falling in the final ten minutes. Marc Marquez led the entirety of FP3, initially about a tenth off the Friday benchmark and cutting that down to a frustrating nine thousandths of a second on his second run. The world champion did not get another proper shot to dethrone Andrea Iannone as the weekend’s fastest man but did put his name at the top of the pile for FP3.
Saturday morning in Austin was somewhat as predicted although the umbrellas went down quite some time before the lightweight class hit the bumpy track. It might have been 17 degrees and overcast but the surface was dry and it allowed for another proper practice session.
Jaume Masia grabbed an early lead and stood at the top of the timesheets until the final run in time attack mode threatened his position. The lightweight King of COTA, Jorge Martin, retook his rightful position in the final five minutes to get close to Friday’s benchmark but not quite under it and the situation proved far from settled as Lorenzo Dalla Porta showed great speed to snatch the lead of the session on his penultimate lap.
There was good news and bad news for the MotoGP paddock after the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas. The good news is that the work done to the track to try to remove the bumps had not made the track much more abrasive, as some had feared. Tires are wearing normally, so pit stops or worse will not be needed.
The bad news is that the work done to try to remove the bumps has not done anything to remove the bumps. It has moved them about a little, improved them in some places, made them worse in others, but the net effect has been zero, or worse than zero. What's worse, the process used has generated a huge amount of dust, bikes coming down the back straight billowing clouds of dust in their wake.
"It's worse than Qatar," Jack Miller said. "I said to the guys, 'I hope you've got the air filter in from Qatar, because you're going to need it'." At the first race of the season, the teams have to run a special air filter to prevent the desert dust from entering the engine and causing excessive wear. "The dust is far worse than Qatar, it's that crappy concrete dust," Miller explained.
With arguably the best track conditions of the first day of practice, Miguel Oliveira managed to do something that Marc Marquez didn’t: hold on to the lead of the session until the flag dropped. The KTM rider posted an early time that gave him four tenths of a second to play with and that cushion proved to be just about enough to hold off a fast charging Sam Lowes. The British rider only had another two hundredths of a second to find but ran out of time and settled for second.
Green light, Marquez unleashed, business as usual. The Repsol Honda man had a pretty standard session, jumping to the top of the timesheets right away, sliding out in turn 11 halfway through the session and then resuming action on a used hard rear tyre to post an even faster time. The Spaniard would’ve had the perfect day if Andrea Iannone had not put on new tyres at the right time to snatch one of the rare sessions held at the circuit not to be topped by the reigning world champion.
The big cloud of dust that surrounded the riders in FP1 was largely dispersed by the three morning sessions and the lightweight class benefited immediately by dropping the benchmark by two seconds. The first man to achieve that was Enea Bastianini, the Italian holding an early eight tenth advantage over the championship leader.
Under the blue Texan sky, Miguel Oliveira pulled a Marquez at COTA special to shoot into the lead of FP1 by seven tenths of a second and kept his rivals at arm’s length for the duration of the morning session. The gap did come down significantly after an actual Marquez – Alex, as it happens – patiently build up his speed to trail the Portuguese rider by only four hundredths of a second.