The press room is usually a pit of cynicism. Races and laps which have the fans on their feet are met with polite applause at best, mild disinterest at worst. But not today. After Marc Márquez had parked his ailing Repsol Honda against pit wall, vaulted over the wall and sprinted back to his garage, jumped on to his back up bike – fitted with the wrong front tire and a far from perfect set up – then set off on his out lap, making it back across the line with three seconds to spare, and post one of the most fearsome laps ever witnessed aboard a MotoGP bike, the room erupted in heartfelt and solid applause. There was no cheering, no utterances of joy. Just loud and prolonged applause, appreciation of what we had just seen. We knew we were witnessing a piece of MotoGP history, and were in awe of what we had just seen. If you ever wanted to see the definition of awesome – something that will fill you with awe – then just watch that lap by Marc Márquez.
Johann Zarco made a steady climb to the top of the timesheet Saturday finishing the third free practice two-tenths clear of the field at the Circuit of the Americas. Tito Rabat, also a top finisher Friday, managed to grab second place and showed no ill effects of previous practice crashes.
Sam Lowes, who was dominant in two previous practices,took third at three-tenths off Zarco's top time of 2'10.310. In the end, it was the same three top riders as FP2 but with the order changed. The third practice was in the dry with questions remaining about rain forecasted for later in the day.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Austin:
Sam Lowes made the most of difficult track conditions to again lead a free practice Friday near Austin, Texas. Lowes' 2'10.563 not only set the top time of the session, it bettered his FP2 time from 2014 by two seconds, even though track conditions at COTA this year are worse. Moreover, last year he lingered in 22nd during FP2 and finished the race in 19th.
To put it lightly, things for the Briton are looking up -- mostly. Lowes crashed hard in both sessions but walked away from each.
Johann Zarco finished right on Lowes' heels, only a tenth off. And current world champion Tito Rabat, who also has had crashing issues at both races thus far, managed third-fastest.
Sam Lowes survived a crash-filled first free practice - including his own -- to set the top time at a wet, Circuit of the Americas near Austin Texas Friday. Lowes' 2'26.356 put him two-tenths over Johann Zarco and a full half-second better than third-fastest Franco Morbidelli.
The wet conditions saw both Lowes, Tito Rabat and Alex Marquez crash. Lowes, however, managed to recover from his turn 15 highside to set the top time.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's race at Austin:
Ever since he first entered the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has owned the Circuit of the Americas at Austin. In 2013, in just his second ever MotoGP event, he was fastest in all but two practice sessions, then went on to win the race, becoming the youngest ever MotoGP winner in the process. A year later, he was fastest in every session, and extended his advantage over his teammate in the race, winning by over four seconds. The gap to third that year was demoralizing: Andrea Dovizioso crossed the line nearly 21 seconds after Márquez had taking victory.
With two one-two victories for Honda in two years at Austin, does anyone else really stand a chance? Surprisingly, it seems there might be. Much has changed over the past year: the renaissance at Ducati, the improvements at Yamaha, both of the bike and, more significantly, of the riders. And with Dani Pedrosa out with injury, Márquez faces the challenge from Movistar Yamaha and factory Ducati alone.
It is also easy to forget that the 2014 race was a real anomaly. First, Jorge Lorenzo took himself out of contention early. An out-of-shape Lorenzo arrived at Austin under pressure after crashing out at Qatar. He got distracted on the grid and jumped the start by a country mile, his race over even before it began. Valentino Rossi struggled with a front tire that chewed itself up, putting him out of contention almost immediately. And though the Ducatis were better than they had been before, the GP14 used in the first few races was a far cry from the much better GP14.2 which Ducati raced at the end of the year. Finally, Márquez himself was brimming with confidence, having won the first race of the season despite having broken his leg just four weeks before.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races:
2015 Qatar MotoGP Sunday Round Up: The Unexpected And The Expected, That's Why They Line Up On Sunday
"That's why we line up on Sunday. You never know what's gonna happen." Nicky Hayden was replying to one of my typically stupid questions after the race in Indianapolis in 2009. The day before, I had asked him if he had given up hope of a good result after qualifying in 6th on the Ducati in front of his home crowd. That Sunday, he had ridden a solid race and taken advantage of the misfortunes of others, ending the day on the podium. The heady mixture of hope, determination, talent and a smattering of luck put him where he wanted to be. Or close to it at least.
Hayden's phrase is one of the most succinct and accurate descriptions of motorcycle racing, as the events of the season opener at Qatar go to show. The script which we all thought had been written on Saturday got torn up and thrown out the window on Sunday. Because you never know what's gonna happen.
The Moto3 race was the usual barnstormer, where the race looked like it was anybody's, yet it still ended up with two of the most experienced riders sharing the podium. Moto2 saw one bizarre incident follow another, until the last man left standing took victory. And MotoGP turned into a heart-stopping thriller, with the favorite catching himself out, and the winner coming from halfway down the grid.
Results and summary of a bizarre Moto2 race at Qatar: