2018 Austin MotoGP Sunday Round Up: A Great Track, Processional Racing, And A Hero In Texas

There is a lot to love about the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin. As an event, it is fantastic: the facilities at the track are great, the city of Austin is a wonderful place to visit, with a lively party atmosphere downtown, and a million other things to do. The landscape the track sits on is great for spectators, and the surrounding countryside is charming.

It is a race the riders love, and they have grown to love the track. "I like this track very much, it's very good," Valentino Rossi says of the Circuit of the Americas. "It's good to ride because it's very difficult, you have emotional corners, so it's good." The bumps around the track have made it much tougher to ride, but the layout is still a favorite among many of the MotoGP paddock. It is highly technical and has a bit of everything: hard braking, hard acceleration, fast corners, slow corners, flowing combinations of corners which reward precision.

As great at the track is, it still produces rather lackluster races. The average margin of victory over all six editions has been 3.458 seconds, and that is discounting the time lost to the inevitable easing off to celebrate in the certain knowledge that victory is in the bag. The gap has never been under 1.5 seconds, and there has never been a closely fought battle for victory, or even the podium spots, in the history of racing at the track. The result of the MotoGP race in Austin is usually set in stone before the halfway mark.

Even the normally mental Moto3 races are decided by seconds rather than hundredths. Only two of the six Moto3 races run so far were won by a margin of less than a second. In Moto2, the winning margin has only once been under two seconds. That was in 2015, when Sam Lowes beat Johann Zarco by 1.999 seconds. The result in Moto2 has never been close.

Line dancing

Why are the races at COTA so processional? That is a difficult question to answer. The track has some truly magnificent corners, perhaps the finest being the fast, downhill, slightly off camber sweep of Turn 2. But very few of them combine in such a way as to allow a rider to counterattack once they have been passed. Two of the four tightest corners lead onto long straights, giving the rider making the pass a chance to escape.

There are not enough sections with a variety of lines for riders to choose an avenue of attack, the section from Turn 7 through Turn 9 being an honorable exception. The technical nature of the Esses means that if you make a mistake in Turn 3, you lose ground all the way to Turn 9 which you can never make up again, inevitably spacing out the field. The Circuit of the Americas is the circuit best equipped to host a round of MotoGP. But it never makes for thrilling racing.

What happens at COTA is that 24 riders turn up on Friday to watch Marc Márquez take pole on Saturday, then take victory by a country mile on Sunday. 2018 was no exception. Or rather, 2018 was exceptional for the blatant way in which Márquez casually disregarded the competition and laid waste to the field. It was a response to Argentina, he said, and the events of that race. "It's the first time that I approach the race in a different way," he told the press conference. "Normally every year I was waiting behind somebody and then attack at the end because then the race is shorter and I prefer it like that. Honestly, after what happened in Argentina, today I changed my strategy and I tried to lead from the beginning and open the gap, because I feel in the practice that it was possible."

Win-win, lose-lose

After the torrid events of Argentina, and Marc Márquez' wild and ill-judged charge through the field, Race Direction may have wished for a much quieter time at the race in Austin. That was precisely what Márquez gave them. Unfortunately for the fans, it was also pretty uneventful for them. Anyone decrying the melodrama of Argentina were given an object lesson in being careful what they wish for.

But Márquez' achievement should not be undervalued. It was an utterly dominant display of just how vast the Repsol Honda rider's superiority is at COTA. Having been demoted three places on the grid for getting in the way of Maverick Viñales during qualifying and forced to start in fourth, he gained two places off the line and into the first corner, then sat on the tail of Andrea Iannone, who had taken the lead after an outstanding start. Once the bikes hit the back straight, Márquez gave his Honda RC213V its head, and powered past the Suzuki and into the lead.

Iannone hung on valiantly for three laps, but by the time he crossed the line to end lap 4, he was already over a second behind. Seeing the gap, Márquez pressed home his advantage, taking another second out of Iannone on lap 5, then gradually pulling away until he had a comfortable lead. After Maverick Viñales had passed Iannone for second, Márquez stepped up his pace to prevent the Movistar Yamaha rider, and the only man he regarded as a rival at COTA, from getting any nearer.

"When I saw I had five seconds, and Viñales was there, then I pushed a little bit more," Márquez told the press conference. "I increased to seven seconds and then I stayed there to just finish the race." If he hadn't cruised across the line in extravagant celebration, losing 3 seconds in the process, Márquez win would have been by the biggest margin in the dry since the Le Mans race in 2016.

Title chasing heating up

Victory in Texas puts Márquez right back in the championship hunt. He is back in second place, and just a solitary point behind new championship leader Andrea Dovizioso. That is in stark contrast to last season, when he left Austin trailing Valentino Rossi by 18 points. And it is important as the Grand Prix circus heads back across the Atlantic for the meat of the championship at circuits all over Europe. "It’s important to come back in the top of the championship, second but fighting for the top after a zero in Argentina," Márquez said. "But for me the most important is how I feel with the bike. The feeling is sweet. I’m enjoying a lot. But now the most important is see how it works in Europe. In Europe is completely different tracks, narrow, smaller. We must maybe change the setup, but the base what we have now in this kind of circuit like today is working really good."

It was a good day for Maverick Viñales as well. Like Márquez, his 2018 season is unfolding very differently to last year. In 2017, Viñales came to Texas having won the first two races, then crashed out on the second lap trying to hurry through the early laps and stay with Marc Márquez. This year, Viñales has two solid point scoring finishes, and has grown stronger at every race. The Movistar Yamaha rider had outstanding pace throughout the weekend, matching the lap times of Márquez during FP4 on Saturday.

It looked like he might be able to take the fight to Márquez at COTA. When I asked Wilco Zeelenberg, rider analyst to the Spaniard, if he thought that Viñales could win at Austin, Zeelenberg clamped down on excessive expectations. "First of all, he has to finish a race and aim to get on the podium," the Dutchman said.

Making progress

Viñales did exactly that on Sunday, and despite his desire to win every race in which he starts, he finished the race pretty happy in second. "Honestly, we enjoyed this weekend so much," he told the press conference. "Even if we still didn’t feel we are at the maximum level we can be, we feel quite strong. We know we improve quite good things from Argentina and we have a way to go to improve even more. We start to understand how to go fast on this 2018 Yamaha bike. But I’m actually really happy. Today I think this was the maximum we could do."

Second place in Texas puts Viñales on the right track to perform once MotoGP returns to Europe. The improvements made to the bike had put Viñales and Yamaha into a positive upward spiral. Those improvements were part of a holistic process in which both rider and bike get better together, Viñales explained. "In motorcycle racing, it’s all one piece. If something is missing then the rider cannot push as he wants. The small changes we did give me the chance to push a little bit more the bike, to feel more confidence with all the bike. To improve the bike lap by lap, trying to understand better. But we did a big improvement on the electronics."

What Viñales really needs is a couple of days testing with no interruptions, he told the press conference. "It looks like my season is going to start when I have two days full test where I can push at the maximum and we can try really big different things. On the weekend it’s so difficult to try things, even more if you have wet track, dry track. But anyway, I’m really happy. The team is working well. I know we are getting back stronger and stronger."

Blue steel

Viñales had passed Andrea Iannone after the Italian had been forced to abandon his attempt to stay with Márquez. The Suzuki rider had been unable to hold off Viñales, but once behind the Spaniard, he managed to secure third place, the first time Suzuki have managed back-to-back podiums since 2008. More importantly, Iannone's podium came on top of a very strong weekend, the Italian always in contention and qualifying on the front row.

"I think it’s a good result for us after a really good weekend," Iannone said. "I’m really happy. In any case, it’s important, now we come back in Europe and last year Jerez and Le Mans are two difficult tracks for us. But I think in any case this year we arrive in a different situation. I arrive with a good energy, with a better feeling with the bike. For sure I hope we continue this way."

Turning up the heat

Iannone's podium meant that Valentino Rossi lost out. That was painful for the Movistar Yamaha rider, as his intention had been to get on the podium in Texas as a step up for the start of the European leg of the season. "The race was not so bad, but it was a little bit worse than I expected," Rossi told reporters after the race. I hoped to have 2'05.5, 2'06 pace because Friday afternoon and also Saturday afternoon I was on that pace. And I know that with that pace I can fight for the podium, the target was to fight for the podium."

The sunny weather and highest track temperatures of the weekend left Rossi just outside the perfect setup window. "Unfortunately I suffered more with the heat, especially with the front tire. I never suffered during the practice, but today, especially in the fast corners, I was too much in the limit. So I had to slow down a little bit, try to stay close to Iannone for the podium, but he was stronger than me. At the end unfortunately, I wasn't able to fight."

The solution to his problems would not have been to switch to the harder front tire, Rossi said. "We need to make a different balance of the bike maybe, because for us, the hard front doesn't work," he told reporters. Had it not been so cold on Friday and Saturday, Rossi felt he would have a better chance at getting the setup right.

A good result from a bad result

Andrea Dovizioso's situation was perhaps the polar opposite of Valentino Rossi's. The factory Ducati rider had suffered through what looked like being a catastrophic weekend, qualifying in eighth but never truly competitive. At a circuit where Márquez was certain to dominate, Dovizioso looked like losing a lot of points to the Spaniard.

A complex sequence of events helped prevent that. First, Dovizioso made the decision to switch to the aerodynamic fairing, which helped with a lot of the wheelie the bike had been suffering with in the first-gear corners leading onto the longer straights. Second, Cal Crutchlow crashed out in front of him, moving him up a place and taking out a serious rival for points. And thirdly, Dovizioso could use the horsepower and braking ability of the Desmosedici GP18 to trounce Johann Zarco with three laps to go.

Finishing fifth 13 seconds behind the winner was not the result he had hoped for, Dovizioso said, but he was still relatively satisfied. "This is not a good result," he told us. "This is not a good gap. But in the way we start this weekend, I’m happy because Friday we were very far, and especially without the feeling, a good feeling. That is even more important. I think we took the right decision with the fairing and with the setup. We arrive quite late, but it was good to arrive with the speed. At the end I took the maximum."

Harm mitigation

Dovizioso and Ducati had already pinpointed COTA as a track where they would struggle. "We already knew before the race we couldn’t be fast in this track, because we know where we improve during the winter, and we knew here it was a problem. So I can’t be happy about that because we confirm still our negative point is too big. But at the end, we are first in the championship. The championship is very close, so it’s not too important, but at the end after three races it means we managed the three races not in a perfect way, but in a good way. About that, about my style, my riding style, this weekend I’m happy because it was very, very difficult."

Leading the championship means that Dovizioso returns to Europe in much position than he did at the same point in the season as last year. "Last year here we went home with a big gap from the leader," he said. "The positive thing is we have to wait for Mugello, if it will be like last year or not."

The real threat was that with so many competitive bikes and riders, it was easy to lose a lot of points on a bad day. "I’m not so relaxed about that because it looks like all the riders are stronger than last year," Dovizioso said. "Suzuki is stronger. A lot of rider are strong that struggled last year. So when you can fight for the podium like this weekend, you can lose a lot of points. This is not the best for our championship."

Five in ten

There were rides worthy of note throughout the field. Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro came through the field from eighteenth and nineteenth on the grid respectively to finish ninth and tenth. Espargaro's tenth place finish on the Aprilia RS-GP made it five manufacturers in the top ten, a sign of both the equality of the manufacturers, and of the huge improvements the Aprilia have made. Knowing that this is their worst track, Aprilia have elected to stay on at Austin for an extra day of testing on Monday.

Tito Rabat had another very strong showing on the Reale Avintia Ducati, finishing in eighth ahead of Miller and Espargaro, and also of Jorge Lorenzo on the factory Ducati. Lorenzo was as disillusioned as we have seen him, publicly expressing doubts over the efficacy of the Ducati Desmosedici GP18. "I'm very disappointed and very sad. Today is not a good day for me. Difficult to accept this result, but there is no other way than to forget this race, think positively, keep working very hard, as hard as I am working now, and the results for the moment are not coming."

He had faced a litany of problems, Lorenzo said. "Firstly at the start, it is a little bit more difficult to start with the new bike than last year. Probably we didn't choose the right tire on the rear, it was very hard and it was spinning so much and moving so much. Very physical track and with the new bike I believe that I struggle more physically, especially in the braking. We have to find a solution for the future."

Though Lorenzo still believes he will achieve some mastery of the Ducati, it is hard to see how much longer either party will be willing to stick with the other. Lorenzo will be forced to take a pay cut whatever happens, and so he may choose to try his luck with another factory in the hope of being more competitive on a different bike, and just swallow the loss in wages. A decision on his future may yet take a while, however, as Suzuki, who have been linked to Lorenzo, are rumored to be looking at much younger riders.

Iron man

The physically demanding nature of the COTA track drew superhero comparisons with Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda rider had ridden just a week after having a fractured wrist pinned, an injury that would normally take six weeks to fully heal. But he had not circulated slowly at the back in the hope of lucking into some points. Instead, he had taken advantage of some freshly applied painkillers to push hard at the start and secure as many points as possible.

He had not expected to finish as high as seventh that morning, when he had been suffering badly with the pain. "Honestly, this morning I felt very bad in the warm up, I felt sore and I felt with not so much energy," Pedrosa explained. "But just before the race, I could recover and they helped me with the pain for the race. So I could have a little bit less pain at the beginning of the race, and this was very important, because when I started I felt a little bit less pain and this allowed me to focus more in the race. And of course I didn't have more power by having less pain, I couldn't do things faster, but I could be more focused."

Pedrosa had hung with the second group for as long as possible, before being forced to admit defeat. "I stuck with the train for as long as I could, and then tried to keep the pace for as long as I was able to," the Spaniard told reporters. "I struggled at the end to control my bike, but I still had some gap behind and I could manage it. I was behind Dovi and Zarco, but it was very difficult for me to approach and to attack, because as I said, I was more cruising than managing the bike like I have full control. But the effort was worth it, and we have some points. I came here just to try and see if I could, because this track honestly is so tough physically that it wasn't in my mind that I could do even the practice. So we finished the race, and this is the best way to give the fans something back for all the support I got these days."

It was an incredibly tough performance by the Spanish veteran, in perhaps the toughest weekend of his career. There had been other races where he had tried to ride injured, but at those, he hadn't been fit enough to make it past free practice. "In the past I had some injuries that I tried to ride but I wasn't able to do it, I could see that I lacked so much control of these powerful bikes that I put myself at risk or others at risk, so I decided to not do the GP after some practice. But this weekend, I said, I might try and of course to do one practice is not the same as to do the whole weekend, so for sure one of the hardest, now I'm completely finished."

Minor Miracle

The Moto2 and Moto3 races were a little more exciting than the MotoGP race, but even they were pretty spread out. In Moto2, Pecco Bagnaia took victory with an impeccable display of patience, waiting until half distance and then leaving Alex Márquez for dead. But the ride of the weekend was surely by Márquez' teammate Joan Mir. The rookie found himself bumped wide at Turn 1, and finished the first lap in 24th. Eighteen laps later, he crossed the line in fourth, having made his way clinically through the field. Mir's race was a masterful piece of racecraft, and bodes well for the Spaniard for the rest of the season.

In Moto3, Jorge Martin took an impressive win, and also the lead in the championship. He held off challenges from Enea Bastianini, with Marco Bezzecchi finishing third. This is the second podium in a row for the Italian, Bezzecchi making a lot of impact in Moto3. The Moto3 championship is turning out to be a fascinating spectacle this year.


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Total votes: 40
Total votes: 77

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Comments

Not your report David, excellent as ever.

I'm pleased that wasn't a race where a said to a F1 fan “hey watch this, this is proper racing". It was the antithesis of Phillip Island last year.

Oh well they can't all be great can they? Shame Cal binned, but he didn't look comfortable at all.

Total votes: 41

Excelent report David! Thanks.

I usually watch the races on the Italian channel TV8, where the usual guest commentators are Giacomo Agostini, Marco Lucchinelli, Loris Reggiani and Carlo Canzano, with a quick video comment from Carlo Pernat (he calls Ago, Lucchinelli and Reggiani 'the three ave marias' - quite a bloke he is)... Anyway, after the race Ago mentioned that Yamaha made a 'mistake at interpreting the electronics rules. They thought the rules dictated something which it didn't and they are now making changes to fix that'. He is still quite tightly connected to Yamaha so I believe that there is something on it. Unfortunately he didn't elaborate that any further therefor I wanted to ask you if you know anything about this? Is there a hole in the rules that Yamaha forgot to exploit?

Thanks!

Total votes: 30

Thanks for sharing that insight.  I think it underscores that eventhough everyone was the same software, not everyone is using all its capabilities equally.

Electronics in general has also beome a non-story in reporting as the feeling is they are not differentiating anymore.  But things like turn by turn traction control are there as they were before even if not discussed anymore. 

A rule update for this year was rather telling;

“All calibration parameters of the Official MotoGP ECU Software must remain fixed while the machine is running on track” 

The rules go on to specially permit the rider to switch between modes, for example “fuel maps” but what is not said is if these modes can include other parameters not just related to fuel.

If so then there could be room to have more adaptive traction control strategies as long as they are rider initiated. We saw last year Yamaha make a change in hardware (chassis) to improve rear tire wear which cost them on corner entry. Perhaps they have now taken a step back and worked on the software.

One such example that caught my eye back in 2016 when the software was being developed was the concept of arrays of data inputs rather than a single variable for something like friction coefficient.  

Also intresting is the role “free devices” play  in the electronics package.  These are things not controlled by the spec hardware rules and specifically the IMU which generates the inputs for the ECU can be programmed independently. 

Eventhough 2019 is due to introduce a spec IMU as part of the official spec MotoGP hardware package there will be detailed discussions behind closed doors for sure on which product and how it is integrated into the overall software package. 

Despite beign a bit dated below are two good articles (interviews) to read and have a think over,  

https://www.crash.net/motogp/interview/226531/1/exclusive-corrado-cecchinelli-dot-qa

https://www.crash.net/motogp/feature/276215/1/motogp-electronics-doping-the-imu?amp

Total votes: 9

I am not sure that COTA can be a great track that simultaneously produces 'lackluster' racing. I thought it was a terrifying glimpse of much less interesing eras that the one we have been enjoying recently and depressingly similar to most f1 races. One has to think it would be nice to offer the US fans some of the racing we see elsewhere. I think though that the nature of this track is exacerbated by the imperious form of MM, who is starting to look like an even shorter priced favourite than he was at the beginning of the year.

As for the rest of the field: Iannone seems to have discovered the motivation to stay contracted, Rins seems to be showing all the potential but having a difficult second album, and Rabat and Miller are making my ratings of a couple of years look good. Mr Petrucci needs to start to show the response to adversity that factory teams want to see. As for Jorge, I mean, seriously, who would take a chance on this guy with his current level of adaptability and, frankly, apparent commitment. 

And Mr Pedrosa, you may be small of stature but you are huge in the balls department. Respect!

Total votes: 46

I couldn’t agree more with your assessment, Tony. But I think there’s life in Jorge yet.

You don’t win three top-tier titles by chance, and the Ducati does seem to be something of a career-masher if you don’t persevere with it for longer than teams appear willing to put up with these days.

A Lorenzo-Suzuki partnership seems like it could work given the bike’s (seeming, to an armchair idiot like me) character, Alex Rins’s smoothness and Jorge’s style.

(But my god, he has to accept that sometimes other riders are better. Leaving the door open for Jack like that and then shaking his head? I wish he’d give people a chance to like him more!)

Total votes: 18

From memory the corner where Miller and Espargaro A came past Jorge is the same place he was carved up by Iannone in 2016. Iannone on the Ducati and Jorge on the Yamaha back then. He seems to take an unusual line which leaves the door open.

Miller has said elsewhere that the pass wasn't exactly planned - the front end was bottoming on the bumps in the braking area and kept locking the front wheel as it bounced. Jorge left the gap and Miller used it as an escape route. Worked just fine though. Maybe given the threat of sanctions by RD Jack was preparing his defence Lol!!

Good ride by Rabat, Miller and Esparago A to come through the field as they did. 14th, 18th and 19th to 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. It really was the highlight of an otherwise processional race. 

Total votes: 11

but I reckon he'll be in for a pay cut even if he does go to Suzuki. His performance at Duc has blotted his copy book. Nevertheless, he still a great rider. 

Total votes: 11

It was a good race, but the result was clear much before it happened.

I feel that Laguna Seca needs to be back in the MotoGP calender, I won't mind if it would require one of the tracks to be binned as we already have 19 tracks from this year. I believe Laguna has always produced closer racing compared to the likes of yesterday, and it is a track where more than one memorable races have happend... 2008!

I think other than MM and MV, it was more of a damage limitation race for VR and AD specifically. Pedrosa was astonishingly brave and did a wonderful race. JL is losing his way with the GP18. Wasn't he quite positive after the qualifying? But nothing worked for him in the race.

Total votes: 38

Great ride by Pedrosa and Miller too considering Jack says he cracked his collarbone and suffered a rotator cuff tear in a mountain bike crash before the Austin MotoGP.  

Total votes: 22

... as dish water, but that can be expected at least a couple times per MotoGP season, even in this excellent era of racing. However, what irks me is that the most bland race on the calendar (almost guaranteed thanks to Marc's 6 years of COTA domination) just happens to be the one and only US round.

In a country where roadracing is nearly unknown by 99.9% of the population, it doesn't help the sport one bit that the single time potential fans can see the action up close, it comes off as completely innocuous and anti-climactic. 

After venturing to COTA this year myself, I can definitely say there's almost no point in showing up to this round... although the tex mex is delicious.

Total votes: 39

to some degree we need some boring races to add contrast to the brilliant ones.  Such is life, up and down but in MotoGP terms, more like a stock graph. There will always be a dip. Ride the wave.

Total votes: 13

Tardozzi adds some pre-race color... "Andrea was pissed, the bike was fucked." Get that man a cigar.

Total votes: 30

When did he say that?! I need to see (and marvel at) that footage!

Total votes: 22

They all tend to spread the field and make racing less exciting. It's a pity because they are usually challenging and look good.

Marquez did not come out to play. It's as simple as that. He usually carries a light demeanor but this time it was obvious he was upset with Argentina - the race and following accusations - and wanted to leave it all behind. Job well done. The rest of the field better hope he does not carry these tactics too often of they'll barely get a look at him.

Mir's race was stunning. I thought it would take him a while but it seems as if he is already on the cusp of podiums and becoming a very strong contender. He's the real deal. With so many contnders the racing surely will remain great.

Jerez can't come soon enough.

Total votes: 27

Being one of the less exciting race tracks in the world (Laguna Seca is no longer a fit for MotoGP?) only the Moto2 (normally the race that has the lowest level of excitement) was worth watching. A forgettable event ...

Total votes: 16

Most Jerez races are pretty boring affairs as well, by the way. Wouldn't look forward too much if you didn't like this one.

Hopefully Yamaha learned from last year and will support the rider that may get them wins again.

Total votes: 30

is that fast and flowing tracks have the best racing, narrower tricky tracks like Jerez don't. Yamaha BTW will of course support both riders.

Total votes: 12

I would rather watch one moment of this race a half dozen times than the race again. Iannone and wee Suzuki doing a inside line TT jump while wobbling his way to pass Marquez.

T10 bumps are the only other player worthy of highlight reel if you also get a glance at the gap MM93 made.

^ Tony G, agreed re your take on this race. Extrapolating from an outlier track to say something about Iannone and Rins is is a bumpy idea though.

Lorenzo - feel free to write off interest in him and the Ducati (I have). His personae is oddly unlikable. The amount of money he is getting now is disgusting. But I disagree whole heartedly in (again, extrapolation) then questioning his value on a Suzuki. Lorenzo must be increasingly focused upon that bike as it reaches the front pack. Very conventional handling, likes rails but can move about quite predictably. Most importantly the Suzuki has plenty of tractible horsepower and more than sufficiently sorted electronics. He doesn't need to care about hams. Don't be quick to forget Jorge's skill. He and the Ducati are a match made in hell. Does he have a weakness in mixed conditions? Yes. Is he sensitive to tire spec changes and edge grip? Yes. Has he shown that he is one of the very top riders on the grid? Yes. Is he a fit for the Suzuki? Yes. Is he a once in a decade bargain right now that Suzuki can afford? Yes. Am I eager to see him re-set his metronome on rails in lighter blue? Yes!

Yamaha and electronics is very good news. But the grip level was within the parameters we have seen it do fine fine in before so it is a hesitant comfort to me. Hopeful.

Last but not least Dovisioso - last year an off-weekend bogey track put him mid pack finish. This year he and the Ducati have managed 5ths. I think their 2018 bike has more to come as it is sorted. Good work.

Total votes: 30

Good to hear from you Motoshrink. Great talking points in your post.

Your suggestion that Mr L will suit the Suzuki is aligned with the conventional wisdom, and there is a pretty influential idea that things couldn't go worse than his current ride - but there is the problem. The coverage at the time was that Stoner convinced Ducati that it was a bike an 'alien' could win on and they went and recruited (or perhaps bought) Mr L. How was it that the wisdom applied then, failed to materialise? One can argue that VR proved there was a rather large adapatation required to the Ducati platform, but it all went ahead with a massive investment by all concerned. So the 'JL will really fit the Suzuki platform' argument is a speculation. In the meantime other riders on the older Ducati platform, Miller, Rabat, and on the same platform, Dovi and Petrucci, are regularly/invariably handing JL his performance assessment. You may be right that the JL/Blue ride is ideal but there is a risk that the days of JL's winning were a Goldilock's happenstance on the Yamaha, in what was arguably a far less competitive era.

Really looking forward to see this play out, even if I am completely wrong. Cheers!

Total votes: 24

Another year, another boring COTA race weekend. Only highlight was Saturday's MotoAmerica race in the wet. Don't get me wrong, as a Texan I love riding in COTA, love Austin as a city but on the race but by lap 5 this thing is done. Hopefully next year can Viñales can take the fight to Marquez and at least make it interesting. 

But then again, can't think on any other venue in the US where MotoGP can race. Folks still have wet dreams of races returning to Laguna Seca (similar to those who dream of Casey Stoner coming back) but we all know neither of those is ever going to happen. 

Season is getting pretty interesting and I can only imagine it'll get better as the Silly Season continues to develop. 

Lorenzo wants to jump ship but where to? Suzuki? What if Iannone gets one or two more podiums in the next couple of races, will they let him go? Now there are rumors they are looking for younger talent. KTM/Aprilia are nowhere near of being a podium bike. 

Dovi? two really bad races in a row where he's been lucky a bunch of domino's fell his way and was able to do damage control and is still on the lead but what if there's two more of those stinkers, will he still stay or will look somewhere else?

Best thing Yamaha could do is to give Zarco a factory bike, they need a 3rd guy on board before he goes somewhere else. A bit of a longshot I know but the guy is doing pretty good. Dani? 

 

Total votes: 18

"...What if Iannone gets one or two more podiums in the next couple of races, will they let him go? Now there are rumors they are looking for younger talent..."

I'm going to hang out on this limb and say that Lorenzo coming on board would give Suzuki a former World Champ with the experience, and a chance to win the championship now (2019), with Rins as co-contender. And I think they could get JL relatively inexpensively, his ineffectual time at Ducati effectively having destroyed his bargaining power.

They could bring younger riders up through the ranks with their upcoming satellite team?

Total votes: 28

Hasn't LCR been rumored to be in the running for Suzuki satellite bikes, would be a good place for Lorenzo to prove his worth.

Total votes: 31

COTA will never produce the kind of racing we see at simpler and more wide-open tracks like the wonderful Phillip Island because the circuit designers of the Texas track went down the rabbit hole of seeking "challenging" corners. The challenge that fans went to see is the one that riders offer each other on a track that has ample overtaking opportunities without the wiggle-waggle and camber fiddling that Tilke so often indulges in. It´s like running a footrace through turnstiles. And there is another matter, as David observes: "Two of the four tightest corners lead onto long straights, giving the rider making the pass a chance to escape." I can see the Schwantz influence with a couple of long braking opportunities but overall the track is a formula for processional high-speed parades. Maybe Kevin, in his day, could have made up enough on the brakes to reel a runaway Márquez in. Add to that the subsurface instability that creates a washboard surface. 

I love Laguna, but there are $ reasons that make a return there unlikely, plus runoff area problems that SBK accepts, but that would cause MotoGP circuit inspectors to balk. Especially turn 6. 

Indianapolis did everything Dorna asked (except, perhaps, accepting the standard promoter´s fee...don´t know about that) and even made excellent two-way curbs so that bikes could run one way and car the other. Filling that monster with fans was never going to happen, but the race was growing when it was taken away. 

And finally, with regards to the new hard line that the FIM Stewards have taken…they had to do something, but my fear is that they now feel they have to react everytime things get tight, especially if Marc ius involved. It is true that Marc was lollygagging on the racing line in Q2 (thinking the blue bike was Iannone trying to hitch a lift instead of Viñales on a hot lap) but I think we have all see that go unsanctioned…perhaps just a slap on the wrist in Race Control after qualifying. We´ll see how this goes, but to see Jorge shaking his head so mournfully after Miller´s pass makes me wonder what his expectations are. If Miller´s pass were subject to sanction, racing as we know it would be over.

Lots of talk about the new Marc…but the test will be coming in Europa where there will be days, hopefully many of them, when he has his hands full. It will be interesting to see what happens in the tower the first time he gives someone a nudge, because, although racing in not a contact sport, it is a sport that has and always has had the possibility of contact when two riders tie in the race for an apex.

 

 

 

 

Total votes: 27

,,,to see Jorge shaking his head so mournfully after Miller´s pass...  Probably Lorenzo was mad at himself for not being able to hold off Miller!

Total votes: 21

Jorge does not think like that.  His only thoughts were that it was an impolite pass and of course "i would have crashed if I didn't pick the bike up" routine.  I want Jorge to do well, its good for the championship, but he just makes it harder and harder and harder to like him in anyway.  In all of his social media posting's, it always comes accross like he is trying too hard, like it comes from a person that is guessing what is the right thing to say or do, but doesnt know actually how to do it.  Kinda asperg-ary.

Total votes: 28

I'm kind of with you in this, but I think I appreciate it from him.

My personal opinion is that JL has PR skills about equal to those of a potato. So this means that what he says (which does tend to make him seem like a W⚓) is generally an unfiltered statement of events as he sees them, however biased that view may be. Or if he is trying to put a spin on things it's that badly executed that what he's really thinking is obvious.

In an era of media advisors and PR coaches I actually find this refreshing. 

Total votes: 11

I think if JL were a footballer he would have a reputation for being an Olympic class diver. I only hope the race stewards reaction to the furore in Argentina doesn't result in a situation where riders "take profit" by claiming the road racing equivalent to the dive with the objective of getting their opponent is penalised by race direction for impolite overtaking. 

On the subject of JL possibly going to Suzuki as the bike would suit more than the Ducati, I'm very doubtful that would do the trick. Whilst there is no doubting Lorenzos talent and speed it has only come when he has the perfect bike setting and predictable solid grip so he can exploit his on rails high corner speed style. MotoGP bikes are no longer like that, requiring more intuitive machine control and management of the limits of grip - the best riders exploiting feel for the limit rather than blind faith in their electronics. With the loss of factory electronics and Bridgestone tyres we haven't seen that smooth Mantequilla style of Lorenzo since 2015, and even if he were to return to Yamaha it's no guarantee he would recapture the form of his heyday - Jorge always struggles when grip is unpredictable and now Moto GP is nothing but unpredictable.

Total votes: 11

I don't disagree w most of what you are saying here re Jorge. I still see a dramatically contrasting fit between he and the Suzuki and this Red one.

Betcha a pint he:
1) goes to Suzuki
2) right off looks good
3) equals Rins or better from the get go (first 4 weekends ish)
4) betters Rins in points by the end of the season
5) still manages to be rather unlikable but gets more of a pass on it from folks

I don't underestimate Lorenzo. Even on Michelins. Our increased number of mixed weather rounds however, this will still impact his results negatively.

Total votes: 12

In some ways COTA is like Donington Park (from the outside, I've never done a trackday at Austin. If someone wants to crowdfund this be my guest!). Great to ride with challenging corners, but only one line and few chances to pass at elite level. 

As has been said many times on here, fast tracks make for great races. COTA must have a low average speed with all the 1st gear corners. All the slow tracks usually give dull races - Jerez, Sachsenring, Le Mans, Misano, COTA. Look at the fast ones - Barcelona, Silverstone, Assen, Mugello, Philip Island. What is the difference in lap speeds I wonder?

Total votes: 13

Although moaned about by some fans because the stands are a way back from the track (and a nostalgic memory of Donington), Silverstone is very wide and offers loads of overtaking, the riders love it, notwithstanding when it gets made bumpy by F1. I've seen many fantastic races there in all classes.

Fast and flowing = good

Slower and tricky = bad

Total votes: 17

Surely a place as big as the states has other, better tracks. Thank goodness there was WSBK this weekend.

From my armchair, and with all the worlds money to spend, I’d have thought there’s scope to remodel parts of the track to make it more exciting. It seems to have great topography, with all those height changes.

Still, plenty of better races to look forward to

 

Total votes: 24

including motogp.com are talking about Zarco having signed with KTM already. Any thoughts?

Total votes: 13

"Sources (unnamed) say a verbal agreement was made in Austin" is what I heard.

And "WHAT THE F*CK ARE YOU THINKING ZARCO!? take the Honda" is my only thought. I know he has said he refuses to consider the Suzuki because of the previous pre-contract ditch to go w Rins. I wonder if Honda is making themselves available with clarity, as they bloody should. No knock to Dani intended, but he is the guy to grab and he should know that the KTM won't come around towards the pointy end during his (said to be a 2 yr) tenure.

Horrible
Move

(Sigh). Then after thought, perhaps with Lorenzo at Suzuki it is a touch fitting that 5 of the 6 manu's would have a top rider next year (Aleix you are doing a GREAT job mate, and I have you just after the top 6 or so). But I can't stop grimacing that this is a shite career ending seat for the immediate future. And a Honda factory seat is in play, rare and not something to pass on! And no I don't buy for a second that it would be about not wanting to be Marquez's team mate. The two of them already made clear statements of approval there.

Total votes: 20

Road America would be nice, but doubt if they'd want spend the money to bring it up to MotoGP standards.  MotoAmerica races there June 1-3 2018.  Cool race track flowing thru the woods with elevation changes.

Total votes: 15

particularly at Canada Corner (seen riders ahead of me on nearly stock race replicas miss the braking point and bounce off the air fence), and MotoGP bikes would be going a good 20-30 mph faster along Kettle Bottoms.  But better to not have a MotoGP race than to let Hermann Tilke butcher the place.

Total votes: 11

David,

Can you enlighten us at all on KTM?  For a bit there, it seemed like they were making steady progress race by race, with some predicting they could be cracking into the top-10 before too much longer.  The last couple of races it "seems" like they have lost ground, not gained.

Any insights?

thanks!

Total votes: 18

They have shown some glimmers, and much is said of potential shown in their pedigree and program potential. But they are breaking fresh ground the good old hard way. Smith hasn't been helping. P.Espargaro was banged up and still isn't 100%. And perhaps unfortunately the whole circus around them has been moving forward (aside from Yamaha's regression). Aprilia got more motor in a good handling bike that A.Espargaro is riding well. Ducati is doing a lot of development. Honda made big gains. In regular traction conditions the Yamaha isn't far off.

KTM is standing a bit still at present. They have been actively seeking staffing additions and or changes in their race team for several months. Brad is on borrowed time and may yet still be swapped with their tester. Kallio pushes harder, Smith is said to literally be riding off of the pace enough that development work isn't meaningful. Pol had the bike where it should be...until getting chucked and hurt not long ago. In Winter they worked hard. A few changes were made to some fundamentals in testing that still aren't gelling.

Are you surprised? I am not. They are on the pace to be here, they aren't WCM-like back marking. Still a baby amongst the big kids for now. Heartened that they have Tech3 and four factory bikes next year. And as we see above, looks like Zarco did a handshake agreement over the weekend.

They are still here, but have slowed forward progress a tad amongst bike changes/Pol hurt/Brad cautiously slow/lack of clarity with engineering path ahead. The riders haven't been saying much, nor has the garage, re specific bike issues etc.

Total votes: 20

Suzuki and Rabat are both back in good shape in 2018 and they where nowhere in 2017 for the most part of the year. Miller is also faster with the Ducati. This explains why KTM could reach the top 10 in 2017 and not anymore in 2018.  but last year , Bradley finished the Austin race 1'22 after Marquez whereas in 2018 Pol finishes 37s behind the same Marquez and Pol is not 100% fit yet. 

For sure, if the news about Zarco are true (and a few solid sources including David are now converging to confirm the deal is done)  it's a still a big challenge for the frenchman. But we shouldn't forget his most impressive ability is to make his own choices and follow his own path. The Move to KTM would be another proof of that. He'll stay in  familiar and friendly environnement where he clinched podiums, wins an titles ( AJO , tech3) and the whole KTM family will wholeheartedly want to reward the confidence Zarco and Fellon just put in the project. They'll start with a lot of confidence in each others. I'm convinced Massimo branchini will move from Moto2 to MotoGP to be Zarco's crew chief. Coulon is in the neighborhood. I wouldn't be surprised to see Zarco's data engineer switch from Tech3 to KTM. 

Nobody can be affirmative about what level they'll be able to reach but for sure, the fact Zarco/Fellon choose to sign despite the current KTM results is a huge proof of confidence and it is the best basis to begin a common adventure with. Zarco will have a full team + a full Factory + a whole project devoted to his cause. 

 

Total votes: 14

Motoshrink and Pom, you are both making interesting points... but, honestly, how can you think for even a second that Honda HRC made a real offer to Zarco ? And how can you possibly think for a second that if the offer were real Zarco would turn it down? Are we so sure that all teams want JZ ? I certainly don't. Ducati doesn't. Yamaha doesn't. Honda, IMO, doesn't. Suzuki didn't... And from what I know they did not change their mind... So, who's left? 

Besides, the Honda rumor does not make any sense: he would be almost 30 when he joins HRC, but they already have a strong - alien! - experienced rider who by then will be 26 at the peak of his career. the obvious choice is to pick a young talented rider from the lower class (for years now, MM has said he would love to race with his brother... I don't think it's a good idea, but can you imagine the publicity stunt ?) Moreover, given that developement is definitely MM one direction, and given that Zarco has no record of being essential in the bike development ( I guess it's all from Yamaha down to Tech3 and not the other way round) where is the point of getting someone old, who might not even adapt right away to the Honda, and who - given his past record - on a bad day might easily pull a "Iannone" on Marquez ? Ok, life is strange, and anything's possible, but I have a really hard time to imagine Puig knocking at Zarco's door with a contract in his hands.

Bottom line : if Zarco wants the official team status, then I don't see any other option than KTM.  and I wish him well.

Total votes: 17

Does anyone still disagree that the most talented rider to come along since Marc Márquez is Joan Mir?

Total votes: 11

Road America. That is where the US MotoGP shuld be held. Fans, food, location...and that track. 4 miles long and so fast. 

Road America always produces fast, exciting, close races, rain or shine.

It may be too dangerous, though.

Total votes: 20

Sadly we do not have any other tracks besides Indy and COTA that can accommodate MotoGP.

Barber Motorsports Park has the look of a track that could host MotoGP; however, Barber was described by Matt Mladin this way. "they should take and put it in a copier and hit 125%".

Total votes: 19

Thank you David for all the fantastic reporting! I totally agree that the track is spectacular from a layout and facilities perspective but man oh man MotoGP at COTA is starting to feel like groundhogs day.  Moto3 and Moto2 are always fantastic to watch and on a quick side note i’m really excited for Mir! He’s taken to the Moto2 class quickly and from the outside he looks like the real deal. I’ll expect to see him on the podium soon. On the other hand the MotoGP race was nothing but a forgone conclusion with me desperately hoping it wouldn’t be business as usual. As an American this is the easiest GP to attend and i’ve been doing so for four years. It’s always a hope, a prayer and then having to accept that by lap 3-5 it’s all over.

This year I was hanging around turn 6 watching the riders come down through turn two and then through the “s” turns. Iannone was in the lead on the first lap but you could already see Mark looking for an opening. After they disappeared around turn 6 towards 7 I turned to explain something to my cousin. From that position on the small hill you have a pretty good view of the riders heading down the back strait just as they hit their breaking mark. I looked up to see Marc in the lead and i was like “well this is over”. I was impressed with Iannone’s ability to stick with Marc and even attempt that overtake at what i thought was turn 11 but after that it was all over.

A number of the crowd around me were visually annoyed at the lack of “action” and by half race distance i saw folks packing up to beat the crowds. I my self bailed with three laps to go knowing id be able to hear/see the finish on the way across the walking bridges.

I don’t know how much I'd pay to see an exciting MotoGP rase at COTA. I know that we are in a golden age of MotoGP and pretty much every other race you come to with that “you never know” feeling and the excitement is palpable. But at COTA it’s always the same.. I hope, I pray and eventually i have to accept by lap 5 that yet again it’s already over.

Total votes: 19

Indianapolis showed that starting with a less than fantastic motorcycle racing track should not prevent you from hosting a great event.  Aside from great promotion, they went to great lengths to make whatever track changes were within their means in order to improve the show.

COTA is obvioulsy a great facility, but it has produced fairly poor motorcycle races.  Tilke-designed tracks are well known for this so it is of no great surprise to the fans of MotoGP, and surely the organisers are aware of it also.  I would wager that with some great minds (start with the guy who redesigned Termas!) and a comparatively small investment, COTA could be reconfigured to reduce the boredom. Replace some tedious squiggles with open sweeping flip-flops, short cut a couple of stupid first gear hairpins.... etc etc.  Surely COTA could have a more motorcycle friendly configuration with only a few key changes?

Total votes: 11

thank you David, as usual, for the great report. I think the best way to measure the thrill of the race is to count the number of posts about... quality and quantity of tracks in the US... It says a lot about the fun we had (not).

Besides the unfortunate - wrong, and absolutely useless- decision of RD about MM, the only good memory I want to keep is the heroic race of Dani, and Miller's too ! And Pecco's victory : he is talented, focused, hard working, and a nice fellow. Not sure the Ducati contract is the best thing for him but for now I want to enjoy this promising season.

Not much to say about the race, except that Honda/MM package is going to make the rest of the season dull : that bike is so sorted that I don't see any hope for anyone to challenge its superiority. I dread Jerez : that's where they tested not long ago, saying that they had finally found something new... If they do an all Honda podium in Jerez I might cancel my subscription to motogp and just read your Sunday Round-ups... I will save money for a Phillip Island pilgrimage... 

Total votes: 17

Repsol Honda: 15 of 15 wins

Honda: 40 of 45 podiums

Honda riders: 1 to 5, 8 and 9 in the top 10 end of season points

Total votes: 12

No doubt the race was processional.  While, on one hand, I did find myself wondering whether the cost for main straight grandstand tickets were worth it any longer, I have yet to second guess my desire to come back again next year.  I have only been to a few of the tracks on the calendar, past or present, and I'd say overall, Austin's pretty fantastic when you include the amenities, city, atmosphere, etc.  I mean, where else can you get hammered on FREE Johnnie Walker "samples"!?

I don't have the attention span to do this myself, but I'd be curious to see some quantification of overtakes at COTA.  How many total passes occurred throughout the race?  What's the average across the calendar?  Which track has the max and which has the min?  Statistically, if you remove the outlier performance (MM), is COTA actually processional versus the average?  I have no guess one way or the other but would curious to see what the numbers say.

Bummer to see Crutchlow in the scenery but can't be all that surprised about it.  And a mention of another highlight...seeing MM attempt to save that crash in Q2.  Superb camera work caught that beautifully.

Total votes: 12

As ever I watched all classes through practises, qualifying and races. Everyone wants to see a great contest into the final corner at every event but cannot realistically expect it week in and week out. If it turns out processional after 5 laps, so what? The Marquez brothers were easily expected to win M2 and GP. In M2 Peco put in a great performance to win. Mir rode a brilliant race. M2 was the event of the day for me. Back to the big one. Marc was always going to win barring a crash and burn, penalty scenario. His race pace was devastating all weekend and was a pleasure to watch. Subtlleties further down the field keep me rivited to my seat in terms of the big picture and the championship from start to finish. TV coverage was great in terms of the title chase. Take the Crutchlow/Dovi/Zarco/Pedrosa battle. It was enthralling for me anyway. Dani was superhuman given his physical situation. Zarco was as solid as ever. Dovi and Cal. Sure it was another big score for the desmo man. But lucky? Give me a break. Anyone suggesting that Dovi was lucky because Cal crashed on his lonesome has no appreciation. Its the same as saying Cal was unlucky  because he crashed. Cal crashed and Dovi kept his head, the bike an the title chase together, clearly way outgunned yet ultimately focused on the job in hand. I took note of this in the warm up on Sunday. He put in a very solid run of a straight 10 laps like Marquez did and figured his podium potential was a bit far off but not that far. He and his crew had a base plan, stuck to it and it paid off handsomely. Lorenzo like Rossi back then, clearly has no Ducati compatible DNA in his veins regardless of iteration, modification or whatever Gigi can throw at him. Gigi's iteration of the bike is to Lorenzo exactly what Prezziosi's bike was to Rossi back then. Miller and Rabat seem to have found a genuine home. Inasmuch as the track is concerned its sad to see the state its in. The venue may be awesome.They diamond scraped some bumps out with what equates to a 2 x 4 angle grinder instead of resurfacing. Reason as pointed out by Colin Edwards....they have no money to resurface. Laguna Seca...no money. Indianapolis....no political will and little interest. Circuit of the Americas? North and South as alluded to by the name. Surely somewhere between Anchorage and Buenos Aires, Dorna can find a circuit more conducive to GP racing and public interest. The track facility is great, the track itself is stone cold boring. Survive into the first part of the esses and join the procession. It needs to be resurfaced properly as Argentina tried to complete. The second half of the esses section should be straight lined for MGP. Zarco to KTM..mmm...Surely. Lorenzo to tranverse four of any persuasion. HRC should renew Dani's contract. American greats. It was good to see Kevin, Wayne, Kenny Snr and Jnr and Colin propping it up for COTA but when I see comments on this site saying they walked out 3 laps prior to the end it tells me all. Hayden Hill is a nice touch. The folks that walk out prior to the last rider crossing the flag never did get what Niki said...It ain't over till its over, thats why we line up on Sundays.

Total votes: 9

I'd heard it was sold but I don't know the current status of Miller Motor sports in Utah. It has a nice layout but not quite the rustic charm of Laguna. I'm not sure why it never caught on.

I think COTA could reshape some corners or maybe losing a few, would ease the procession. 

 

Total votes: 9

But I can’t say the same for MotoGP at COTA.

I fear Road Atlanta is not up to International FIM standards for size or run-off.  I’d personally rather see racing back at Laguna Seca - always guaranteed some entertainment.

Total votes: 11

I can't help looking through the calendar and thinking again that tracks geared to F1 rarely make for good bike-racing tracks. Silverstone, although liked by many riders rarely throws up close racing unless the weather throws a wobbly. Speilberg is an obvious exception but then the F1 race there last year was (so I'm told) tedious at the front with the three leading at the end of lap 1 finishing in the same places on the podium (but then that's pretty standard for F1 as far as I can tell). And COTA seems the same; an impressive venue with great facilities and the standard American show laid on for the fans which is very entertaining but then a tedious race. Very reminiscent of Indie. American MotoGP fans I know would say I should go to the Indy race for the experience but Laguna for the race. 

Catalunya is another circuit that hosts both F1 and MotoGP and we've certainly had great racing there some years (just have to drop in that I was there in 2009 and probably the only chump in our stand cheering Lorenzo) but when the layout was changed to the F1 chicane after T12 after the awful loss of Luis Salom, the race was pretty dire. 

So I say more Phillip Islands and Mugellos, less Silverstones and COTAs please. Bring on the forest track in Finland. 

Total votes: 10