Temperatures shot up in Texas ahead of the first rodeo of the weekend, presumably to keep up with the rising tempers of sprint races so far, although this one had a slightly different flavour. After the unusual mistake of two weeks ago, Pecco Bagnaia left no room for error this time around, running an nearly impeccable race from start to finish. If Alex Rins managed to keep up with the poleman once the lights went off, fellow front row starter Luca Marini went well wide into turn one and dropped to 15th in the blink of an eye. Teammate Marco Bezzecchi followed his poor example, dropping to 11th and allowing Aleix Espargaro and Fabio Quartararo to lead the pursuit early on. Jorge Martin was one of the big winners of the opening lap, the Spaniard quickly joining his teammate in the top six after starting 12th on the grid, while few mistakes of his own cost Alex Marquez a few positions, down to 7th.
The only glitch in Bagnaia’s matrix was a brief attack from Rins at turn six on the opening lap but the Italian soon retaliated at turn 12 and was never to be challenged again. A further mistake from Rins at turn 12 allowed his good pal Espargaro to get past, while Martin breezed past Quartararo on the long back straight. Alex Marquez was biding his time for an attack, having dropped Zarco by one second by lap four. The Frenchman had to contend with the likes of Jack Miller, Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder early on, until the Mooney VR46 duo managed to regroup.
While the rest of the Ducatis were working to recover from poor starts or underwhelming grid positions, Bagnaia was running away at the front, his gap up to almost a second by lap five. Espargaro still led the pursuit ahead of Rins and Martin, while Quartararo relinquished fifth to Marquez and his efforts to resist the Ducatis on the straights proved fruitless, eventually paying the price with a crash at turn one. That left a group of four chasers, but Martin seemed to struggle to keep up and lost almost a second going into the second half of the race, with Marquez stuck behind him.
Bagnaia continued in control by over two seconds, helped by a few exchanges between Espargaro and Rins. The LCR man made a pretty decisive move at turn 7 on lap 7, followed by a mistake from Espargaro at turn 12, which allowed Martin to catch up and separate the two. With Marquez soon crashing out at turn 12, Martin and Espargaro were left to settle the final podium position amongst themselves, with the rest of the field a considerable distance behind.
A somewhat anticlimactic final three laps saw Bagnaia with a solid three-second buffer over Rins, who in turn had two seconds in hand over the battle for third, where Espargaro was struggling to find a way past the Ducati of Martin. The two Spaniards were inseparable going into the final lap but despite an optimistic attack at turn 19, Martin safely held onto the final podium position. Three seconds later, Binder claimed fifth ahead of teammates Bezzecchi and Marini, who did well to recover from their slow starts, while Oliveira and Miller took the remaining point scoring positions. Maverick Viñales completed the top 10 after a poor start had dropped him to 18th on the opening lap.
Bezzecchi’s recovery to sixth place keeps him in the lead in the world championship by only one point from Bagnaia, with Zarco dropping 19 points behind after an underwhelming race where he faded to 11th position.
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