Things were hotting up literally and metaphorically in Texas as the intermediate class put on their best show. And like a good Broadway play, it was not the man dominating practice or the man dominating qualifying who go the applause at the end. It was Pecco Bagnaia. Starting from the second row of the grid, the Italian was not exactly favourite for the win but whatever trick his team had up its sleeve worked out impeccably to bring them some silverware. Bagnaia patiently hunted down early leader Alex Marquez and after a close exchange over several laps, he ended up on top, with the poleman second on the podium. Miguel Oliveira paid a hefty price for his poor qualifying, the Portuguese rider faster than the leaders in the final stage of the race but was left with too much to do. Nonetheless, he grabbed the final podium spot and was briefly allowed to dream about second.
Marquez had a dream start, first into turn one as Sam Lowes dropped to fourth and let Mattia Pasini chase the Marc VDS rider. That was no easy task as Marquez had stretched his advantage to a second by the start of lap two. Lowes did not get a chance to fight back as he crashed out after only one lap completed, leaving Bagnaia, Pasini and Xavi Vierge as the only men within a reasonable distance to the leader. That didn’t last long, Bagnaia checking out to chase down Marquez and disappeared one and a half seconds ahead of Vierge and Pasini. Behind them, Marcel Schrotter was dragging a sizeable group into the podium fight, including the two factory KTMs. Having started 12th, Oliveira was on a recovery mission, up to eighth by lap two and holding station for a couple of laps.
Back at the front, Marquez had a few moments that gave him a warning and stopped him from extending his lead too much over the one second mark to Bagnaia. Vierge also built himself a gap away from the chaos that was forming behind once Schrotter caught up and passed Pasini. Unfortunately, the German had a heavy crash into turn one on lap seven and Oliveira picked up the mission of finding two seconds if he was to join the podium battle. Behind the KTM, Pasini was the gate keeper for a bunch of feisty youngsters including Iker Lecuona, Brad Binder and Joan Mir. After a clash in turn one, Mir had dropped outside the top twenty but he made use of his excellent pace to (almost) get back into podium contention.
While the drama was unfolding behind, Bagnaia reeled in Marquez at an alarming pace, the Italian biding his time for a few laps before launching an attack. Five seconds behind the two, Vierge was coming under pressure from Oliveira, the Portuguese rider turning two seconds into two tenths by lap 10 and eventually claiming the final podium spot available.
Bagnaia first showed his intentions in turn 11 at the halfway mark of the race but Marquez reclaimed top spot for another few laps despite some rodeo-worthy moves on the notorious bumps. The Sky rider had another couple of attempts with six laps to go but Marquez retaliated straight away on several occasions throughout that lap. The Italian made it stick on his final try and the Marc VDS rider looked like calling it quits as Bagnaia immediately extended his advantage to half a second. The Spaniard fought back one more time before letting the Italian go in the final three laps.
Another few mistakes from Marquez pushed him back into the claws of Oliveira instead but it was too little too late though for the KTM man, Marquez picking up the pace on the final lap to secure second position. Behind Oliveira, Mir got as close as one and a half seconds to the podium and begged the question where exactly would he rank had it not been for the first lap nudge from Luca Marini. Similarly, Lecuona put it an excellent performance to get his best result yet in fifth position, defeating Brad Binder on the final run to the line.
Pasini said goodbye to his championship lead as he slipped down the order all the way down to seventh place, the honour going to Bagnaia by ten points. Pasini keeps second position but equal with Marquez, Oliveira another four points down in fourth.
|15||20||Fabio QUARTARARO||Speed Up||+17.169|
|17||87||Remy GARDNER||Tech 3||+20.821|
|20||64||Bo BENDSNEYDER||Tech 3||+32.144|
|25||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||+46.966|
|97||Xavi VIERGE||Kalex||5 Laps|
|62||Stefano MANZI||Suter||7 Laps|
|23||Marcel SCHROTTER||Kalex||12 Laps|
|52||Danny KENT||Speed Up||15 Laps|