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Texas - Marc Márquez back at the front in MotoGP

© David Davies/PA Wire

By Dan Moakes
April 27 2015

Somehow the Repsol Honda duo were only able to finish in fifth and sixth places in the opening MotoGP race in 2015, with Valentino Rossi on the Yamaha winning, ahead of the revitalised works Ducatis. Was this a New World Order in Grand Prix motorcycle racing?

The first race of the year in Qatar seemed to suggest that the Honda RC213V had been caught by its closest challengers, if not surpassed, and double champion Marc Márquez had not been able to close in on the leaders as expected, after a strong qualifying performance but with a compromised start on lap one. Surely making amends was on the agenda for round two, in the GP of the Americas at ‘COTA’ in Austin, Texas. Marc had been the winner at both previous visits to the venue.

Repsol Honda’s chances seemed reduced from the outset, with their long term rider Dani Pedrosa missing the American race after having surgery for an arm problem. Apparently there had been talk of trying to get Casey Stoner to come out of retirement to fill in, but ultimately it was Honda test rider Hiroshi Aoyama who was drafted in, riding with his usual number 7 on the bike. In qualifying, Hiro was down amongst the Open class runners, but team-mate Márquez was on the pace and in a familiar looking pole position slot.

Ducati continued to look racy, with Andrea Dovizioso in second place on the grid. Team-mate Andrea Iannone was down in seventh, behind the best of the customer machines. The MoviStar Yamahas were well placed, despite the fact that Jorge Lorenzo was battling against illness. He would line up third, with Rossi next in fourth. Then came the first of those customer bikes, the LCR Honda of Cal Crutchlow, with Scott Redding sixth on the Marc VDS Honda.

The brothers Espargaró were both on row three, with Pol ninth on the Tech 3 Yamaha and Aleix as high as eighth on the new Suzuki. Pol’s team-mate Bradley Smith was tenth, then came Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) and Maverick Viñales (Suzuki). Héctor Barberá, for Avintia, was first of those in the Open class, ahead of Stefan Bradl (Forward Yamaha), Yonny Hernández (Pramac Ducati), Mike di Meglio (Avintia Ducati), Eugene Laverty (Aspar Honda), and with Aoyama back in P18. Then it was Jack Miller (LCR Honda), Loris Baz (Forward Yamaha), Karel Abraham (AB Honda), Nicky Hayden (Aspar Honda), Álvaro Bautistá (Aprilia), Alex de Angelis (Ioda ART) and Marco Melandri (Aprilia).

Form guide: GP wins at Circuit of the Americas
Márquez 2; Miller & Viñales 1

The race start saw Dovizioso get away in the lead, then Márquez, Rossi, Smith, Lorenzo, Aleix Espargaró, Iannone and Crutchlow. Top ten runners Redding and Pol Espargaró were involved in a first lap incident at the left-handed turn eleven hairpin, where Scott experienced a lowside crash, the Spaniard caught up by the wayward Honda. Both tried to continue but without much success. Behind Crutchlow therefore came Hernández, Petrucci, Miller, Laverty, Bradl, Viñales, Aoyama, Baz, Abraham, Hayden, Barberá, Bautistá and de Angelis.

In the early stages there were some gaps opening up between the front runners, although Rossi was right on the case behind Márquez and Smith stayed with the pair of them. Iannone was fast and was soon passing Aleix Espargaró for sixth, and at the front the change came when Marc passed Dovizioso and started to ease away. That signalled a prolonged contest between Andrea and Valentino, with the Ducati man fighting back on more than one occasion. At this stage, tenth-placed Hernández crashed out, following a similar exit for Bradl, with di Meglio also out.

Rossi now made it through into second position, but Márquez was on his way to a two-second margin over the Yamaha man. Dovizioso, Smith and Iannone were next, with Lorenzo just about hanging on in sixth. Then there was a gap to Espargaró and Crutchlow. From here, Marc was only ever circulating on his own. Meanwhile, behind him a three-way contest developed after Iannone passed Smith and tagged on behind Rossi and Dovizioso. At one point he briefly went ahead of his team-mate at turn one, but thereafter continued in fourth position.

With Smith falling back to sixth position, the later stages saw fifth man Lorenzo start catching up some ground on the trio ahead. As Rossi and Dovizioso battled for second, Iannone started to drop away into Jorge’s clutches. Three laps from the end the Yamaha man dived through on the inside for a left-hander to secure fourth place. By then the battle for second was just out of reach. Dovizioso had got it right coming out of a right-hander to pass Rossi through the next left-hander, and from there he just opened up a slight enough advantage to maintain the position.

Márquez earned his 20th race victory in the GP premier class, moving beyond Barry Sheene’s tally, with Dovizioso and Rossi completing the podium. Lorenzo was fourth, from Iannone, Smith, Crutchlow, Aleix Espargaró and Viñales, the new Suzuki duo completing the top nine. Then came Petrucci, Aoyama, Barberá, Hayden, Miller, Bautistá, Laverty, Baz and de Angelis, with seven retirements altogether.

Following on from a race in which Honda could not crack the top four, it seemed like normal service had been resumed when Marc Márquez was able to dominate in Texas. But the battle between Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso was revisited for the other podium positions, the Italian pair therefore retaining their places at the top of the championship table. Márquez may have some work ahead of him to overhaul his two rivals, or then again maybe he will just go on another winning spree. Time will tell.

Standings after two races: Rossi 41; Dovizioso 40; Márquez 36; Iannone 27; Lorenzo 26; Crutchlow and Smith 18; A.Espargaró 13; Pedrosa and Petrucci 10 ·· Open leader: Barberá.
Yamaha 41; Ducati 40; Honda 36; Suzuki 13; Aprilia 1.

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