MotoGP: Marquez takes fifth successive win in Texas

Posted by Amaan Ahmed at 05:18 am on Monday April 24, 2017

If there has been one constant in the ever-changing MotoGP universe for the last five years -- Valentino Rossi's special Sunday skills aside -- it is Marc Marquez's enviable record in the United States of America. Ever since he moved up to the premier class in 2013, Marquez has won every race at Indianapolis (including the final Indy round in 2015), as well as at the Circuit of the Americas, in Texas. And if there has been one genuine threat to MM93's immaculate record, it is Maverick Vinales. Most would've backed Yamaha's wonder boy to end Marquez's Stateside streak today.

The most real of threats lasted all of one lap.

Vinales started from second on the grid, but was pushed to fourth in the opening sequences as Dani Pedrosa made a wild break for it and grabbed the lead. He knew Marquez would be difficult to reel in if he got away early, and pushed his M1 to keep up, perhaps a little too hard as he lowsided out of P4 on the second lap, making life a little easier for the Hondas and his own teammate. After the race, however, Top Gun Mack stated he wasn't pushing, and wasn't exactly sure why he went down.

"Last year, in 18 races, I just crashed in Argentina. All the other tracks I've been on the bike and pushing even more than this year. I was more on the limit. That's why I feel strange because I never crash like that in my career. It was a strange crash. That's why I'm calm. I know it was not our mistake. I did exactly the same as in Warm Up and all weekend, but I crashed. I think we had some issues with the front tyre", concluded Vinales.

How important Vinales' absence was to Repsol Honda could be seen in the signboard Marquez's pit crew held up for him that lap: all it said was VINAL OUT. That was all Marquez needed to see. With Rossi a fair way off in third, Marquez pinned it, closing up on Pedrosa -- who, by the way, put up a proper fight, unwilling to just roll over and die -- and after trading blows with the diminutive Spaniard, finally made the move stick. With his hard front/hard rear tyre combination working smoothly, the brief for Marquez, then, was simple -- Switch to autopilot. Dream about medium-rare steaks. Win.

Further back, Rossi had to work hard to keep the unbelievably competitive Johann Zarco from snatching third from him. Contact made in one of the corners meant Rossi had attracted a 0.3 second penalty, which would come into play in the closing stages of the race, when he caught up with Pedrosa. He needed to finish more than 0.3 seconds ahead of DP26, and he crossed the chequered flag well clear: by more than two seconds.

There was a reason why Pedrosa had to back off at the end.

"Towards the end I tried to keep 2nd but the right side of the front tyre was completely gone. I was happy to finish on the podium because we made quite a big step", remarked Pedrosa in parc ferme. And he's right -- this is an important result, for it helps Dani rebuild momentum after the disappointment that was all of 2016.

Zarco was eventually pushed to fifth by Cal Crutchlow, and Jorge Lorenzo, who was briefly in fourth on the opening lap, finished in 9th, behind teammate Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Danilo Petrucci.

Today's happenings mean Rossi now leads the world championship (if only by six points), Marquez has pole-vaulted from 9th to 3rd in the standings, and now trails rival-in-chief Vinales by a completely acceptable 12 points, instead of the daunting 37 before this round. Vinales will have to take this failure in his stride. He'll know he cannot win them all, and that spills are part of racing. He's still in a very good position after three races, and going to Jerez with a zero-points finish will likely keep him from getting ahead of himself.

There are a million ways this season could go. We're only just getting started, folks.

TAGS// respol honda, suzuki ecstar, andrea dovizioso, maverick vinales, johann zarco, cal crutchlow, texas, cota, circuit of the americas, yamaha racing, ducati corse, jorge lorenzo, dani pedrosa, marc marquez, valentino rossi, moto gp, motogp

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