Blue skies, hot tarmac, loud engines and a record that was begging to be either broken or extended – the premier class race was shaping up to be either a walk in the park or another drama for Marc Marque. Fortunately for the reigning world champion, he made sure it was yet another demolition job that wasn’t affected in the slightest by the grid penalty he was slapped with after qualifying.
Marquez made it ten wins on American soil and sixth in a row at the Texan circuit with apparent ease. He ended up sharing the podium with the two men who looked most likely to take the fight to him: Maverick Viñales and Andrea Iannone. While the inherited poleman did not cross paths with Marquez after the start and finished a lonely second, Iannone traded blows with the world champion for the early part of the race.
Iannone got the holeshot off the line, Marquez slotting promptly and smoothly into second, with Viñales third. The Repsol Honda man got into his favourite position – the first one – by the end of lap one and predictably wanted to stretch a gap but instead of escaping in the horizon, he took Iannone with him and the duo put over half a second on Viñales. Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi and Johann Zarco attacked Cal Crutchlow for fourth position on lap two in an attempt to keep up with the leaders. Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa were the final men to tag along to the main group, one and a half seconds ahead on the pursuers led by Jorge Lorenzo.
By lap three, Marquez was still trying to shake off Iannone, who was posting fastest laps behind the world champion. The Italian even attacked the Sheriff but Marquez calmly retook his position. One lap later, the gap between the two finally went over the half second mark - which turned into one second by the end of that same lap. Viñales was another second behind the two but was coming under fire from his teammate. Behind them, another Yamaha was trying to reduce a one second gap, Zarco only half a second ahead of Dovizioso, Crutchlow and Pedrosa.
Marquez cleared off at the front, putting almost a second a lap into the pursuers for the next few laps, but the show was ensured as Iannone dropped back into the clutches of the factory Yamahas. Viñales finally made it past the Italian into turn one as they started lap seven, Rossi the next to prepare his attack. Zarco had lost another second behind them with the Ducati and Honda sharks closely on his tail. Crutchlow made the first move but not for the first time in the race, the Brit made a mistake to give those positions back before eventually sliding out in the final corner of lap eight. The LCR rider re-joined the race but had to say goodbye to his championship lead.
Meanwhile, Marquez increased his gap to four and a half seconds by the halfway point of the race and kept it steady as the field was getting a bit strung out. Iannone was one second behind Viñales and Rossi another second behind Iannone, the Yamahas on the softer rear tyre compared to Iannone and Marquez on the hard. Zarco was a further four second down the road, still fending off Dovizioso and Pedrosa (yes, still Pedrosa), with Alex Rins fronting the next group six seconds down. The Suzuki rider did not hold on to that eight position for long as he crashed out at turn 12 and let Lorenzo in clear air – all seven seconds of it.
There was not much to say about the next handful of laps, Marquez monitoring the status quo with fairly large gaps throughout the field and only the battle for fifth of any real interest. Zarco spent most of the race in that position but Dovizioso was nailed to his rear tyre with seven laps to go, while Pedrosa was finally starting to give into the pain. The Spaniard dropped back behind the duo and managed the eight second gap to Lorenzo behind him. His mission was helped by Tito Rabat, Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro who made it – more or less forcefully – past the Ducati man.
Marquez finally slowed down his gallop with six laps to go and let the gap stay steady at six seconds. Dovizioso really bided his time with his attack on Zarco, the Italian blasting past the Frenchman at the end of the endless straight with four laps left and leaving him with no reply.
Just for the fun of it, the reigning world champion put in a penultimate lap one second faster than Viñales to increase the lead to seven seconds and then did a parade lap that saw it shrink back down as he was performing his celebration.
With the remaining podium spots going to Viñales and Iannone, Rossi finished a lonely but encouraging fourth, a long way ahead of Dovizioso in fifth. Zarco crossed the line sixth, ahead of a heroic ride from Pedrosa, who finished ten seconds in front of the rest of the top ten, made up by Tito Rabat, Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro.
Despite the less than stellar weekend, Dovizioso is getting quite good at this damage limitation malarkey and leaves Texas with the lead of the championship, albeit by the narrowest of margins. Marquez climbs up to second, missing out on the lead by only one point, with Viñales third, another four points down. Crutchlow drops three positions to fourth, tied on points with Zarco.
|42||Alex RINS||Suzuki||10 Laps|
|55||Hafizh SYAHRIN||Yamaha||12 Laps|
|17||Karel ABRAHAM||Ducati||12 Laps|