Alex Rins won his first-ever MotoGP contest Sunday in Austin, Texas after a dramatic late-race battle with Valentino Rossi who finished second to the young Spaniard. Ducati's Jack Miller crossed the line in a lonely third at the Circuit of the Americas which crowned a new champion for the first time in seven years.
Marc Marquez, who has not only won the COTA MotoGP race every year it's been held but also has never lost a single race in the United States in any class, crashed entering Turn 12 with 12 laps to go, ending his day and longstanding dominance at the 5.5 km track. Marquez's crash and Andrea Dovizioso's surprising fourth-place finish rearranged the 2019 championship with the Factory Ducati rider now leading the pack (54 points) followed by Rossi (51), Rins (49) and Marquez (45).
In all, nine points now separate four riders from four different motorcycle manufacturers in the top class with 16 races to go. One of those manufacturers, however, had a weekend to (mostly) forget. Along with Marquez, Honda factory rider Cal Cruthlow crashed out of the race while in third and Repsol's Jorge Lorenzo endured a mechanical failure that sidelined him late in the contest.
Satellite Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli grabbed fifth, a clear three seconds in front of Danilo Petrucci (6th). Fabio Quartararo took seventh while Pol Espargaro continued a strong weekend with a eighth-place finish after qualifying fifth, a best-ever for KTM's MotoGP project. Francesco Bagnaia seized ninth in front of the top-placed Honda of Takaaki Nakagami (10th).
As expected, Marquez grabbed the holeshot from pole position -- the poleshot, maybe? -- closely followed by Rossi, Crutchlow, Miller and Rins. Dovizioso's aggressive start jumped him from 13th to eighth by the second corner. Rossi and Marquez opened a slight gap on the field by the end of the first lap.
Marquez's early pace began to prove too much for the Yamaha rider in second. Into lap two, Maquez began opening a gap. First seven-tenths. Then more than a second. Behind him, Rossi had bigger concerns. Crutchlow had arrived and was looking to pass. Rossi, now riding a defensive line, saw Marquez pull farther away at the front.
With 17 laps to go, Race Direction declared both Maverick Vinales and Joan Mir jumped the start. Both were ordered to take a ride-through penalties. Vinales, who was in sixth place, mistakenly took a long-lap penalty and then realized the error and pulled into pit lane for the ride through. He re-entered the race with 15 laps to go and in 19th place. Eventually, he'd finish 11th. Mir would finish out of the points.
That hardly ended the midrace drama at COTA, however. Crutchlow, who by now was hounding Rossi at every corner, crashed directly behind him in Turn 11 with 15 laps to go. This left Marquez out front by two seconds followed by Rossi, Miller and Rins. Now, it was Miller's turn to press Rossi. Within three laps, Marquez expanded his gap to 3.5 seconds.
But waiting for the current world champion was COTA's now infamous back straight and Turn 12. The longest straight in MotoGP calendar also had become its bumpiest. Those undulations were most severe in the braking zone where riders are trying to slow from 330 kph (205 mph). Video from the previous day's practice saw Marquez endure at least one violent tank-slapper in the section.
Whatever the reason, Marquez overcooked the slow corner at the end of the fast straight, lost the front and crashed. His day was done.
And Rossi was now at the front. Behind him, Rins had passed Miller. He began to carve away at Rossi's lead. With nine laps left, the gap between the pair had dropped to half a second. Well back in the pack, Lorenzo retired from the race, an unexplained mechanical problem ending his race. Three factory Hondas now had retired. Dovizioso slid past Morbidelli to take fifth.
With eight laps, Rins had closed the gap to Rossi and the pair had opened a gap to Miller. For the next, five laps Rins stalked Rossi, losing time at Turn 11 and into the long, back straight but gathering it all back by Turn 19.
With four laps to go, Rins struck at Turn 7 smoothly slicing inside Rossi for the lead. Rossi returned the favor at Turn 12 but ran wide, allowing Rins back to the front. Behind them, Dovizioso had grabbed fourth. Rossi and Rins stayed close to the end with Rossi not quite close enough to make a pass on the last lap.
Rins' victory makes him the only rider to win at COTA in all three classes.
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Honda||10 Laps|
|93||Marc MARQUEZ||Honda||12 Laps|
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||15 Laps|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia||15 Laps|