Austin MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Danger Of A Bumpy Track, Lasting 20 Laps, And Can Marc Marquez' Withstand Fabio Quartararo's Onslaught?

Pol Espargaro summed up the complex emotions of almost the entire grid (possibly bar Jack Miller, but more of that later) at the end of an eventful first day of practice at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. "First of all we need to say that it's super nice to come here to America, to be able to race here," the Repsol Honda rider said. "Already this is something super good after so long in Europe. And to see the American fans is super nice, they are super excited and it's nice. Saying that, I think we are in a professional MotoGP championship that, we need a minimum of quality in the tracks, about safety, run off area."

Then came the 'but'. "We must say that the track is not at the level of a MotoGP championship, sure. First of all, there are parts where the asphalt is super bad. Not about the bumps, it's just cracked everywhere, and the asphalt is super old, and it looks bad, and also it's bad grip. But then there are the bumps, and the bumps are not something that we can say it's better or it's worse. The bumps are super dangerous."

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2021 Austin Moto2 FP2 Result: No Rival For Raul

Track surface was nice and dry for the final session of the day but despite the improved conditions, no one found a cure for the speed of Raul Fernandez. After leading a damp FP1, the rookie was quick to resume the lead with a significant advantage early in FP2 and resisted all challengers to end Friday at the top of the timesheets. Teammate Remy Gardner had a more difficult session, starting at the bottom of the top 15 and needing some lengthy repairs after an unfortunate collision with Tetsuta Nagashima mid-session.

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2021 Austin MotoGP FP2 Result: Marquez vs Miller – The Dry Edition

The pimply hills of COTA were alive with the sound of slick Michelins for the first time today and the margins got tighter in the premier class. One thing did not change though and the Marquez rodeo was back to its most challenging, particularly for Dorna’s on-board camera stabiliser. The Honda man was one half-second step ahead of the competition for much of the session and only a late switch to soft fresh rubber allowed his rivals some time in the limelight, but Marquez quickly resumed control at the front.

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2021 Portimao World Superbike FP2 Result: Rea Heads Even Tighter Field

Jonathan Rea was quickest with the top eleven riders covered by under a second. His Kawasaki teammate Alex Lowes was second quickest ahead of Leon Haslam making the Honda look good. Toprak Razgatlioglu and Garrett Gerloff put their Yamahas above the three Ducatis led by Loris Baz.

Results:

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2021 Austin Moto3 FP2 Result: Salac Demotes Antonelli

After a wet morning at the Circuit of the Americas, the lightweight class welcomed a dry FP2 and Niccolò Antonelli’s FP1 benchmark didn’t stand a chance in the much-improved conditions. The Italian did come close to reclaiming the top of the timesheets, with a couple stints at the front in the session but had to surrender top spot to Filip Salac for the final couple of minutes by eight hundredths of a second. After leading he way early on, Dennis Foggia dropped to third, one tenth off the lead and another tenth ahead of Jaume Masia.

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2021 Austin Moto2 FP1 Result: Rapid Raul

The intermediate class got the best of the conditions on Friday morning, with a pretty convincing dry line but lap times were still quite a way off the usual in Texas. The glimpse of sunshine helped riders improve their times throughout FP1 and the lead changed hands frequently, until Raul Fernandez claimed the headlines on his final flying lap. The rookie made a fast start, almost two tenths of a second faster than Bo Bendsneyder, who also bided his time to climb the timesheets.

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2021 Austin MotoGP FP1 Result: Homecoming For Marquez

The premier class entered the stage at the COTA festival in pretty wet conditions and the headline act was once again Marc Marquez, the sheriff getting a nice homecoming by leading the way early on by over two seconds. However, the Honda man lost most of that advantage as sunshine made an appearance and track conditions improved, prompting riders to get an early time attack in. Jack Miller was the Spaniard’s main challenger, the Ducati man briefly leading the way but getting demoted back to second by one tenth of a second in the end.

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2021 Austin Moto3 FP1 Result: Antonelli Kicks Off Wet Friday

Austin gave the MotoGP paddock a very wet welcome on their return to the States and although the track conditions seemed kind on the lightweight class for their first outing of the weekend, it was a slippery end to the session, with quite a few last minute tumbles. Times were reasonably quick and the lead changed hands many times until Niccolò Antonelli picked up top spot in the final couple of minutes of FP1, dropping Filip Salac to second by one hundredth of a second.

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2021 Portimao World Supersport FP1 Result: Gonzalez Tops Red-Flagged Session

Manuel Gonzalez set the lap record on his way to setting the fastest lap of the morning's session, fending off Jules Cluzel and Federico Caricasulo. Title contenders Dominique Aegerter and Steven Oldendaal were eighth and fourth quickest respectively.

Results:

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2021 Portimao World Superbike FP1 Result: Rea Leads Close Field

Jonathasn Rea set the fastest time in the morning's qualifying with the top nine covered by under a second. Garrett Gerloff, whose quickest time was cancelled by yellow flags, was second quickest, ahead of Alex Lowes and Toprak Razgatlioglu.

Results:

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Austin MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Riders Share Ideas For Making Racing Safer

It was inevitable that there would be a lot of talk at Austin of the events of a few days earlier, at Jerez. The death of Dean Berta Viñales in the first (and only) WorldSSP300 race at the Spanish track had once again raised the question of safety in motorcycle racing. Especially the safety in the support classes, where the technical rules had been set up to achieve as much parity as possible, creating very large groups on the race track. And especially in classes populated by sometimes very young riders.

How ironic, then, that some of such talk took place in the pre-event press conference in Austin, where a group of riders in the FIM MiniGP North America series were present. Kensei Matsudaira, age 10, Jesse Shedden, age 12, Jayden Fernandez, age 13, Kayla Yaakov, age 14, and Travis Horn, age 13, all got to sit and listen as the MotoGP riders were asked questions about how to prevent young kids from being killed in motorcycle races.

The FIM MiniGP series is one of the steps Dorna is putting in place in its Road to MotoGP initiative, aimed at stimulating racing talent at a regional and national level, before moving up on the path to World Championship level racing.

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Austin MotoGP Preview: Mastering The Bumps In Texas

For the first time in two years, MotoGP is headed for a flyaway race which isn't in Qatar. After a long period of uncertainty, and facing a certain amount of opposition from inside the Grand Prix paddock, the series is heading to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. After having 12 of the first 14 races all inside the same timezone (give or take an hour), a flyaway race feels like something of a novelty.

The novelty will not be quite as great as hoped for all those traveling to Austin. Given the extremely high case numbers of Covid-19 in Texas, and the dearth of ICU beds, Dorna has requested everyone attending the race remain in their bubbles – staying inside their hotels, not going into town, not visiting bars and restaurants – as much as possible. Normally, the Austin round of MotoGP is a reason to party. That will not be the case this year.

Staying inside will be made easier by the weather: very heavy rain is expected throughout the weekend, especially on Friday and Saturday. Leaving the hotel to wander the streets of downtown Austin is a much less attractive opposition in the pouring rain.

The rain is going to add an extra level of difficulty to what is already one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar. COTA is probably the most physically demanding track of the year, thanks to its layout.

Roller coaster ride

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 241: Previewing Austin MotoGP, And Making Racing Safer

In this episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast presented by Fly Racing and Renthal Street, Adam Wheeler and David Emmett get together to look ahead to the Grand Prix of The Americas in Austin, Texas. Adam and David discuss what it is like for MotoGP to be heading overseas again after two years of Qatar being the only race held outside of Europe.

We discuss the track, and what we expect of it. We talk about how the track's 20 corners and many bumps make it one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar. And we ask which bike it might suit, and what effect this race weekend could have on the championship.

We also address the concerns around safety after last weekend's death of Dean Berta Viñales in the WorldSSP300 race at Jerez. We discuss how this could be fixed, and Adam gives an insight into how the junior classes in motocross bring young riders into the sport with less risk.

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