MotoGP - What We Learned From Austin, Texas
The Americas GP Was a War of Attrition
MotoGP visited Austin, Texas for the third round of the 2023 season and there were as many ups and downs for the title contenders as there are within the Circuit of the Americas track layout. A tricky track surface, troubling wind conditions and riders tripping themselves up helped paint a perplexing picture of the MotoGP form book. So what have we learned from MotoGP in Austin?
(Image Credit: MotoGP)
Alex Rins Is a COTA Specialist
LCR Honda's Alex Rins loves the Circuit of the Americas. The Spanish rider has won around the circuit in all three Grand Prix classes, his most recent prior to this weekend's action coming aboard the Suzuki in 2019. However, adjusting to life aboard the Honda has been tricky for the multiple GP winner since he joined the LCR team at the start of the season, having achieved a best result of ninth in Argentina. But the stars aligned this weekend in COTA for Rins and LCR Honda. The Spaniard qualified in second, backed it up with a runner-up spot in the Sprint and topped off the weekend with a stunning Grand Prix victory, Honda's first since 2021 and LCR's first since 2018. Rins now sits third in the championship standings, thanks to the familiar misfortune of a certain Italian rider.
Bagnaia Continues to Show Cracks
Pole position and an untroubled journey to Sprint race victory pointed towards reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia cruising to a dominant Grand Prix win on Sunday. However, the factory Ducati rider threw away 25 points by crashing out on Lap 8. Following a crash in Argentina with another in Austin was not the way Bagnaia would have wanted to continue his title defence and incidents such as these arguably cost him a title in 2021 and left him with a mountain to climb en route to the title last year. He now lies second in the standings, 11 points adrift of fellow Italian Marco Bezzecchi. Can Bagnaia rid his riding of costly errors to maintain a title charge?
Marini Has Realised His Potential
Fresh from watching his teammate Bezzechi take the VR46 Ducati squad's first GP win in Argentina last time out, Luca Marini - riding for his brother's team - needed to make good on his preseason testing pace in Austin. The Italian delivered. He stayed out of trouble in the Sprint to take home three points in seventh place but looked calm, assured and fast in Sunday's Grand Prix. After dispatching Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo for second place, Marini held on to secure the first podium of his MotoGP career. Valentino Rossi will surely be proud of his younger brother.
Aprilia's False Start
Despite having a competitive package according to the MotoGP fraternity, Aprilia have so far failed to consistently show their promise on track. Aleix Espargaro managed sixth in the Sprint and fell in Sunday's GP and Maverick Vinales was once again haunted by his familiar weakness, poor starts. Vinales could only muster up a 10th-place finish in the Sprint but used the lengthier Grand Prix to salvage fourth place. When will the Aprilia team string it all together and fight for the victories they arguably deserve?
Quartararo Finally Has Something to Smile About
It has been clear for some time that Fabio Quartararo is dissatisfied with Yamaha's progress recently and the Frenchman has been a despondent figure in 2023 thus far. Not many could blame Quartararo for being so downbeat either, as results haven't been going his way and Yamaha's rivals have routinely out-developed them in recent years. However, in Sunday's GP at COTA, the 2021 champion was able to get into a rhythm near the front, allowing him to consistently post the quick lap times that a rider such as he is capable of. The end result was a well-earned third-place finish. Can Quartararo challenge for victories in the near future?
COTA Difficult to Get to Grips With
Riders and pundits alike were critical of the Circuit of the Americas throughout the weekend. The cause of the uproar was thanks to the track surface not providing the necessary grip for riders to be comfortable on the limit. The result was crashes and lots of them. Sunday's GP saw just 13 of the 22-strong field make it to the checkered flag.
Folger's Feel-Good Return
Five and a half years after the energy-depleting Gilbert’s Syndrome cut Jonas Folger's MotoGP career drastically short, Tech3 drafted him in to pilot their GasGas machine in place of the recovering Pol Espargaro in Austin, Texas. Expectations were clearly measured for the German, however, in Sunday's GP he avoided the chaos that befell those around him to finish a welcome 12th place. A suitable tonic for a well-deserving rider.
Three rounds in and the drama of the 2023 MotoGP season continues to ramp up. Can the world's most-enthralling two-wheeled spectacle keep pulses racing? The answers will come next time out in Jerez, Spain on April 30. In the meantime check out the riders' standings below.
2023 MotoGP Riders' Standings
1 - Marco Bezzecchi - Mooney VR46 Racing Team - Ducati - 64 Points
2 - Francesco Bagnaia - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 53 Points
3 - Alex Rins - LCR Honda CASTROL - Honda - 47 Points
4 - Maverick Viñales - Aprilia Racing - Aprilia - 45 Points
5 - Johann Zarco - Prima Pramac Racing - Ducati - 44 Points
6 - Luca Marini - Mooney VR46 Racing Team - Ducati - 38 Points
7 - Fabio Quartararo - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 34 Points
8 - Alex Marquez - Gresini Racing MotoGP - Ducati - 33 Points
9 - Brad Binder - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 30 Points
10 - Franco Morbidelli - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 29 Points
11 - Jorge Martin - Prima Pramac Racing - Ducati - 29 Points
12 - Jack Miller - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 26 Points
13 - Aleix Espargaro - Aprilia Racing - Aprilia - 18 Points
14 - Miguel Oliveira - CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team - Aprilia - 16 Points
15 - Augusto Fernandez - GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 - KTM - 14 Points
16 - Fabio Di Giannantonio - Gresini Racing MotoGP - Ducati - 13 Points
17 - Takaaki Nakagami - LCR Honda IDEMITSU - Honda - 7 Points
18 - Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 7 Points
19 - Joan Mir - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 5 Points
20 - Michele Pirro - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 5 Points
21 - Jonas Folger - GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 - KTM - 4 Points
22 - Raul Fernandez - CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team - Aprilia - 2 Points
23 - Stefan Bradl - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 0 Points