Valentino Rossi stretched his MotoGP podium run to three from three in 2017 and by treading the second step of the box at COTA in Austin, Texas for the Grand Prix of Americas assumed control of the FIM World Championship standings to the tune of 6 points over teammate Maverick Viñales. Just before his feat, the most decorated rider in the sport was able to watch his VR46 Academy recruit and EG 0,0 Marc VDS star Franco Morbidelli extend his victorious streak in Moto2.
The MotoGP race may have been won by world champion Marc Marquez for the fifth successive year but it was the departure of Viñales early in proceedings that produced the first real shock of the day. The Spaniard had won in Qatar and Argentina but ended up being a spectator on Sunday after taking part in a thrilling chase for Pole Position 24 hours earlier. The Hondas of Marquez and Pedrosa set the pace while Rossi had to contend with the excellent Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco; the pair almost colliding in the entry to the Turn4 ‘S’ section and Rossi controversially incurring a small time penalty for having run off track and remaining ahead of the Frenchman.
The Italian was able to keep ahead of the menacing black M1 and was soon hounding Pedrosa, eventually passing the Spaniard for his satisfying end result.
“I‘m so happy, because today I wasn‘t so far from the front and it‘s also the best result of my career at this track, so it‘s good,” he smiled. “When I saw ’Viñales out‘ I started to think: ‘I‘m on top of the championship standings’. I felt good and I also saw Dani having some problems, especially on the right, so I said: “maybe those four points are important” and in fact it was like that.”
Zarco faced pressure from LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and the Brit moved into fourth place to end up in Parc Ferme as the best satellite team runner on the day. “It was a good race…of course, I’m a little disappointed not to get the podium because we were very close but I took too long to pass Johann Zarco and after that I lost a little bit of time running off the track, but a third in Argentina and fourth here in Texas is good from the last two flyaway races.”
While Enea Bastianini partially buried a tough start to 2017 with a pleasing fourth position in Moto3 it was Morbidell who shone in the intermediate class with his third straight triumph on the Marc VDS Kalex. The Italian crossed the line almost three seconds ahead of Thomas Luthi for a perfect 75 point haul so far this year.
“This is a great moment for me and the team, we are in fantastic shape for the championship and I hope we can continue in this way,” Franco said. “It was a nice battle with Álex…but I messed around too much and then I saw 0.5s to Lüthi so I decided to push all the way to the finish…and just went for the win.”
After leaping around the continents, MotoGP will prime the paddock space for circuits around Europe for the forthcoming months. First on the schedule is the Grand Prix of España at Jerez on May 7th.