Marc Marquez was handed a championship lifeline in Sunday’s MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas, with his fifth consecutive victory in Texas made all the more sweeter by the fact that the winner of the first two races of the season in Maverick Vinales crashed out.
After victories in Qatar and Argentina, hopes were high that Yamaha rider Vinales could challenge Marquez, the only man to win around the Circuit of the Americas in MotoGP having won all four previous races since the track was added to the calendar in 2013.
Marquez himself was coming off crashing out of the lead in Termas de Rio Hondo two weeks’ ago, leaving himself with a 37-point deficit in the process to Vinales, but the reigning world champion has clawed back vital ground ahead of the start of the European season after Vinales crashed out in America on the second lap of the race.
Marquez has cut the gap to Vinales to just 12 points as a result, but finds veteran Valentino Rossi out in front on 56 points after bagging his third consecutive podium finish, despite being handed a bizarre time penalty for a clash with Johann Zarco.
Marquez got off the line well but it was his Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, who led into turn one from Marquez and Rossi, with Vinales dropping to fifth before overtaking Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Number of wins for Marc Marquez in Texas. No other rider has won there in MotoGP
As the front four pulled away, the second lap saw Vinales drift wide at the long quadruple-apex turn 18 and see the front of his Yamaha wash out, ending his race immediately and elevating Zarco to fourth ahead of Britain’s Cal Crutchlow. Frenchman Zarco would cause controversy on lap seven though when he pushed his Tech 3 Yamaha inside Rossi at turn three, with the Italian forced off track as a result and left with no option that to cut the corner. Dorna, the race officials, took offence to this and hit Rossi with a 0.3-second time penalty, despite Zarco being the aggressor.
Two laps later, Marquez made his move, pushing his Honda inside that of Pedrosa at turn six and making the pass stick on the exit of seven, and barring an outbraking manoeuvre on lap 12 by Pedrosa that saw Marquez slip back inside him immediately, the race for the top step of the podium was over.
The battle for second was just starting though, and Rossi reeled in Pedrosa before passing the Spaniard with just three laps remaining and immediately pulling out the necessary gap to negate the 0.3s penalty and hold on to second and with it the championship lead by a slender four points.
Just two laps from home, Crutchlow made his move on the struggling Zarco, with the Briton utilising a flick-back pass through turns 12, 13 and 14 to take fourth and with it the top satellite finish.
1. Marc Marquez 43:58.770
2. Valentino Rossi +3.069
3. Dani Pedrosa +5.112
4. Cal Crutchlow +7.638
5. Johann Zarco +7.957
6. Andrea Dovizioso + 14.058
7. Andrea Iannone + 15.491
8. Danilo Petrucci + 16.772
9. Jorge Lorenzo +17.979
10. Jack Miller + 18.494