Austin MotoGP: Marquez will win, but what if…?


COTA Circuit America MotoGP Marquez

Story: Donovan Fourie
Marc Marquez is going to win today’s Austin MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. You know it is going to happen. It has to – he is the undisputed king of this place, “The Sheriff” as the Dorna PR team have cringeworthily put it.

The Saturday practices were all affected by rain, but on race tyres during FP1 and FP2 on Friday, Marquez was a good 0.750 sec a lap faster than the Yamahas of Vinales and Rossi. He is going to win, of course.

But, what if…?

In the Q2 session yesterday, Marquez set out a remarkable lap of 2:03.787 putting him well more than a second ahead of the rest of the field. And that was his first lap, what was install for the rest of Q2? Not much after the world champion caught a few frightening moments down the bumpy back straight with his Honda tank-slapping aplenty.

While Marquez failed to improve his time, Valentino Rossi put in an uncharacteristically fast lap during his qualifying session, finishing 0.273 sec behind Marquez. On a lap of this length, more than two minutes, that is hardly anything at all. Especially when we look at the top speed deficit between Marquez and Rossi that is sitting on 10 km/h. That alone is enough to make up the 0.273 difference.

Still, Marquez is going to win. But, what if…?

COTA Circuit America MotoGP Rossi


We used the word “uncharacteristic” to describe Rossi’s lap in Q2 because, if we are going to be honest about this, Rossi sucks at qualifying. He is awful at putting one hauling lap together, a trait that has seen him make some famous runs through the field. Rossi qualifying anywhere near the front row is a worrying prospect for everyone else on the grid. For him, second place and so close to the pole-sitter is practically a pole. If this is his pace in Qualifying, what will Mr Sunday do for the race?

Still, Marquez is going to win. But, what if…?

COTA is infamously harsh on tyres, something Marquez has always used to his advantage. He and that Honda have been able to get away with running harder tyres and even running tyres that are not so hard. Their style of braking late and hard right into the corner, quickly squaring it off and then blasting out with the bike stood up means they’ve been less harsh on rubber than the high cornering speed style of the Yamahas.

And yet this track is now bumpy as all hell, and seemingly getting bumpier every year. The bumpiness has a positive effect on tyre wear because it means the bikes are not leaning as hard and not putting as much pressure on the tyres.

More so, we saw Marquez wobbling down the back straight while Rossi looked as steady as can be. Rossi agrees: “Usually a strong point of our bike is stability. So maybe we have some other problems but the bike is quite stable, and in this track for me in the last years we are strong, also because the bike on the bumps is quite good. I think it’s a characteristic of the M1.”

Still, Marquez is going to win. But, what if…?

We’ve seen Rossi take on impossible odds. The most famous was Laguna Seca in 2008 where a thundering Casey Stoner was more than half a second a lap faster than anyone else throughout the weekend. We all know how that turned out.

If Rossi does win, the world will explode. He is still by far the most popular rider in the world, and a result like that would mean a World War of celebration. Italy will drown in vino, and the town of Tavullia will be catatonic. It would be something to see.

Regardless, Marquez is going to win. He definitely is. We all know he is going to pull something out during the race.

Still, what if…?



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