Austin: No matter where he starts, Spain’s Marc Marquez is the king of Texas.
And now it’s off to the European heartland of MotoGP after another dominant victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas and a leap toward the top of the season championship.
Marquez stormed to his sixth consecutive victory at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, once again making easy work of a track where the four-time MotoGP champion has seldom even been tested.
The only thing unusual about this race was Marquez’s starting spot. A penalty for interfering with Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales in qualifying had bumped Marquez and his Repsol Honda from pole position to fourth.
It made no difference.
A bolt off his starting line saw Marquez muscle past Vinales and into second behind Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone of Italy by the first turn. Iannone held the lead through the slingshot downhill left turn but couldn’t fight off Marquez to keep it.
By the time their bikes were ripping down the long straight halfway through the first lap, Marquez was on the hunt and he made an easy pass for the lead. From there, it was just a matter of avoiding mistakes on an easy Sunday drive.
There was no chance of reeling him back to the pack. Marquez pulled away lap by lap until his lead reached 7 seconds, and then he coasted in for the win.
Vinales and Iannone knew their day would be a fight for second, not first. Vinales finished second and Iannone was third.
“Marc and this track are another story,” Iannone said. “I hope to fight with him another time.”
Marquez has been unbeatable at the Circuit of the Americas. He’s won every race since it first hosted MotoGP in 2013. Sunday’s victory moved Marquez to second in the season championship, a single point behind Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso of Italy.
And by quickly grabbing the lead on Sunday, Marquez stayed clear from the kind of wild racing three weeks ago in Argentina that earned him two penalties for bumping other riders and causing a crash.
His antics in South America drew warnings from MotoGP officials that dangerous racing would draw heavy sanctions for any rider. Marquez was the first to feel the consequences with his penalty in Texas for impeding Vinales in qualifying.
Marquez had seemed cavalier about the penalty that bumped him from pole position and showed why on Sunday: No other rider was in his class once the race started.
“After what happened in Argentina, I changed my strategy and tried to lead from the start,” Marquez said. “Once I saw the gap, I was able to manage the race.”
As he crossed the finish line, Marquez stood on his bike, thumped his chest with both hands and took a bow toward his garage. He also grabbed an American flag for a victory lap to honour Nicky Hayden, the American 2006 MotoGP champion who died in 2017 when he was hit by a car while training on his bicycle in Italy.
“I enjoyed a lot to make that lap in his memory,” Marquez said.
Vinales’ first podium of the season puts him just four points behind Marquez in the championship standings heading to the next race in Spain. Vinales won three of the first five races of 2017 but hasn’t taken the checkered flag since winning in France nearly a year ago.
“We are coming,” Vinales said. “I’m actually really happy. Today I think was the maximum we could do. I can’t wait to get to Spain.”