Los Angeles: Marc Marquez’s dominance at the Circuit of the Americas was on full display Friday as the Spaniard defied a crash to top the MotoGP times in both practice sessions in Austin, Texas.
The Honda rider, who holds an eight-point lead atop the standings after victory in Argentina, will be seeking a fourth straight Grand Prix of the Americas triumph on Sunday.
Not surprisingly, he set the pace in the first free practice with a time of 2min 04.953sec on the fast course nestled in the hills outside the Texas capital - with Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo .255sec back on his Yamaha.
Marquez moved to the top of the second-session times with his sixth lap, clocking 2:04.560.
With 25 minutes remaining he was challenging for a lap under 2:04 when he crashed in turn 20, hopping up to his feet and pushing his bike back to his pit box.
The setback was temporary, as Marquez went on to clock the top time of the session of 2:04.034 - more than half a second ahead of his nearest challenger.
That was Italian Andrea Iannone, who was 706sec back on a Ducati in the second session after posting the third-fastest time in the first.
“Overall, I’m happy with how the day went,” Marquez said. “Acceleration was something of an unknown, but it seems initially that it is not as much of a factor here as at other circuits, because most of the corner exits here are in first gear, and we don’t lose so much.”
Marquez said his crash was the result of purposely pushing, even as he remained unsure of how his bike would behave as it was set up for practice.
“I saw that I was going very well on a lap and, on the last corner, I left my braking until a little later than before,” he said. “I found out where the limit is.”
Maverick Vinales on a Suzuki rounded out the top three in the second session, .861sec off the pace and ahead of Britain’s Scott Redding and Lorenzo.
Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, whose third place finish last year is his best showing at Austin, was sixth-fastest in the second session, an improvement on his earlier seventh-quickest.
Rossi arrived stateside second in the standings, but Austin has been a tough track for Yamaha, and while new Michelin tires have eased some of their troubles it remains to be seen if issues will exist when the laps increase.