|The king falls, the ‘Doctor’ gets out-duelled and the young gun makes some history|
|Monday, 15 April 2019|
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is now a MotoGP™ race winner after an incredible performance under pressure at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, able to escape the clutches of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) to secure victory by just under half a second. After a crash out the lead for six-in-a-row COTA winner Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), the race was on for a new Sheriff to take the reins in Texas and it all came down to a duel between Rins and Rossi but the young gun held firm. Another did the same for third, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) taking his first podium in dry conditions as he came home as top Independent Team rider as well as top Ducati.
Marquez took the holeshot from pole and immediately set about trying to pull away, but Rossi was in hot pursuit with a small gap back to Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol). Miller and Rins made for pretty close company too, but the initial big mover was a stunning start for Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) as he gained seven places from a P13 grid position. Then there was the first bout of drama as Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) were both given ride through penalties for jump starts – and Crutchlow then crashed out. That left Rossi with a bit of a gap in second, but Miller and Rins were on the chase.
Suddenly, however, that fight for second became the fight for the win as there was a number 93 Repsol Honda on the floor. The reigning Champion and only man to have previously won in Texas slid out at Turn 12, tried to get back in the race but was ultimately unable to…leaving Rossi in the lead and Rins on the chase.
The ‘Doctor’ held firm as the laps ticked on, but it seemed the Suzuki behind had something in his pocket. Closing in and closing in, with four laps to go Rins finally chose his moment and made his move – getting past well but Rossi quick to try and fight back to no avail. Then, again, the number 46 made a lunge for it on the next lap but this time headed well wide, that seeing Rins able to pull out a bit more breathing space as he settled back into the lead.
As it transpired, another move wouldn’t come but the ‘Doctor’ threw everything at it. Cutting the gap on the final lap there were bitten fingernails as the Jaws music echoed around the track and Rossi closed in, but Rins remained steadfast. With just enough margin in the final sector it all came down to holding his nerve and that he did, crossing the line just under half a second clear – becoming the first man to win in Moto3™, Moto2™ and MotoGP™ at the Circuit of the Americas where, incidentally, he took his first ever Grand Prix win in 2013.
Rossi’s hard-pushed second place makes it twice in a row on the podium for him, though, and Miller’s visit to parc ferme is his first since his stunning debut premier class win at Assen in 2016. That’s also a key number for another two stats: it’s Suzuki’s first win since Silverstone 2016 and Rins made it the first time we’ve had a first time winner since that same season.
Behind that fight for the podium Dovizioso made good on his stellar start to limit some damage and take fourth, making the Qatar winner the new Championship leader. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), who took on the number 04 initially, crossed the line in fifth for his best ever MotoGP™ result, ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati). Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was top rookie once again as he took his best yet of a P7 – improving one position on Argentina – and he’s now well ahead in the fight for Rookie of the Year. Eighth place went to Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) from his best ever KTM qualifying in P5, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) taking his best result in MotoGP™ so far in P9. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) rounded out the top ten as the sole finisher for Honda after a mechanical problem for Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team).
Viñales fought back to P11 after his ride through penalty, ahead of Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing).
That’s a wrap from COTA for 2019. Some history made and a shake up in the Championship sees us heading to Jerez with Dovi in the lead – and Rossi hot on his heels. Rins is now third and Marquez drops to fourth after his crash, but the four are all within nine points as Europe beckons so tune in for Jerez in three weeks for an all-time classic carnival in Spain.
1 – Alex Rins (SPA) 41’45.499
2 – Valentino Rossi (ITA) +0.462
3 – Jack Miller (AUS) +8.454