This just in from Dorna:
Wednesday, 06 April 2022
The wait is over and we have the answer: the King of COTA is on the way. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) will be back in action at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, ready to rodeo and recovered from his Indonesian GP crash. For the rest of the grid, that could spell a very different weekend ahead as the number 93 has only once failed to win at the venue in MotoGP™. It staged his rookie win, he was undefeated until crashing out in 2019, and he’s qualified on pole at the venue for every single event since 2013 – except last year. But then, last year he still went on to win by some margin. He remains, then, the favourite… but there’s plenty more to talk about too.
First mention has to go to Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia. There was only one factory on the grid who hadn’t won in MotoGP™ and one rider who had never taken a Grand Prix win in any class, so it was a truly historic feat for man and machine. It was also – stats and grand narratives aside – just an objectively very impressive performance. Few could go with the number 41 out front, with only Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) in the battle and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Joan Mir shadowing the duel. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) also took his best result since moving to the factory by far in P7, so the question now is… what do the Noale factory have in the locker for Texas?
Suzuki, too, will be interesting – and Rins arrives not only fresh from the podium but also as the only non-MM93 winner at the track. Ever. Can he bridge that gap that kept him just outside striking distance in Termas? His teammate, 2020 MotoGP™ Champion Joan Mir, will also be looking to do the same, with the number 36 having just missed out on the rostrum. He did say, however, that he’s got that 2020 feeling back – and that a little more time may have allowed a little more attack in Argentina. Team Suzuki Ecstar also lead the teams’ Championship after another interesting race day tango, and have been one of the most consistent teams and factories on the grid, so promises of progress shouldn’t be taken lightly for their rivals.
For Ducati, meanwhile, it’s returned to somewhat of a modern classic for the moment: they lead the Constructors’ standings thanks to three different riders in the first three races. First it was Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP), then Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and now Martin, and the obvious omission is the Ducati Lenovo Team. Argentina proved a tough weekend overall for both Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller, and Miller himself offered a slightly heart-breaking stat on social media after coming home in 14th – having started 14th – saying it’s the first race he can ever remember taking part in where he didn’t overtake a single rider. But he has had some very good form at COTA, and will be confident of a turnaround.
Bagnaia, meanwhile, already bounced back on Sunday, at least into the top five after a really tough first day. That was an impressive show of mettle, and the Italian also has form in the lone star state having been on the podium there last year and qualified on pole. Will more familiar and recently-tilled turf prove a key positive for the Italian?
Martin will want to keep his frontrunning form having taken a front row in every race so far and then failed to convert it into points or podiums until Termas, and Zarco will want to bounce back. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) nailed Saturday and then slipped down the order on Sunday, ultimately also beaten by the other side of the box. Marco Bezzecchi is now the leading Rookie in 2022 after taking that impressive ninth place, with the Italian having shown flashes of brilliance already but not having been able to quite put it all together on Sunday until Argentina. Can he keep it pinned at COTA?
KTM’s Argentina, meanwhile, was a mixed bag but not a bad one considering the newest factory on the grid’s level of experience at the venue – and the fact that Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had never actually ridden it before in the premier class. He took P6 and remains second in the riders’ standings, seven points off Aleix Espargaro at the top. Teammate Miguel Oliveira had a tougher weekend that went through Q1 to P13 in the race, but there were positives – and with Yamaha and Honda continuing to have a more difficult season, the team and constructor standings remain very healthy for the Austrian factory even as Aprilia, Ducati and Suzuki pipped them in Argentina.
Over at Yamaha, the feelings will be less mixed. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP) both suffered issues at Termas – the former a puncture and the latter a technical problem – so there at least, there’s a could have been. And Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP) continues learning the ropes. But reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completed the race with nothing actually going wrong, but like Qatar, did not come home with the position he wanted – and not for lack of trying. The number 20 went backwards off the line and backwards some more before eventually taking P8, explaining that rear grip was the biggest hurdle. Last year at COTA he was best of the rest behind what was essentially Marquez’ private Marquez vs Marquez challenge at the front, so it will be interesting to see what has changed – or hasn’t – as we return to Texas only a few months later…
For Honda, finally, the return of Marquez likely marks a return to high hopes following an excellent debut for the new RC213V in Qatar and then a more difficult two rounds. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) recovered well from being outside Q1 to fourth on the grid before crashing out in Argentina too, showing there is speed even if everything didn’t go to plan on Sunday. Pol Espargaro, as well as Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Castrol) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), will want more from this weekend though… so will having the COTA benchmark back in the saddle help Honda as the new bike gets fettled in?
All will be revealed on Sunday as MotoGP™ takes on Texas, with another 25 points up for grabs – and plenty, plenty of headlines waiting to be made. Tune in on Sunday at 13:00 local time (GMT-7) for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas!