Texas: The Magician, The Diavola and The Doctor
Marc Marquez around the Circuit of the Americas is probably the 93rd wonder of the world. Undefeated for five in a row, this year’s win was also his eleventh straight victory in America and his name seems permanently etched on the trophy. It is one of those combinations that creates witchcraft. This season though, they left the engraving late because we were promised a duel.
So where was that duel?
Unfortunately, the duel was sliding into the run-off at Turn 18, and the duel took home zero points for the first time in over a year.
Now, there was a school of thought that chalked Marquez’s crash in Argentina down to pressure. As the MotoGP paddock heads back to Europe for Jerez, the same can now be asked of Maverick Viñales in Texas. Whatever pressure Marquez had to win, Viñales had the same to steal the crown from the King of COTA.
Viñales says it was a strange crash, he doesn’t understand what happened, and it must have been the tyre. This raises two immediate questions: one, do you believe him? And two, does it matter?
In terms of mentality as we head for Jerez, maybe it doesn’t. If pressure played a role and he knows that, it is surely now even more that he feels on his shoulders. If it didn’t and the crash is unexplained, that carries a burden of its own. If you crash out of a race and can’t find a reason, you don’t know how to stop it from happening again.
- MotoGP - Cuircuit of the Americas - Texas - 2017 -
So the number 25 rider leaves Texas with a few questions, not the least of which is how he would have fared in that now mythical duel.
On the flip side, the men on the podium leave with a few more answers. Both Repsol Honda riders said they’d made big progress in Texas, and Valentino Rossi seemingly started getting to real grips with the 2017 M1 before the usual Sunday miracle with an impressive front row. Marquez tried two distinct setups on Saturday and found one so much better that he immediately jumped at it, and Rossi praised the positives of the bike later in the race.
And Dani Pedrosa took the hole shot from the second row like we’d gone back in time.
Pedrosa has been a quiet presence near the top during testing, and a top five at one of his worst tracks in Qatar and then a crash in Argentina did not do justice to his potential in 2017. Now, COTA does a little more. Leading a race again, fighting to stay there, keeping it upright and launching it all with one of the most impressive starts we’ve seen for some time, the number 26 was back where he belongs in Texas and it was great to see.
- Jack Miller - MarcVDS - Circuit of the Americas - Texas - 2017 -
The final thing to mention from COTA is probably the biggest – the changes in the Championship. Marquez is BACK and it’s now Valentino Rossi at the head of the standings as we head onto very successful turf for the Yamaha rider – starting with the place he took his first win last year and shuffling through some of his best tracks. The only rider to have been on the podium in every race, the Doctor showed the old adage to be true: consistency really is key sometimes. Marquez’ 2016 calling card.
There were a few interesting things off track in Texas, too. Handshakes in parc ferme, respect uttered in Press Conferences and Marquez even clapping when Rossi – in the most perfectly judged tone – compared him to a diavola pizza.
That’s exactly what we want in MotoGP. Characters, opinions, personality and respect. It’s understandable that ruthlessly racing side by side at 350km/h can ruffle feathers – as Zarco found out and may continue to – but it’s good to see the Cold War defrosting even more into what it should have remained.
Now let’s see if that begins to make waves. Because whoever the pantomime villain is for any fan, every rider plays a role in the most spectacular show on Earth - and that’s why we love it.
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