All eyes were on Canet in the Moto3 this weekend as the Estrella Galicia rider stormed through the weekend, dominating all sessions leading up to Sunday’s race; the only mishap occurring in FP3 where the Spaniard claimed only the third fastest time. Despite this, Canet continued to outshine his rivals with a stunning pole position that proved to be almost a full second faster than that of Mir’s second.
Canet got off to a strong start – despite the red flag incident and race restart – and was proving to be untouchable, however he was soon joined by Romano Fenati as the Italian closed in on the Estrella machine as the pair exchanged overtakes towards the end of the first lap. Canet was quick to respond to Fenati’s fight to take back the lead on the start/finish straight, but Fenati continued to eye up the inside of Canet and add pressure. As the back end of Canet’s bike proved skittish, Fenati was given yet another opportunity to attack as the pair exchanged more aggressive passes, only to leave the Italian remaining in second as Canet pulled through. However Canet’s reign was short-lived as the Spaniard suffered a huge highside at turn 19, throwing away his hopes for a Texan win and gifting the lead to Fenati and enticing the podium battle with a chance to gain 20 points in the championship as Mir, Bulega, Martin and Di Giannantonio forever alternated positions.
With 4 laps to go, the battle for second heated up as Fenati continued to ride into the sunset with the likes of Bastianini and McPhee joining the foursome as the battle slowed enough to turn into a six way fight, with Guevara and Oettl not far off. But Fenati was busy trying to extend his lead at the front, and was unfazed by the real fight that was happening behind him.
The first race of the weekend showed merit for a number of riders, and Canet’s efforts can’t go ignored. However it is the underdog Fenati who came out on top to win his second consecutive win at COTA, the Italian proved strong all weekend with consistent times and claiming the top spot in FP3, and was able to swipe the win from Canet on the Sunday, making him Moto3’s Rider of the Round.
In Moto2, Morbidelli once again conquered the race as well as the weekend by claiming pole ahead of Pasini in second and Alex Marquez in third. Marquez being set to redeem himself after his untimely end at Argentina with consistent top 5 times across the weekend, even claiming the top spot in FP2 and FP3. However it was the Italian atop the podium once again, although it wasn’t without a fight as both Marc VDS riders were seen scrapping alongside Pasnini in the first part of the race, constantly swapping positions which left Pasini to fall behind and under the watch of Luthi. However Marquez was soon demoted to fourth after an error left him missing the apex at turn 15 and going wide, this gave Morbidelli the opportunity he had hoped for and was soon gaining a strong lead over Pasini in second, fastest lap of 2:10.057s soon flying in just after Luthi took second from the Italtrans rider, bridging a gap of his own. The gap between P1 and P2 continued to fluctuate as Luthi held his pace; all the while Marquez was slowly able to regain a position over Pasini, who then in turn suffered a lowside on the following lap and thus enticing Nakagami to join the fight for the podium as the top four pull away from Oliveira in fifth, Morbidelli now setting a 2:09.948 as his lead from Luthi continued to grow.
The top two contenders gradually parted from the battle for third as Luthi crept closer and closer to the Italian, reducing the gap from 0.7s to 0.5s. However, the valiant effort was soon for nothing as Morbidelli responded well and increased the gap, Morbidelli once again showed the control he had during races, like that he had shown in Qatar and in Argentina.
Despite Morbidelli’s strong form yet again, Luthi’s consistent top 6 times and admirable race pace on a circuit not particularly favoured by the Swiss makes him Moto2’s Rider of the Round.
MotoGP saw high expectations for a certain King to reclaim his crown in Texas, and did he deliver. Marquez’s weekend started fairly decent on Friday with a P2 in FP1, only 0.577s off title leader Maverick Viñales, but soon returned to top form by finishing the day at P1. The weekend continued to see a battle of the time sheet as Marquez fell to fifth in FP3, only to regain first in FP4 and claim pole position in qualifying.
Despite the interest sparked between Marquez and Viñales, it was Dani Pedrosa who surprised the crowd on race day as the Spaniard surged off the line and around the outside of his rivals to gain first position with poleman Marquez close behind and the factory Yamaha boys not far off. The frontrunners continued their game of cat and mouse as Pedrosa’s weight allowed him to propel up the hill going into turn 1, only to be re-caught by Marquez’s late breaking; all the while the 46 Yamaha continued at a strong pace to keep with the Hondas. But eyes soon turned to the title leader as the world watched his bike slide off track in a turn 18 lowside, Viñales’ first race error of the season proved to be an important one as it handed the championship lead over to teammate Rossi who continued to remain in a steady third position, unbeknownst to him that the new rival for the podium was Tech 3 rookie Johann Zarco. The Yamaha riders continued to play their own game of cat and mouse, until an attempt at a tight inside pass by Zarco resulted in Rossi making an Assen-like cut across track which certainly caused speculation in and out of the paddock as Rossi’s new-found closeness to Marquez lead to a 0.3s penalty for The Doctor.
Marquez continued to close the gap on Pedrosa until he took the inside line and went ahead of his teammate; however it was short lived as Pedrosa was able to get the perfect drive from turn 11 and retook the lead on the back straight. It didn’t take long for Marquez to fight back as turn 7 through 8 saw the younger Honda rider take the lead and make it stick. As the race continued we saw Pedrosa once again attempt to take first place at turn 12, continuing to try and keep pace with Marquez, however it appeared to be a battle of the tires as Pedrosa’s medium front tire slowly began to lose touch on track compared to his teammate’s hard front and soon fell into the hands of the Italian as Rossi stole second in a block pass with just 3 laps to go and quickly pulled away, the incident with Zarco proving vital as Rossi needed to gain ground on Marquez in order to eliminate the 0.3s penalty and keep the all-important second place.
The crowd watched Marquez completely rule the circuit in the final lap and take his 5th consecutive win with Rossi in second and Pedrosa in third. Rossi’s heroic battle through the field and Pedrosa’s admirable effort to hold the first position for so long and to remain on the podium at the chequered flag were certainly worthy of Rider of the Round, however Marquez’s constant pace throughout the weekend and ability to fight hard for the lead and keep it for a substantial amount of time without ever showing signs of slowing simply can’t be ignored and so he has earned Rider of the Round for COTA. Can’t deny a king his crown, eh?
This weekend proved vital as we now head to Jerez with The Doctor in charge, who will come out on top in Spain?