Rins on the podium, surprise errors at the front, some serious charges through the field and a single point in it at the top of the standings: Saturday sent it with another shuffle.
There was adrenaline from the moment the lights went out for the Tissot Sprint at the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) lined up on pole position for the first time in 2023, and it was game on as the chasing pack were eager to get the better of the number 1. Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) tried it early but was shaken off as Bagnaia sprinted free to take victory, but the number 42 battled back into second for a first taste of Prosecco with Honda. It was a duel to decide the final place on the podium, with Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) storming up from 12th on the grid to fend off Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) for third on the final lap.
Rins got the perfect launch as he took the holeshot into Turn 1, but the Honda then ran wide and allowed Bagnaia back through. It only took a few corners before Rins threw it back up the inside of the Ducati again, but the Italian bit back and used his Borgo Panigale power to blast past the Spaniard on the back straight. Meanwhile, Aleix Espargaro and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) had also made impressive starts, shooting up into third and fourth, respectively.
With one lap down, Rins was still all over the rear wheel of the factory Ducati, but then the LCR rider out-braked himself at Turn 12, allowing Espargaro through. It almost let Quartararo through the door as well, but despite a little contact Rins was able to fend the Frenchman off. A lap later and it was Martin next on the scene to duel Quartararo, and the number 89 made shortish work of it, blasting past up into fourth.
Quartararo did his best to find off the Ducati rocketships, but next it was Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). On the brakes, the 2021 World Champion then overshot Turn 12, allowing Alex Marquez through. Half a lap later it all came tumbling down as Quartararo’s Yamaha slid out at Turn 1, with the Frenchman rejoining but well down the order.
Back at the front, Bagnaia began to stretch out the field as he put down some lightning-fast pace. Aleix Espargaro and Rins were holding station in second and third, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. With four laps to go Rins muscled his way past the Aprilia, but as the battle for P2 came to the end of the back straight once again, Rins barrelled into the braking zone ever so slightly over the limit of his LCR Honda. That sucked in Aleix Espargaro, who followed Rins into the corner and ran wide. Alex Marquez was also caught out, the number 73 then down and out of the Tissot Sprint.
Meanwhile, Rins was able to make it stick and make his escape, with Aleix Espargaro left to duel Martin. The Prima Pramac rider had made an attack stick, but onto the final lap, Espargaro was almost riding pillion through the slalom section, desperate to find a way past. The Spaniard wanted to get through on his compatriot before the Ducati could stretch its legs on the back straight, but it wasn’t to be. The final sector arrived and there was only one thing for it: a lunge. Espargaro dived up the inside at the penultimate corner, but he ran wide and the Pramac cut back up the inside, giving Martin his second Tissot Sprint podium of the season.
Whilst the riders out front scrapped it out, the battle for the top five was hotting up too. It was Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who led the group, with Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and teammate Luca Marini in hot pursuit. In the end, the South African was able to fend off the Mooney VR46 Racing riders and bring home fifth from 11th on the grid. Bezzecchi, however, retains the points lead overall by one single point.
Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) got the better of Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) to bring his Aprilia home in P8, with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) rounding out the top 10 after a tough start for Top Gun.
That’s a wrap! A Bagnaia win, a first for Rins and a return for Martin… following an action-packed start to the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas, we now have a chance to catch our breath before it all starts again on Sunday. If Saturday is anything to go by, you do not want to miss any of the action as the Grand Prix race gets underway at 14:00 local time (GMT- 5)!
QUOTES: TOP 3
PECCO BAGNAIA: “It was one of the best days I’ve had in MotoGP considering the performance we had all day. We’ve worked so well from yesterday morning and my feeling with my bike is growing and in this track for the first time, I’m feeling great. So we worked well. This morning with used tyres I was feeling OK so I was already understanding where to improve. But today for the Sprint it was quite difficult because the conditions were quite hot and it was difficult to stop the bike. I was having a lot of locking and sincerely it was a bit of a problem at the start of the race, but then I got used to it and I was managing it. But I think tomorrow will be another story for the conditions.
How are you feeling and who do you see as potential threats over 20 laps?
“First of all 20 laps are a lot, even today with 10 laps it was quite long. We have to remain calm, I think you can push from the start like today. I had to wait a bit and the first part of the race was a bit slower for sure. Then we will see if I can improve the pace a bit and if I have the pace to open up a gap like today. In any case, we have to keep calm and see like today what will be the conditions that will change for sure. I just saw that maybe it will be colder so it will be easier to be competitive. Let’s see…”
ALEX RINS: “We had a really great day today, qualifying and the Sprint. I gave my maximum, I tried to overtake Pecco as soon as possible because I knew he had good pace and I tried to ride on my own but he overtook me and then I went straight at T12, with the hot temperatures it was difficult to not lock the font and to stop the bike. But we did a great race, let’s see tomorrow, for sure this bike isn’t the same as the bike I was riding last year, and what I can say is I need more strength in my body to be fast through the chicanes to be fast, but let’s see tomorrow.
“We have a good bike, a lot of information, today honestly the hot temperatures we didn’t expect and didn’t ride with them before so for us, or for me, the electronics wasn’t at 100%, so let’s see if tomorrow it’s warmer like this but we have information. As Pecco says, the race today was fast so we’ll need to take more care of the tyres to arrive with better performance at the end of the Grand Prix race.”
JORGE MARTIN: “Today I was struggling a lot in qualifying. In FP I felt super confident, I had a really good pace, was really close to the top guys, and I was feeling great. I think the antibiotics did their work and in the race, I was struggling a lot with my physical condition. But anyway the team did an amazing job preparing both bikes to be ready to race. Finally, we chose a bike that I thought was the good one even though we had some issues in the race. Coming through from 12th to 3rd position is not easy but I gave my 100%. Yesterday I was feeling worse so I feel like tomorrow I will maybe be better and have more strength to battle a bit better also.”
Talk us through battle with Aleix!
“As soon as I overtook him I felt so weak, so I just waited for his overtake. I was just going slow and braking hard, and finally, I could use that to beat him. You know, I was super slow but I was just taking my time to understand how to manage the battle. It wasn’t easy but I was cleverer than him today and I hope tomorrow I feel better. I will try to rest today a lot and to gain a lot of energy tomorrow!”
MotoGP Top 4 – Sprint Result – Americas GP
1. Francesco BAGNAIA – ITA – Ducati Lenovo – 20’35.270
2. Alex RINS – SPA – LCR Honda CASTROL – +2.545
3. Jorge MARTIN – SPA – Prima Pramac Racing – +4.706
4. Aleix ESPARGARO – SPA – Aprilia Racing – +5.052
MotoGP Top 4 Championship Points after Sprint – Americas GP
1. Marco BEZZECCHI – ITA – Mooney VR46 Racing – 54pts
2. Francesco BAGNAIA – ITA – Ducati Lenovo Team – 53 pts
3. Johann ZARCO – FRA – Prima Pramac Racing – 35pts
4. Alex MARQUEZ – SPA – Gresini Racing MotoGP – 33pts