Marquez takes fourth straight MotoGP COTA victory

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Marc Marquez extended his lead at the top of the MotoGP riders’ championship standings by maintaining his perfect record at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on Sunday.

The Grand Prix of the Americas is the only MotoGP round scheduled to take place in the United States this year following the cancellation of the Indianapolis Grand Prix last year.

Marquez arrived at COTA defending a perfect record at the circuit, having won from pole position in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for Honda.

Fresh from his victory in Argentina seven days ago, Marquez topped all three practice sessions before sweeping to pole ahead of Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

Marquez was beaten by Lorenzo off the line, but managed to wrestle back the lead on the first lap as the fast-starting Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso diced with the Yamaha riders behind.

Marquez soon began to open up a gap to the rest of the field, leaving Lorenzo to focus on Iannone behind as a number of riders crashed out.

Rossi was the first to fall at high speed when going through Turn 2, the front of the bike sliding out through the corner. Despite trying to pick his bike up, the nine-time champion was forced to retire from the race early on.

A bigger incident involving Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa eliminated both from the race soon after when the latter lost control heading into the first corner. Pedrosa fell while going uphill, leaving his bike to career into the helpless Dovizioso and resigning the Ducati rider to his second retirement in the space of a week.

British riders Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith also had falls at the end of the back straight midway through the race, and although both were able to continue, neither could fight back into the points.

Marquez kept his head while all about him were losing theirs, going lights-to-fly to lead Lorenzo home by six seconds, recording his fourth victory at COTA and 10th in the United States.

Iannone crossed the line third ahead of Suzuki riders Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro, both of whom continued their strong start to the season.

Scott Redding finished sixth ahead Pol Espargaro and Emmanuelle Pirro, while Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top 10.

The next MotoGP race takes place on April 24 at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.