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MotoGP Comes to Austin, Drama Ensues

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MotoGP Austin | Image by Karin Dyer/The Dallas Express

Sunday capped off an exciting weekend of MotoGP action in Austin, Texas at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), marked by chaos, disappointment for some, and triumph for others.

Heading into the race weekend, COTA’s race surface was once again a topic of conversation among MotoGP riders and teams.

Dallas Express Photo (89)

Image by Karin Dyer/The Dallas Express

For years, the circuit’s asphalt has been criticized and maligned. 2021 MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo called COTA’s surface a “joke” after the year two years ago, and around that same time Formula 1 race officials also chimed in on the poor state of the surface.

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Image by Karin Dyer/The Dallas Express

These criticisms prompted numerous patchwork resurfacing jobs on Turns 2, 10, and 12 through 16, but they have not been well received.

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Image by Karin Dyer/The Dallas Express

After this Friday’s practice, the reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia chided, “We have four asphalts on this track.”

Other drivers derided the poor maintenance of the surface. Alex Marquez noted, “In some points, like Turns 11, 12, 15, and 20, if you go walking the asphalt is cracking.”

The early weekend criticisms of the track were clear portends of what would become a chaotic Sunday race in which nine riders would not finish on the day.

Picking up where he left off the day before with a dominant spring race, and new COTA lap record, current champion Bagnaia looked like a surefire winner Sunday, leading the grand prix early.

However, on Turn 2 of the eighth lap, Bagnaia lost control and crashed out, ending his day. This marked the second race in a row in which Bagnaia did not finish due to a crash, costing him at least 45 championship points and putting him 11 points behind 2023 MotoGP leader Marco Bezzecchi.

Dallas Express Photo (90)

Image by Karin Dyer/The Dallas Express

“I don’t know what happened. I did, I don’t know how many laps this weekend, maybe 80, maybe 100, pushing, controlling, understanding any [feedback from the bike], any [time] I lost the front during the weekend,” Bagnaia explained.

“And then in the race when I was in total control I crashed. So, I’m very angry, but not with myself because I am 100% sure it wasn’t my fault today. In Argentina I recognised I was a bit on the limit, but today not.”

The accident created an opportunity down the order.

Alex Rins moved into first place and brilliantly delivered a victory, ending Honda’s drought atop the podium that dated back to 2021 and notching his six first place finish in the sport.

The win was his first as a Honda rider and the first for LCR as a team since 2018. It also marked the 100th podium finish for LCR.

“I’m so proud, because we did a great job all weekend,” Rins remarked. “This is the third race for us and honestly, I’m happy because I’m creating my base, and it’s working quite good, especially this weekend we made a step forward, same as in Argentina.”

Dallas Express Photo (92)

Image by Karin Dyer/The Dallas Express

“We need to go into the next races with the same mentality, with the feet on the floor, starting from zero because it’s new for me with the Honda,” he continued.

Rins was the only Honda rider to finish as Joan Mir, Stefan Bradl, and Takaaki Nakagami all ended their days early with on-track incidents.

Ducati leads the Constructors’ Championship currently by a wide margin over Honda, 103 points to 54 points respectively. Rins’ victory at COTA puts him in third place and in the hunt for the championship.

MotoGP moves to Spain for the next race on April 30.

Dallas Express Photo (93)

Image by Karin Dyer/The Dallas Express

This motorsports column is brought to you by Elliott Griffin, principal of Griffin Communications. To read his previous coverage on all things motorsports, click here.

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