This weekend the MotoGP paddock contests its first flyaway race since April at the spectacular Circuit of the Americas, scene of the 15th round of the 2021 World Championship.
The Grand Prix of the Americas is also MotoGP’s first trip to the USA since April 2019, offering motorcycle-mad American fans the chance to see the world’s fastest motorcycle racers in action for the first time in two and a half years
Both Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) arrive Stateside in excellent form after posting encouraging performances at the San Marino GP two weeks ago.
Marquez will be highly motivated thanks to his fourth place at Misano – won after getting the better of two rivals in a frantic last-lap battle – which followed on from his brilliant second place at Aragon the previous weekend.
And there is further reason for optimism. Marquez’s record at the Texan venue is formidable. The brilliant Spaniard was just 20 years and 63 days old when he won his first MotoGP race at COTA in 2013, becoming the youngest rider in history to win a premier-class race.
He then went on to win five of the next six races held at the anti-clockwise track. And not just that – the eight-times World Champion was leading the sixth before suffering sliding off. He has never qualified anywhere other than pole position at COTA and has set the fastest lap in six of the last seven races at the track.
The 28-year-old Spaniard’s record at MotoGP tracks featuring an anti-clockwise layout has always been excellent. Because Marquez’s right arm and shoulder are still not at 100% strength, he has had to change his riding position and riding style in right-hand corners, but 11 lefts at COTA should offer him the chance to ride in a more comfortable and familiar manner.
Already this season Marquez has shown superlative form at anti-clockwise tracks, winning the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in July – his 11th consecutive victory there across three classes – and finishing second at the recent Aragon GP, missing victory by 0.673s.
Marquez has always loved racing in the USA, because most American tracks turn left and he grew up riding dirt track, around anti-clockwise ovals, and still uses the discipline in his training programme. Indeed he has won an astonishing 12 of his last 13 races in the US, dating all the way back to his first year in the Honda-powered Moto2 class in 2011.
Marquez and Espargaro come to COTA following a two-day test at Misano, where they worked on settings and development, with two Honda RC213Vs finishing inside the top five.
Espargaro will be particularly buoyed by the test after setting the third fastest time. Recently there have been signs of good progress from the 30-year-old Spaniard, who qualified on pole position for last month’s British Grand Prix and led the early laps of the race. He finished the San Marino GP a hard-fought seventh.
Like Marquez, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion has a fondness for racing in the USA. He scored five straight podium finishes on American asphalt while racing in the junior categories (three in the 125cc class, two in Moto2) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At the Circuit of the Americas he has enjoyed a best finish of sixth, scored in his rookie MotoGP season in 2014.
Another rider that benefited from the two-day test at Misano was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V), who set the fifth fastest time. The 29-year-old from Chiba worked on different set-ups that should help him in his quest to score a top-six finish for the first time since the Styrian GP in August. Nakagami stood on the podium at COTA in 2017 when he competed in Moto2.
This weekend team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) will have his first experience of COTA on a MotoGP bike and will be keen to bounce back after a pair of tough races in Aragon and Misano.
The 25-year-old Spaniard does have decent form at the track from his Moto2 days, with three top-five finishes in his past three visits, including a podium in 2018.
The Circuit of the Americas was constructed late in 2012 and staged its first MotoGP event the following year. Since 2016 it has been the only American venue in the MotoGP World Championship.
Along with its stunning facilities, COTA’s 5.5 km/3.43 miles layout is as varied as it is challenging. The 20 corners offer everything from fast, flowing sections, to heavy braking corners and short, sharp acceleration bursts. The impressive undulations on the run up to Turn One and down to Turn Two help make this is one of the most technical tracks on the calendar.
After Sunday’s racing only three races remain of the 2021 season: the Emilia Romagna GP at Misano on 24th October, the Algarve GP at Circuit of the Algarve on 7th November and the Valencia GP at Circuit Ricardo Tormo on 14th November.