Honda’s six-times MotoGP king Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) returns to action at this weekend’s Grand Prix of the Americas after missing the last two races through injury.
The 29-year-old Spaniard with an indomitable spirit took a heavy fall in race-day warm-up at last month’s Indonesian Grand Prix, later suffering a return of the diplopia which forced him to miss the last two races of 2021. Since his return from Indonesia he has been recuperating at home, waiting for the diplopia to subside. Earlier this week his medical team passed him fit to ride the Honda CBR600RR which he uses for circuit training. That Tuesday outing went well, so he was passed fit to race this weekend.
Marquez has an extraordinary record at COTA, winning seven of the previous eight MotoGP races at the circuit. He graduated to the premier class in 2013, the same year COTA hosted its first MotoGP weekend. He won that race, only his second on a big bike, in so doing becoming the youngest-ever rider to win a premier-class Grand Prix, a record he still holds.
The former 125cc and Moto2 World Champion backed up that success with a further six victories between 2014 and 2021. The only COTA race he didn’t win was the 2019 event, when he slid off while leading.
Marquez’s COTA victories are mirrored by an incredible record in other US MotoGP events, with wins at the Indianapolis GP in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and at the US GP at Laguna Seca in 2013. He also won the 2011 and 2012 Honda-powered Moto2 races at Indianapolis.
One of the reasons Marquez is so difficult to beat in the US is that most American racetracks run anti-clockwise, the opposite to most European tracks. The 29-year-Spaniard has always loved left-handed corners, partly because he does a lot of training on dirt track ovals, which also turn left.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) aims to fight for his second podium of the year at COTA, after he tumbled out of the battle for third place at last weekend’s Argentine Grand Prix at Termas de Rio Hondo.
The 30-year-old Spaniard had qualified fourth fastest, just off the front row, and knew the race wouldn’t be easy. At COTA he hopes to return to the podium fight on Honda’s latest RC213V, which really suits his riding technique.
Espargaro had a strong record of racing in the US in the smaller categories, with five straight podium finishes in the 125cc and Moto2 classes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last time out at the track he finished tenth.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) targets a return to the top ten this weekend after a challenging Sunday in Argentina. The 30-year-old Japanese star from Chiba qualified a promising tenth quickest and was aiming to better than in the race, but low-grip conditions didn’t make that easy for him and he finished the race in 12th.
Nakagami had a mostly great weekend last year at COTA. He qualified strongly on the second row of the grid and was fastest in morning warm-up. However, he crashed out of the race, caught out by the track’s hard-to-handle bumps. On this occasion he is out to at least repeat his Saturday performance and better his Sunday performance.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) comes to COTA anxious to put last weekend behind him. The 25-year-old Spaniard had a difficult time at Termas de Rio Hondo, struggling to extract the maximum from his rear tyre during time attacks, which put him on the seventh row of the grid. Starting deep in the pack can be risky and he was hit by another rider at the first corner, which put him 19th at the end of the first lap. By finish he had moved up to 15th, for a single World Championship point.
The younger Marquez knows COTA well, from his Moto3 and Moto2 days. His best result so far is a second place in the 2018 Moto2 race. Last year he finished his first MotoGP race at the track in 13th, less than four seconds outside the top ten.
The Circuit of the Americas joined the MotoGP World Championship in 2013, when there were three MotoGP rounds in the USA: at COTA, Indianapolis and Laguna Seca. Since 2016 it has been the country’s only MotoGP event, making it hugely popular with American fans from right across the US.
The circuit layout is popular with riders, with a hugely challenging variety of corners and sections, plus a 1.2km/0.75-mile back straight which demands plenty of horsepower. COTA features 20 corners, including a dizzying zigzag section from Turns 3 to 9, which helps make this one of MotoGP’s most physically demanding venues. The subsequent Turn 10 is the fastest corner on the track, requiring skill and daring in equal measure.
Earlier this year COTA was extensively resurfaced and strengthened, from Turns 2 to 10 and from 12 to 16, due to complaints from riders about problematic bumps and ripples in the asphalt.
The Grand Prix of the Americas is the last of MotoGP’s four season-starting flyaway races, following the Argentine, Indonesian and Qatar rounds.
After Sunday’s racing the paddock will pack its motorcycles and equipment into flight crates for the last time for several months, because the series is returning to its European heartland, where a series of 12 races take place over the next five months, starting with the Portuguese and Spanish GPs on April 24 and May 1.