Super six! Marquez blitzes rivals to keep perfect US record
MARC Marquez couldn't have headed to a better circuit after his turbulent fortnight.
The reigning world champion annihilated the MotoGP field to win the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas to his sixth consecutive victory at the Austin circuit.
Pole starter Maverick Vinales came home second while Andrea Iannone was third, holding off a mid-race challenge from Valentino Rossi to take his first podium finish for Suzuki.
Anyone expecting fireworks on the run to Turn 1 between Marquez and Rossi, starting side by side on Row 2, would be sorely disappointed.
In fact, the impact of Marquez's three-place grid penalty lasted all of half a lap.
Iannone blitzed his fellow front row starters to lead in Turn 1, but Marquez was already on his back wheel. As the field charged down the long back straight, the Honda blazed past the Suzuki to take the lead.
Apart from a brave dive by Iannone coming onto the back straight on Lap 3, that was all she wrote for the battle for victory.
The gap steadily rose by the lap, creeping past one second, then another, and then another.
"For me, that was my strategy," Marquez said. "Start, push, and that's it.
"I didn't have confidence to battle, so I pushed from the beginning and tried to open a gap."
Iannone had only the factory Yamahas for company, the trio dropping the scrap for fifth between Johann Zarco, Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa.
Vinales found his way past the Suzuki at Turn 1 on Lap 7, and at the time it looked like Rossi would soon follow suit. But the Italian legend couldn't find a way past his countryman, and within a few laps a margin of a few bikelengths grew between the two blue machines.
Crutchlow's world championship lead evaporated with a crash at the final corner at the end of Lap 8. The Englishman would rejoin, but in a distant last place.
Hafizh Syahrinh's brave race after a heavy crash in the warm-up ended a lap later, crashing at the other end of the front straight, while Karel Abraham also headed to the garage at the same time, still suffering lingering effects from his crash out of Q1 the day before.
Rins' pursuit of Zarco et al in the battle for fifth came to a crashing halt on the halfway lap, the Suzuki's front end tucking under as he rode out of Turn 12, sliding to a stop near the race line and causing a few nervous moments for those behind as they narrowly avoided the stricken bike.
The margins among the first four began to blow out through the second half of the race, Dovizioso remaining glued to the back of Zarco in fifth as the pair began to slowly drop Pedrosa.
It was on for young and old at the bottom of the top 10.
Jorge Lorenzo held eighth, leading Tito Rabat, Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro, until six laps to go when Rabat found his way past his countryman.
Not wanting to be left behind, Miller struck at Turn 1 on the following lap with a cheeky move, forcing Lorenzo to sit up and allowing Espargaro to cut past the factory Ducati rider as well. Miller would soon chase down and pass Rabat to move into eighth, but was unable to shake the satellite Ducati, nor the Aprilia.
Dovizioso finally found a way past Zarco into fifth, using Ducati horsepower to blast past down the back straight with four laps to go.
It was an important move; with Crutchlow out of the points and Marquez a mile in front, the points for fifth were enough to give Dovizioso a slender one-point championship lead.
That was the last change among the leading positions before the chequered flag, Marquez maintaining his perfect record at COTA and stretching his streak of wins on American soil to 12. He pulled up on the cool-down lap to pick up a massive flag bearing the No.69, a tribute to the late Nicky Hayden in what is now MotoGP's only trip to the US each year.
Vinales would have trailed home over eight seconds adrift but for Marquez's celebrations on the run to the line, with Iannone a couple of seconds further behind to take Suzuki's second podium in a row.
Rossi was a distant fourth ahead of Dovizioso, Zarco and the courageous Pedrosa, riding through the pain of his broken wrist to claim a significant haul of points for seventh.
Rabat mugged former teammate Miller on the final lap for eighth, while Espargaro completed the top 10.
Lorenzo, Danilo Petrucci and Pol Espargaro on the KTM were next, Takaaki Nakagami the first rookie home in 14th, while Alvaro Bautista rounded out the point-scorers.
Bradley Smith brought home his KTM in 16th ahead of Scott Redding and Tom Luthi, while Crutchlow clawed his way up to 19th ahead of Xavier Simeon and Franco Morbidelli - the only other finishers - despite a time penalty for cutting the circuit late in the race.
The world championship heads to Europe now for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez on May 6.