Two races into the season, Viñales remains the man to beat. With his two textbook wins at the Losail and the Termas de Río Hondo circuits in his maiden year with Yamaha, he will push to the maximum again this weekend to make it a hat-trick in Austin and give Yamaha its 500th Grand Prix win. Vinales is a big fan of the COTA‘s elevated character and has a lot of good memories from this place, where he secured a strong second place in Moto3 in 2013 and won his first Moto2 race in 2014. His best MotoGP finish at the American track was a fourth place, just off the podium, last year.
Rossi also enjoyed a very strong start to the season and has shown twice that he knows how to come out swinging in the race, regardless of grid position. Together with his teammate, he is the proud owner of a 100% podium finish rate in 2017 and has a plan to keep it that way. The Doctor aims to find a good balance for his bike early in the race weekend, so he can not only feature at the front but also put a claim on the top step of the rostrum, 13 years after his first win with Yamaha (18 April 2004, African Grand Prix). Last year he had a difficult race at COTA, but he will use the experience as extra motivation to show the American fans what he‘s got in store, like he did in 2015 when he finished third.
After spending one week back in Europe following the Argentine GP, Reigning Champion Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa are heading to the COTA for the next challenge.
Repsol Honda Team have achieved two 1-2 finishes in Austin with Marquez and Pedrosa in 2013 and 2014. For his part, Marquez has never lost at the COTA (which was also the scene of his first-ever Premier-class victory, in 2013), nor has he started from anywhere but pole position in the four times he has raced at the track. The Spaniard has four wins in all from 2013 – 2016. Pedrosa has two podiums to his name at COTA; two 2nd in 2013 and 2014.
Expected challengers for the top runners at COTA include Ducati’s lead man Andrea Dovizioso, who’s currently third in the standings, Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and fellow Suzuki rider Alex Rins. Dovizioso intends to redeem himself after crashing out of the last race from a bump by Aleix Espargaro’s bike. Meanwhile, both Suzuki riders are eager to pick up the pace after a disappointing finish at the Argentine GP last time out, where they failed to pick up points. Iannone ended his race in 16th place, while Rins had to give up after 14 laps due to a right ankle pain.