The supporting characters might change but the story seems to be the same – Nathan and I go to Austin, we eat great food, drink a bunch of beer, and check out some interesting bikes. Oh, and some guy named Marquez wins a race, I guess.
Photos by Nathan May unless otherwise specified.
One of the great things about coming to Austin for MotoGP weekend is that a huge percentage of the motorcycle industry is here as well. The problem for me is that I spend a lot of time seeing old friends and making new ones, so I’m not able to start writing these daily recaps until we get back to our lodging well past midnight. The last two nights I’ve gone to bed at 4:45am and 5:15am so I wanted to sleep in until 9:30am. Because of that we missed the warm up and part of the Moto 3 race. No worries – when we arrived we were greeted by a well-loved BMW toaster tank /5.
Inside the Media Center, I noticed that the room used for conferences was empty, so…
While Nathan was shooting bikes (as you’ll see below), I wanted to chat with some of the passionate fans that show up for race day.
If I had to guess, 80-85% of the fans in attendance were supporting Rossi and 10% were for Marquez. Occasionally I’d see someone with a Dovi #04 flag or similar (KTM sells a section of tickets that include swag so there’s a few KTM flags around), but Valentino’s blue and yellow dominate the color palette in Austin.
Before the race weekend started, Circuit of the Americas announced that they were going to name a corner for the first time. Turn 18 will now be known as Hayden Hill, to commemorate Nicky Hayden. His star/69 logo now graces the hill under the tower:
As 2pm approached, the pre-race festivities commenced. A couple of Red Bull skydivers made a grand entrance, though I didn’t see them until after they had touched down:
Last year, I jumped around the track with Nathan during the race, which meant I got to take some great photos but it also meant I really had no idea what was going on until afterwards. This year, I decided to catch the entire race in the media center so I could immediately be aware if something interesting happened. Below are my notes while watching, with some updates after the race was concluded:
20 Laps To Go (First Lap):
I was sincerely hoping that Marquez would have a bad start, just to give him more of a challenge over the next 20 laps. Instead, he almost instantly eliminates the grid position penalty he was given yesterday by jumping into 2nd place before hitting the first turn! This has the potential to be a very boring race.
Marquez is just being mean. He passed Iannone within the first lap and it feels like there isn’t going to be any drama when it comes to the top of the podium. I’m already looking for weird facts to entertain myself. The big loser of the first lap was Danilo Petrucci, who lost 7 places. It’s a shame as he had worked his way up from Q1 to Q2 and earned a starting position of 10th on the grid, but it did not last long. Danilo would eventually claw his way back to a 12th place finish on his Alma Pramac Racing Ducati.
The Media Center is right inside the final corner (Turn 20), so we get to hear the pack accelerate towards the finish line. It’s fantastic, but there’s sadly no window so the experience is audio-only.
19 Laps To Go:
Marquez might be the easy pick to win, but Rossi is who the average fan here wants to succeed. He just passed Crutchlow on the other end of the track to take 4th place and I can hear the crowd go nuts.
18 Laps To Go:
Iannone has what the Brits like to understate as “a moment”, and just about everyone in the Media Center makes a noise resembling “oooooh”. Over the last three days I’ve heard French, Spanish, Italian, German, and several other languages, but Iannone’s shimmy transcends all languages.
18 Laps To Go:
Marquez has just set the fastest lap with a 2’04.808 and his gap on Iannone is already 1.273 seconds. It feels like this will be his for the taking but he’s so damn aggressive that I almost think he’s going to take himself out before this race ends. (Obviously, my “almost” suspicion doesn’t come close to happening).
16 Laps To Go:
The TV footage has been focusing on Maverick Viñales and I don’t really have anything to add except to say that Maverick is a great first name, especially for a motorcycle rider. His logo is perfect, it does a great job capturing the Top Gun vibe:
15 Laps To Go:
Marquez just set another a new fastest lap time: 2’04.605 – the TV coverage has given up and is now featuring the “Battle for 2nd”. Something to note is that Iannone (currently in 2nd) is using a soft rear while Viñales is using a medium – let’s see if that gives Maverick an advantage in the last few laps. It’s great to see Suzuki up front and consistently challenging for podiums again.
14 Laps To Go:
Just kidding – the difference in tire compounds apparently will not be a factor as Viñales makes a pass early in the lap. Rossi is now closing in on Iannone and I don’t even have to watch the screen to know if he makes it – I’ll hear the fans go crazy.
13 Laps To Go:
Marquez’s gap is now 4.15 seconds. I’m annoyed with how good he is. Cal Crutchlow was in 6th place and dueling with Johann Zarco to try and take 5th when he had a minor lowslide in the final corner. Both rider and bike were able to continue on, and Cal was impressively able to finish within a minute of Marquez despite his departure from the bike.
11 Laps To Go:
Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was mid-pack in 12th place when he crashed on Turn 1 and it looks like he’s done for the day. Karel Abraham had been in last place the entire race and he picked this lap to retire as well. Karel hurt his wrist in a crash on Saturday and the pain was too much for him to overcome.
10 Laps To Go:
The first factory casualty occurs as Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) crashes on Turn 12 while in 8th place. He had a lowside but his bike stayed on track – thankfully the three riders right behind him were able to narrowly avoid a pileup. Like Syahrin, Rins is also done for the day.
8 Laps To Go:
Marquez is still racing like he knows something that no one else does. Every time the TV footage cuts to him I have the same two thoughts:
1. Damn, that front end is bouncing all over the place.
2. He does not seem to care.
I take a quick walk away from the Media Center to scope out Syahrin’s bike.
6 Laps To Go:
I pop back in to the Media Center to make sure I haven’t missed anything important, and then I go back outside to see Rins’ bike. The damage looked relatively minor, but I’m obviously not a MotoGP mechanic and there’s a reason why Rins did not continue.
5 Laps To Go:
Dovizioso passes Zarco to capture 5th place, adding a moment of excitement to a fairly procedural race.
4 Laps To Go:
As I mentioned yesterday, this course has 133 feet of elevation change. What’s fascinating is that the entire delta is experienced in the run up to Turn 1. MotoGP’s TV coverage is showing us trivia facts like that in lieu of drama from the racers. I can’t blame them.
3 Laps To Go:
I haven’t heard the crowd cheer all race, which means that Rossi has been in 4th place since Lap 2. I’d love to see him make the podium again (he placed 2nd last year, partially because Maverick crashed out early), but barring a crash here I don’t see Rossi making up enough ground in the final stages of this race.
Marquez has a 7.8 second lead as he gets the white flag. He could win this race in 3rd gear. Tito Rabat makes a pass to snag 8th place, but obviously the star of the show is Marc. He lets up off the gas well before the finish line while standing up and making some sort of “calm down” gesture to the pits. That slowed him down enough such that the official gap between 1st and 2nd place was 3.560 seconds, but that really doesn’t convey how dominating Marquez was throughout the 20 lap race.
I ran out to pit row to catch the celebration while Nathan enjoyed the riders goofing around on the cooldown lap.
While most riders go to their pits after the cooldown/celebration lap, the podium finishers come in to a special area.
This time around the podium consisted of:
1st Place: Marc Marquez / Repsol Honda / 41’52.002
2nd Place: Maverick Viñales / Movistar Yamaha / 41’55.562
3rd Place: Andrea Iannone / Suzuki Ecstar / 41’58.706
While the race itself was fairly uneventful, the combination of Marquez’s win, Dovi’s 5th place finish, and Crutchlow’s misfortune means that the current championship standings are quite close. Dovizioso leads Marquez by just 1 point, and the top 5 spots are separated by just 8 points total:
1st Place: Andrea Dovizioso / Ducati / 46 points
2nd Place: Marc Marquez / Honda / -1
3rd Place: Maverick Viñales / Yamaha / -5
4th Place: Cal Crutchlow / Honda / -8
5th Place: Johann Zarco / Yamaha / -8
But let’s get back to the end of Austin:
Said selfie was then posted on the MotoGP twitter feed:
— MotoGP™🏁🇺🇸 (@MotoGP) April 22, 2018
After the race, CotA allows fans to walk on the track, which is an opportunity I take every year.
Our last night in Austin had one simple objective – I wanted Nathan to see the bats! No idea what I’m talking about? The Congress Avenue bridge in Downtown Austin is the home of the largest urban bat colony in the world. But first, we had to eat some food. Deciding what type of grub was easy – barbecue. What’s not easy is deciding where to go, because there’s a whole lot of options in Austin. We went to Lambert’s and we ended up quite happy with our choice.
So, the bats…
I had a little post from each day at MotoGP – did you miss Saturday?