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The shoot-out everyone awaited took place in qualifying – or was it just a warm-up for the race? After all, this battle was only for pole position – and victory went to Marc Marquez, as the Repsol Honda rider reclaimed the high ground at the circuit where he has never been outqualified, and so far never been beaten.

It came after a dramatic finale. Marquez had set to bar high with two very fast laps early in the session.

Then at the very end came Vinales, with a series of red bars on the timing screen as he went faster still.

Briefly the Movistar Yamaha rider, winner of the opening two rounds this year, topped the time sheets, almost a second inside the lap record.

But Marquez was just a little way behind on track, and he was going faster still.

Marquez, MotoGP, Grand Prix of the Americas, 2017.

He reclaimed pole by 0.13 of a second, with a lap of 2’02.741, putting the cap on a tricky day including two crashes in FP3 in the morning.

“Yesterday I was struggling a bit, but we made a big change to the bike this morning, and though FP3 was not so good for me, I already felt: this is the bike.”

Vinales had a dramatic start to the qualifying session after an angry arm-waving encounter with team-mate Valentino Rossi, but made light of it in Parc Ferme, calm and smiling.

Rossi meanwhile redeemed himself by slipping into third in the closing minutes, his first front row of the season. He was eight tenths of a second behind Vinales, at the head of a closer batch of times.

This pushed Dani Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda to head the second from the ever-surprising rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha); with another best-so-far alongside him … Jorge Lorenzo.

It was the new Ducati rider’s first time in Q2 after winning his way through from Q1, where he was second to Australian Jack Miller (VDS Honda). Sixth underlined his assertion that a change in riding position had set him on the right track with the Ducati, and also his promise that he will eventually win races this year.

His team-mate Andrea Dovizioso led row three from fast rookie Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha) and faller Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda). Next up, Scott Redding (Pramac Ducati), Andrea Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki) and Miller. Both of the last two had slipped off early in the session.

Miller, MotoGP, Grand Prix of the Americas, 2017.

Vinales,MarquezRossi, Grand Prix Of The Americas, 2017

Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) was best of the rest.

Double race winner Franco Morbidelli took his second pole of the season in Moto2, with EG-VDS Kalex team-mate Alex Marquez bouncing back from an early crash to qualify third, the pair sandwiching veteran Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Kalex).

Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Kalex) came through to head row two from Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Kalex) and top Suter rider Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing).

Argentine pole qualifier Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) led row three; the top nine riders within a second of pole.

EG Honda rider Aron Canet underlined his extraordinary free-practice advantage in Moto3, usually the closest class, claiming a career second pole position by a yawning margin of almost a full second, with a new circuit best lap 1.7 seconds inside the lap0 record.

Next up, at 2’15.631 to Canet’s 2’14.644. was Joan Mir (Leopard Honda), winner of the first two races, with Rivacold rider Romano Fenati making the front row an all-Honda affair. Times behind Mir were typically close, second to 14th covered by less than a second.

Nicolo Bulega (SKY VR46 KTM) led row two from two more Hondas, of Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannantonio, with row three comprising Bastianini (Honda), new KTM rider Antonelli, and John McPhee (Honda).


Alex Rins’s nightmare start to his MotoGP career continued at the third round, when he was the first of a raft of riders to crash on Saturday morning, and the only one to sustain significant injury.

The former Moto 2 and Moto3 race winner and title challenger suffered a dislocated double fracture to his left wrist, and was ruled out of the Austin GP and probably a few more, as the European season starts in a fortnight.

The fracture was stabilised and temporarily fixed with pins at the University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin, but doctors expected further surgery will be necessary for a definitive repair back in Spain, once the swelling has subsided.

Spaniard Rins (21) suffered back injuries last November when he crashed in his first test of his new Suzuki mount, but managed a worthy ninth in the first race at Qatar – before sustaining a fracture to his right ankle in the break before Argentina in a fall while motocross training.

He crashed out of the race in Argentina, then started his Austin weekend badly when a smoky blow-up on Friday signalled the first engine failure of the season.

Rins was the first of eight riders to fall foul of Michelin tyres caught out by cooler and possibly damper conditions on Saturday morning – two of them crashing twice in the session where track temperature was down by 19 degrees from the previous afternoon.

The most notable double faller was Marc Marquez, the second time baffled by a low-speed high-side on an out lap. The other was Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro.

Rins, Medical after crash, MotoGP, Grand Prix of the Americas, 2017.

Others to fall and to return to the pits looking puzzled as the 45-minutes passed were Alvaro Bautista (Aspar Ducati), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Sam Lowes (Aprilia), Andrea Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki) and right at the end Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati).

Not everybody was affected in the same way, with seven riders able to improve on their Friday lap times – most notably Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha), who took over top slot from Marquez.

To show how precarious tyre performance can be at this level, and by contrast, the Dunlop-shod riders in the two smaller classes not only failed to crash in their Saturday morning final free practice sessions, but almost without exception improved on their lap times from the previous day.

Dovizioso, Crash, MotoGP, Grand Prix of the Americas, 2017.


Three races in, and Avintia Racing and Ducati have already renewed their contract for next year, with the Spanish team down to get two pairs of Desmosedici GP17 bikes for riders Loris Baz and Hector Barbera.

The team joined Ducati in the last races of 2014, after battling with their own Kawasaki-based Avintia machine.

While Barbera has had a troubled start to this season, Frenchman Baz had a day to celebrate on Saturday, after the save of the century at the climax of the Q1 qualifying session.

Baz was set to displace factory Ducati rider Lorenzo in second, to go through to join the elite top ten in Q2 – only for the front to slip away in the final corner.

Baz was down on his side and the bike likewise and starting to spin when somehow he got the tyres to touch down. The rear gripped, almost high-sided him, and he landed back in the seat to finish the lap.

by Michael Scott