Always expect the unexpected. The GP of the Americas proved the truth of this, in an extraordinary afternoon of surprises.
The biggest came from former King of Cota Marc Marquez, who sprang into the lead from pole position, and was better than three seconds clear when he crashed under braking at the end of the long straight on the ninth lap.
Unable to restart his Repsol Honda, he handed the lead to fans’ favorite Valentino Rossi (Monster Yamaha).
But the 40-year-old veteran was not alone, and with four laps to go his constant companion Alex Rins was able to pounce. Rossi fought back to the end, but the Ecstar Suzuki had looked after its tires better than the Yamaha, and the 23-year-old Spaniard went on to take a narrow but historic first premier-class win.
“I have no words. I have dreamed about this since I was a child,” said Rins.
Dropping back by the finish, Australian Pramac Ducati rider Jack Miller had to nurse his choice of soft tires front and rear as factory Mission Winnow Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso closed remorselessly, after starting from 13th on the grid.
In the end, Miller hung on to a first dry-weather podium by less than a second. Dovizioso had the consolation of taking the championship lead.
Marquez’s indiscretion was not the only Honda disaster. Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was having a difficult race when he coasted to a stop with a mechanical failure. Hard-pushing independent-team rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) had been running strongly in third when he fell off after only five laps.
Second factory Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales and Rins’s Suzuki team-mate Joan Mir both suffered ride-through penalties for jumped starts. This left a chance for a career-best result for Petronas Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli, who was fifth ahead of second factory Ducati teamster Danilo Petrucci.
Fabio Quartararo’s seventh was also a best-yet for the Petronas Yamaha rookie; and likewise for ninth-place fellow class rookie Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati), who was less than a second behind Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM).
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) came through for a close tenth, the only Honda finisher, with Vinales taking 11th ahead of Andrea Iannone (Aprilia) at the end.
The last points went to Johann Zarco, class rookie Miguel Oliveira (both Red Bull KTM) and Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Ducati).
Dovizioso (54) heads the title fight from Rossi (51), Rins (49), deposed leader Marquez (45) and Petrucci (30).
Swiss veteran Thomas Luthi, returned to Moto2 after a fruitless single season in MotoGP, returned to winning ways with a clear win at CotA, outpacing Dynavolt Intact Kalex team-mate Marcel Schrotter, with both of them leaving early leader Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex) to a distant battle for fifth.
It was the 32-year-old former 125 champion’s 12th Moto2 win.
But it wasn’t an all-Kalex podium, with Speed Up rider Jorge Navarro coming through steadily to take third place from Marquez with three laps to go.
One lap later, another returned veteran snitched fourth. Mattia Pasini, who retired at the end of last season, was back as substitute rider for injured Garcia in the Flexbox HP40 Kalex team. In his first time on a Triumph-powered Moto2 bike, the Italian was better than two seconds clear of the fifth-place fight.
Marquez, his tyres sliding badly, had his hands full fending off Luca Marini (SKY VR46) and a hard-pushing Sam Lowes (Federal Oils Kalex). Veteran Simone Corsi (Tasca Kalex) was a close eighth.
Rookie Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex) took a third successive top ten, comfortably ahead of team-mate Andrea Locatelli in tenth. Remy Gardner (ONEXOX Kalex) got back to the head of a five-bike battle for 11th.
Gardner had been pushed wide on the first lap avoiding a falling Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), who had been unable to avoid the suddenly slowing Jorge Martin ahead of him. Baldassarri won the first two races, but was out of the third.
Likewise the luckless Xavi Vierge (EG-VDS Kalex), starting from 20th after getting mired in Q1, and out in a three-bike tangle on the first corner, along with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Speed Up) and American rider Joe Roberts (Kalex).
Also out early on, Red Bull KTM rider Brad Binder, retiring with clutch trouble.
Baldassarri retained a narrow points lead, 50 to Schrotter on 47 and Luthi (45); then Gardner (38) and Marquez (36).
Aron Canet took a fine tactical win, his first since 2017 – the Sterilgarda KTM rider rising above a chaotically close brawl on the final lap to lead over the line by almost a full second.
Late-race leader Andrea Migno narrowly lost out to his Bester Capital KTM team-mate Jaume Masia for second place. Masia, who took a maiden win at the last race, had come through from the middle of the pack.
It was KTM’s first podium lock-out sinced Le Mans last year.
Inches behind, the best of the Hondas, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kommerling Honda) narrowly ahead of pole starter Niccolo Antonelli, whose SIC58 Honda team-mate Tatsuki Suzuki had led from laps five to 12, only to slip off under the pressure of the pursuit.
The pursuit was packed up close, from second to ninnth within one second. Tony Arbolino (Snipers Honda) was sixth, the Sama KTM of Raul Fernandez, Alonso Lopez (EG Honda) and Celestino Vietti (SKY VR46 KTM).
With early title leader Kaito Toba crashing out, Masia took over the table, equal on points but with better placings than Canet on 45 points each. Dalla Porta (13th today) is next, equal on 32 points with Antonelli.