Austin’s first MotoGP race had a first-time winner and a record-setter.
Marc Marquez, a 20-year-old rookie on the circuit, not only picked up his first MotoGP victory, but he became the youngest winner at motorcycling’s highest level.
“Marc was super today,” summed up his Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, who finished second.
On Saturday at Circuit of the Americas, Marquez became the youngest rider to win the pole for a MotoGP race, but that edge didn’t last long. On Sunday, Marquez drifted high on the first turn, and Pedrosa swooped in low to pass him. Marquez then dogged Pedrosa for a dozen laps before returning the favor.
Marquez then gradually pulled away, winning in 43 minutes, 42.123 seconds, with Pedrosa finishing 1.5 seconds behind. Jorge Lorenzo, the defending world champion, was third, more than 3 seconds off the pace.
In the first race of the year on April 7 in Qatar, it was Lorenzo who quickly pulled away from the field. But even though Yamaha had joined Honda for a private test at Circuit of the Americas last month, the Yamaha team couldn’t find a way to accelerate as powerfully or brake as sharply as the Honda bikes.
Also in contrast to the results in Qatar, Lorenzo’s teammate, motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi, was unable to snake his way through the field. Rossi finished sixth Sunday, while Brit Cal Crutchlow claimed fourth and German Stefan Bradl was fifth.
The crowd of 61,091 — the figure released Sunday by circuit officials — saw Dallas’ Ben Spies finish 13th and Houston’s Colin Edwards drop out halfway through the race. Nicky Hayden, a former world champion from Kentucky, placed ninth.
Marquez eclipsed a mark set by “Fast Freddie” Spencer, who won in Belgium in the 500cc classification in 1982 at the age of 20 years and 196 days. That win happened about 10 years after Spencer won his first street race, at age 11, at Green Valley Raceway in Dallas.
Another American rider who won a Grand Prix at the age of 20, Randy Mamola, was at the circuit Sunday. In the 1980s, Mamola finished second four times in motorcycling’s world championship, and he won 13 Grand Prix races in his career.
“He’s one of us,” Mamola said of Marquez. He was impressed with the Spaniard’s obvious talent and MotoGP’s newest venue in the United States.
Pedrosa said the circuit was particularly tough on him because it was physically demanding and, at 5 feet 3 inches and 112 pounds, he’s on the smallish side even for a professional motorcycle rider. Pedrosa said an injured arm prevented him from chasing harder Sunday but said he was pleased with his finish. Pedrosa was second to Lorenzo last year in the overall championship, but he failed to make the podium in Qatar.
“Having a chance to win the race is a big relief after the first race,” Pedrosa said.
With his third-place finish, Lorenzo made the 100th podium of his career. He said if he had taken a lot more risks Sunday, he might have been able to challenge Pedrosa for second, but he concluded those risks weren’t worth it.
Lorenzo and Marquez leave Austin tied in the championship standings with 41 points each.
According to figures released by Circuit of the Americas, the track’s three-day, inaugural MotoGP event drew a total of 131,082 fans. Those numbers were similar to, and at least as healthy as, those normally recorded at the two other U.S. stops for MotoGP, Indianapolis and Laguna Seca.