While Yamaha is rolling and Honda is eyeing this weekend’s Red Bull of the Americas Grand Prix as its season breakout, Suzuki has been noticeably absent from the upper half of the MotoGP standings.
Through two of the 18 stops on the tour, Suzuki drivers Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone are 16th and 22nd, respectively, heading into the race at Circuit of the Americas. Rins has seven points and Iannone is scoreless. Rins is riding with a broken ankle he suffered in a motorcycle accident the week between the Qatar and Argentina races.
Former world champion Kevin Schwantz, an Austinite who does some promotional work for Suzuki, has a theory about the manufacturer’s struggles.
“I think Suzuki was going off how good they were last year, figured they didn’t have to change much, just fine tune the new riders and they’d improve,” Schwantz said. “Maybe they just didn’t do all the work they should have this offseason. They find themselves a little behind right now.
“It’s pretty disappointing because I think the bike is good enough that it should consistently be scoring points.”
In fairness, Suzuki lost young gun Maverick Vinales, fourth in the 2016 standings, to Yamaha. Vinales has won both MotoGP races this year. Aleix Espargaro, 11th last year while with Suzuki, jumped to Aprilia and is 12th in the early going of the 2017 season.
Moto2 update: Franco Morbidelli has dominated Moto2, winning both races. Thomas Luthi and Miguel Oliveira also have looked formidable. Oliveira, the Portuguese rider, gave the new KTM intermediate class chassis its first podium finish in Argentina, and COTA might set up well for him.
Moto3 update: In all three series, one man has won both races in 2017. Joan Mir of Spain has the maximum 50 points in Moto3 while John McPhee of the GB Team is in pursuit with 40. Enea Bastianini, last year’s series runner-up, and Nicolo Bulega, the junior world champ, are two riders who haven’t found their stride yet, but they like the Austin track. Both posted top-10 finishes at COTA last year.
Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas
What: Motorcycle racing for MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, plus MotoAmerica support races, bike and stunt shows, live music and other entertainment
Where: Circuit of the Americas
Friday: Gates open at 8:30 a.m., with the first practice at 9 a.m. Two practices each for MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 and qualifying for MotoAmerica Superbike and Supersport. Activities wrap up with a MotoAmerica Superbike shootout from 5 to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: Gates open at 7 a.m., with the first practice at 9 a.m. Moto3 qualifying from 12:35 to 1:15 p.m. MotoGP qualifying from 2:10 to 2:50 p.m. Moto2 qualifying from 3:05 to 3:50 p.m. MotoAmerica Supersport race at 4:15 p.m. MotoAmerica Superbike race at 5 p.m.
Sunday: Gates open at 7 a.m., with warmups from 7:30 to 10 a.m. Moto3 race at 11 a.m. (18 laps). Moto2 race at 12:20 p.m. (19 laps). MotoGP race at 2 p.m. (21 laps). MotoAmerica Superbike race at 3:45 p.m. (15 laps).
Tickets: Three-day general admission, $89. Three-day premium grandstands, $139-$199. Single-day general admission tickets, $39 Friday, $49 Saturday, $59 Sunday. Single-day main grandstand, $59 Friday, $79 Saturday, $99 Sunday.
TV: beIN Sport will show Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s races.