On a hot track that several riders critiqued for being too bumpy, Maverick Viñales and Marc Márquez smoothed out their path toward a Sunday showdown in the MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.
Viñales, who has won both races this season, posted the fastest lap in the Friday morning practice at Circuit of the Americas. Márquez, who has stood atop the podium for all four MotoGP events in Austin, came back with the quickest time in the afternoon practice on an 88-degree day.
The Spanish standard will be broken Saturday with two more practices and qualifying.
“It’s my first time here at COTA with the Yamaha M1, and I felt great, the bike is working so good,” Viñales said. “We still have to work on the electronics, but we are happy with the setup.”
Márquez wasn’t quite as upbeat on his Repsol Honda, which has lacked the speed of the Yamaha early in 2017.
“The feeling was quite good on the bike; we did two long runs on two different bikes to try to understand the setup for this weekend,” he said. “We still need more on the electronics and acceleration side. The circuit changed quite a lot from last year’s. It’s really bumpy; you can see that from the TV, I think.”
He wasn’t the only rider making that point.
“In the morning my feet came off the pegs two times,” England’s Scott Redding of Octo Pramac Racing told the motorsports website crash.net. “We had bumps here before, but every year it’s getting worse, and it’s lifting the rider out of the seat. Sometimes taking the bike off the ground. We need to see if they can improve that.
“I’m sure it will be mentioned in the Safety Commission. It’s rideable, but with a MotoGP bike with so much power, those small bumps are what can make it all go wrong.”
COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein declined to comment to the American-Statesman.
Dani Pedrosa of Repsol Honda, seventh and fifth in the two practices, said the track was more adventurous.
“There are a few points where the bumps are huge, in the braking points for turn 1, 5, 6 and 10,” he said. “On the back straight it’s like a whoop section in motocross.”
Most riders took a pragmatic approach.
“It’s the same situation for everybody,” said factory Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, third in the first practice. “We have to work on that. It’s part of the challenge.”
There were a few crashes, taking out LCR Honda rider and Argentina podium finisher Cal Crutchlow and Aspar Ducati’s Karel Abraham, who tangled with teammate Alvaro Bautista and suffered an apparent ankle injury.
No such problems at the top, though.
“Maverick continues being so fast. Marc is always very quick here, so they are the favorites,” said Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo, sixth in the morning session. “It looks like Honda is working really well because of a lot of braking. So it’s going to be tight between these two. We hope to get close to them.”
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
Saturday: Warm-ups start at 7:30 a.m. with the first practice (Moto3) at 9 a.m. Moto3 qualifying, 12:35-1:15 p.m. MotoGP final practice, 1:30-2 p.m. MotoGP qualifying, 2:10-2:50 p.m. Moto2 qualifying, 3:05-3:50 p.m. Supersport race, 4:15 p.m. (12 laps). Superbike race, 5 p.m. (15 laps). BMW M laps, 6 p.m.
Sunday: Warm-ups start at 7:30 a.m. MotoGP riders parade, 10:15-10:35 a.m. Moto3 race, 11 a.m. (18 laps). Moto 2 race, 12:20 p.m. (19 laps). MotoGP race, 2 p.m. (21 laps). Superbike race, 3:45 p.m. (15 laps).
Tickets: Weekend general admission, $89. Weekend premium grandstands, $139-$199. Single-day general admission tickets, $49 Saturday, $59 Sunday. Single-day main grandstand, $79 Saturday, $99 Sunday.
TV: BeIN Sport will show Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s races.