MotoGP’s bumpy ride isn’t over yet at Circuit of the Americas.
Several of the world’s top motorcyclists, practicing Friday for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, told Motorsport.com that the problems remain, mostly from turns 1 to 12.
“For me it is the same, and it is very, very, very bad because we are on a wonderful track and this makes all the positive things of the track go away,” said Andrea Dovizioso, who finished sixth and eighth in the two sessions.
Jack Miller, another Ducati rider, told Motorsport.com that debris from the track broke his bike’s windscreen, and Valentino Rossi, the famed Yamaha rider, labeled the track a “disaster.”
COTA officials countered by pointing out that only 10 riders fell all day. Last year there were 71 spills over the three-day weekend.
Roy Spielmann, COTA’s senior manager of motorsport operations, met with race director Mike Webb and MotoGP officials like safety officer Franco Uncini and reported that they thought the track condition was much improved from a year ago.
It was not clear what came out of Friday night’s safety commission meeting, where riders had a chance to share their feelings.
Dovizioso, speaking to reporters, said it wasn’t just the bumps but that COTA’s attempts to shave them created sand or dust that kicked up when crossing them.
“The track was too dirty,” he said. “But the worst thing is the bumps.”
Defending series champion Marc Marquez had a similar experience.
“Of course, we expected less bumps, but it’s very similar to last year,” he said. “More or less same bumps in the same places, in some places more, in some places less. But, anyway, the bumps are there for everybody.”
COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein tweaked the critics.
“We’re calling Hoover and Dyson to see if we can get a vacuum sponsor to help with our dust problem,” he said. “As for the bumps, they are actually much better than last year, but we will continue to work on them. I’d check the tires for lumps.”
Them again: Marquez, who has won all five poles and all five MotoGP events in Austin, was quickest in the morning session and a close second in the afternoon.
Valentino Rossi tailed his rival in the morning, finishing second, and coasted to fourth in the second practice. Maverick Vinales, Rossi’s Movistar Yamaha factory teammate, grabbed third both times out.
Andre Iannone of Team Suzuki Ecstar was the intruder in the afternoon with a blazing late lap of 2 minutes, 4.599 seconds that nipped Marquez’s 2:04.655 for the top spot. Iannone finished third in the 2016 race at COTA.
Surprise series points leader Cal Crutchlow turned in solid fifth-place times in each session.
Twice as nice: Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira, on his No. 44 Red Bull KTM Ajo, ruled both practices in Moto2. Alex Marquez was second in the morning and third in the afternoon.
Joe Roberts, the only American on the grid, placed 24th in each session.
M squared: Spain’s Jorge Martin, aboard the No. 88 Del Conca Gresini, led the way in each Moto3 session. Italy’s Enea Bastianini and Aron Canet of Spain also showed plenty of juice to contend.
High honors: Randy Mamola, one of the most successful American riders in MotoGP, was inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame. The San Jose, Calif., native won 13 Grand Prix races from 1979 to 1992, but the 58-year-old is best known for his post-race charity work.
Mamola is co-founder of Riders for Health, a group that delivers health care to remote locations in seven African countries, and a driving force in Save the Children, a global outreach program.
Tough cookie: Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa suffered a broken wrist in the last race in Argentina. This weekend the 32-year-old Spaniard is competing on one of the most demanding tracks. He made quite a leap from 21st in the morning session to 10th in the afternoon.
“Still suffering a lot of pain, but happy for gaining a little bit better pace than expected,” he told Autosport.com.
Weather: Rain is in Saturday’s forecast, but it should not disrupt qualifying unless there is lightning or a torrential downpour. Light rain or drizzle is possible in the morning with a better chance of scattered showers or a thunderstorm in the afternoon, according to the Travis County Severe Weather (@TravisCOSW) social media group.