Francesco Bagnaia has come back impressively after his fall in Argentina: In the sprint race of the MotoGP in Austin, the Ducati rider left the competition far behind and celebrated his third win of the season.
Alex Rins equalized his strong qualifying result to secure Honda’s first podium of the year by finishing second. Third place went to Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin.
“Of course I liked this sprint better than the one in Argentina, where I had big problems. I had a good start and just wanted to push and go at my pace,” explains Bagnaia. “That was enough to open up a gap. The conditions were pretty tricky today because it was so warm.”
Just in time for the start of the sprint race, the hottest conditions of the weekend so far prevailed in Austin. The thermometer had climbed to 31 degrees, the asphalt was almost 47 degrees. Only ten laps were scheduled as the Circuit of The Americas is one of the longest tracks on the calendar.
Francesco Bagnaia takes victory from pole
Bagnaia started from pole and maintained the lead at the start after Rins went into Turn 1 with too much optimism. Behind them were Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha). Luca Marini (VR46-Ducati) lost a lot of places from row one. Alex Marquez (Gresni-Ducati) also dropped back.
In the course of the first lap, Rins Bagnaia attacked in the fight for the lead, but only retained it for a few corners. After a mistake, Rins lost another position to Espargaro in the second lap and was down to third.
Quartararo held on to fourth place but was put under pressure by Martin, who eventually overtook him on the straight. Marquez was breathing down the Frenchman’s neck. Behind him, Johann Zarco (Pramac-Ducati) in seventh place was the first major gap in the field.
After three laps, Bagnaia was also able to gain some breathing room at the front. His lead over Espargaro was just over half a second.
Hard fighting continued in the field of pursuers. Quartararo dueled with Rins but misbraked and dropped back to sixth. At the beginning of the fifth lap, the Yamaha rider fell in turn 1. He continued driving, but was at the end of the field with Michele Pirro, who also fell.
By half-time, Bagnaia’s lead had grown to over a minute. He took a few tenths off his pursuers Espargaro and Rins with each lap. Both were still close together and dueled for second place. Martin benefited from this.
He was lurking in fourth and gained a position when a maneuver by Espargaro went awry. The Aprilia driver was only fourth. But there was no danger from behind. Because with Marquez, his direct pursuer fell four laps before the end. And with Brad Binder (KTM) the next one was several seconds behind.
Espargaro Martin followed like a shadow on the final laps. But the attack only came in the penultimate corner of the last lap. But Espargaro was too fast, couldn’t hold the line and let Martin go. Bagnaia and Rins were already two seconds ahead of the finish line.
“This race was amazing,” enthuses Rins. “On the second lap I lost a lot of time because I had big braking problems behind ‘Pecco’ and went off the track. Then it was a battle with Aleix. I wanted to overtake him but it wasn’t easy. At the end I had good pace.”
Martin, who is still struggling with a cold, reveals: “After three or four laps I could hardly breathe. My lungs were really exhausted. It was extremely difficult to keep up the pace until the end.”
“I knew that Aleix is faster. So I tried to make it as difficult as possible for him. The maneuver on the last lap was good. I used my experience there,” he says of the duel with Espargaro. “I have a good feeling about tomorrow. I hope I’ll feel better then.”
In the end, Espargaro had to settle for fourth place. Binder finished fifth thanks to a strong second half of the race. Marco Bezzecchi, who was outside the top 10 after a weak start but fought his way up to sixth place, also had this.
Jonas Folger finishes last in first MotoGP race since 2017
The VR46 pilot thus maintains the narrow lead in the World Championship table and is still one point ahead of Bagnaia. Third is Zarco, who is already 19 points short.
He fell back after a good start and ended up eleventh behind Marini, Miguel Oliveira (RNF-Aprilia), Jack Miller (KTM) and Maverick Vinales (Aprilia). Since there are only points up to ninth place in the sprint, the Frenchman went away empty-handed this time.
Honda driver Joan Mir finished his first sprint race after the injury break in twelfth place, followed by brand colleague Takaaki Nakagami and Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha). Stefan Bradl (Honda) finished in 18th place behind the two Fernandez and Fabio Di Giannanontio (Gresini-Ducati).
Jonas Folger (Tech-3-GasGas) finished last in his first MotoGP race since 2017. In the end he was overtaken by Quartararo, who after his crash – even without any chance of points – continued to drive until the end and finished in 19th place.