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MotoGP: at last - physics beats Marquez

Nigel Morris-Co...

This day had to come: Marc Marquez has, unusually, been defeated by the forces of nature. Holding a commanding lead at the US GP at the Circuit of the Americans in Austin, one of the most fundamental aspects of motor-racing was demonstrated and he fell off leaving the result of the race, and the Championship, to cause more shaking of heads than a room full of joyous fan-boys.

It was not Honda's only whoopsie: at the end of qualifying, Lorenzo's bike broke on track at the end of the pit lane: he parked it against the wall. It slid down the wall like a drunk after a particularly heavy night out. In the race, suffered another chain-reaction to the new sprocket design/layout as, once more, a Honda chain fell off, not something a rider can quickly fix trackside.

Viñales went slightly mad: penalised for a jump start he was supposed to do a pit-lane drive through but instead did first one, then a second lap using the penalty loop. It's not the first time this season, since the introduction of the penalty loop that something similar has happened. But in Viñales' case, the reason might be apparent. The new messaging system (pits to bike only) has a small screen and less characters that even the fledgeling twitter had. In his case, the message "penalty warning" came up. It did not say "Ride through pits." With so many languages being spoken in the sport and in the heat of a race, the opportunity for misunderstanding is obvious. Yes, his pit-board told him (after his first loop) but that's not the ideal method of communication when a rider is in a pack screaming down the main straight.

Rins passed Rossi to take the lead with five laps to go - once more demonstrating that the Suzuki keeps it tyres in better shape than the, albeit hugely improved, Yamaha. The ding-dong battle between them had lasted many laps with the Suzuki being quicker in two sectors and the Yamaha quicker in the less twisty bits. Around Austin, Texas' COTA, the last five laps is 100 corners and Rossi's back tyre on the less agile chassis had little answer for Rins once he got in front for the first of the twisty bits. Rossi, being the old man of the sport and only the second man over 40 to grace a MotoGP podium in several decades, made his traditional instant attack, massively overcooked it and ran wide in a move that was never going to work, but he had made his intentions known. Then he sat back and let Rins get almost a second ahead while conserving his own energy and letting his tyres cool. Then, with five of those 100 corners to go, Rossi suddenly appeared on Rins' tail. Rins held it together with the kind of professionalism that, now, has made him the only rider to win all three MotoGP classes at COTA.

The result upended the championship. While Jack Miller took a quasi-factory Ducati to third, from fourth on the grid, it was Dovizioso who is the surprising beneficiary of the chopping and changing. Rossi's second place kept him at P2 in the Championship, Rins' win puts him third and Marquez' DNF takes him down to fourth. Dovizioso, out for the count in the middle of the pack in qualifying, was a beneficiary of so many mishaps ahead of him and finished fourth - satisfying Marquez' pre-race prediction that the Italian was fast and would make it up to the top five. It happened but not for the reasons Marquez expected or, indeed, wanted. The effect on the championship turned commentators into the aural equivalent of those nodding dogs that used to be on the back windows of a million Ford Cortinas: Dovizioso now leads the Championship from Rossi by three points.

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