Francesco Bagnaia took a classy win in Austin, Texas at the Circuit Of The Americas ahead of Alex Marquez in one of the best races of the intermediate class for a while.
Before the race had even gotten underway, we had a problem on the grid as Jules Danilo’s Kalex developed an electrical problem which saw his bike cut out on the grid, and he had to be wheeled away and start from pit lane. We got underway and Alex Marquez used his pole position to great effect to take the holeshot and stay out of trouble in the first corner. The same could not be said of Joan Mir, and he was clipped by Luca Marini and had to stand it up, taking Domi Aegerter with him in the process and dropping them down to 21st and 22nd respectively. Sam Lowes had made a decent start, hanging on in there with the front three of Marquez, Bagnaia and Mattia Pasini respectively, before it all went very wrong for the KTM rider, as he went too wide and onto the dirt before he had even completed a lap and threw it at the scenery in a fairly fast crash. He was able to rejoin and would eventually finish 24th and out of the points. On the second lap Xavi Vierge set the fastest lap as he set about hunting down Marquez and Bagnaia, after forcing his way past Pasini, who was suffering in the early stages with a hard compound rear tyre.
On the third lap, the British hopes went completely down the drain as Danny Kent crashed, thus ensuring neither rider from the UK would be scoring points in Texas, a stark contrast to his Speed Up teammate Fabio Quartararo who was enjoying the best Moto2 ride he had managed thus far, being in 6th position and seemingly comfortable, but he would fade near the end and finish 15th for a solitary point. Bagnaia and Marquez would trade fastest laps the next two laps, with Marquez staying ahead but Bagnaia closing him down at speed. Behind them Marcel Schrotter would get by Pasini, only to then get re-passed before finally making the pass stick into the technical final sector, and getting himself into 5th place. This would not last long however, as coming out of the first turn the very next lap, Schrotter would lose the rear on the steep downhill drop and pay a very heavy price with a monster highside, landing him square on his back and badly winding him. Luckily he escaped injury free. With just 10 laps to go, the battle at the front was really starting to hot up, as Bagnaia caught Marquez and stalked his rear wheel, looking for an opportunity to pass, knowing time was on his side.
With 9 laps remaining, Bagnaia decided it was time to try to lead, and he attempted a pass, only to run wide and reset all his progress, he would take another four laps to recover to within passing distance. In between these four laps, Miguel Olivera passed Vierge for third place to really recover from an awful qualifying by his standards, Marquez had a massive moment in the flip flop section, obviously feeling the pressure knowing the Sky Racing VR46 Kalex was right in his wheel tracks, and Stefano Manzi, one of the only two Suter chassis bikes on the grid, crashed out of a point scoring position. With six laps to go, Bagnaia made a move into turn one, but Marquez undercut and managed to re-pass going into turn two but went wide at turn 11. Using the much later apex and getting a faster exit he managed to again pass Bagnaia, this time on the straight, but Bagnaia himself then performed an undercut at the end of the straight to retake the lead.
No sooner had Bagnaia passed Marquez, was he on the gas and looking to check out. And check out he did, he was untouchable and nobody apart from Joan Mir, who by this point had worked his way up to fourth, had the same pace. He then controlled the race, forcing Marquez into another moment with three laps to go, and the Spaniard wisely seemed to settle for second. Vierge would unfortunately lose the front with three laps to go, and counter his Argentina high with a low here, scoring zero points. Mir and Iker Lecuona behind him in fourth and fifth were the fastest men on track on the final lap, but could not make inroads to Olivera and would end up having to settle for these positions, Lecuona having to repel a late charge from Brad Binder to just about beat him over the line. Bagnaia would take not only the race victory, but the championship lead also, ending up 10 points ahead of both Marquez and Pasini by the close of play. The lone home rider, Joe Roberts, would unfortunately not score a point on his home debut on the NTS chassis, finishing 23rd.
For full race results click here.
For championship standings click here.