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PREVIEW: Marc Marquez set to rule the roost at Austin MotoGP

Marquez won the first ever Austin MotoGP in 2013
Marquez won the first ever Austin MotoGP in 2013
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Tuesday, 08, Apr 2014 03:48

by Daniel Cartwright

Ahead of this weekend's Austin MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas (11-13 April), MotorbikeTimes assesses the chances of the key riders.

If we look at the history of Austin it's very hard to tell who will come out on top - there's only been one other MotoGP race at this purpose-built track.

Construction only finished in 2012, and Austin first hosted the MotoGP last year, when a Repsol Honda 1-2 saw Marquez scoop his first win in the premier class ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa.

This year, you've got to fancy the Hondas to do it again on the long, fast straights. There are quite a lot of quite tight turns you'd assume that the 'pick-up-and-squirt' Hondas will come out of those hairpins pretty quickly.

There are a few flowing corners for the Yamahas to gain some pace, but you'd have to be betting on Marc Marquez going into this, even though he says he's still not 100% fit.

Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have all got a lot to prove this week, but we'd have to go with Pedrosa in second.

Rossi's resurgence

There's always a huge focus on Vale, he heads into this in the same position as he did last year, on the back of a second place finish in Qatar.

The pressure is very much on him to prove that this isn't just another false dawn; he's in it to make sure he's mixing it with the very best.

He doesn't want to be finishing fourth, unless it's as a result of a very close battle.

Everyone wants to see Vale on the grid in the top flight for the next two years and every time he comes close to a win that becomes more likely.

Chasing pack

There are big questions between the rest of the pack with Stefan Bradl, Bradley Smith, Alvaro Bautista and the Espargaro brothers all fighting for the illustrious fifth place spot.

The track would lend itself more to Bradl's Honda, so you'd assume he has the best chance if he can avoid crashing out like he did in Qatar.

Scott Redding will be hoping to improve on his great race in Qatar, which came out of nowhere - he hadn't posted speeds like that in testing or in pre-season at Sepang.

Make no mistake about it; he had a cracking race to beat Nicky Hayden to be the fastest production Honda RCV1000R.

He surprised many people this time last year by taking pole position at Austin in the Moto2 class by 0.7 seconds, so he knows his way around the track as well as anyone.

It shouldn't have suited his style on a Moto2 bike, but it's a completely different game on a MotoGP bike.

His goal again will be to emerge as the fastest production Honda rider, which should be, and probably is, Hayden.

Scott has got to go out there and stick it to Nicky in his own backyard, which will make him a very unpopular Englishman indeed.

It's a relatively fair fight between the two of them, but you'd expect Hayden to win. The thing about it being his home Grand Prix helps mentally because you've got your fans around you.

But it does also put more strain on you and unlike in days gone past when a home rider may have ridden his home track a lot in training and development, Nicky Hayden hasn't.

He has a dirt bike background and the track didn't even exist three years ago, so he's got no practical benefit from having grown up basically around the corner.

Damp Ducati testing in Jerez

Ducati Corse used the three-week break to do some testing in Jerez, but in the end it was more effective as a PR stunt than as a serious testing session.

Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso went out in the rain and posted insignificant lap times. That said, any information they get on electronics is always a benefit as they've been swapping between different packages.

We known that something went wrong with Cal's system in Qatar, apparently it was a telemetry problem rather than the electronics set-up, but the more laps, the more data you can get is always a bonus for those guys, even if they're not posting competitive times.

It seems like none of them would ever get off their bikes if team boss Gigi Dall'Igna had his way, given the amount of development they need to do this season.

Silly season starts early

That rumours of Lorenzo joining Honda in 2015 have surfaced already is a sign of the times. Christmas comes earlier every year, and as soon as the January sales are over people start selling Cadbury's Creme Eggs.

Ultimately it's great for the sport and will generate more interest, but it puts an undue amount of pressure on these guys.

We'd expect the top guys to have decided their places for next season by Assen in June, which is a lot earlier than it used to be.

This means that everybody out there now is already riding for their seat next year, so there's no time to settle into the season, work out the bike and get your feet on the ground.

People like Aleix Espargaro, Scott Redding, Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith, Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl are the sort of riders who are on the cusp of getting a factory place, if one does open up.

Among the top guys, Rossi will either retire or stay at Yamaha, that's pretty much a given, but then Lorenzo has had offers from Ducati and Honda in previous years.

Marquez you'd assume is relatively safe on his Honda, but that puts a big question mark over Pedrosa. It all brings a lot of pressure early on.

Come rain or shine

It's only natural to assume the Texas desert is going to be dry, but it might not be. They've had rain recently and they could have rain again.

If there's rain on the day, it levels the field in terms of power and bike performance and then it's time for the youngsters to shine through. We'll get some tight racing and an opportunity for some of The Aliens to fall off and create space for some new talent coming through.

But here at MotorbikeTimes we're praying for a dry race so we can see who's fastest - we need to know that at this stage in the game.

Everyone's poised and ready and there's a lot that can be done, so we're predicting a very tight race indeed.

Moto2 and Moto3

It's very much Tito Rabat's to lose in Moto2, but we've got a soft spot for Takaaki Nakagami and there's not a lot between those guys.

In Moto3 it all about the battle between KTM and Honda, and since Red Bull sponsors the Austin circuit as well as KTM it'd be nice to see one of their riders take home the prize.

The Austin MotoGP will be broadcast live on BT Sport 2 at 8pm on Sunday 13 April. For all the latest updates, follow @MotorbikeTimes on Twitter.

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