Marc Marquez took his first win of the season in sensational style, his stunning fifth win in a row in Austin and his 11th straight win on US soil, to get his title defence back on track.
The Repsol Honda rider was initially in an intense battle with team-mate Dani Pedrosa for victory in the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, before being able to break clear in the latter laps of the race to take the chequered flag.
Marquez said: “This was a crucial race because after Argentina it was important to come back in the best way, so we are really happy with this result.
“Although I won, it was difficult, because the temperature was much higher than yesterday. Five minutes before the start, I said to my chief mechanic, ‘Okay, let’s use the hard tyre’ because I knew that I would push the medium front tyre a lot.
“In the beginning I was just trying to understand the limit because I hadn’t tried it a lot on Friday. I was behind Dani and when I saw that he was struggling a little bit and Valentino was challenging, I said, ‘Time to attack.’ I was able to win, and I’m happy to be back in the championship.”
It was a mixed day for the factory Yamaha squad – former championship leader Maverick Viñales crashed out early on, while Valentino Rossi put on a late charge to take second, despite being given a time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage.
The start of the race saw Pedrosa get a blistering launch from the second row of the grid to take the lead as the Spaniard overtook team-mate and polesitter Marquez to lead through Turn 1, with Rossi tucked in behind the two Repsol Honda machines.
Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo also got a great launch from P6 to overtake Maverick Viñales, and the two men duked it out until Tech 3’s Johann Zarco got into the action, following Viñales past the Mallorcan – before the drama struck.
After two wins from two in the first races of the season, Viñales then suddenly slid out of contention – lowsiding safely, but out of the fight for victory and taking home zero points for the first time since Argentina 2016.
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was also making progress, moving up from P9 on the grid to take the factory Ducati duo for fifth behind rookie sensation Johann Zarco, with Andrea Dovizioso getting the best of Lorenzo to move into sixth.
A moment between Zarco and Rossi then saw the ‘Doctor’ taking to the run off as the rookie attempted a move, punting the Italian off track. The nine-time champion was forced to straightline the corner, rejoining the track a little further ahead and subsequently receiving a 0.3 second penalty for time gained, to be applied at the end of the race. A strange, and harsh, decision by Race Control.
It was then the Repsol Hondas’ time to duel, as Marquez and Pedrosa diced for the lead, with the number 93 machine eventually pouncing with 13 laps to go.
As the last laps approached, Crutchlow battled with Zarco to take fourth as top independent team rider and Rossi striking against Pedrosa to take third, with Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone also making it past Lorenzo in some late battles to take his first points haul of the season in P7.
Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci also steered his satellite Ducati past a Lorenzo struggling with grip to take eighth, with the five-time champion crossing the line in P9. Marc VDS rider Jack Miller just beat rookie Jonas Folger on the other Tech 3 Yamaha to complete the top ten, as the Aussie fulfilled his goal for 2017 once again in the third race of the season.