By Bruce Allen
In a perfect world, Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez, the two brightest young stars in the MotoGP firmament, would have squared off for a thrilling fight to the flag here at the Middle of Nowhere Grand Prix. Marquez, starting from pole, took the hole shot and led the field by almost two seconds when he carelessly lost the front in Turn 2 of Lap 4. Viñales, running second at the time, assumed the lead, laid down 21 1:40 or better laps, and won easily, hardly breaking a sweat.
In winning his first two races on the factory Yamaha, Viñales tied two records dating back to the 1990’s. Kenny Roberts, Jr. won his first two races on a new team in 1999 after having abandoned the Modenas KR3 team for Suzuki. And Wayne Rainey (not Valentino Rossi, not Jorge Lorenzo) was the last Yamaha pilot to start the season with two wins back in 1990, well before Viñales was born. Had Marquez not lost his grits today, both records might still be standing. We’ll never know.
Practice and Qualifying Weirdness
Practice was dry on Friday. Viñales topped FP1 and FP2, with lots of big names way down the order. Some unfamiliar names popped up in the top five – Danilo Petrucci, rookies Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger, and Karel Abraham, of all people, in FP1; both Abraham and Petrucci appeared in the top five again in FP2. Saturday was a wet day, the first ever for Viñales on the Yamaha. Accordingly, in FP3 he slipped all the way down to second place, behind LCR Honda‘s Cal Crutchlow, with Marquez in fifth.