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MotoGP Austin: Rins tops Top Gun in COTA FP1

Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins returned to his 2019 dominance at the Circuit of the Americas as Friday practice fired up in Austin.

The Spaniard’s 2’04.007 culminated a rapid succession of flying laps for the GSX-RR rider around the newly resurfaced 5.5km layout with Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales and Ducati’s Jack Miller the closet challengers in the opening 45-minute session.

The premier class action kicked off in the United States with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez back in the mix after his Indonesian highside and the return of his double vision issues. Miller headed the times from a double Suzuki assault of Rins and Joan Mir with Pol Espargaro crashing out at turn 18 on the second Repsol RC213V.


A flurry of times shuffled the standings in the early stages with defending champion Fabio Quartararo demoting Alex Marquez to second and Johann Zarco to third before the LCR Honda man hit back with a 2’05.701. Miller and Mir bettering Franky Morbidelli as the action continued with recent winner Aleix Espargaro dropping the Yamaha rider to the edge of the top five moments later.

Quartararo was back in charge after just ten minutes of action from the longer Marquez brother. The multi-manufacturer battle continuing as Ducati, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Aprilia all staked their clams on the top ten. Only KTM were missing from the party as the Red Bull Factory team seemed to struggle from 18th and 21st, rookie Tech3 riders Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner bettering their more experienced cohorts in 15th and 16th.

Marquez returned to his usual COTA form as he led the times with a 2’04.469 lap and half an hour left to run. Rins and Quartararo heading Viñales in the top four as the former teammates circulated just one-tenth apart. The pair leapfrogging the Suzuki next time around as they both found their rhythm with their respective machines.

Pol Espargaro’s difficult day continued as he struggled to control his second Honda around turn 11 at the halfway stage. The Spaniard circulating in 18th and two seconds off the pace with his elder brother just two places ahead. Rins suffering a technical issue down the back straight with 20 minutes remaining.

The Aprilia success show was back in full force in the final 15 minutes as Espargaro joined Viñales in the top four, just Quartararo and Marquez ahead, before the ‘Top Gun’ bettered them all with a 2’04.373 on his 11th lap. Takaaki Nakagami promoting the Idemitsu LCR to sixth next time around as the younger Espargaro improved to seventh with Alex Marquez eighth for a dominant Honda run.

Miller hit fourth on the Ducati as the session counted down. Enea Bastianini the next best Bologna rider in tenth on the Gresini GP21 with Pramac’s Jorge Martin 0.05s behind. Pecco Bagnaia and Zarco circulating 14th and 15th with Andrea Dovizioso neatly in the mix.

Nakagami’s late-session rise continued as he captured fourth with six minutes to go. Suzuki’s Rins and Mir just behind as the former advanced to second and Bastianini struck for fifth.

Rins was firmly in his grove as he took the lead two laps later. 2’04.073 now the target after consecutive hot laps from the GSX-RR as the standings shuffled again with Miller hitting third and Espargaro completing a Repsol lockout on the edge of the top six.

Final efforts saw Rins on top thanks to a 2’04.007, Viñales improving but falling a mere 0.008s shy as the flag came out with Miller holding off Quartararo in the top four. Marquez and Espargaro sat fifth and sixth from Bastianini and Argentina’s victor with Nakagami and Zarco completing the top ten. Espargaro suffering a technical issue at turn ten after the flag.

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