With significantly colder temperatures than yesterday and qualifying looming on the schedule later today, this morning’s Free Practice 3 for MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas saw a lot of riders sliding off their motorcycles. Even Marc Márquez, who has won every MotoGP race at COTA so far, slid off twice.
Yesterday was a warm, muggy, sunny day, and today’s nearly-20-degree-cooler temperatures and overcast skies meant that everyone’s tires had less grip and took longer to warm up and get sticky. Combine that with the constant need to find more speed and you have the perfect storm for lots of off-bike experiences. The top ten riders from this session automatically advance to the second qualifying session, so the pressure was on to set a fast lap.
Here’s a quick highlight reel of the big offs from this morning:
Alex Rins was one of the earliest offs, and by far the worst. Rins fell at Turn 19 and suffered a left wrist fracture, per the series. He is out of the race for this weekend as a result. He was already having a bad time here after his Suzuki decided to become a mosquito fogger in Free Practice 2, leaving a spectacular trail of smoke as it blew up on track.
Then soon-to-be married man Alvaro Bautista slid off the fast, downhill Turn 2 only a couple minutes later.
Andrea Dovizioso went down in a spray of sparks at the same turn.
With twenty minutes left in the session, Marc Márquez and Andrea Iannone went down at turns 18 and 19, respectively.
Márquez went running immediately for another bike to finish out the session, so he was clearly fine, but he appears to have unsettled himself on a curb around the Turn 16-18 complex and lost control from there.
Until now, Márquez had been in his usual COTA-dominating form this weekend, setting the fastest lap time of the day in Free Practice 2: 2:04.061.
Aleix Espárgaro was the next to slide off, and then, unbelievably, Márquez ate it on his replacement bike at Turn 15.
Jorge Lorenzo was the next big name to fall, sliding off his Ducati with only two minutes left in the session.
Fortunately, everyone except Rins was fine after their falls. One rider who didn’t eat pavement in spectacular fashion was up-and-coming wonderboy Maverick Viñales. Viñales somehow managed to eke out a ridiculously quick lap time of 2:03.979 in the cool conditions, setting him up as the clear favorite for Most Likely To End Márquez’s Streak Of COTA Domination.
So what was up with all this carnage? Do the tires really just not work well at these temperatures, or was this a moment of red mist and qualifying day stress?