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MotoGP Americas GP

COTA layout masked usual sprint race aggression, say leading MotoGP riders

The MotoGP Americas Grand Prix sprint race saw lower levels of aggression than in previous rounds, which some leading riders believe is down to the track layout in Austin.

Race start, Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

A number of riders complained last month in Portugal after the inaugural sprint race about the aggression levels seen in the half-distance contest, which the format continuing to receive mixed reviews in Argentina.

Though there was some hard racing in the sprint race on Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas, aggression levels were much lower than they had been in the previous two rounds.

COTA sprint winner Francesco Bagnaia believes riders are starting to get used to the sprint races, but concedes the nature of the Texan venue was the biggest contributing factor to the lower aggression levels and expects the next one in Jerez to be “a different story”.

“For me, we are getting used to the sprint race,” said reigning world champion Bagnaia.

“Also the track has less points where you can do crazy things. So, if you consider the first race was messier, the battle was too intense. The second one there was some touches, some contacts, but not as big as the first one. And this one was calmer.

“So, maybe we are getting used to it. But first of all, I think it’s the track. For sure in Jerez it’s a different story.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

LCR Honda’s Alex Rins, who was second in Saturday’s sprint, echoed Bagnaia’s comments and noted that the hot conditions stopped anyone from making aggressive moves.

“For me, more than us being calm, I think it’s the kind of track because this track you have quite a lot of hot spots to overtake, but not that many like for example in Portimao,” said Rins after his first podium as a Honda rider.

“Also, the hot conditions in the race was super high, so already to brake behind some riders I was feeling some locking. So, for sure it was more difficult than usual.”

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Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro felt differently to his peers and thinks the fact the pace Bagnaia was setting at the front stretched the field enough to make the race calmer.

“For me it’s about the speed,” Espargaro said after finishing the sprint just shy of the podium in fourth.

“Every time there is somebody in front who pushes, and the pace is high, you will see it being more calm.

“Obviously, it’s race three, everyone is a little bit more relaxed, there have been many injuries – for sure that is in the head of every rider.

“But today, Pecco pushed in front very strong and the riders behind were trying to follow him very close and the pace was crazy.”

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