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GP Week : Issue 181
at BRIEFLY » Travel mayhem struck on the eve of the Austin GP, when bad weather compounded the effect of a major computer melt-down at American Airways. Almost all paddock folk travelling to the GP felt some effect, with a number arriving only late on Thursday, after having to drive down from Houston. Rossi was one sufferer, missing a connection after being held up for two-and-a-half hours at passport control. » Moto2 race winner Thomas Luthi pulled out of the Austin GP after just four laps of the second free practice session, the physical demands of the circuit making it too painful for him to continue. He was trying to come back after suffering serious arm and shoulder injuries in pre-season testing. “I don’t have the strength for the changes of direction,” he said. » Ignoring the blue flag has been added to the ways to accumulate penalty points on your licence, after a GP Commission decision at Austin. Shown to slower riders when someone is coming up behind, the blue flag is used in practice and the race. Penalty points were introduced this year, awarded at the discretion of officials for dangerous or other riding offences. Punishments for those exceeding the limits range from back-of-the-grid or pit-lane starts to possible suspension. MOTOGP >>> NEWS SPANISH FIESTA AS FIRST-TIMERS RULE New winners in Moto2 and Moto3 Two first-time winners took the gold in the smaller classes, in an almost all-Spanish rostrum lock-out. In Moto2, the last ever 125 champion Nico Terol deposed pole starter Scott Redding from an early lead as Qatar winner and title favourite Pol Espargaro crashed out on the fourth of 19 laps. Terol outpaced a furious battle for second, won out of the last corner by Esteve Rabat from Finnish interloper Mika Kallio. Redding lost touch on fading tyres, but fourth was enough to give the Briton a slender championship lead. The Moto3 race was turning into tense two-horse race between the KTMs of Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales after they had outpaced the similarly mounted Luis Salom ... then red flags came out after Dutch rider Jasper Iwema was knocked unconscious in a heavy crash. With two-thirds of the scheduled 18 laps not completed, positions counted only for the reformed grid, for a hectic five-lap sprint. Rins won it after a frantic battle until the final yards, from Vinales and Salom, with Jonas Folger (also KTM) close behind. Then the new Mahindra, ridden by Miguel Oliveira, getting the better of inspired young Australian Jack Miller’s FTR-Honda and Zulfahmi Khairuddin’s KTM on the final lap. Rins and Salom share the points lead, just one ahead of Vinales. COTA’S COMPLICATIONS WELCOMED BY RIDERS But f irst-gear corners are better for cars The first visit to the Texan circuit won almost universal if guarded approval – the reservation being that some corners were too slow. But the technical challenge of the blind brows, the flowing sections and the speed and hard braking of the long and undulating straight went a long way to make up for it. Data from earlier test showed that 35 percent of the lap distance was spent in first gear, said Stefan Bradl’s crew chief Christophe Bourguignon. The riders felt this even in Moto2, where pole qualifier Scott Redding said tellingly: “I don’t think this track is actually as good to ride as it looks ... but it’s still a lot of fun.” For Rossi, “this track is very Formula One, so for me not so much fun to ride. But for the spectators it is fantastic.” Different sections are reminiscent of established circuits: the steep climb to tight Turn One like the Sachsenring back straight in reverse; the subsequent slalom reminiscent of Silverstone’s Maggots and Beckets complex, with interest; the stadium section like Hockenheim, and Istanbul. All agreed it took some learning, but there was some dispute over the benefit to the factory Honda and Yamaha riders plus Bradl, who had three days of testing here a month before. “These guys are already at the limit anyway – so if you lose three days of track time, it’s impossible to be in front,” he said, before the race. In the event he beat both Bradl and Rossi, to his great satisfaction. Lorenzo, however, thought that there was enough practice to catch up. “If there were only two or three sessions, it would be different,” he said; while fellow tester Marquez opined: “On some corners, especially the last right, it is difficult to find the line, but after 30 or 40 laps, you already know it.” 4 GPWEEK.com // 4 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: