Two-time defending world champion Marc Marquez won his sixth consecutive MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas on Sunday despite being dropped from pole position to fourth on the starting grid by a qualifying penalty.

The Spanish Honda rider won by 3.5 seconds from compatriot Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) over 20 laps of the 3.426-mile (5.513km), 20-corner circuit at Austin, Texas with Italy’s Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) third.

The 25-year-old Spaniard was a winner from the pole in all five prior Austin races, taking his first MotoGP win at the track in 2013, and led qualifying for a sixth consecutive year.

But Marquez only started fourth on the grid after a three-spot penalty for slow riding and disturbing Vinales on a fast lap in Saturday qualifying.

Marquez jumped to second at the start, was in the lead before the first lap ended and stayed in front to the finish.

“It was my strategy to start and just push,” Marquez said. “I didn’t have confidence to battle. I just push and open a gap and hopefully I go away.

“A race like this is not normal. You don’t expect to get such a big lead.”

Marquez said he was ill and concerned he might not be up for a fight at the finish.

“I felt a little bit sick and I didn’t know how I would feel at the end of the race,” Marquez said. 

“I was just pushing. Today after all the things I just wanted to get a lead and open a gap if it was possible.”

Marquez, chasing his fifth career world MotoGP crown, jumped to second in the driver points standings, his 45 points one shy of Italy’s leader Andrea Dovizioso and four ahead of Vinales after the third of 19 season races. 

And that’s after Marquez was blanked earlier this month in Argentina.

“I lose some positions in Argentina but I always felt I was there because I’m happy with the bike in all the conditions,” Marquez said. 

“Now we have to get ready and go to Europe where the tracks are a little bit different.”

Marquez, who won his 10th consecutive MotoGP race on US tracks, started alongside Valentino Rossi, the Yamaha rider who finished fourth, after having knocked over the Italian icon in Argentina.

That prompted Rossi to say he was “scared” to have Marquez on the grid, calling him a safety risk to riders.

Vinales was happy to settle for second after inheriting the pole, saying, “I enjoyed the race so much.”

Iannone saw the podium as a reward for the efforts he has given.

“I worked hard,” he said. “I never give up throughout the storm. For all the work it’s really good reward.”

Britain’s Cal Crutchlow fell with 12 laps remaining, foiling his bid for back-to-back wins after taking victory at Argentina.

– Bagnaia, Martin also win –

Italy’s Francesco Bagnaia (Kalex) captured his fourth career victory and second of the Moto2 season by 2.4 seconds over pole-sitter Alex Marquez (Kalex) with Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira (KTM) third. 

Bagnaia, who won the season opener at Qatar, took the points lead with 57, 10 ahead of Marquez and Italy’s Mattia Pasini (Kalex) of Italy.

Spanish Honda rider Jorge Martin won his third career Moto3 event and second title of the season after the opener in Qatar to seize the season points lead from compatriot Aron Canet (Honda) 55-48. 

Italy’s Enea Bastianini (Honda) was second to the pole-sitter by 1.4 seconds with Italy’s Marco Bezzecchi (KTM) third. – Agence France-Presse

- Advertisement -