18 April 2019 15:37
Autosport's CHARLES BRADLEY looks into how Marc Marquez's reign of dominance at Austin was the perfect demonstration of the talents that have made him MotoGP's leading rider. But this year, a rare off moment reminded the bike world that he is not infallible
If you've ever seen the opening sequence of the Academy Award-acclaimed motion picture Dallas Buyers Club, you'll know just how intrinsic the sport of rodeo is interwoven into Texas culture. And while there are many elements to its show, wild horse or bull riding are its signature disciplines.
If you're a MotoGP fan, it's Marc Marquez and his wild Honda taming that's been the main event when Dorna brings its two-wheeled show to Austin.
Marquez even wore a special helmet with 'rodeo' (a Spanish word, which translates to 'round up') writ large across the back. Watching him shimmy along as his RC213V bucked and reared like a bronco along Austin's 200mph-plus back straight was little short of jaw-dropping.
And it also made one wince a little, when you take into account Marquez's major shoulder operation carried out just a few months ago.
"With the shaking, I feel it," he admitted of his still-recuperating shoulder being battered by the violent oscillation. "In Argentina [last time out] I was able to forget about it completely, but here I came back to using the ice and the physio."
Barely a conversation with MotoGP's riders could pass without mention of the bumps at the Circuit of the Americas. Usually, rider complaints are regarding the track surface in the braking zones, as those pesky Formula 1 cars tend to claw undulations into the asphalt with all their downforce.
But Austin's bumps are different - natural subsidence appears to be the real culprit. You only have to drive along the circuit's perimeter road - which runs parallel to the back straight - to clarify if your breakfast has settled adequately or not...
"It is different because here it is not a bump," surmised Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso. "It's like speed bumps everywhere! There are also some normal bumps, but compared to Silverstone, that is just damage on the ground."
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow added: "It is not just bumps, it is huge weaves. I rode here in 2013 when it was like a millpond; the surface meant it was an amazing track to ride. Now it is getting stupid."
Asked which corners, in particular, were problematic he said: "[Turns] 2, 10, 11, the backstraight - the straight is mad - and then 15, 16 and 17. This is bumpier than Thruxton, way bumpier! It is not necessarily bumps, they are like jumps, proper weaves in the Tarmac.
"It adds fantastic character, some of the places where you have to manage a lot, and the bike is shaking and stuff like that, it makes riding a MotoGP bike thrilling. But it is dangerous as well, there are no two ways about it."
Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro was the most outspoken of the riders on Friday, probably because the bumps on the backstraight actually damaged his bike.
"I broke both of the steering lock[stops] - both the limits on the left and right!" he exclaimed. "The bike is shaking like crazy at more than 300km/h [186mph]. Come on, this is not motocross. This is too much. It is a matter of safety."
When there are such wild thrills on offer in MotoGP, Marquez often appears to the man who most embraces the challenge of the Austin joyride.