Who’s on for it this weekend at the Red Bull Grand Prix in Texas, and who’s not?
That most wonderful of weekends is upon us where the world’s finest riders on the world’s fastest motorcycles grace us with their presence in the massive confines of the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. The 2023 Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas will be an interesting one on many fronts, namely because the King of CoTA, the mercurial Marc Marquez, will not be present as he continues his recuperation on his damaged finger after clattering into Miguel Oliveira at round one in Portugal. Oliveira himself will be present but will undergo a physical exam on Thursday to see if he’s fit to race.
Nor will current CoTA champion Enea Bastianini be on the grid. The factory Ducati rider broke his right shoulder blade after being KO’d by Luca Marini in the Portuguese Sprint Race, and has not yet been passed fit to ride. Everyone else will be on the grid for both the Saturday Sprint Race and Sunday’s premier Grand Prix, so let’s check out the pack and give you SBI’s predictions for a winner and loser.
On For It
Maverick Vinales—Aprilia Racing
We’ve been hugely impressed by Top Gun so far this year. He’s a rejuvenated rider on the Aprilia and loves the 3.4 mile Texan venue, having taken a debut Moto2 win there in 2014. Expect him to be in the mix in both the Sprint and Sunday GP.
Marco Bezzecchi—Mooney VR46 Racing Team Ducati
You can’t beat confidence in motorcycle racing, and right now, Marco Bezzecchi is full of it. His first MotoGP win came in the last round in Argentina, and now he leads the championship for the first time in his career. Although he DNF’d last year, don’t read much into that. Bez is one of our favorites for the CoTA double win in 2023.
Francesco Bagnaia—Ducati Lenovo Team
You can never discount the World Champion. Bagnaia is class, and although he’s not had the best of luck in Texas in the past, he will be chomping at the bit to make up for his crash in the last round at Argentina, his first race crash since the 2022 German GP last year. Look for him as a podium threat in both races.
Alex Rins—LCR Honda Castrol
LCR Honda’s Alex Rins has a love affair with CoTA. He took a debut MotoGP win there, after besting the great Valentino Rossi in 2019 and picked up second last year to Bastianini. He’s on a Honda now, which has been far from its best in recent times, but expect Rins to be fighting for the box in both races.
Jack Miller—Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
The Aussie loves Texas. In Ducati red, he landed on the podium in 2022, and although he’s a long shot for a win, don’t be surprised if he does a similar trick in 2023, especially in Saturday’s Sprint Race.
Red Bull Grand Prix Mid Pack
Fabio Quartararo—Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP
It’s a crying shame that Quartararo has been lumped in the mid-pack, but his CoTA record isn’t great and nor is the current performance of his Monster Energy Yamaha. The former MotoGP World Champion could always spring a surprise but we’d expect a sixth to 10th place finish for the Frenchman.
Franco Morbidelli—Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP
The Italian is now well and truly under the pump to keep his factory ride. A flash of brilliance at the last round in Argentina reminded us of how good he is, but he must continue that form if he’s to stand any chance of being on the grid in 2024. He’s a class act and must show so this weekend.
Johann Zarco—Prima Pramac Racing Ducati
France’s Zarco is MotoGP’s enigma. He can turn fast laps like no one else but sometimes struggles to put it all together. CoTA hasn’t been his best track but a gutsy performance last time out in Argentina suggests he could pull a surprise in Texas, but more likely, it’ll be a top seven job for the former double Moto2 World Champion.
Jorge Martin—Prima Pramac Racing Ducati
The pocket rocket Spaniard, like his teammate, is hard to read sometimes. Blisteringly quick for the most part but prone to mistakes, Martin needs to get some runs on the board as he lies seventh, some 28 points off Bezzecchi. Could be up for a big one in Texas.
Brad Binder—Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder is MotoGP’s Sunday man, but his ride to take an unlikely win in the Sprint in Argentina shows he’s a Saturday man, too. He needs to qualify better to have any chance of Texan success, but the many hard braking zones suit his style so don’t be surprised if the South African notches a top six on Saturday and Sunday.
Aleix Espargaro—Aprilia Racing
Espargaro’s not had the best of luck at CoTA in the past and we don’t expect that to change this year despite his teammate being a hot favorite. Espargaro’s a class rider but given his most recent record in Texas is two DNFs and a 10th, a top 10 in 2023 would be a good result.
Alex Marquez—Gresini Racing Ducati
The younger Marquez looks rejuvenated since his switch to Ducati after years of toiling away at Honda. A debut pole in Argentina was a great result, as was his Sunday podium, and he could be a dark horse for a top six in Texas, but we’d expect him to be on the fringes of the top 10.
Luca Marini—Mooney VR46 Racing Team Ducati
The classy Italian needs a good result in CoTA. Teammate Marco Bezzecchi is setting the world alight right now and Marini needs to show his preseason speed wasn’t a fluke after a no score in Portugal and a 3/8 score in Argentina. Must put it in the top five to keep the VR46 team on his side and become the firm number two rider in the team.
Takaaki Nakagami—LCR Honda Idemitsu
The Japanese rider, like Morbidelli, is fighting for his MotoGP future but it hasn’t gone well so far in 2023. He took 11th and 13th in Argentina and his CoTA record since arriving in MotoGP has a best finish of 10th in 2018. Don’t expect much better this year.
Miguel Oliveria—CryptoData RNF MotoGP Team Aprilia
Oliveira should be much higher up on the list but the stylish Portuguese comes into the race under a cloud after Marquez’s bowling ball antics took him out in round one. Should he be passed fit don’t expect too much as he beds himself back into competition at such a physically demanding track. A top 10 Red Bull Grand Prix finish would be a great result.