Bagnaia takes pole for Moto GP in Austin as riders criticize COTA track

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Moto GP makes its return to Austin on Sunday – but the weekend has been marred by riders’ criticism of the track at Circuit of the Americas.

Thousands of fans are expected to flock to COTA for the first Moto GP race in the U.S. in two years, after the 2019 Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas was canceled due to COVID-19.

Francesco Bagnaia will start from pole position after setting the fastest time in qualifying Saturday. The Italian is aiming for a hat-trick after winning the previous two races.

Fans enjoy a sunny day at COTA for the Moto GP race Sunday (Picture: KXAN/Andy Way)

But in the championship race he still trails Fabio Quartararo, who has a healthy lead with just four races to go.

The Frenchman will start second at COTA, with six-time world champion Marc Marquez third on the grid.

Quartararo has been vocal in his criticism of the track at COTA this weekend, describing it as “a joke.”

“It’s not a Moto GP track for me,” he told reporters. “To make a race here — for one lap it’s okay — but for 20 laps, we will see that there will be some bad moments.”

Sunday’s race gets under way at 2 p.m.

This will be the eighth Moto GP race at Circuit of the Americas. Marquez has dominated in Austin, winning sixth of the previous grand prix, but Alex Rins won the most recent race in 2019.

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