With three, unfamiliar Hondas on the front row at Laguna Seca, it took superb reactions from the lights by Rossi to separate them with a blistering start. Stefan Bradl, showing no sign of rookie, pole-sitter nerves however was equal to it, and maintained his qualifying position for the opening half of the race.
With four laps gone, Honda’s young marvel, Marc Marquez fought past Valentino Rossi, running wide around the outside of the Yamaha M1 and over the kerb, the gravel and deep into the dirt on the inside of the ‘corkscrew’ in order to make the move stick. Even for the progressively prodigious talent of Marquez it was an audacious pass.
With Laverty, Espagaro and de Puniet all crashing out of the dusty track early on, the list of DNF’s was added to on the eighth lap with Bradley Smith having to withdraw his Tech3 Yamaha with technical issues.
Having dispatched of Rossi, Marc Marquez had reduced Bradl’s lead down to 0.33 seconds by lap twelve and increased his gap over Valentino on the Yamaha by some three seconds. It was only a matter of time until he found time and space over the German in order to snatch the lead.
Further down the field, Bautista had stabilised his position in fourth and battled continuously with third placed Rossi, and with injury-stricken Pedrosa and Lorenzo not far behind. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow – having suffered a miserable qualifying the day before – couldn’t find the pace needed to take advantage of the damaged men in front of him and only managed a seventh place finish.