AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Triple MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez took his fifth successive Grand Prix of the Americas victory on Sunday while 38-year-old Italian great Valentino Rossi surged into the championship lead.
Rossi finished runner-up and three seconds behind Marquez to take over at the top after Yamaha team mate Maverick Vinales, winner of the season's first two races, crashed out on the second lap.
The Italian now has 56 points after three races with Vinales on 50 and Marquez moving up to third on 38.
Marquez had crashed in the previous race at Argentina's Termas de Rio Hondo circuit while leading from pole but he made no mistakes this time after starting from the top slot for the fifth year in a row at the Circuit of the Americas.
He lost out at the start to Honda team mate and fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, who made a great getaway from the second row of the grid, but was always biding his time.
"At the beginning I tried to stay calm because I chose the hard front tire and I didn't know the feeling...after Argentina it looked really far but now again we are there and really close," said Marquez.
With Vinales gone, his bike sliding from under him at turn 18, the two Honda riders battled each other for the lead until Marquez made a move stick on the ninth of 21 laps and began pulling away.
Rossi was given a 0.3-second penalty for gaining an advantage by cutting the track on lap seven but made sure that was of no consequence by passing Pedrosa for second place on lap 19 and finishing more than two seconds clear.
"It was a very difficult race but I was able to stay very close to the Hondas, "said Rossi, whose penalty came after the Italian and French rookie Johann Zarco almost touched and he took evasive action.
"Some times I lost a bit but I could stay more or less (with them) because I had some points of the track where I was very strong.
"I'm very happy we are at the top and have a lot of points and also it's my best result in Austin."
Britain's Cal Crutchlow finished fourth after a late battle with Zarco, who crossed the line in fifth place.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon)