The first day of practice at the Circuit of The Americas was summed up with eloquent brevity by the headline of the press release issued by the RW Racing GP Moto3 team of Jasper Iwema and Jakub Kornfeil: “No grip in Texas.” Despite the awesome facility, a fascinating and difficult track, and clear blue Texan skies, the times set by all three Grand Prix classes in Austin were a very long way off what had been expected, as the riders struggled to find any grip anywhere.
Why was the grip so low? The heavy rains from the previous day didn’t help, washing any rubber that was on the track away. Not that there was much, on a track that has seen very little bike use in its short existence so far.
Then there was the cool temperatures, with thermostats showing just 13°C/55°F in the morning, and a strong wind blowing away any heat the sun managed to get into the tarmac. “Like riding on ice,” was the common consensus in the morning, with times some five and a half seconds off that set by Marc Marquez at the previous test back in mid March, at which conditions were far from ideal.
Three free practice sessions in the morning, a little less wind and a full day of sun worked wonders in the afternoon, with all three classes taking big chunks of time off their lap times from the morning. By the time the day had ended, all three classes were some three seconds or more faster than they started off. Tomorrow, most riders said, should be even better now there’s more rubber on the track. Warmer temperatures should help too, as will the wind dropping off.
We can’t remember the last time we were excited about a helmet, but we are counting down the days until the AGV Pista GP comes to the United States. Already available in Europe, the Pista GP is expected to cross the pond officially in October of this year and be a part of AGV’s 2014 collection.
However, some eager Americans have already been buying Pista’s online from British helmet houses, and having them shipped over to the US. Considering how banged up our international packages get, it is not something we would recommend. Patience is a virtue.
Marc Marquez entered MotoGP surrounded by hype and with high expectations. After a wet test at Valencia, where he showed he was fast, but not quite how fast, the Spaniard went to Sepang, where he posted very good times in a private test. At the full Sepang MotoGP tests, Marquez was genuinely impressive, never finishing outside the Top 4.
At Austin, Marquez stunned observers. The young Spaniard, still only a rookie in the MotoGP class, with only a few days on a MotoGP bike under his belt, dominated at the Austin test, topping the timesheets on all three days of the private test. It was not as if he didn’t have any competition at the circuit: both the factory Yamaha and Honda teams were at the Austin test, and Marquez beat Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi to set the fastest time.
So it was something of a surprise when Marquez failed to duplicate his impressive pace in Malaysia and Texas when MotoGP rolled up at Jerez for the final test of the season.
Though Marquez was 3rd fastest in the wet, once conditions improved – though they were never perfect – the Repsol Honda rookie got left behind a little, finishing the second day in 7th spot, nearly 1.2 seconds behind fastest man Valentino Rossi, and 5th spot on day three, 0.6 behind Cal Crutchlow.
Marquez left the three day test as 6th overall, six tenths behind the fastest man of the test Cal Crutchlow, and over a tenth behind Stefan Bradl, his main rival during the 2011 Moto2 season.
So what happened? Where did Marc Marquez’ speed suddenly disappear to? When asked by reporters on Sunday, the Spaniard had a few explanations. “Today was difficult,” Marquez acknowledged, “but I think it’s normal. It was the first time in dry conditions on this track.”
Last week we reported to you that Suzuki Motor of America was set to cut 10% to 20% of its powersports dealerships, as a part of its corporate restructuring and bankruptcy of the now defunct American Suzuki Motor Corporation. Clarifying that news, Suzuki has given a clearer figure, saying that 98 of the company’s 930 dealers will be getting the axe.
According to Suzuki, the roughly 10% of dealerships that did not see their contract assumed by Suzuki Motor of America accounted for only 2.5% of the company’s retail sales in the past 12 months (2.8% of retails sales in the past three years), making Suzuki’s actions more of a culling of the herd than anything else.
New for 2013, Ducati has added another model to its Superbike range, the long awaited Ducati 1199 Panigale R. Asphalt & Rubber was first to break the news on the “R” version of Borgo Panigale’s namesake, so it is fitting that we were one of the first publications to ride this homologation-special — taking part in Ducati’s international press launch at the new, and very technical, Circuit of the Americas race course outside Austin, Texas.
A purpose-built facility for the Formula 1 Championship, the Circuit of the Americas also has a ten-year contract with motorcycling’s premier class, the MotoGP Championship. This means three races will be held in the United States of America this year, which makes America MotoGP’s second-most visited countries in 2013. That distinction seems fitting, as the United States has also officially become Ducati’s number one market, not just for superbike sales, but in overall bikes sold.
Seeing a shift not only in the Italian company’s DNA, as it explores lines like the Hypermotard, Multistrada, and Diavel with great sales success, Ducati is also moving beyond being just a boutique Italian brand, into a truly global motorcycle company — being recently acquired by the Audi Group doesn’t hurt things either.
With so much change occurring at the foundation of the Ducati brand, bikes like the Panigale are extremely important to the Bologna Brand, as they anchor the company’s racing and performance heritage. Worry not loyal Ducatisti, the race-ready Ducati 1199 Panigale R lives up to the high-expectations, and is quite simply the finest machine to come from Ducati Motor Holding. We review it, after the jump.
I just arrived back in California, after spending the last few days in Austin, Texas — taking part in the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch at the new Circuit of the Americas race course.
As I put the finishing touches on my reports about Ducati’s new homologation-special, as well as the newest MotoGP circuit in the United States, I thought I would share a view not too many track day enthusiasts will get a lap to see: a lap around the Circuit of the Americas.
Unless you are one of the few lucky riders who will attend the very limited number of events COTA has to honor this year, riding on this purpose-built GP circuit is going to be an expensive proposition.
That is a real shame because the Circuit of the Americas is a first-rate facility, and once you get the hang of this very-unstraight-forward track, COTA is a very rewarding course to ride on two wheels.
For the next few days, Asphalt & Rubber will be coming to you from Austin, Texas, so needless to say we’ve got the Circuit of the Americas on our brain.
Host to MotoGP’s second round this season, COTA is the first of three American rounds, which makes the United States of America the second most popular country for the premier racing series.
A new venue for all the riders, the factory HRC and Yamaha Racing GP racers got a chance to lap COTA for the first time last week, and gave generally positive feedback about the purpose-built course.
With the Repsol Honda media machine in full-swing now though, Honda rider and rookie sensation Marc Marquez gives a more detailed opinion about the Circuit of the Americas, and the pre-season testing thus far.
Check out the video after the jump and feel the media grooming that is going on here.