The great state of Texas once again hosted MotoGP and MotoAmerica this past weekend, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
Dorna said that attendance was higher than last year’s number of 56,000 on race day, but did not release an actual figure. Based on my own experience, I would say that attendance was likely up the entire weekend.
Weather played a definite factor in this year’s activities, with Friday being hot and humid, while Saturday was cold, damp, and windy, which led to multiple crashes during practice and qualifying. Thankfully, the weather on Sunday was sunny and breezy, but not too windy, making for a truly beautiful race day.
The MotoGP paddock was the usual beehive of activity this weekend, with scooters darting back and forth, carrying crewmembers, racers, and photographers.
This has been a challenging year for Ducati Corse, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Dovizioso. The Desmosedici GP17 is a new platform with a new aerodynamic package, sans winglets, and there have been development challenges along the way.
With a double DNF at Argentina, Ducati was definitely looking for some good news in Austin.
As it turns out, qualifying went better than expected. Lorenzo seemed quite pleased at the end of qualifying, pumping his fist in the air as he entered his garage.
This afternoon, Asphalt & Rubber had a chance to sit down with Lorenzo for a few minutes to discuss the challenges of switching from Yamaha to Ducati, and the difficulty of developing a new MotoGP machine.
It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between.
Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable.
An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.
Kenny Roberts Sr., Jeff Ward, and many others battled on the track to show who was the best all-around motorcycle racer on the planet. Of course, this multi-disciplined form of racing was the precursor to modern supermoto racing.
Just like Steve Martin’s 1977 album, one of the main themes of this years’s International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach was “let’s get small”.
Almost every major manufacturer unveiled a bike in the 300cc category. BMW showed off its G310R standard and G310GS dual sport, Honda showed its CRF250L Rally, Suzuki introduced its GSX-250R, and Kawasaki unveiled its Versys-X 300.
Additionally, Honda had its world introduction of the 300 and 500 Rebels. It’s definitely a good time to be shopping for smaller motorcycles!
It’s 7am at Utah Motorsports Campus on Day One of a three-day MotoAmerica race weekend. Being my overly punctual self, I’ve shown up at the track too early, but it’s given me a unique opportunity to watch the teams arrive and get set up.
As I walk around the paddock, I can hear the sounds of a race weekend beginning. The quiet tones of the teams waking up and starting their day; eyes still bleary from the long drive to Utah. I could smell coffee brewing and breakfast cooking in some pits, while others were still devoid of activity.
I came around a corner and saw the unmistakable blue awning of the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha Factory Superbike Team. Yamaha invited me to spend a weekend with them to see the inner workings of a professional racing team, and all of the hard work that goes into such an undertaking.
Over the weekend, I’d have opportunities to sit down with Racing Division Manager and AMA Hall of Famer, Keith McCarty, 2015 Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier, four-time Superbike Champion Josh Hayes, and Crew Chiefs, Rick Hobbs and Jim Roach.
Since it was still early and the tent flaps were still down, I stood and watched as the paddock awakened.
Safety and training; two words that tend to elicit a yawn or an eye roll from most people. Motorcycling, though definitely not the safest activity you can choose, is pretty exciting and challenging, yet for the most part, the safety training associated with our sport is quite boring.
Riding around a parking lot, MSF style, is not particularly difficult, and does a terrible job of emulating real world threats. Track days, though fun and offering the chance to push the limits of your motorcycle in a controlled environment, don’t typically present the kinds of dynamic threats we need to see in order to stay safe on the road.
So if parking lots and tracks don’t offer the training environment you want, how do you get the training you need? Well, over a recent weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training.
Stayin’ Safe is owned and operated by Eric Trow. A motorcycle training professional with over twenty years of experience, Eric offers on-street rider training.
Part training and part tour, Stayin’ Safe offers courses from two to three days through some of the nicest riding areas in the country. I had the opportunity to take the Southern California class which lasted for three days.
I’ll just say up front, this was a great experience and I learned much more than I thought I would.
This past weekend, nearly 3,000 motorcyclists descended on the Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel, California.
They didn’t go to the Quail to golf; rather, they went to see the 8th annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering. With roughly 400 motorcycles of all genres and years on display, the Quail offered something for everyone.
Unlike last year, this year’s event offered a lot more sunshine and warmer temperatures, and featured the 40th Anniversary of the superbike and a tribute to pre-1916 motorcycles.
Additionally, there were display categories for motorcycles from all parts of the globe. The quantity and quality of the machines on display was impressive.
The MotoGP circus came to Austin from April 8th to 10th for its only stop in the US. Attendance for the event was good, with a 10% rise over last year’s event.
Over 131,000 fans flocked to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the weekend with over 56,000 on race day. Austin was also the season-opener for the second season of MotoAmerica racing.
As usual, COTA put on a world class event. The facilities are top-notch, the racing was great, and compared to other tracks, the food was outstanding. COTA brings in a variety of goodies from many of Austin’s best food trucks, and it’s a big step up from the normal vendor faire.
Maverick Viñales is only 21-years-old, but has been racing motorcycles for 18 of those years (he started in minimotos at 3 years of age). Those 18 years of experience have brought him to where he is today; a rider in the premier class of motorcycle road racing – MotoGP.
Viñales’ record is impressive. He’s the owner of four 125cc titles at various levels, was the Rookie of the Year in Moto3 in 2011, Moto2 in 2014, and MotoGP in 2015, and most notably, was the World Champion in Moto3 in 2013.
Simply put, this man was made to race. Asphalt & Rubber had a chance to sit down with Maverick at the last round of MotoGP in Austin and it was great opportunity to talk motorcycle racing with one of the top riders in the series.
Overwhelming, but in a really good way. That’s the best way to describe the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Officially categorized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest motorcycle museum, the collection at Barber contains over 1,400 motorcycles with over 650 on display at any one time.
Over 20 manufacturers are represented, and the collections spans over 100 years of motorcycling’s history. This is truly a destination that no motorcycle enthusiast should miss.
Founded by George Barber in 1995, the museum started in downtown Birmingham, Alabama before moving to its current location in the Birmingham suburb of Leeds in 2003.
The 144,000 square foot museum comfortably rests on the grounds of the Barber Motorsports Park, with the entire back half of the building overlooking the popular 2.38 mile track.
George Barber started as a car racer, racing Porsches and racking up 63 victories. From that background, he began collecting cars, but quickly realized there were numerous world-class car collections that already existed.
On the other hand, there really wasn’t a world class motorcycle museum that truly captured the history of the sport. Barber saw an opportunity, began collecting motorcycles, and the rest is history.
What makes a champion? Is it talent? Desire? Drive? Today we had an opportunity to learn about those things from the champions themselves, as Yamaha closed out their year-long 60th Anniversary celebration by inducting twelve members into the Yamaha Wall of Champions.
The celebration occurred at Yamaha’s headquarters in Cypress, CA with much of Yamaha’s senior leadership team present. Four of the inductees came from the motocross and supercross side of the house, two were ATV champions, and six prefer the slick tires of motorcycle roadracing.
Yamaha used this ceremony as an opportunity for its employees to celebrate the holiday, to give back to the community, and to enjoy some time with factory racers, both past and present.
The mood was festive and spirits were high. A band comprised of Yamaha employees added to the festive atmosphere and a couple of food trucks ensured that everyone was well fed.