Trackside Tuesday: A Circuit Too Far?

04/22/2014 @ 11:35 pm, by Scott Jones23 COMMENTS


One of the benefits of having contacts in the MotoGP paddock is occasionally getting info that comes in handy. At the end of last season I happened to ask a friend about the July 2013 test at the new Argentina circuit.

I’d been thinking that this round looked interesting; and as I love to go to new tracks, I was thinking seriously about attending MotoGP’s first visit to the Autódromo Provincial Termas de Río Hondo.

The trip from California to Argentina sounded good in theory. It was a shorter journey than flying to Europe, right?

That’s how crap my geography is. The flight from SFO is 13+ hours, 6,500 miles in the air. What I learned from my friend, because I’d not looked on a map yet, is that once in Buenos Aires you’re still 700 miles from the race track, and there is no convenient way to cover those remaining 700 miles.

My friend said that from Buenos Aires the trip had required a two-hour bus ride to another airport, another flight, another bus, another flight, and way too much waiting in between each stage of the journey to make for a pleasant trip. The final flight had been on a small, regional, propeller-powered airplane — always a red flag for me as I like to carry-on my photo gear roller.

Once at the underwhelming hotel, it was discovered that all energy drink-branded apparel had disappeared somewhere along the line. That was another troublesome bit of info for someone who travels with lots of photo gear. My friend concluded the story with, “If you don’t have to go, don’t! Getting there was a nightmare, and getting home was even worse.”

In Qatar I asked several photographer colleagues about their plans for the third round. Everyone I asked started griping about the complexity of the trip, and one told me that he and another shooter were planing to drive the 700 miles from Buenos Aires in their rental car.

That sounded like an interesting adventure in its own right, but driving 12+ hours across an unfamiliar South American countryside with $40,000 to $50,000 worth of photo gear seemed not so hot for a travel segment before a Grand Prix.

For the past two days, my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been full of paddock friends’ talk about the challenges of traveling to this circuit. But most I expect MotoGP fans will watch the action on TV or online with little appreciation for how much effort has gone into getting the entire circus to this remote location.

After all, it’s not just riders, teams, media, and VIP guests, it’s also all the Dorna staff and jumbo jets full of equipment. I feel especially bad for my pals on the TV production department. They have to get all the cameras, cables, etc to Spain for the back-to-back race at Jerez the weekend after this.

My question is, why Autódromo Provincial Termas de Río Hondo? Argentina has a track in Buenos Aires that has hosted Grand Prix motorbike racing as recently as 1999. Instead of racing at a revised version of this familiar track, MotoGP is 700 miles away at another circuit that itself was enlarged and modernized in 2012.

Maybe updating the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez was not an option. But I’ve not heard any explanation for why MotoGP is in Río Hondo instead of one of the 42 other Argentine circuits listed on Wikipedia.

If Round 3 were at the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, I would probably be there right now. As it is, I am looking forward to seeing the new location on TV at the end of the week. This must be some sort of fantastic race track!

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

  • Rodrigo

    I love your photograph, but… please don´t come to the south. You can lost on the jungle or in their gravel roads. Maybe the indians jumps from their treehouses to steal your precious $50,000 photo gear, because here, in the USA’s backyard, all shiny things is like a magic…

    I have a question for you, how do you manage to travel to Jerez?

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    Rodrigo are you being facetious???

    I’d say $50K in photo gear is pretty friggin precious.

    The logistics of getting to this track are mindboggling. Will there be anyone attending this race? It reminds me of that Coors Light beer commercial where the bar is on some remote glacier or something.

  • @Rodrigo: Sorry to say yours are not the first comments like this I’ve heard. As for Jerez, I’ve only been once and I flew to Madrid, then drove south to Jerez.

    @CMM: The friend mentioned above also reported that the local fans were very enthusiastic even to watch the testing. I think race attendance will depend on how much the tickets cost, because apparently the area around the track exhibits a fairly low standard of living. But of course, as we see in Qatar, crowd attendance is less important than the TV rights, which can be sold regardless of track location.

  • ML

    If its this difficult for you, how the hell are they getting the bikes and supporting equipment to the track, let alone all of the staff?!!?

  • @ML: That’s an excellent question. Dorna is accustomed to moving all that gear (bikes, tools, other contents of garages for 3 classes, plus loads of TV equipment, plus a lot of administrative stuff) from race to race, so they are likely (though I don’t know for sure) doing that 700 mile drive in trucks full of gear unloaded from their jumbo jets. Sunday night they will have it all packed up and headed back to the airport because they must set up in Jerez right away. But to me it’s really the logistics of getting all their people there that is interesting.

  • Another 700 miles after a 24hour flight! No thank you. TV will do just fine. I question the location for a race but I would love to see and eat all that Argentina has to offer. #grassfed

  • meatspin

    there should be closer airports- Tucuman or Cordoba?

    I’ve always wanted to visit Argentina

  • I was looking foward to going this year with my parents (both Argentines) but after making original plans they both decided it was to much of a hassle. So we ended up going to the COTA event instead.. Too bad i was looking foward going to my parents home GP. Next year we’ll make a vacation out of it and spend a month down there..

  • I agree with comments that Argentina would be a very interesting place to visit under the right circumstances. I would love to tour Patagonia, for example. Perhaps next year will be a good time to attend MotoGP as well.

    Curiously, tickets for this round were not available at this year, as pointed out by a friend who lives in Argentina. I wonder what that means, if anything.

  • I felt the irony dripping down rodrigo’s comment. Monkeys and indians fo’sure dudes.

    The post title are moans about the circuit being so far. But… To travel thousand kilometers in europe, nobody says anything.

    is the usual American / European way of thinking… Always pose difficulties when it comes to the “south”.

    It’s the same thing when you speaks the name “Brazil”… Monkeys on the streets, nobody study, only play soccer all day long…

    Rodrigo…. i know that feel, bro.

  • @Fred: It’s the distance from a major airport that is the difficulty from my perspective. As I said, I was looking forward to going and seeing Argentina for the first time, and had the race been held in Buenos Aires I would probably be there right now.

  • Scott, Termas do Rio Hondo is a beautiful, touristic spot. Thermal waters, natural beauties… You should come first and enjoy some days =)

    I was thinking to going… but my pockets and bank accounts are closed for at least the next two months. =/

  • Fred, I appreciate the local knowledge – perhaps these attractive features helped Dorna and the FIM to choose this circuit to bring MotoGP back to South America. I hope this weekend’s coverage of the racing shows Argentina in a good light, and I hope as well that this round is a great success all around.

  • Rodrigo

    @Fred: Thank you for understand the feelings of my comment after reading so many silly excuses for not coming to the end of the world.

    @Scott Jones: Just to you know, LAN airlines fly from LA to Cordoba, then is only 300 miles between Cordoba and Termas de Rio Hondo. Less than the distance between Madrid to Jerez…

  • @Rodrigo: That’s certainly better than 700 miles, thanks for the info.

  • Scott, when MGP it comes to Brazil, for sure I will be happy to personally meet you. Probably, in Brasília.

    I really enjoy your work.

  • hotels are fully booked, thus it looks like attendance will be high. even for me, living in rio de janeiro, flying to santiago del estero would be a saga. i heard of a guy that will go riding his bike to the venue… this one is a hero.

    regarding the tickets: this might be related to currency exchange issues, since argentinian economy isn’t living its days of glory…

  • KSW


    I can’t agree more about the location and demands that puts on everyone including the media charged with promoting an event, often times for less than it costs to actually cover it

    For a perspective on why the track near such great things as beautiful thermal waters you need to look at why the race is really there. Repsol, oil, natural shale gas. Even Patagonia is part of the shale expansion with the likes of 25+ billion barrels estimated in the area. This is big time multinational, billion dollar companies we’re talking about.

    Regarding the comment on traveling 1000’s of kilometers in Europe. For many it’s a known entity, familiar path and comfort level. Personally, I’m as happy in a remote jungle as a Suite in London. Both offer something unique in images and stories. I have family in Argentina as well and friends at Major University. Lovely country, great people. On Brazil, when my wife goes there she’s greeted at the airport by an armed guard and driven in a bullet proof limo. Don’t have that issue even in New York.

    Keep up the great work Scott and making a “Dream Job” as dreamy as others seem to think it is.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    …and if a rider gets injured the nearest hospital is where?

    The South Americans are missing the point–the venue is in the middle of nowhere. That’s not a knock on South America. I know nothing about Argentina but surely there are perfectly capable tracks closer to major cities in Argentina.

    You’d get the same complaint if motoGP staged a race 8 hours east of Walla Walla.

  • David

    I’m guessing that Dorna is acting much like the NFL. Build a new track or renovate an old track and they are more likely to come.

  • harlan

    Well, the reason for the Termas of Rio Hondo track is mostly political.
    Our dear chief of staff is from that province, so…yeah :P
    The Galvez track in BA is destroyed, it’s not fit to host any class of motorcycle racing…
    It would be awesome if they went to San Luis to the Potrero de Funes, but…it’s probably unsafe for motorcycles!

    BTW, that airport near the track is actually an international airport, I don’t see why they went to buenos aires first. I’m guessing that Dorna has chartered flights?
    Next year things will probably get more streamlined.

    It’s not the same traveling 1000kms when you’re in Europe. The road from Buenos Aires to Santiago del Estero only has 2 lanes, is pretty destroyed and full of trucks, so its undestandable. (Also, there is some ~500kms without fuel in the middle, so…adventure!)

  • Judge

    “for not coming to the end of the world”


  • KSW


    Dorna is saying, pay us millions of dollars you don’t have, get tax payer subsidies, over charge the fan or we’ll find someone who will. What? You expect them to pay for use of a facility and be responsible for there own debt? The VP of a major publishing company said at Austin, “The model of tracks paying is a broken one” I can’t agree more.