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.
There were large crowds of fans hovering outside the Yamaha, Honda and Ducati garages, with any sighting of Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Marc Marquez, or Jorge Lorenzo turning into minor pandemonium.
A racer-sighting typically was initiated with a person seeing their favorite racer, yelling out their name, and then the fans would all converge on the rider like a swarm of flies on an open jar of honey.
The fans surrounded their favorite star, clamoring for autographs and selfies, with the riders obliging to a certain extent, but then pushing their way through the throng to continue on with the business at hand: racing.
Though I understand the desire to see one’s racing heroes, the fan behavior became a bit intrusive at some points during the weekend. I know that I wouldn’t have nearly as much patience and restraint with the crowds as the top racers did.
As such, Yamaha, Honda, and Ducati all had to have additional security on-hand to handle the paddock crowds.
Besides the activity in the paddock, many of the usual fan activities were available throughout the weekend at COTA, with manufacturers offering displays of their newest motorcycles and accessories, as well as offering demo rides.
As always, Ducati Island was a hub of social activity. The Italian manufacturer showed their full line of motorcycles, including their Scramblers, and also had a large showroom full of clothing and accessories for sale.
In addition to the merchandise, there was a large soundstage that offered live entertainment, and a pretty cool, two-story lounge that allowed Ducati owners to kick up their feet and take a break from hiking around the track.
Another highlight of the weekend was the induction of Kenny Roberts Jr. as a MotoGP Legend. The 2000 500cc World Champion joins his dad, three- time 500cc World Champion, Kenny Roberts Sr., as the only father and son duo in the MotoGP Hall of Fame.
Beyond the MotoGP paddock, the MotoAmerica teams quietly played a support role for the weekend’s activities. The American series ran a truncated schedule, with only one Supersport race and a pair of Superbike/ Superstock 1000 races.
Because they are a support series, the amount of track time for MotoAmerica was limited this weekend, with very few practice sessions available. Though the exposure for the budding series was good, in speaking with some of the teams, I know they found the support role and lack of track time frustrating.
Saturday’s Supersport race resulted in Yamaha’s JD Beach winning in dominant fashion by almost five seconds over Suzuki’s Valentin Debise and Beach’s Yamaha teammate, Garret Gerloff.
The Superbike class raced on both Saturday and Sunday, with Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias taking both races. In race one, Suzuki-mounted Roger Hayden came in second, while a surprising Bobby Fong came in third on his Kawasaki.
The traditionally strong Yamaha team suffered a spate of bad luck in race one, with Josh Hayes being taken out by Kyle Wyman’s bike as it crashed early in the race and defending champion, Cameron Beaubier crashing while battling for the lead.
Both Beaubier and Hayes remounted and salvaged some critical points, finishing 8th and 14th respectively.
In the second superbike race, things were a lot closer, with Elias’s margin of victory reduced to just .716 seconds over Beaubier, and Roger Hayden coming in third, just 1.117 seconds behind.
It was very apparent that Suzuki’s 2017 Superbike offering is a lot more competitive than the previous edition. I asked Roger Hayden what made the new GSX-R1000 superior to last year’s bike and he explained that, “the bike changes direction a lot better and the electronics are better as well.”
With full factory support from Suzuki this year, the battle between Yamaha and Suzuki for the Superbike title should make for an entertaining season.
Overall, the weekend at the Circuit of the Americas was excellent. The unpredictable weather made for some entertaining action on the track, while the extensive fan activities kept everyone busy and entertained.
If you haven’t made the trip to Austin, you really should. The racing is superb and the city of Austin has a lot to offer. Overall, it makes for a great weekend.
Photos: © 2017 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved