News of a possible MotoGP round in Austin, Texas sent GP fans in the United Stats into a flurry, but the proposed third US round has been anything but a sure thing since its announcement, and continues to be so even after the signing of a 10-year contract. Trouble first started brewing as the Circuit of the America’s had trouble finalizing its deal with Formula 1, a deal that was the linchpin to the circuit’s financing. With the issues with F1 resolved, and the premier car racing series set to take the green flag at Austin later this year, MotoGP seemingly is having the same problem of coming to Austin.

Reported by the local Austin news site the Statesman, the issue is both complex and relatively simple. As with Formula 1, the rights to host MotoGP at the Austin track reside with Full Throttle, a promotion company owned in part by Tavo Hellmund, who in turn was a partner of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) project. When last year Formula 1’s contract with Hellmund was found to be in breach, F1 Boss Bernie Eccelstone terminated his contract with Hellmund, which then sent the F1 deal at Austin into a tailspin, and caused COTA to deal directly with Formula 1 in securing the racing series.

With Hellmund also being the bond that tied MotoGP to Austin, the same issue has arisen with COTA and Dorna, the media rights holder to the MotoGP Championship. According to court documents, Hellmund alleges that COTA had an opportunity to buy the rights to host MotoGP for $18 million from Full Throttle/Hellmund when it bought the similar rights to Formula 1. Clearly unable to close that deal at the time, unless the Circuit of the Americas can secure those rights in the coming months, the Austin GP scheduled for 2013 will likely not be held.

Hoping to sway COTA into purchasing the right to host MotoGP, legendary GP rider Kevin Schwantz sent a letter to Steve Sexton, President of the Circuit of the Americas. In his letter Schwantz wrote, “I urge you one final time to contact Mr. Hellmund about obtaining the rights to host a MotoGP race in Texas, after which I would be glad to open discussions with you as the new promoter. If you have not obtained such rights from Full Throttle, then unfortunately Circuit of the Americas will not be included as a round of the FIM Grand Prix Road Racing World Championship.”

“It is my understanding that Circuit of the Americas had the opportunity to obtain these rights on several occasions between late 2010 and the fall of 2011 but that Circuit of the Americas did not follow through,” Schwantz also wrote to the track’s President. Presumably Schwantz’s company, 3FourTexas, would likely become the new promotion company for the Texan MotoGP round, and if this passage from the email is true, then it would seem that COTA has been dragging its feet on securing the MotoGP rights, either because of negotiation positioning, because of securing the necessary finances, or both.

The most intriguing element of this whole debacle is a statement that Steve Sexton made to the Statesman, which said, “”We are in discussions with several major race series who have reached out to us, and our confidence is high that three to five major world-class events, including a two-wheel championship, will be on the 2013 schedule — and that these races will take place under terms favorable to the Circuit and the series owners.”

This begs the question of which “world-class” two-wheel championship the President of COTA is referring to in his statement, and it certainly raises an eyebrow about the possibility of the World Superbike Championship swooping in on the folly with MotoGP. With the premier production-motorcycle racing class on a critical mission to secure races outside of Europe, a second US round is certainly not off the table. Other possibilities include the AMA Pro Superbike Championship, or the ever-present business maneuver of complete fabrication. As always, time will tell.

Source: Statesman; Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • yooperbikemike

    neatly discounting past statements by the Fiamminis to the effect that Asia is their principle focus, not another US round

  • I fail to see how the two ideas are mutually exclusive.

  • Gonzo

    I’ll pass thank you. When they give the U.S. an enema, it won’t be New Jersey where they stick the pipe, but Texas! And for anyone who does go, don’t let any Texan feed you that “Don’t Mess with Texas” crap! That slogan is from an anti-litter campaign, not because Texans are badasses.

  • andrey

    A storm in a teacup being stirred by egos the size of hurricanes: namely Ecclestone and Hellmund.

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  • john walker

    sorry to see such a great sport erode from ego, greed and dominated by 2 manufactures now. and we wonder why WSB is doing so well

  • @john walker: WSB might be doing well on one hand, but I sure can’t seem to watch it here in Japan. Whereas I can (and do) subscribe to and am able to watch full practice, qualifying sessions and races, all I get at the WSB site are 2-min. recaps of race highlights. *YAWN*

    People like to complain about Dorna, but at least they understand that to enjoy the show, people need access to it. They’ve one-upped Bernie on that count, too. F1’s site offers little more than qualifying laps by the pole sitter.

  • hoyt

    Am I missing something and/or over-simplifying matters with this question:

    Why would a business which invests this kind of money, real estate, time, & effort into a worldclass racetrack not have their own in-house promotion company?

    get rid of the middle man promotion company, regardless if it is Kevin Schwantz or not. There’s a whole lot of markup being passed around for something that promotes itself by simply being on the schedule.

  • hoyt

    based on the info above it seems that COTA is trying to get rid of the middleman promotion company, but how does a company get the “rights” to a race without a track in the first place?

  • Other two wheeled “world class” series that he could be referring too (get ready to laugh) . . . TTXGP and FIM e-Power.

  • SBPilot

    @Trane Francks: Not sure where you been but WSBK releases 25+ min reviews after each round that include not only most (if not all) the major highlights of the races but informational behind the scenes footage. I use to (amongst many others) complain about the unbearable 360p they uploaded but it’s all HD (1080p) this year on YouTube. With the addition of multiple on-board cameras on most of the bikes this year (something MotoGP has had for eons but new to WSBK), Superbike media reach out to fans is stronger than ever and improving at a very fast rate. Plus it’s free, though I wouldn’t doubt for a second that a video pass will be available in 2 years or so (for those who want to watch qualifying….now that’s a real YAWN!)

  • @SBPilot: Thanks for the tip. I’d gone to the WSB site and in the video section, clicked on – DUH – Races and found only sub-2-min. segments. Apparently, to watch a race, one clicks on Magazine. I suppose a 26-min. recap is better than nothing, but it seems way short to me. I’m the sort of person who just prefers complete coverage.

    YMMV and all that. :)

  • SBPilot

    @Trane Francks – Touche! I also prefer compete race coverage but not a fan of qualifying. Frankly WSBK full coverage was sub par just two years ago (no on board cams) and only half way through the season last year they started using more on board cams (sort of). It made watching full races pretty boring. But seems like this year with the new ownership and enough time to organize they have got the ball rolling with much more momentum. Lets hope they offer full race coverage, interviews etc online in the near future like MotoGP

  • @ SBPilot: I enjoyed watching the Phillip Island race. Let’s hope the rest of the year plays out as well as this race. Max’s dash from last to 2nd in the 2nd race was unreal. Great to see Team Green making a strong showing, too (I was parts manager at a Kawi shop many moons ago, so I’ve a sentimental affection for the brand).


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