Trackside Tuesday: Is COTA Tilke’s American Masterpiece?

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On the Thursday before the Americas GP, I stood at the top of T1 looking down onto the straight from the height of 13 stories. Feeling more than a touch of vertigo, and thinking, that if anything, Hermann Tilke captured the unwritten law that everything in Texas has to be big.

From the massive elevation changes, to the one kilometer back-straight leading to the massive stadium section, to the 77 meter observation tower…the track and the entire facility is breathtaking in its hugeness and character.

Outside the track, the bridges, grandstands, vendor areas, concert stage, truly everything has been designed to be the best. I feel a little dirty betraying my Laguna Seca or the speedways of Indianapolis and Daytona, but this is without a doubt the most amazing racing facility in the United States today.

All the teams I had a chance to speak with were in awe of the facilities and the character of the track — none more so than Tech 3 Yamaha whose Wednesday night battery malfunction could have caused an entire paddock to burn down at older, less advanced facility. On the inside there was praise from journalists, photographers, literally everyone.

And for the fans, there was plenty to do and see from almost any place in the grounds, despite the rather draconian security, Sunday’s traffic jam, and a misunderstanding of the needs of motorcyclists (having to walk with your gear for 1/2 mile to get to the gates must have sucked), yet everyone came away with positive things to say.

But also I realized that my concerns after viewing the Formula One race here on TV last November were valid. This is another track designed for automobile racing with motorcycles considered as a distant afterthought.

While there are truly wonderful flowing sectors, the open throttle to hard braking present in three critical areas doomed the race to a grueling affair with the big bikes seeing very little passing. Indeed the podium was decided within half a lap and only one pass occurred between the leading duo.

So, history was made during the inaugural (and presumptuously named) Grand Prix of the Americas, and it was made in a grand Texan way, with all the hugeness it entails, but the MotoGP race became quickly processional as the bikes spread out lap after lap. In the end, we were denied the promise of another Qatar in what still could be the best season ever.

Jules Cisek is a race fan and photographer. He is also the producer and presenter of the MotoPod podcast. You can follow him on TwitterFacebook, or on the MotoPod Facebook page.

Photo: © 2013 Jules Cisek / Popmonkey – All Rights Reserved