Americas GP


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the MotoGP calendar. The second and third rounds of MotoGP, at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina on April 11th and at the Circuit Of The Americas on April 18th have been officially postponed.

In their place, Qatar will host back-to-back races at the Losail International Circuit on March 28th and April 4th, and reserve circuit Autódromo do Algarve at Portimao will host a race on April 18th.

Though officially only postoponed, the Argentina and Austin rounds are almost certain to be canceled, a move which had long been expected.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be a wrecking ball to the MotoGP calendar, with now the Grand Prix of the Americas being postponed because of health concerns and travel restrictions.

The announcement coming jointly from Dorna, IRTA, and the FIM is not a surprise for those following the space, and just yesterday we speculated about today’s possible news.

With Italy overnight clamping down the entire country, and and cases of the virus continuing to grow in Europe and America, today’s announced postpone seemed all but certain.

The season-opener for the MotoGP Championship is once again under doubt, as question marks over the Americas GP in Austin are beginning to grow.

The concern comes from several factors, including local government moves in Austin that happened last Friday, which saw the Texan city declare a “state of disaster” for the metropolitan area and surrounding county because of concerns regarding the global coronavirus outbreak.

Episode 13 of the Brap Talk podcast is now out for your two-wheeled audio pleasure, and it comes to you right after the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Shahin and I greatly enjoyed seeing and talking to so many fans of the podcast at the MotoGP race, Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, and the general Austin city limits. It really means a lot to us that you all enjoy the show so much.

As such, this show discusses the weekend for us, in particular what happened on and off the track. We gush about the MotoGP race, debate the bikes seen at the show, and generally plan where our next calories are going to come from.

There are only three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and Marc Márquez winning any MotoGP race organized in the United States of America. That has been true since the Spaniard moved up to MotoGP, and for both years he spent in Moto2 as well.

There is something about America which makes Márquez nigh on invincible. Is it the anticlockwise tracks? Is it the low grip and tricky surfaces found at the circuits? Or is high fructose corn syrup Márquez’ equivalent of Popeye’s spinach?

MotoGP went to Austin hoping this might be the year when things changed. With good reason: the racing in the series has been getting closer and closer almost on a race-by-race basis. Valentino Rossi finished just 0.6 seconds behind race winner Andrea Dovizioso at Qatar, but he crossed the line in fifth place.

In Argentina, the seven riders fighting for second place were separated by 3 seconds on the penultimate lap. The Ducati Desmosedici GP19 is faster and better than ever, the Yamaha M1 has made a huge step forward since 2018, and the Suzuki has consistently been in the hunt for podiums since the middle of last year.

That is all very well and good, but the margin of Marc Márquez’ victory in Termas de Rio Hondo suggested that ending Márquez’ reign in the US would require something extraordinary to happen. The Repsol Honda rider had a 12 second lead going into the last lap in Argentina.

The Honda RC213V had the highest top speed in both Qatar and Argentina, the bike having both more horsepower and better acceleration. Then, during qualifying, Márquez took pole – his seventh in a row at the Circuit of the Americas – with an advantage of more than a quarter of a second over Valentino Rossi. Normal service had been resumed.

For this year’s Americas GP, I made a conscious effort to get out of the confines of the media center, and to watch the on-track sessions for the MotoGP riders.

Part of this was because of all the talk about the track conditions, but the other reason is due to the fact that you can pick up on a great deal from seeing the bikes circulate in person, which is lost from the media feed.

Who is pushing hard every lap? Who is waiting for a tow, and from whom? Who looks comfortable through a particularly difficult section of the track? How do the bikes and riders compare on approach, apex, and exit? And so on.

For bonus points, I brought my camera long with me as well.

It never rains, but it pours. Especially around Austin, where warm damp air blows in from the Gulf of Mexico, and the rising terrain of the start of Hill Country generates turbulence which causes the towering clouds to dump their burden of moisture onto the earth below.

That happened early on Saturday morning, when the heavens opened and a torrential rain drenched the ground, causing deep puddles and running streams throughout the area east of Austin that houses the Circuit of the Americas. And it happened again in the late morning, a brief but enormously intense storm dumped another centimeter or so of rain onto the track in the space of a quarter of an hour.

Both rainstorms were accompanied by thunder and lightning, which caused the most problems for the organizers. Lightning poses a significant danger, not just to anyone foolish enough to try to race a motorcycle in a thunderstorm, but to corner workers, the fans and the staff who work around the track. Lightning strikes regularly claim lives in Texas, so when a thunderstorm hits, it gets taken very seriously indeed.

It never rains but it pours in the metaphorical sense as well. After Friday’s raft of complaints aimed at the bumpiness of the Austin track, Saturday started off with track action being first delayed, and then canceled, and fans being locked out of the circuit for safety reasons. It was very much an inauspicious start to the weekend.

It is becoming a familiar refrain. At the end of each day at the Circuit of the Americas, the riders express their admiration for the event, for the setting, for the venue. And they express their dismay at the state of the asphalt, at the bumps in the track – the most common comparison was with speed bumps put in to slow traffic – and at the danger that entails.

The Grand Prix of the Americas is one of the paddock’s favorite events at one of their favorite venues, at one of their favorite track layouts. It is also the race with the worst asphalt.

Despite this, opinions are split, though not diametrically opposed. There are those who think the track is dangerous now, and who fear we will not be able to return if the track is not resurfaced, and there are those who feel that the track is fixable, and not quite as bad as the more apocalyptic predictions suggest.

It was a somber occasion in Austin on Friday, as members of the grand prix paddock gathered in the press conference room to witness the announcement that the number 69 was going to be retired from use in the MotoGP Championship.

The event at the Hayden Hill later that day, just overlooking Turn 18 was a little bit more cheerful though, as friends, family, and well-wishers gathered for a photo around the emblazoned logo of the Kentucky Kid.

There was also the Repsol Honda RC211V race bike on display in the paddock – the machine that Hayden used to win the 2006 MotoGP Championship – along with no shortage of fans sporting Nicky’s apparel, number, and infectious smile.

However you spent the day at the Circuit of the Americas on Friday, thoughts of Nicky Hayden were surely nearby.

For the past couple years at the Americas GP, Alpinestars has brought out a limited edition boot to celebrate the riders that are in the Italian brand’s family.

The first year was with Marc Marquez, and for the 2019 edition, we see Alpinestars paying tribute to Kenny Roberts Sr.

The Godfather of American road racing, Roberts sees his famous yellow, black, and white livery recreated for the racing  boot, complete with the silhouette of an eagle. A replica signature is also featured on the boot.