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Circuit of The Americas

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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.

The Grand Prix of the Americas is one of the MotoGP paddock’s favorite races, because of the setting, the atmosphere, and the city of Austin. The layout of the Circuit of the Americas is beloved by many a rider.

They love the challenge of threading the needle of Turns 2 through 10, the braking for Turn 11, Turn 12, Turn 1. They love the run up the hill to Turn 1, the sweep down through Turn 2, the fact that the back straight is not straight, but meanders like the straights at many great tracks.

The front straight at Mugello wanders, the Veenslang at Assen is anything but straight, that adds an element of challenge to a straight.

What the riders don’t love are the bumps. The bumps turn the Austin racetrack into a rodeo, the MotoGP bikes into bucking broncos. At close to 350 km/h along the back straight, the bikes become very difficult to control.

The bumps turn into whoops, a motocross track taken at light speed, and almost impossible to ride safely. Turn 2, that glorious sweeping downhill right hander has a bump in it which threatens to unseat anyone who takes it at the speed it begs of a rider.

Whether the work undertaken to try to address the problem will be sufficient remains to be seen. “I check a little bit and I know that they did a few modifications,” Marc Márquez said. “They didn’t do what we asked in the Safety Commission. But we will see in FP1 what is going on, how is the track.” Past experience holds out little hope.

The area around Turn 10 has been resurfaced, and the top of some of the larger bumps has once again been shaved off. That didn’t make a great deal of difference last year, but we will have to wait until Friday to see if it has been effective for the 2019 race.

After a display of utter domination by Marc Márquez in Argentina, MotoGP heads 7000km north to Austin where if history is to be the judge, we are in for a repeat performance. Marc Márquez has never been beaten at Austin, and indeed, has not been beaten on US soil since he moved up to Moto2 in 2011. It seems foolish to bet against him at the Circuit of the Americas.

Yet the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit and the Circuit of the Americas are two very different beasts indeed. Termas flows, with only a couple of points where the brakes are challenged, and is a track where corner speed and the ability to ride the bike on the rear is paramount. COTA is more a collection of corners than a flowing race track.

Three tight corners where the brakes are taken to the limit – Turn 12 being the toughest, braking from nearly 340 km/h to just under 65 km/h – a dizzying extended esses section from Turn 2 to Turn 9, a tight infield section and a big sweeping right hander.

If there is a section where the track sort of flows, it is from the top of the hill. The first corner is one of the most difficult on the calendar. The riders charge uphill hard on the gas, then slam on the brakes compressing the suspension harder than at any point on the calendar.

At the top of the hill they release the brakes and try to turn in, managing rebounding suspension with a corner which rises, crests, and then falls away down towards Turn 2.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Ducati Monster, one of the most important motorcycles in the Italian company’s lineup. To mark the occasion, Borgo Panigale produced the Ducati Monster 1200 25° Anniversario – a machine that is finally set to be in Ducati dealerships this month.

But, what if you wanted another historic paint job to celebrate this silver jubilee for the Monster? That is where this Ducati Monster 1200 Tricolore from Motovation finds its niche. We have posted photos of Motovation’s Tricolore work before, when the aftermarket house tarted up the Multistrada 1200 in an Italian flag livery, and the effect on the Monster is no less.

The motorcycling world once again descended upon Austin, Texas, as motorcycle road racing came to the Circuit of the Americas and the custom bike community arrived in droves for the Handbuilt Show.

This article will give you a flavor of what went on at the racetrack, while a second article will cover the Handbuilt.

As always, the Circuit of the Americas put on a great show. The facility is truly world-class and it made for a great weekend of racing.

Episode 71 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is fresh from Austin, where the Grand Prix of the Americas produced some predictable results on the track, though less predictable results off the track.

On the mics were Jensen BeelerDavid Emmett,Neil Morrison, and we talked about the three podium-men, in turn.

First up and at the center of the pre-event hurricane, Marc Marquez shutout the paddock chatter, and put in another stunning display of two-wheel racecraft in Austin – remaining undefeated on American soil.

Now under the microscope, Marquez’s on-track actions and off-track words launch us into a long discussion about Race Direction, penalties, and the rule of law inside the MotoGP paddock.

For Maverick Viñales, a second-place finish was perhaps the most that a Movistar Yamaha rider could hope for, and as such we discuss the state of the Movistar Yamaha squad. Was Austin the start of new day for Yamaha, or a false dawn?

Our last segment focuses on Andrea Iannone, with the ECSTAR Suzuki rider showing a new maturity in Texas. Will the Italian remain at Suzuki for the 2019 season? Or is his new-found civility too little too late? With that in mind, we speculate on where some riders will be next season.

Of course the show ends with the guys picking their biggest winners and losers from the weekend’s events, which isn’t as obvious this week as one would think.

We think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

There is a lot to love about the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin. As an event, it is fantastic: the facilities at the track are great, the city of Austin is a wonderful place to visit, with a lively party atmosphere downtown, and a million other things to do.

The landscape the track sits on is great for spectators, and the surrounding countryside is charming.

It is a race the riders love, and they have grown to love the track. “I like this track very much, it’s very good,” Valentino Rossi says of the Circuit of the Americas. “It’s good to ride because it’s very difficult, you have emotional corners, so it’s good.”

The bumps around the track have made it much tougher to ride, but the layout is still a favorite among many of the MotoGP paddock. It is highly technical and has a bit of everything: hard braking, hard acceleration, fast corners, slow corners, flowing combinations of corners which reward precision.

As great at the track is, it still produces rather lackluster races. The average margin of victory over all six editions has been 3.458 seconds, and that is discounting the time lost to the inevitable easing off to celebrate in the certain knowledge that victory is in the bag.

The gap has never been under 1.5 seconds, and there has never been a closely fought battle for victory, or even the podium spots, in the history of racing at the track. The result of the MotoGP race in Austin is usually set in stone before the halfway mark.

Even the normally mental Moto3 races are decided by seconds rather than hundredths. Only two of the six Moto3 races run so far were won by a margin of less than a second.

In Moto2, the winning margin has only once been under two seconds. That was in 2015, when Sam Lowes beat Johann Zarco by 1.999 seconds. The result in Moto2 has never been close.

At the core of every great sport is great storytelling. Mighty heroes take one another on, and overcome insurmountable obstacles in pursuit of glory.

The leather patches, helmet designs, and in in the current fashion conscious age, tattoos in motorcycle racing bear this out: everywhere you look are nothing to loses, against all odds’, and never give ups.

Motorcycle racing has so many truly great story lines that it doesn’t need any artificial plot twists or turns to hold the viewer’s interest.

Sometimes, though, it feels like the script writer for MotoGP gets a bit lazy. The hero whose efforts went unrewarded at one race goes on to win the next race. The villain of the piece one weekend immediately gets his comeuppance the following week.

The plot lines are so self-evident and obvious that it they become more cheap made-for-TV melodrama than a grand sweeping blockbuster the sport deserves. It’s all just a little bit too obvious.

So it was on Saturday in Austin. The story of the day had been telegraphed two weeks ago in Argentina: the reigning world champion Marc Márquez made a stupid mistake on the grid before the start of the race, then turned into a one-man crime spree trying to make up for the ground he had lost, culminating in a collision with his arch rival Valentino Rossi, reigniting the slumbering war which has existed between the two since the 2015 season.

Two weeks later, at the regular meeting of the Safety Commission, where the riders meet the series organizers to discuss how to improve the safety of the sport, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta promises that in future, the penalties handed down by the FIM Panel of Stewards would be more severe, to try to prevent a repeat of the reckless actions such as those committed by Marc Márquez at Termas De Rio Hondo.

There was good news and bad news for the MotoGP paddock after the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas.

The good news is that the work done to the track to try to remove the bumps had not made the track much more abrasive, as some had feared. Tires are wearing normally, so pit stops or worse will not be needed.

The bad news is that the work done to try to remove the bumps has not done anything to remove the bumps. It has moved them about a little, improved them in some places, made them worse in others, but the net effect has been zero, or worse than zero.

What’s worse, the process used has generated a huge amount of dust, bikes coming down the back straight billowing clouds of dust in their wake.

“It’s worse than Qatar,” Jack Miller said. “I said to the guys, ‘I hope you’ve got the air filter in from Qatar, because you’re going to need it’.”

At the first race of the season, the teams have to run a special air filter to prevent the desert dust from entering the engine and causing excessive wear. “The dust is far worse than Qatar, it’s that crappy concrete dust,” Miller explained.

MotoGP in Austin, Texas for the Americas GP will notice a giant “69” at the base of the iconic COTA tower, as the turn at the bottom of the mound has been renamed “Hayden Hill” in commemoration of the late American racer, Nicky Hayden.

Turn 18 is a fast right-hander, in a triple-corner complex of turns, which is known both for its speed and its rear-wheel slides. The first corner of the Circuit of the Americas to be given a proper name, it is a fitting tribute for the former MotoGP World Champion.

The MotoGP paddock this weekend has seen no shortage of tributes to the Kentucky Kid, including Ducati displaying Hayden’s Desmosedici GP race bike in the paddock area. He is surely missed by all.