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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 Beeler, David 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 Facebook, Twitter 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.

The announcement that the official MotoGP.com website were to stream the Thursday media debriefs of Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi live raised some hackles in the paddock. The objections to the move differed with the interests of those complaining.

The print media complained that there was no point in flying half the way around the world to cover the series if everything was going to be streamed live anyway. Rival factories complained that the media debriefs of their riders were not being streamed live.

Some fans and journalists complained that by showing the debriefs, Dorna were merely fanning the flames, where they should be trying to calm the situation down.

In the end, there wasn’t much of a situation to calm down. Sure, the media debriefs of Márquez and Rossi were streamed live. But both men went out of their way not to say anything of interest.

The feud lives on, but we didn’t notice because we lost interest in what the protagonists were saying about halfway through. There is much to be said for trite media speak.

To an extent, this is probably a good thing. Aleix Espargaro, whose media debrief really should have been streamed live, as it was a great deal more entertaining than all the other rider press conferences put together, pointed out the irony of the situation.

“Everybody is talking about the Argentina clash and nobody is talking about the tarmac of America, which is more important!” the factory Aprilia rider complained.

Normally, the Grand Prix of the Americas, as the MotoGP round at COTA in Austin is known, is a straightforward affair. 24 MotoGP riders line up on the grid, and 23 of them stage a fierce battle over who is going to come second behind Marc Márquez.

The Repsol Honda rider has won every single one of the five editions staged at the Circuit of the Americas. In fact, the Spaniard has never been beaten in any of the nine MotoGP races he has contested on American soil, at Laguna Seca, Indianapolis, or in Austin.

Will someone finally break Márquez’s winning streak in the US? On the evidence of the 2018 season so far, the only person capable of beating Márquez at one of his strongest tracks is Marc Márquez himself.

In Argentina, the Repsol Honda rider managed to thoroughly sabotage his own race. First by stalling his bike on the starting grid – a grid already thrown out of kilter by the changing weather.

Then by trying to make up for the time he lost serving a ride through penalty for a multitude of infractions at the start by charging through the field like a wrecking ball, slamming into one rider after another, taking out his arch nemesis Valentino Rossi, before being hit by another penalty, this time adding 30 seconds to his race time and demoting him out of the points.

After the race and in the intervening days since, Rossi has gone on the attack, calling Márquez a dangerous rider who is a threat to everyone on the track with him. He doesn’t feel safe on the track with Márquez, Rossi said.

Rossi’s remarks, while understandable, should be seen within the wider context of his vendetta with Márquez, after he lost the 2015 championship, which Rossi blames entirely on deliberate interference by Márquez.

Further stoking the fire, Rossi was pictured in a social media post with a framed picture of the Argentina incident lying on a sofa at his dirt track ranch.

Whatever the root of Rossi’s remarks, there can be no doubt that they are a distraction, both for Márquez and for Rossi himself.

When the pair arrive at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, they will face questioning on one subject only. And that won’t be Márquez’s chances of winning on Sunday.

Episode 55 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is another special show, and it concludes our adventures in Austin, Texas. For this show, we talk a whole lot about some Aprilia motorbikes, as we rode a total of four different machines around the Circuit of the Americas.

In total, we road the new RSV4 RR, RSV4 RF, Tuono V4 1100 RR, and Tuono V4 1100 Factory, and then sat down for a discussion with Piaggio’s head of design, Miguel Galluzzi.

Our talk with Galluzzi covered a host of issues in the motorcycle industry, which we think you will find very interesting, as he provides a unique insight. Similarly, our thoughts on the bikes are also of note, as Aprilia has produced two very potent model ranges with its V4 engine design.

At nearly two hours long, there is a lot to listen to here, but we think you will find our discussion about the new Aprilia models to be pretty interesting, especially if you are in the market for one.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Episode 54 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is a special, special show, and it continues our adventures in Austin, Texas. For this show, we talk a whole lot about Suzuki, as we were out riding the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Kevin Schwantz…yes, the Kevin Schwantz…also joins us on the show, and we have a lengthy discussion about motorcycles, racing, and of course, Texas.

At nearly two hours long, there is a lot to listen to here, but we think you will find our discussion about the new GSX-R1000 to be pretty interesting, especially if you are in the market for one.

Both Quentin and I agree that the new GSX-R is pretty potent, especially for being the cheapest superbike on the market. We can’t wait to ride the GSX-R1000R model soon as well.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Episode 53 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it continues our adventures in Austin, Texas. For this show, we focus on one of our favorite topics: Ducati motorcycles.

The show revolves around two interviews we recorded at COTA, one with Jason Chinnock, the CEO of Ducati North America; and the other with Julian Thomas, the press manager for the Ducati MotoGP team.

With Chinnock we talk about a number of topics, including Ducati’s new models, the current motorcycle climate, and the rumors about its V4 superbike. The interview ends with a very interesting discussion about ownership structures for motorcycle companies, which is proving to be a timely commentary.

With Thomas, we talk about the current state of the Ducati MotoGP team, the progress that they have seen so far this season, and how the arrival of Jorge Lorenzo has changed the team dynamic.

Both interviews have plenty of interesting insights, which we think even non-Ducatisti will find insightful and enjoyable.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!