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Grand Prix of the Americas

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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.

The great state of Texas once again hosted MotoGP and MotoAmerica this past weekend, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

Dorna said that attendance was higher than last year’s number of 56,000 on race day, but did not release an actual figure. Based on my own experience, I would say that attendance was likely up the entire weekend.

Weather played a definite factor in this year’s activities, with Friday being hot and humid, while Saturday was cold, damp, and windy, which led to multiple crashes during practice and qualifying. Thankfully, the weather on Sunday was sunny and breezy, but not too windy, making for a truly beautiful race day.

The MotoGP paddock was the usual beehive of activity this weekend, with scooters darting back and forth, carrying crewmembers, racers, and photographers.

The MotoGP circus came to Austin from April 8th to 10th for its only stop in the US. Attendance for the event was good, with a 10% rise over last year’s event.

Over 131,000 fans flocked to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the weekend with over 56,000 on race day. Austin was also the season-opener for the second season of MotoAmerica racing.

As usual, COTA put on a world class event. The facilities are top-notch, the racing was great, and compared to other tracks, the food was outstanding. COTA brings in a variety of goodies from many of Austin’s best food trucks, and it’s a big step up from the normal vendor faire.

Maverick Viñales is only 21-years-old, but has been racing motorcycles for 18 of those years (he started in minimotos at 3 years of age). Those 18 years of experience have brought him to where he is today; a rider in the premier class of motorcycle road racing – MotoGP.

Viñales’ record is impressive. He’s the owner of four 125cc titles at various levels, was the Rookie of the Year in Moto3 in 2011, Moto2 in 2014, and MotoGP in 2015, and most notably, was the World Champion in Moto3 in 2013.

Simply put, this man was made to race. Asphalt & Rubber had a chance to sit down with Maverick at the last round of MotoGP in Austin and it was great opportunity to talk motorcycle racing with one of the top riders in the series.

After the MotoGP round in Austin, the Paddock Pass Podcast crew (including yours truly) stayed for Suzuki’s private test at COTA, and recorded the latest episode of the show. For bonus points, Episode 23 comes with the tonal sounds of the Suzuki GSX-RR’s crossplane inline-four engine, in the background.

A lengthy show, we discuss the tire debacle in Argentina, starting with the weekend’s constantly changing schedule, the inclusion of the “safety tire” to the program, and the aftermath of all that.

We then turn our attention to the on-track action in Texas, which saw a number of riders hitting the asphalt, as they continue to learn the new Michelins. We finish the talk with some silly season speculation, some of which has already come true, and a look at the Moto2 and Moto3 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!

The large swatches of red, white, and blue paint at the Circuit of the Americas are a great visual addition to an already fairly scenic track.

Throw in a bit of elevation change, and the colors provide endless possibilities waiting to be explored.

2016-americas-gp-austin-Dan-Lo-02-marc-marquez

With smooth armco and solid stripes serving as a background, a motion blur was easy to achieve. This came with a caveat, as this particular composition was also only possible with the fastest riders.

The reason for this is that the armco abruptly cuts off mid-corner, followed immediately by unsightly plastic crash barriers that required a substantially slower shutter speed to smooth out.

Slower riders didn’t get their bikes down at full lean until they were past the armco, which yielded very different results.

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I tend to gravitate towards abstract compositions that intentionally obscure the location on the track. Any educated guesses as to Dani Pedrosa’s whereabouts?

If the big question at the Circuit of the Americas was “Who can beat Marc Márquez?” then we found out the answer on Sunday: Nobody. There were only two brief moments during, where Márquez was not leading the MotoGP race.

Off the line, Jorge Lorenzo was a fraction quicker going into Turn 1, but Márquez turned earlier and already had the lead on the exit. Lorenzo tried once more into the hairpin of Turn 11, but overshot and ran wide, Márquez taking back the lead immediately.

After that, Márquez was gone. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo kept Márquez honest for a couple of laps, but the Repsol Honda rider’s relentless pace forced them to concede.

Márquez went on to win his fourth straight Grand Prix of the Americas, and his tenth straight win in the United States of America. Since ascending to MotoGP, he has never been beaten on American soil.

There are plenty of adjectives you could throw at Márquez’ performance – imperious, dominant, superlative – but perhaps the best word to sum up Marc Márquez at the Circuit of the Americas is “Unbeatable.” His rivals will have to wait another year to try to find a way of stopping him.

Does Marc Márquez still own the Circuit of the Americas? So far, there has been just one session of practice which the Repsol Honda rider did not head. But as that was Q1, a session he had managed to bypass by heading up every other session of practice, it seems fair to say he does still own the place.

How does he do it? By the simple procedure of being faster than everyone else everywhere: braking later, carrying more speed, changing direction faster through the switchback section, losing out only slightly in acceleration and top speed.

Every rider you ask about him says the same: Márquez has some special magic around COTA, using lines that only he can manage. He is just about unstoppable here.

That doesn’t mean he can’t be beaten. “Nobody is unbeatable,” Jorge Lorenzo said in the press conference. “You have to make a race, and finish a race. Anything can happen with these new tires. You can have some engine failure, or crash, or make a mistake.” If there were a year where Márquez could be beaten, Lorenzo intimated, this is it.