I was fortunate enough to get to attend this years MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas. It was a spectacular event that had all the elements for the perfect weekend. Here’s our Moto Networks exclusive recap.
First and foremost one of the coolest parts of this whole weekend was that we drove down in an RV from Utah. That’s a Journey of about 1400 miles. This is something my Dad and I used to do when I was a kid. Except back then it was in a little car with a tent, and it was only 120-miles away. On top of that, it was just to watch the American racing series. This time everything was bigger by ten fold. The journey, the vehicles, the racing, and even the smile on my face seemed to be much bigger. For me it was a weekend I’ll always remember, so let’s start from the beginning.
Day 0: prep day.
What was supposed to be an easy get ready day was hindered by procrastination and ignorance. Both on our part. Up to this point I had procrastinated pretty bad, not realizing how much I really needed to get done before leaving for a week. My Dad didn’t procrastinate as much, rather he waited for me to be available to help. Oops. We finally got started on getting some things done to his RV so it was ready for the arduous journey ahead. Although things went a little awry when our generator wouldn’t start. Not good when you are dry camping for 8 days. For some reason it wasn’t getting any gas, likely a gummed up carburetor, which is well within our mechanical ability to fix. The caveat was that to get to the carburetor, you had to disassemble a lot of accessory items. Not the end of the world, but definitely not ideal.
The saying ‘things must get a lot worse before they get better’ couldn’t have been more true. I say this because, frankly, we are idiots. This particular RV has a feature that we both know about yet didn’t think of. If the gas tank dips under half full, like say a quarter of a tank like it sat, well then it cuts off the fuel to the generator so you don’t get yourself stranded by watching The Office re-runs in the woods. My Dad realized this the moment the carb was unbolted. Doh! After saying our fair share of swear words and swallowing our pride we put the generator back together and put gas in the RV tank. Fired right up. Dammit.
And that’s how we spent our prep day. Oh so productive.
Day 1: Departure
Finally on the road, again due to my procrastination we left later than planned, but if we hustled and shift drove late into the night we should be there by midday Thursday. Should being the key word in that sentence. Things went smooth for oh about 150-200miles. Because somewhere along the line we missed one of the most crucial turns in our journey. So instead of going south to Moab, Utah like we were supposed to, we ended up on some god awful road in Colorado. From what I understand the road that goes down to Moab, and eventually on to Albuquerque is nice and relatively flat. This new road was anything but.
We first noticed our mistake when we hit Grand Junction, Co. It was a ‘hmmm that’s funny I don’t remember Grand Junction being on the way’ kind of moment, immediately followed by an ‘ohhhhh shit!’ moment. And after looking at the map for a total of 7 minutes we decided not to turn around and instead let our friends Apple and Google lead the way. We recalculated and started driving, aimed towards a stretch of road called highway 50. It started out fine, for about two and a half miles. Then it instantly became a roller coaster. And I don’t mean that ironically, the road actually got so wavy it could easily be misconstrued as a roller coaster. It turned the plush suspension of our RV into a 6-ton pogo stick, a feeling that was not nearly as fun as it may sound. These waves in the road continued at random for the next ten miles or so, and with the lack of visibility in the dark it was unnerving that you couldn’t see them coming.
After the roller coaster section, things seemed to be looking up. We traveled for a good 50-60 miles where we eventually stopped for gas. Now it was my turn to drive. While I’ve driven a handful of big vehicles I had never driven this particular RV. And now it was dark. Good call. I came to grips with the big Georgie fairly quick, until the road started getting steeper and steeper. Little did we know the route our phones had agreed upon was one that would take us over several mountain passes. In the dark. Not cool Google, not cool. As I’m driving the road kept getting steeper and steeper, while also getting narrower every step of the way.
The first pass featured tons of tight switchbacks with sharp drop-offs that I could only see because of how dark they became. Falling rock signs seemed to be every mile or so and they were followed by little pieces of debris in between. Towards the top, we noticed the steep inclines next to the road were now covered in snow, an unwelcome sign when you aren’t prepared for it. Then if the road wasn’t bad enough we had to start sprinkling in deer sightings. It started with 3 in the middle of the road. We had to come to a complete stop, as the deer were stuck because a fence and kept darting back into the road. The last thing I wanted to do was hit Bambi on the way to the races. Over the next 200 miles we would see 11 more deer, cross 4 bridges over a reservoir, and climb two more mountain passes. It was a stressful night that took longer than it should have.
Day 2: So much wind.
Once we were out of the Canyons it seemed like it was going to be pretty straight forward, we were heading for Texas after all. But what we didn’t know was that they have seasonal winds in North West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. Like up to 80mph gusts. Driving through these winds in a giant brick is anything but fun. Whoever is driving is tasked with wrestling the steering wheel for miles on end while the passenger is praying we don’t blow over and die. While fighting the wind at night we were surrounded by flashing red lights, and we were fairly certain that we couldn’t both be hallucinating. The culprits for the red light phenomenon was in fact, a wind farm. Hundreds of giant windmills scattered the fields of Texas. At least they make use of this blasted wind.
While it never truly subsided, the wind did get bearable enough that we were finally able to roll up in our destination of Austin Texas in the wee hours Friday morning. 27 hours of driving and we are finally here.
Day 3: Friday Practice
We are here. We hit Austin early this morning driving through the night. But now we are at COTA! And it is glorious! MotoGP is out for free practice 1 adding to the ambiance of the entire place. The first day we just cruised around scouting different spots to watch from, as well as checking out all the cool bikes in the paddock. The different classes rotated through each of their practice sessions, as well as Moto America’s qualifying rounds. The weather was crisp and perfect, resulting in extremely fast times through FP1 and FP2. Marc Marquez and Maverick Vinãles jockeyed back and forth for fastest lap, ending the day 1 to 1 between both practices. The battle was officially on.
While MotoGP is the main attraction that has brought us here this weekend we can all agree there is so much more to a race weekend than just one class. Both Moto3 and Moto2 entertained exceptionally well over the weekend. Moto3 was brought into a whole new light for me. The sound made by the little 250cc single cylinder engines that power the Moto3 bikes is absolutely absurd. Arguably louder than the much faster MotoGP bikes, the little Moto3’s scream around the entire track. On top of that seeing their corner speed in person was almost unfathomable. It seemed as if they didn’t even brake for the majority of sections, just tipping the bikes in and somehow if by magic they just stuck, flying through the corner before exiting with the sound of a million thunderclouds at once. It was an exceptional first day of practice.
Day 4: Saturday Practice and Qualifying
Talk about your weather shift. Friday was warm and crisp, yet Saturday was actually about 20 degrees cooler. Celsius that is. We woke up to the sweet sound of Moto America bikes fitting in their early morning practice. Possibly the best sound in the world to wake up too. After a quick breakfast we headed out to watch some more practice in preparation for the qualifying that was coming later in the day. FP3 was absolutely mad, leading to 8 different riders crashing throughout the session. Marc Marquez even crashed twice. With the wild wind and low temperatures, all the riders lap times were much lower than the previous day, even still Vinales found himself on top. The energy around a Marquez Vinales battle was starting to get electric.
FP4 saw improvements from almost all the riders as the weather started to get warmer. Pedrosa looked strong in both FP3 & FP4. Great to see the quiet Spaniard on the top of the time sheets once again. Valentino Rossi continued his trend of struggling during practice, circling around mid-pack. And now its time for the fun to start, and it all starts with Q2.
Qualifying is broken into two different groups, with Q2 being for the fastest of the riders. And was it exciting. The battle for fastest lap came to a head as Marc Marquez and Vinales swapped back and fourth fastest times. Marquez seemed to have it in the bag until Vinales busted out a beautiful 2:02.871 to take the top right after the checkered flag. Normally that’s checkmate, but Marquez doesn’t play like that. Marc put in his fastest lap of the day right after Vinales, pulling out a blistering 2:02.741 to stake his claim to his 5th straight pole position at Circuit of the Americas. It was exhilarating watching them go head to head like that. Rossi managed to steal 3rd on the grid, an impressive move from the 38 year old Italian that was overshadowed by the all-Spanish battle just ahead.
Race day is tomorrow, yet it couldn’t be here any sooner.
Day 5: RACE DAY!!!!
Oh boy. It’s race day, possibly the best day ever. Just like days prior the day starts with the Moto America alarm clock. This time the weather is back to a superb warmth with the wind dying down, perfect Texas weather. After all the warm-ups the day starts to kick off with an action-packed schedule. We decide turn 1 was the best viewing spot for us, electing to see the start and finish of every race. Turn 1 doesn’t know how to disappoint. The day moves like clockwork, cycling through each class with ease. The crowd is massive, yet with a theme of roughly 3 fan favorite riders, Maverick Vinales, Marc Marquez, and of course Valentino Rossi.
When it comes to the races each one is fantastic. Moto3 has an incident that causes a red flag, luckily it’s minor and the rider is able to walk off. Moto2 gives us a really great battle until one of the leading riders crashes out, leading to a wide open race. And then we have MotoGP, the race we all came here for.
While the riders do their warm up lap the crowd cheers with nervous excitement for each one of their favorite riders. From the start the Hondas of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa get the jump going up the hill into turn one. Rossi and a surprise Jorge Lorenzo even making it up to 4th just ahead of Vinales who rounds out the top 5. Vinales waits no time inserting himself in front of Lorenzo, chasing down the Hondas and his own teammate. What a phenomenal first lap.
Lap two brings some of the most excitement as Maverick Vinales looses the front and goes down in turn 18, a sight that brings the crowd into a grumble. We were all expecting the showdown between Marquez and Vinales, now what do we do? The race doesn’t slow down though, showing us battle between both Pedrosa and Marquez as well as Johan Zarco vs Rossi. While battling, Zarco comes in hot and bumps Rossi sending him off track through turns 3 and 4. Rossi doesn’t miss a beat, getting right back on the gas staying in 3rd right behind the two Repsol Hondas. While Lorenzo started well he slowly started falling further down the pack, another rough day for the Spaniard on his new Ducati.
At this point Marquez has checked out, he really is the king of Austin. With just under 2 laps to go Rossi pulls off a fantastic pass to get around Pedrosa for second place. The checkered flag comes out and Marquez takes his fifth consecutive win in America, and the crowd goes absolutely nuts. When Rossi comes by the crowd bellows with excitement, Marquez may be the winner of the race, but Rossi is the winner when it comes to fan base.
And just like that, it’s over. I mean there was still Moto America to watch, and the victory celebrations were happening on the track side big screen, but no one really seemed to care. With so much anticipation and excitement everyone starts to either pack up or just take a small nap in the grass, as if they put it all into the race just like the riders. Overall the energy of the crowd was an aspect I had long forgotten, one that really should be experienced in person.
All in all it was one of the best racing experiences I have ever had, somehow making the grueling trek to get there all worth while. We did attend some other events locally in Austin, making the weekend even more of an event. Between the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, Blues, and BBQ it was quite the weekend. The Circuit of the Americas facility was so much more to see in person than I had ever expected, it truly is world class. The view from the 22 story tower was astounding, worth the journey up with no elevator. Even the fan walk area was well done, showcasing all the dealer booths in the perfect way. Sprinkle in Ducati Island, a Ducati’s owners paradise, and you have just about the perfect event.
The drive home was a bitter sweet moment. All the excitement and glory was over, now it was back to normal life. Next year I hope to fly to the races, but truthfully I would jump back in that RV and do it all over again tomorrow if I could.