This might be America’s next MotoGP track

Dailies -

By

Austin-USGPF1-1

With only a one-year contract extension from Dorna, numerous surface quality and safety complaints from riders, 13-year-old Peter Lenz’s death and Nicky Hayden’s lost knee puck, it looks increasingly likely that Indianapolis could lose its MotoGP round. Now, news that Kevin Schwantz is advising Austin’s new USGPF1 circuit on building its Formula One track with bike safety in mind, it’s looking increasingly likely that Texas might end up hosting America’s second MotoGP race.

The Austin, Texas USGPF1 circuit is the benefactor of a surprise decision by Formula One to run a Grand Prix there beginning in 2012 and currently contracted through 2021. The circuit is being designed by Herman Tilke, who also has Catalunya, Zandvoort, Hockenheim, Aragon, the updates to the Nurburgring, Paul Ricard, Sachsenring, Sepang, Shanghai and YAS Marina on his resume so, combined with F1’s requirements, there’s little doubt that Austin will be a world-class track.

As you can see from these recently-released circuit maps, the track is 3.4 miles long and includes a 200mph straight, 20 corners, 133 feet of elevation change and plenty of trackside hills for easy viewing.

“You’ll see fast turns that require commitment from the drivers and technical turns that will test the engineers from a set-up point of view,” described Tilke, speaking of Formula One, but the same qualities should help make MotoGP races interesting. It’s too early to make definitive judgements of the layout, but we see numerous high-speed braking areas and several two-apex turns that should increase passing opportunities, while the very long back straight and two very tight-technical sections should prevent a single bike setup from benefiting.

1993 500cc World Champion Schwantz, a resident of Austin, has been contracted to serve the track in an advisory role, providing motorcycle expertise. In addition to any potential MotoGP bid, Schwantz would like to see the track be capable of hosting motorcycle events, especially his riding school, which already operates at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports park. Apparently no serious alterations to this track layout are needed to accomplish that, but a North/South track divide, enabling the facility to host two events at once, is envisioned. Even if Austin never hosts a MotoGP race, this should at least be an interesting new venue for lesser racing and motorcycle trackdays.

MotoGP riders frequently complain of Indy’s bumps, mid-corner surface changes and even plastic drain covers in the run offs that can pull of their knee sliders. This year, unusually high temperatures destroyed the track’s grip, leaving most rider to visibly struggle with traction. Hayden even lost a knee slider and tore open his leathers after a near-lowside caused him to contact the curbing. Lenz’s death, which some have pegged on that lack of traction, could serve as a catalyst for a venue change, giving the track’s detractors an emotional trigger with which to make their anti-Indy case.

Dorna’s decision to grant Indianapolis only a one-year contract also suggests a change, Laguna Seca, for instance, just renewed through 2014.

The Austin track is scheduled to begin construction towards the end of this year, ambitiously aiming for a 2012 completion date in order to host a Formula One race there that year, towards the end of that series’ calendar. Schwantz is a bit taken aback by the effort an level of investment taking place there, estimating that it’d take 1,500 workers working 24 hours a day in order to meet that deadline.

Austin is receiving the track with open arms. Not only is it bringing significant investment to the area, but noise concerns should remain minimal as the property is located just a couple miles from an international Airport and the track is replacing plans to build a high-density housing development.

Sources: Wired, Herman Tilke, Crash.net, IBJ

  • http://www.twitter.com/beastincarnate Beast Incarnate

    Somewhere today, I read how they’re estimating this will cause up to 12 hour long traffic jams on race weekends. Eat your heart out, China!

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Awesome. If MotoGP comes to Austin, I will take everyone here out for pizza and beers. Or bbq.

    Also, in the op-ed pages of the Statesmen, our local paper, there are lots of people who are quite opposed to the track. So I would say that the government of Austin is receiving the track with open arms.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    Looks like a nice track, in a city I actually like (love, in fact) visiting. However, I’ve been in Austin in the summer, and its consistently 105-110 in the sun. How will that affect grip? Scheduling would be important.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      A surface designed to deal with the heat will work too :)

  • http://www.harvestclassic.org eggmasterduke

    So stoked to hear this news!!!!!!!!

  • MichaelMM

    Good looking track!

  • Your_Mom

    If it does come to pass, I’ll see everyone there. It is only three and a half hours from me and my best friend lives there. Should be a great time – and yes, it’s not only hot but can be incredibly humid too (but it’s a wet heat).

  • JRl

    that back straight looks ridiculously long…

  • circuitsports

    any track that features elevation is win +1 for Texas

  • cityag

    There will be a UnicornGP or before there is ever a MotoGP or F1 race on this fantasy track.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      What’s not to believe? They’ve been granted an F1 contract worth hundred of millions of dollars, the world’s most famous track designer is making it, Kevin Schwantz is involved…it’s happening dude.

      • cityag

        Wes, I’ll buy you dinner at Kenny’s if this happens. But…. For a 2012 race the track will logically have to be completed by this date next year to be put on the next years’s schedule. I can’t imagine it put on the calendar incomplete. Like any endeavor, the fun is over when the announcements are completed and the metaphorical and real machinery starts moving. Who has the excavation contract? Or the paving, or plumbing, or electrical, sanitation? Unless the do what WSBK did for Portomiao and run with the track incomplete, but that does not sound like Ecclestone’s MO.

        • http://houstonrider.com crawl

          They placed the Donington Park circuit on the 2010 schedule without the necessary expansion being completed, but track wasn’t ready in time so no race there this year. The FIM does whatever it feels like, and I think they are getting plenty of funding for the Austin track to encourage them to get behind it.

  • circuitsports

    Yeah and that’s why the Williams team is in Austin this week to chase unicorns….

    When it was announced a single f1 event would draw 300 million and 1500 jobs to the area = done deal

  • Slim Pickens

    Perfect for Speez…It looks like a pterodactyl wing.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Win.

  • MTGR

    The track is right next to a brand new major toll road so traffic back-up should only be an issue for those refusing to pay a toll.

    As for this being ready in 2012, or safe and open to bike racing, I hope so but I think the people behind it are either not fully realizing what is involved or not admitting what the true cost and timeframe will be.

    Here is hoping it all does work out, a MotoGp and F1 race this close would be cool for sure.

    • http://www.twitter.com/beastincarnate Beast Incarnate

      Then I say: hell yes. It’s an easy drive from Dallas for me.

  • Bitgeist Racing

    I bet you that every single MotoGP rider is behind this happening. I have attended all the GP’s at Indy and even did a few laps on a… cough…. GS Adventure… cough and the surface is complete garbage. Little known fact is that the transitions from infield track to “the nawscar bowl” are actually metal bands painted with what looks like truck liner.

  • danzero

    in regards to it being built in time – we are pretty close to the mexican border and the economy is down. i’m sure they could find and maybe even afford 1500 people to work 24 hours a day. bring it!!!

  • Scott-jay

    Wait a minute, Barber Motosports facility in Leeds, AL is closer to my house!