The 2013 MotoGP World Championship will stop at the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, but that doesn’t guarantee that the U.S. will have three MotoGP races.
The 10-year deal for the track to host a Grand Prix was announced on Tuesday by Dorna, the MotoGP rights-holders, along with 3FourTexasMGP, LLC, and Full Throttle Productions, LP.
Beginning in 2013, the Herman Tilke-designed circuit will host all three classes of the MotoGP World Championship – MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3.
The circuit, which previously announced a 10-year deal to host a Formula One race, will be one of three current tracks to host both F1 and MotoGP races; Catalunya and Silverstone are the other two. But it will be the first track in the U.S. to host rounds of the premier car and motorcycle championships.
In a statement released by Dorna, Kevin Schwantz, the manager of 3FourTexas MGP and LLC, said, “For me this is a dream come true, that the FIM MotoGP World Championship will be in my home state of Texas. I am such a believer in the sport and know how popular motorcycling is in Texas. I am sure that this will be a resounding long-term success.”
Schwantz is a longtime friend of Tavo Hellmund, the former car racer who’s the managing partner of Full Throttle Productions.
“Kevin [Schwantz] and I have been close friends for a long time and I enjoy a great relationship with Carmelo [Ezpeleta – the Dorna CEO],” Hellmund said. “I respect so much what they [Dorna] and the FIM have done for MotoGP globally. It’s going to be great for the State, the product is fantastic and you never know, we may even have a reigning Texan in Ben Spies as World Champion for our first event… that would be icing on the cake.”
Of the current U.S. venues on the MotoGP calendar, only one is guaranteed a race in 2013. The Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be on the 2013 MotoGP calendar after last year signing a three-year contract extension that runs through 2014. In a statement, Gill Campbell, CEO/General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, said, “Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca brought MotoGP to the United States in 2005 and we welcome the addition of a third venue in anticipation of expanding the World Championship to a broader audience. There’s no denying that our country’s and state’s economic condition the past two years has hindered attendance growth. I am hopeful that this expansion into a new demographic is a sign that fans and corporate sponsors are intensifying their support of the world’s best motorcycle racers.”
The question mark is Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On the Friday of last year’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix weekend, the track announced a one-year extension to their original three-year contract. At the time, Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president and chief executive officer, said, “We’re thrilled to welcome back the stars and machines of MotoGP in 2011.”But how long the welcome mat will remain out is the big question.
IMS is one of the most, if not the most hospitable venues on the calendar. Track personnel treat the teams, riders, media, and fans to a steady stream of Midwestern hospitality. And they’re accustomed to handling large crowds. But that may not be enough. Attendance has slipped each of the three years. From a high 91,000 in the hurricane-hit inaugural race of 2008, it fell to just over 75,000 in 2009, and 63,000 last year, a drop of more than 30 percent over three years. If that decline continues, it’s unlikely the track, which is used to hosting events for hundreds of thousands of fans, would find it profitable to continue.
Nor has the layout been a rider favorite. The 2.62-mile, 16-turn road course was carved out of, and added to, a counter-clockwise version of the Formula One road course that ran from 2001 through 2007. The main complaint is that the surface isn’t consistent, with four different types of asphalt with sometimes difficult transitions. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner brought up the track when addressing the issue of a date change for his home Grand Prix at the often weather-troubled Phillip Island circuit.”It is just disappointing to say they threatened them too much that if you don’t change, yet we go to a track like Portugal and Indianapolis where they don’t have to change surface where it is obvious that it is terrible.”
In response to a query about the future of the Red Bull Indianapolis MotoGP race, IMS released a statement by President and CEO Jeff Belskus.”We’re pleased to learn of the addition of another MotoGP event to the United States,” he said. “This can only help elevate the profile in America of this thrilling form of motorsport, which will benefit all existing MotoGP races in this country and enhance the global prestige of the World Championship. We’re committed to the growth of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP and motorcycle road racing in the United States.”
The iconic Speedway showed their commitment to the event by hiring a brand manager for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP in February. LeeAnne Looney, the new brand manager, will be responsible for promotional and marketing planning, logistics and execution for the annual MotoGP event at IMS.