The fate of a third MotoGP race in the U.S. is in doubt after former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz took legal action against the Circuit of the Americas.
In April of 2011, Schwantz and series’ rightsholders Dorna announced a ten-year MotoGP contract with great fanfare. But before long there were contractual issues among the various parties, many within the management of COTA. Tavo Hellmund, one of the original forces behind the circuit, and also a Schwantz ally and longtime friend, was forced out, throwing the race into doubt. Schwantz, whose company 3fourTexasMGP holds the MotoGP contract, was then left to either promote the race himself or allow the track to promote it. The latter option was thought to be less desirable since track management has no experience promoting a motorcycle race.
Part of the dispute is that though Schwantz has a contract with Dorna, that contract doesn’t specifically state that COTA would be the venue, though that’s what was assumed.
In the suit Schwantz addresses that by stating “Had defendants not interfered, there is a reasonable probability that 3four would have contracted with another Texas entity that it considered for MotoGP, including the Texas World Speedway,” where the AMA held races in the early 90s.
Schwantz alleges in the suit, filed in Travis County, that Dorna was trying to subvert his contract and deal directly with the circuit at the urging of COTA track president Steve Sexton. “Through tortious interference and fraud, COTA and Sexton encouraged Dorna to breach and purportedly terminate 3four’s agreement to avoid the obligation to pay 3four,” the suit states.
Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta was on record earlier this season as saying there would be only two MotoGP races in the US in 2013. But with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway reminding him they both had contracts for next year, Ezpeleta has backed off that position.
In a statement Schwantz said, “I have devoted over 25 years of my life to MotoGP, the premier motorcycle road racing world championship. I spent four of those years bringing MotoGP to Texas, my home state. As a result, MotoGP agreed in 2011 to host an annual race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track.
“I’m sorry to say that COTA is now attempting to unlawfully force me out of this project. I believe COTA has committed fraud in doing so. Earlier today, I took legal action against COTA. I was forced to file this lawsuit in order to protect my rights, my reputation, and MotoGP itself.
“I want to see MotoGP come to Texas, but I cannot allow COTA to take advantage of me. More important, I will not sit idly by while a newcomer to racing discredits the sport I love.”
Though MotoGP may not be headed to Texas, AMA may be. An AMA official has privately told team members that there would be an AMA Superbike race at COTA at the expense of one of the legacy tracks.
Schwantz is currently on a charity bicycle ride across Europe and couldn’t be reached for comment. Attempts to reach officials of Dorna and COTA were not immediately successful.