Tthe MotoGP weekend at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas kicked off on Thursday with a somewhat eventful day including a fire in the paddock, a pre-event press conference and a track ride with a few riders and a handful of lucky media in sporty BMW X-5s.
// Garage Fire
Early Friday morning a small fire broke out inside the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage, which houses riders Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith's bikes, gear and tons of team equipment. The fire was ignited by one of the electric starters used to start the Team’s Yamaha YZR-M1 but quickly extinguished by COTA's sprinkler system. The fire itself was small and contained, but the water from the sprinklers affected neighboring teams. Yamaha Motor Racing’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis commented in the press conference:
When we arrived here today we heard there had been a fire incident, and that the Yamaha garages, Abraham’s team, and LCR were under water. But if we hadn’t been here at this excellent facility [with fire protection], we could have lost six bikes! There was no damage to any people or the bikes, but computers, servers and spare parts have been flooded. We can race this weekend, but have to take everything to pieces and dry each part, to ensure we have no corrosion issues in the future. But it’s always tougher with electronic parts, as issues are not visible.
Kudos to COTA and the local Austin Fire Departments for responding quickly and ensuring this fire didn't do more damage then it did.
// Press Conference
In attendance at the Pre-Event Press Conference on Thursday were (pictured above) COTA President Steve Sexton, Ignite Pramac Racing's Ben Spies, Repsol Honda Team's Marc Márquez, Yamaha Factory Racing's Jorge Lorenzo, Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha Motor Racing's Managing Director, Lin Jarvis.
Overall the riders shared the general sentiment that they are looking forward to racing on the new circuit. Two of the five riders that tested on it last month, Márquez and Lorenzo, had split feelings that they had an advantage but that their peers would quickly adapt. Lorenzo thought that three or four testings would be enough for other riders to understand the track but that a crucial aspect of it, Turn 1, is difficult because of its elevation change. He said it is "one of the biggest corners I've ever seen." Márquez said Friday will be for learning; the first day "most of the riders will struggle a little bit, but by 30 or 40 laps they will know the track."
Crutchlow and Spies had a chance to ride the circuit on street bikes before Thursday. Crutchlow said that it's difficult against the five guys that tested at COTA last month (Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez, Dani Pedrosa and Stefan Bradl) but that they'll have to be patient. He added, "there are a lot of blind corners and it will take some time to learn." Spies was asked if he feels like an unofficial Ambassador for Circuit of The Americas, since he resides less than four hours north of the circuit in Dallas, and shared his excitement for having a world class facility in Texas to call home. Spies commented:
I never would have thought that this facility would be in Texas. I'm happy to be one of two Texans here, I'm happy to help [serve as ambassador] if need be. But these world class events are great for Texas.
Ben also noted that it would not be the same to be racing in Texas without MotoGP World Champion and local Texan, Kevin Schwantz, in attendance. Due to ongoing litigation with COTA and Dorna, Kevin has confirmed he will not be in attendance at the MotoGP race this weekend.
// Track Ride
American riders Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards took to the track late Thursday afternoon to show the main tricks of the new circuit to Spanish rider Luis Salom and German riders Sandro Cortese and Jonas Folger. The small group rode scooters and were followed by media to capture the action on film. The riders stopped atop Turn 1, at the end of the esses at Turn 6, and at the COTA Tower to analyze the circuit from 251 feet above. Be sure to check out the Official MotoGP YouTube page, where the action will be shared in their post-race webisode, After The Flag.
We'll have photos from the guys hanging out on track and up in the Tower, but until then, enjoy this awesome GoPro video of Honda Repsol riders Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez riding COTA back in March.