The MotoGP series is about to undergo a transformation in 2012, with the premier class returning to 1000cc engine capacity and the 125cc bikes being replaced by the 250cc four-stroke Moto3 formula. But the bikes are not the only thing due to change: the calendar itself is likely to undergo a radical transformation, with several new tracks being added while others disappear.
One of the tracks being touted as a new venue for MotoGP was the circuit currently under construction just outside of Austin, Texas. Over the past year or so, rumors that MotoGP would be heading there have been swelling to such an extent that the question appeared not to be whether the series would go there, but merely when. Would the track be ready to host a race in 2012, or would Texan race fans - of which there are many - have to wait until 2013?
There's good news and bad news on that front: Dorna and Full Throttle Productions - owners of the Circuit Of The Americas facility near Austin - have officially announced that they have signed a contract that will see all three of the MotoGP classes racing at the track. The bad news is that fans will have to wait until 2013 to see the MotoGP series visit the track, but that misfortune is generously recompensed by the fact that the circuit has signed a ten-year deal with Dorna to host the series. The contract with Dorna means that the Circuit of the Americas have snared the major series from both the two-wheeled and four-wheeled worlds, with Formula One also landing a deal to race at the track.
The deal came about due in no small part to the role played by former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz. The Texan has been working with the circuit owners for some time to ensure that MotoGP visits the track, and the combination of his pressure and the expected quality of the facilities smoothed the path for the event to happen. The fact that two of the three Americans currently racing in the series are also from Texas - factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha veteran Colin Edwards - also made the deal a more attractive proposition.
The addition of Austin to the MotoGP calendar is not the only change expected. The Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is expected to be part of an Arabian double-header opening the 2012 season, according to German-language publication Speedweek, while the track in New Delhi could also join the calendar in 2013. The Estoril round is likely to disappear, reducing the number of races on the Iberian peninsula from five to four, though all four of those will be in Spain.
It is unknown what will happen to the Indianapolis round of MotoGP, however. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a one-year contract to host MotoGP this year, and talks are believed to be underway for an extension of the deal. The location of the Indy circuit is strategically vital for Dorna, as it is the best facility within reach of the US East Coast and its major population centers. If IMS can be persuaded to extend the contract - and make a few modifications to the surface of the road course - then Dorna would have three races covering the three strategic markets in the US: Indy serving the East and Midwest (New York, Washington, Chicago), Austin serving the South (Houston, Dallas, New Orleans) and Laguna Seca serving the West Coast (the Bay Area, Southern California, Oregon). That would be vital to cracking the US market, a target Dorna has had its eye on for a very long time.
The official press release announcing the deal is shown below:
Texas lands MotoGP from 2013
Ten-year deal signed for new Circuit of the Americas™ in Austin includes the three classes of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP)
Dorna Sports, S.L., 3FourTexasMGP, LLC and Full Throttle Productions, LP are pleased to announce the historic signing of a 10 year contract bringing MotoGP to the new Circuit of the Americas™ facility in Austin, Texas, from 2013.
This agreement includes the three categories of the World Championship; the MotoGP class -the pinnacle of motorcycling-, Moto2 and Moto3.
The addition of a 10 year MotoGP deal is coupled with the already scheduled ten year deal to host the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™, for which the Circuit of the Americas™ in Austin, Texas is currently under construction.
Mr. Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, S.L. said "We are delighted to be adding the Circuit of the Americas™ to the MotoGP calendar. It's an honour to expand our Championship to Texas, which has a rich history of producing World Championship riders. We have had a wonderful and special relationship with Kevin (Schwantz) for twenty years and often talked about a mutual dream of increasing the popularity of MotoGP in the U.S. and raising our already successful worldwide profile. Now, with what Tavo Hellmund (Managing Partner of Full Throttle Productions) is doing in Austin, we have realised that situation and are looking forward to this new venture together. The 10 year agreement is a sign of our confidence and commitment to the future success of MotoGP racing in Austin."
"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," stated Mr. Kevin Schwantz, Manager of 3FourTexas MGP, and LLC and the 1993 FIM MotoGP World Champion.
Mr. Hellmund, who has worked hard to bring MotoGP to Texas, stated: "We are extremely pleased to add the best motorcycle World Championship to our annual schedule. This is a fantastic opportunity for the State of Texas and this region and I believe it is the first time in American Motorsports history that both the cars and the motorbikes world championships are held at the same facility annually. We are very proud of becoming the United States international facility for motorsports".
"Kevin and I have been close friends for a long time and I enjoy a great relationship with Carmelo. 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" concluded Mr. Hellmund.
Construction of the new facility is progressing well and is scheduled for completion sometime in mid 2012, in time for the first Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™.
For a sporting event on the scale of a Grand Prix, Austin provides an ideal site being perfectly located for North, South and Central American visitors and also being well served by international flights. The close proximity of the downtown area, airport, circuit and hotels offers a fantastic and highly convenient setting.Upon its completion the new Circuit of the Americas™ will be the only "Grade 1" listed facility in the US, and the event will be coordinated by one of the most experienced promoters in the industry which holds a 40-year history within various prominent international racing series.