The Qatar race was a resounding success and created much buzz and anticipation ahead of the new race on the calendar, with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo now hoping for back to back wins.
He may however face a stiff challenge from teammate Valentino Rossi, who looked close to his old self as he fought his way through the field in Qatar, as well as Repsol Honda’s star rookie Marc Márquez, whose thrilling debut performance led to a podium in his first ever MotoGP race.
His teammate Dani Pedrosa, who struggled with rear grip issues in Qatar will nonetheless remain one of the biggest threats at the new circuit. Both Factory Yamaha and Repsol Honda riders, as well as LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, will line-up for the first practice on Friday with a slight advantage, as the five riders having completed a pre-season, three-day private test at the track. Honda and Marquez were the combination to beat topping the timesheets all three days but can Honda carry that front running form into the race weekend?
Bradl in particular will be hoping to benefit from this experience, as he looks to bounce back from a crash in Qatar. His satellite Honda counterpart, GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, will have fully recovered from his finger injury, and will also be hoping to mix it up at the sharp end.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was very impressive in qualifying on the front row in Qatar, yet couldn’t quite match the performance in the race. His rookie teammate on the other hand, Bradley Smith, will be hoping to finish his first ever MotoGP race, following his first round crash.
Ducati showed promising signs in the first race, especially with Andrea Dovizioso’s qualifying performance, and will hope to build on that at the new track. Nicky Hayden will receive a boost from his home crowd, as will his Ignite Pramac Racing counterpart Ben Spies, a Texas native.
Still struggling from a shoulder injury, Spies will be hoping to suffer less pain as he looks to put on a show for his fans, alongside rookie teammate Andrea Iannone on the Energy T.I. Pramac bike. Also soaking up the local atmosphere will be NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, the Texas Tornado, as he looks to squeeze the most out of his new FTR-Kawasaki package with teammate Claudio Corti.
Yet the CRT favourite will once again be Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró, who was on tremendous form in Qatar as he stormed into Q2 and ended as top CRT.
His teammate Randy de Puniet will be hoping to challenge for that honour at the new circuit, whilst the other CRTs vying for a place in Texas’ Parc Fermé will be Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, PBM’s Yonny Hernandez and Michael Laverty, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and Lukas Pesek, GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring, as well as Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá and Hiroshi Aoyama.
The race will also see the inclusion of two wildcards in the form of Attack Performance Racing’s Blake Young, on the Kawasaki-powered in-house APR chassis, and GPTech’s Mike Barnes on a Suzuki-powered BCL chassis.
Yamaha Factory Racing
“Qatar was stunning for us. A great start of a really competitive season. It’s always crucial to make a good beginning but Losail was just the first race of a long season.
Now we have to change our mindset, we go to the USA and we visit a completely different track, not just the layout but also for the asphalt, the climate and some different circumstances. The Austin track has a very long straight and several corners in first gear where you are need good acceleration and traction.
There we will have to work really hard from the first session to cut away the distance to our competitors. Anyway, I keep my confidence that we can also make a good result there. I want to win at Austin and that’s my mentality although I know in the USA it will be much more complicated.”
“Austin will not be an easy race but for sure the podium in Qatar is giving us extra motivation. We have done a great job there and we can go to Austin with some more certainty. Our competitors will be very strong but our goal will be to bring home points.
I am confident, I really like the track and my first impression, when we tested there, was that the circuit is beautiful. The track lay-out is very special: there is some downhill and uphill and the first braking zone is very technical. For me turn two is the best though and after when you enter into the chicane. The straight is very long, which is good for overtaking. I really look forward to racing at COTA.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Team Manager:
“I couldn’t go a few weeks ago to the test at COTA but what I hear about the track is that the feelings are much more different to the other circuits. Maybe it is because it’s new, with a special layout. We won at Qatar, this was a fantastic start for us and also for Yamaha but we have to think ahead and the season is long and hard.
In theory, Austin is not really a circuit that will benefit us. Anyway, we will see how much we can improve our performance compared with the test and see about our pace over there. Finally, this is racing and you never know until Sunday!”
Massimo Meregalli – Team Director:
“We are going to Austin now in a different shape to one month ago. The data we collected there will help us to prepare the base set up with which we will start the practices and also for sure the results in Qatar will be helpful too.
The latest modifications we’ve made to our bikes are going to help. Austin for us is not going to be an easy race but for sure it’s going to be better than the test. The place is very nice and the temperature was perfect one month ago. We are looking forward to this next race, especially after the good spirit we got from the last one!”
Repsol Honda Team
“To arrive on the podium in my first race was a dream come true, but now we must face the reality and focus on the job at hand. I am looking forward to going to Austin, it will be interesting as we have already been there testing and we found a good base set up.
But we will see because it will be a different scenario with more rubber on the track and the conditions will change. We will concentrate on our work and our own agenda to prepare ourselves in the best possible way for the race”
“Qatar was not the start we expected, but I know what the issue was so it’s clear for the next race. We were in Austin just over a month ago and I’m sure this will be useful for us as we have a base setting, there are a lot of tight corners at this track and the pace changes from section to section. However, the track will be quite different with so many more bikes there and much more rubber laid down, so hope the bike will still work well.”
“I haven’t been to the Circuit of the Americas, but from the video it looks like a really big and nice track, and it also looks really difficult. Unfortunately, we didn’t test there like some of the other guys, so it will be a problem for us in the beginning. Anyway, I’m really excited for us to be riding on a new track.”
“Right after Qatar I had to fly to Asia for some promotional events, so I hope to be at my best for Austin! Having three GPs in my home country almost seems like a dream to me, and the Circuit of the Americas is really a great track that’s nice, safe and new, with great facilities.
I’ve been around it on a street bike, so I know the layout, although it will obviously be much different on a MotoGP bike. The track has a little bit of everything, and it’s definitely not easy. It’s really long, quite wide, and very technical, with some very particular corners that have open entries—often blind—and tight exits.
I like a good challenge, and this track definitely offers one. Hopefully the American fans will come out and support the race and set up a nice trend for the next two American rounds.”
“The track will be completely new for us. Nicky did a sort of shakedown with a Panigale R street bike, and from the way he describes it, it will be quite difficult. There are fast straightaways with hard braking zones and very tight hairpins, but there are also sections with fast corners.
Unfortunately, since the Ducati Team didn’t test at COTA, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage to our competitors; we’ll have dual assignments during the early sessions—we have to find a general setup and the correct settings for the electronics—so we hope to have good weather in all of the sessions. The weekend is a bit of an unknown for us, but we’re optimistic.”
Team GO&FUN Gresini Honda
“The 2013 season has started really well. I am happy even though we had a few problems with the front in Qatar. It forced us to use the soft tyre because I had more confidence with it but we lost stability under braking.
I made a good start and tried my best to stay with the guys at the front but it got to the point where I was taking too many risks and it was better to make sure of a solid position. It was an important sixth place, my best result in MotoGP in Qatar and that gives us optimism for t he future. The next round in Austin will be a new experience for almost all of us. They say it is a technical and demanding circuit and I am looking forward to getting on with the job of learning it and finding a setting that will allow me to fully exploit the potential of the RC213V.
The level of competition is very high but I am confident that if we do our job right then we can be even more competitive than we were in Qatar. Myself and the team are determined to keep working until we show our best form. ”
Fausto Gresini – Team Principal:
“There is a lot of interest and excitement surrounding this first visit to a new track. From the footage I have seen and the things I have heard it is certainly futuristic and a posit ive step for the future of motorcycle racing.
We head to the USA feeling happy and satisfied with a positive start to the season in Qatar with Bautista. Alvaro had a good race and finished with a result that gives us something to build on. We will be working hard with the engineers from Showa to improve his confidence with the front of the bike and to adapt the setting as quickly as possible to the demands of Austin.”
LCR Honda Team
“In the first race in Qatar we demonstrated that we have the pace for a top-five result. We are not far away from the front group but unfortunately the first GP finished badly for us.
After the bad experience in Qatar I am really looking forward to Austin and I presume the things will be much better there. I know the track already because I was there for the private test some weeks ago and I strongly want to repeat our speed and consistency. This race will be fun for us and for the fans.”
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Motorsport Department
“The United States is a very important market to Bridgestone and to increase our presence in this region with a third race on the calendar is welcomed, particularly at such an amazing venue as the Circuit of the Americas.
The first race in Qatar was a thrilling contest and I am sure that at this circuit, which is an unknown quantity for many of the riders, we will witness another exciting race.
I am pleased that a new collection of American fans will get to witness what a great motorsport series MotoGP is, and I hope they turn out in large number to support their home-grown heroes Ben, Colin and Nicky and also to cheer on the two American wildcard riders, Blake Young and Michael Barnes”
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Austin’s Circuit of the Americas welcomes MotoGP for the first time and its impressive layout created a real challenge for tyre development. Like the other American circuits on the calendar it is run in a counter-clockwise directions, and the track is technical with a mix of tight, slower corners and faster, more open sections.
These features combine to place a great importance on front-end feel as maintaining good corner speed is critical at this track, so our front tyres need to provide excellent grip characteristics with plenty of stability, while the rears must give good drive out of the corners.
“Our data from testing shows that the faster right-hand corners at the circuit require slightly harder rubber on the right shoulder of the rear slicks for greater stability and durability, so we will bring asymmetric rear slicks at Austin. Front tyre compounds for this race will be soft & medium, while the rear slick compounds for CRT riders will be soft and medium, and for non-CRT riders, medium and hard.” By James Foreman