New Austin, TX Circuit To Get MotoGP

"Circuit of the Americas" to host MotoGP starting in 2013

The 3.4-mile circuit will comprise 20 turns with an elevation change of approximately 133 feet, making the Circuit of the Americas one of the most exciting and challenging tracks in the nation when it is completed.
The brainchild behind the Austin MotoGP race, Tavo Hellmund (left) is joined by (left to right) Kevin Schwantz, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and Dorna’s Director General of Events Javier Alonso as they celebrate the signing of the 10-year contract for the Texas venue.

In a swift move that surprised much of the motorcycle industry, a still-under-construction racetrack just outside of Austin, Texas, announced on April 12 that it has signed a 10-year contract with MotoGP rightsholders Dorna to host a full three-class MotoGP race beginning in 2013. The brainchild of former racecar driver and managing partner of Full Throttle Productions, Tavo Hellmund, and backed by the formidable financial support of Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs and Robert Epstein, a partner in the investment firm Phophet Capital Management, Ltd., the “Circuit of the Americas” will comprise a 900-acre facility with a 3.4-mile, 20-turn course with approximately 133 feet of elevation change. Current price tag for construction of the ambitious project is pegged at $240 million, which will include numerous facilities designed for uses outside of racing.

Former 500cc World Grand Prix champion Kevin Schwantz was a primary mover behind making sure motorcycles were included in the Circuit of the Americas’ vision. Hellmund’s primary purpose behind the project was securing a Formula One race (which he has done, with the circuit announcing a 10-year contract with F1 to host a race there, starting next year — meaning the facility needs to be finished by June 2012), and favored architectural firm Tilke GmbH was entrusted with penning the circuit design, so Schwantz — who is good friends with Hellmund — became involved to ensure that motorcycles wouldn’t be excluded from a safety perspective.

Naturally, with so much money riding on this project, there had to be some state government involvement in order to help move things along, and this subject is already generating controversy. In order to subsidize the rumored $25 million F1 sanctioning fee, Texas state comptroller Susan Combs earmarked funds from the state’s “Major Events Trust Fund”, which is used to help with financial needs for major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and collegiate athletic events. The highly polarized political environment unfortunately has led to those funds becoming a political football, with a posturing state senator influencing the state senate finances committee to cut that subsidy from the state budget; political observers point out that the state House of Representatives will most likely restore the incentives, however.

The MotoGP sanctioning fee is the reason that we probably won’t see three US rounds when the Austin race (hopefully) becomes reality in 2013. The Red Bull Indianapolis GP has seen falling attendance figures over the past three years, and it took some negotiating with Dorna on the sanctioning fee to allow the one-year extension that will see the race being held this year. Despite a public statement by IMS endorsing the new venue and the hiring of a promotions director for the race, it’s doubtful that Dorna will be amenable to a substantial reduction in the sanctioning fee when another U.S. race has already been established. And although IMS has proved to be one of the best-organized race facilities in the nation, the MotoGP track has come under fire from racers for its numerous pavement issues. Only time will tell, but we’re not getting our hopes up.