Saturday morning, race weekend!
After four long days of riding, we were finally in Austin, Texas, for the first ever Moto GP race at the brand new Circuit of the Americas track. When the alarm went off Saturday morning, we were excited to get going and ride to the track. The day’s schedule promised the opportunity to watch practice and qualifying sessions, check out the facilities, and take in the general carnival of vendors and entertainment that accompany a professional race.
So of course we didn’t make it out of the neighborhood before my bike had a problem. Kevin noticed my headlight wasn’t on (motorcycles always have a headlight running), so we stopped to investigate. A little bit of troubleshooting revealed that the headlight would turn on and off when turning the handlebar to full lock, which eventually pointed to a loose connection in the wiring harness. Kevin tugged on the harness to give it some slack for the quick fix so we could get going, agreeing to give it more attention later.
Satisfied the problem was fixed well enough for the time being, we set off for the track. We wanted to get there early, to see all the qualifying sessions we were interested in, check out some of the vendor tents, and to pick a spot for viewing the race on Sunday. Traffic started to get thick as we approached the track, and at this point we just wanted to get there and not be stuck at traffic lights and stop and go traffic.
So, naturally, that’s when I had a flat tire. I had noticed that familiar vague handling feeling on the interstate, but held on until we exited for the track. As we waited at a light, Kevin confirmed my fate to pull into the adjacent corner gas station to investigate the leak.
That tire was brand new earlier in the week, so clearly I needed to pick up a nail with only 1500 miles on it (actually, it was some small, metal shard). Fortunately, Kevin was able to plug the tire, and since we were practically at the track at this point, we made it the final two miles without further mishap.
Upon arriving at the track, the mornings troubles were forgotten when we discovered that Ducati riders get free parking right near the front gate. Sweet. That’s $60 saved for the weekend, plus free Ducati swag:
Totally makes buying an expensive Italian bike worth it. (calibrate your sarcasm meter for that last one). Plus, it was pretty fun to check out the hundreds of Ducati motorcycles in the lot.
The bulk of the bikes were the expected Monsters, Multistradas, and various vintages of superbikes, but one stood out as a rare, almost mythical beast that I’ve never seen in the wild:
In case you didn’t catch that:
Yeah, that’s a Desmosedici RR, which is basically a road replica of the Moto GP race bike. There were only 1500 ever made, and this was this guy’s second bike, after he lost his first in a Texas brush fire (yes, he actually rode his $70,000 motorcycle to the track).
Inside the gates, we were greeted with some high flying, moto flavored entertainment of freestyle motocross:
Further inside, the Ducati tent had a massive line to get in (which is totally ridiculous), so we checked out Nickey Hayden’s GP bike on display out front, and then walked through the much more accessible Honda and Yamaha tents (This may have been later in the day, I’m not sure. I know we did get inside the Ducati tent early on Sunday, before the crowds.)
This cutaway bike in the Yamaha tents was pretty neat:
The weather on Saturday was just perfect, cloudless and 70°. We mostly spent the day walking the track, scouting for a spot to watch the race on Sunday, finally deciding to watch from the grass overlooking turns 5&6.
Which is where we headed Sunday morning, picking our way through the already large crowd. The hillside accessible by general admission tickets was definitely a “move your feet, lose your seat” situation, so once we claimed a spot, we basically didn’t move until after the main event. From our seat on the grass, we could see the bikes come down the hill from turn two, and watch them transition through the esses and around the hill through turn 6.
Cota’s signature architectural feature is its large observation tower. It wasn’t worth the $25/ea to us to go to the top. Maybe another time.
Of the three classes, I think Moto 3 (the smallest displacement class) was the most fun to watch, with the most passing and close competition. The GP race, while enjoyable, was less exciting, with just a handful of interesting passes in the whole race.
As always, if you want to know more about Moto GP or the actual race, the internet has that covered (try motogp.com).
So that’s it. We had one night to recover from two full days under the springtime Texas sun before starting the long road trip back to NC. We avoided the crush of traffic leaving the track after the race by going the opposite direction from everyone else. We basically headed west, and then north around Austin, and found a campsite at Inks Lake State Park. We’d had enough of heavy urban and interstate traffic at that point, so avoiding the crowded interstates leaving Austin was the right move.
4/20 and 4/21/2013 – 29 miles round trip from our room in Austin to the track. 121 miles after leaving the track on Sunday around 4 pm. The sign out in front of the state park lied. It said all the campsites were full, so we left. By the time we decided we needed to turn around and see if we couldn’t find a spot anyway, it was after dark. The campground was actually almost completely empty, so we had no trouble finding a spot, but had we ignored the sign from the beginning, we could have set up with some remaining daylight.