New GP in Texas and 4 other Places Moto GP Should Go

Just this week it was announced that the all-new Circuit of the Americas being built in Austin, Texas landed a 10 year deal to host a Moto GP round.  This is the second big win for the track because they’ve already landed a 10 year deal to host Formula 1.  Now all that’s left is for them to score NASCAR too and COA could rightfully be considered the center of the motorsports universe.

Circuit of the Americas Promo Trailer

Several other venues have popped up in the rumor mill as possible sites for new Moto GP rounds.  Part of the impetus for all of the new round talk is that Dorna needs to expand Moto GP’s reach, especially with financial troubles striking more than one track currently on the calendar.  Brno and Jerez have both had recent financial difficulty, but who knows what other events are struggling to make ends meet.

In the immediate future a more pressing reason to get a new GP on the calendar is that the Japanese GP at Motegi may not happen this year due to damage incurred from the earthquake disaster.  There is a chance the rescheduled Japanese GP can still happen in October, but if another venue is to be used it has to be chosen relatively soon.

So where to?  Here are my four choices in order.

1. Argentina (Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo)

Moto GP hasn’t had a round in South America since 2004 when the Brazilian GP was held at  Jacarepaguá.  Now rumor has it that Argentina’s Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo is being given a look for the return of a South American GP.  Brazil and Argentina are two large consumers of inexpensive motorcycles and as such represent a fertile new market for Moto GP.  As the economy of Brazil in particular gains strength it would be advantageous for all of the manufacturers to build their brands there.

+Termas de Rio Hondo is already a tourist attraction in Argentina (for its hot springs), may already have the hotel capacity to handle Moto GP
+Argentina has a favorable exchange rate with the dollar (4:1), euro (5.86:1), pound (6.63:1)
+Fantastic local cuisine: delicious steak, world class wine for [i]very[/i] inexpensive prices
+Subtropical climate

-Not many flights to either city near the circuit, may be expensive to fly there
-Would cost teams a lot of money in travel costs
-Can the track get FIM homologated?
-Termas de Rio Hondo is a smaller city, might not be able to handle the crush of GP fans very well.
-Would an event in Argentina draw a solid crowd?

Check out Asphalt & Rubber’s take on the idea

2. Turkey (Istanbul Park Circuit)

Istanbul Circuit used to host a Moto GP race until a political dispute on the podium of the F1 race ultimately led to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone leasing the track for peanuts from the Turkish government.  Greedy to the core, Bernie’s first step was to dramatically raise track rental prices to a ridiculous and unpalatable level. Moto GP teams were scheduled to do a two-day post race test at Istanbul Park and Bernie decided to charge 5000 euros per rider to use the facility.  Suffice it to say it angered the Moto GP powers that be to the point that Turkey hasn’t been on the calendar since.

However, with the Japanese GP in peril Istanbul Park Circuit is one of the few venues that could easily host a GP.  If somehow Dorna can work out a fair deal with Ecclestone/F1, Istanbul would be a great track to add back to the calendar.

+Istanbul Circuit is a proper grand prix track with a good mix of high and medium speed turns that tend to lead to good races.
+One of the few Herman Tilke tracks that is not categorically boring.  Perhaps Circuit of the Americas will be the second
+City of Istanbul features great food, friendly people and a wealth of culture.
+Close to Europe, teams could use their transporters to drive there

-Track is owned by Bernie.  Who knows if there is a way to strike up a workable financial agreement to host another Moto GP race
-Istanbul is a city of approximately 13 million but traffic is horrendous.  New metro system has improved greatly in recent years though.
-Local attendance was pretty sparse when Moto GP last raced there.  Attendance is still pretty low for the F1 event there

3. Japan (Suzuka)

Suzuka is almost a track that needs no introduction.  It is one of the most well-known venues in the world and has a rich racing history spanning decades.  It’s been the home of the Japanese GP’s for Formula 1 and Moto GP, and it is also host to the 8 Hours of Suzuka, which is the most important endurance race in the world for the Japanese motorcycle companies.

The house that Soichiro Honda built (image by Machu: flickr)

However, since the tragic death of Daijiro Katoh at Suzuka in 2003, Moto GP has not been back to Suzuka because of the lack of runoff room at key corners.  Now, with the damage to Motegi, perhaps it’s high time to revisit Suzuka as a possibility, and perhaps get the improvements done to the track that would be needed to get Moto GP back on the calendar.

One of the unique features of Suzuka is that the track doubles back on itself and as a result doesn’t take up a lot of square mileage.  Unfortunately this also means there isn’t much space where runoff room can be increased.  In order to increase runoff room the track layout would probably need to modified, which could significantly alter the character of the track.  But for my money, as long as they keep 130R, and turns 1 through 6 they’d be good to go.  Still, Suzuka has much more character than Motegi ever could, although Motegi does have the Honda Collection Hall.

A true master stroke would be if they hold the Japanese GP the week before or the week after the 8 hours of Suzuka in June.  That way, any fans who fly in for one race could stay for a week and catch the other.

+It’s the track Soichiro Honda built
+There’s a mini amusement park!  It’s got a freaking ferris wheel!
+Also home of the 8 Hours of Suzuka
+Ingress/egress is easy

-Sad memories

4. Portugal (Portimao)

Portimao has been mentioned in Moto GP circles as a possible stand-in for the Japanese GP.  Portimao is a newish track that was completed only in 2008, playing host to a WSBK ever since.  It’s a dramatic snaking, undulating track not unlike Laguna Seca but it’s much safer as it was built with FIM standards in mind.

The main problem with Portimao is that Portugal already has a GP at Estoril, and adding Portimao would bring the grand total of GP’s held on the Iberian peninsula to 6 (Estoril, Portimao, Jerez, Catalunya, Valencia, and Aragon).  The idea behind adding tracks to the calendar was to expand the appeal and reach of Moto GP beyond Italy and Spain, not to consolidate it.  However, with the Japanese GP under threat, perhaps beggars can’t be choosers.

+Challenging, unique layout
+Better than Estoril?
+Already FIM homologated
+Wouldn’t cost teams much to get there

-Snaking, undulating layout may be a bit tight for GP bikes
-Still on Iberian peninsula
-World Superbike already races there.  Having 2 events there would cannibalize attendance
-Track infrastructure may not be up to GP standards as of yet