Octane
By Matt Neundorf
on 4.28.14
Photo by Matthew Neundorf

Now in its second full year of use as a race course, Circuit of The Americas has quickly become a premier venue on the MotoGP calendar. The multi-purpose complex located just outside of Austin, Texas lays claim to an incredible 3.4-mile long track with twenty undulating twists that force riders into 64-degree leans and straights where bikes scream to 210 mph.

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Each of COTA’s corners was sculpted as an homage to some of the most iconic turns from the world of Grand Prix, and from the 250-foot tall Observation Tower, located inside of a swooping left-hander, the view is mesmerizing. Sure, the cacophony of sound, two parts high-pitched wail and one part thunder, takes a touch longer to reach viewers up so high, but COTA’s visual expanse more than makes up for it. Below, riders dive on the binders while climbing a 133-foot elevation change into the turn-one hairpin, then power through a set of switchbacks, red, white and blue runoff areas framing the action picturesquely. Even as focus sharpens on the riders, the tower’s vantage offers the perfect venue for the bigger picture: planning in action. Discerning experimental racing lines isn’t something you can spot from the stands; passing begins at least a lap before blow-by. From up here, the raw aggression and absurd balancing acts of individual riders are less visible. Instead, MotoGP becomes a free-flowing game of chess — on amphetamines.

This year’s race saw Marc Márquez repeat as champion, setting a new track record in the process. Yet the news of the weekend was the retirement announcement of Texas native Colin Edwards. Dubbed the Texas Tornado, Edwards is an institution in MotoGP. During his 11-year stint in on the grid, the outspoken American was easily one of its favorite personalities. Never one to back down, on the track or in front a press gallery, Edwards is credited as one of the main reasons MotoGP began to thrive in the United States. His presence on the track will be sorely missed, but the fate of MotoGP, in the 1,500-acre hands of this other Texan, should be just fine.

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