There’s freedom in a motorcycle. You’ve got two wheels, wind in your hair, access to places four wheels just can’t take you. And yet, with nearly 60% of motorcycles being sold in developing countries, it’s taken Americans a little longer than others to catch the bug. Still, we’ve got our Harley crowd — a notorious bunch — our Mohawk-donning Asian import clan, and then our European diehards, who are in some ways the most revered clique of all. Among those diehards, one brand stands head and shoulders above the rest: Ducati. It’s a name with such percussive phonology that it was destined for greatness. Then there’s the fact that the machines they make are truly awesome. Ducati was kind enough to take us behind the scenes to experience the MotoGP World Championship hosted at The Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, TX.

Interestingly, even though the riders participating in MotoGP races are the best in the world, it’s taken a while for this style of racing to gain traction in the United States. Similar to Formula 1 in its struggle for popularity, MotoGP remains an enigma to many American racing fans. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this. Americans have always been different in their approach to sports: football instead of soccer, NASCAR instead of F1. But even with our stand alone approach towards motorized competition, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to MotoGP.

Officially organized in 1949, Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing (MotoGP) boasts an elite class of riders from across the globe, segmented into three groups: MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. These classes designate various restrictions on the riders and their bikes — things like engine size and weight limits — with the premier class being MotoGP. Grand Prix racing differs from other types of motorcycle racing in that these bikes are purpose built for the race. They cannot be purchased by the general public, nor can they be ridden on public roads. Ducati, Honda and Yamaha are the three bike makers that dominate the sport; all riders must use Bridgestone tires. Local superstars, like Nicky Hayden from Kentucky, are tremendous advocates for the sport and are helping to popularize it in the United States. After having the chance to see MotoGP’s racing firsthand, we easily count ourselves among its growing fan base. You can get a taste of our experience in the photo essay above.