When Formula One came to town in November, there was not a U.S. driver to be found anywhere on the starting grid. That won’t be the case when MotoGP, motorcycling’s answer to F1, arrives in April.
As many as five U.S. riders could compete in Austin’s inaugural MotoGP race, and on Tuesday, a few of those riders made test runs at Circuit of the Americas. Attack Performance owner Richard Stanboli said it was time well spent at a very demanding track.
“It will be challenging if they (other teams) show up without testing,” Stanboli said. “They are going to crash a lot of bikes.”
California-based Attack Performance is what’s known as a CRT team — a claiming rule team.
To fill out the starting grid, MotoGP allows claiming rule teams to compete even though they spend a fraction of what factory teams such as Honda, Yamaha and Ducati spend on development. “It’s kind of a class within a class,” Stanboli said.
“You can use a street-based engine,” he said, adding that the long-term goal for Attack Performance will be to compete in a full MotoGP calendar. This year, the team has a wild-card spot for the three races on U.S. soil, Austin, Laguna Seca and Indianapolis.
GPTech, which also will have a wild-card entry for U.S. events, had riders Michael Barnes and Ty Howard, a Texan, testing at the circuit on Tuesday.
GPTech has not yet said who will be running in each U.S. race. Attack Performance plans to use Wisconsin native Blake Young in all three. Young was all but born on a motorcycle. His father, Steve, owned a motorcycle dealership in Madison, and Young has been riding since he was 4.
Although Young finished the past two seasons as the runner-up in the AMA Pro American Superbike Championship, he was left without a ride in that series for the upcoming season. That, however, left him available for the MotoGP wild cards.
“It was a good opportunity to grab a guy who had been at the front of the field,” Stanboli said. “You always keep a list, and he was the best on the list.”
Young, 25, is spending the week hanging out with Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 world champion.
On Tuesday, Young was at Austin’s circuit for most of the day, which was marked by showers.
“We were there at 8 in the morning, but I don’t think we were rolling until 10. We did 20 or 30 laps in the wet,” Young said.
He said the group returned after lunch and ran another session, occasionally going back to the garage area to make adjustments. The session was shortened by a fuel pump problem, Young added.
“It was nice to get out on the rain tires …” Stanboli said. “The Bridgestone tires are so different from the Pirellis and Dunlops we run. We got a lot of data.”
Schwantz had a hand in the design of the track, which was built for both Formula One and MotoGP racing.
“It has a nice flow,” Young said. In spite of all the attention to 20 corners, which are inspired by some of the most famous in the racing world, Young said his favorite part of the track was the long back straightaway, a chance to wind out the motorcycle.
He’ll get another chance to do that March 12-14, when MotoGP’s big boys also arrive for testing. The Repsol Honda team, with Dani Pedrosa and rookie Marc Marquez, will be joined by Yamaha and its stars Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.