MotoGP junkies provide beginners guide to enjoying race


Charmaine Bendzsa didn’t know much about MotoGP when she met her future husband, Kyle Bendzsa, but it didn’t take her long to get hooked.

The couple from Fort Collins, Colo., are attending their fourth Austin Grand Prix this weekend, and Charmaine was decked out head to toe in Valentino Rossi gear. To her, the sport is like a reality show, and Movistar Yamaha rider Rossi might be its most intriguing character.

“It first started because I kind of liked the drama of the riders and the little bantering they had, so I got into it that way,” she said.

You don’t have to be a motor head or a Eurosnob to have a good time at Circuit of the Americas, where the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Take it from Juan Zuluaga, an amateur motorcycle racer from Miami who has spent his life introducing friends to the sport. Some of those friends surprised him this week with a trip to Austin for his bachelor party.

“My friends like motorcycles, but they don’t know much about them, so I’m always trying to educate them so they can be more entertained and paying attention to certain things that a person who is not into motorcycles wouldn’t notice,” Zuluaga said.

First, he recommends that they pick a rider. At the top level, there are are 24 riders on 12 teams. Generally, the top teams have the brightest-colored bikes.

Once you’ve picked a rider — at COTA, five-time champion Marc Marquez of red-and-yellow Repsol Honda is a safe bet — you can start comparing him to the rest.

Next, listen. The engines of these machines are loud, and you’ll quickly see why. They propel riders down the back straightaway at COTA at speeds greater than 200 mph.

Zuluaga enjoys listening to the sounds the engines make around the corners, distinguishing the characteristics that make each bike and rider unique. While the Ducati team uses its higher horsepower and torque to stay in a higher gear, he said, Marquez keeps his revolutions high and brakes late.

Turns are also where the magic of the apex happens.

“It’s not like car racing; there’s a lot more physicality to it,” Kyle Bendzsa said. When they lean into corners, riders come dangerously close to touching the tarmac. “Really, the only thing that’s touching the bike is their hands, one foot and usually the inside of their thigh.”

Mitchell Field picked up on MotoGP from his father, who used to race motorcycles in the Midwest. Now he lives in Austin and is attending his first race at COTA this weekend. He said it’s a thrill to see the riders he watches on TV and internet streams — often in the middle of the night or early morning — in person.

“There’s more than just the race,” he said. “The atmosphere, events that are going on around here. Then the fact that you’re seeing guys go 220 miles per hour on a bike. They’re daredevils; it can’t get much more extreme than that. Why wouldn’t you want to come and see that?”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Golden’s Nuggets: Longhorns have newfound prosperity … don’t they?
Golden’s Nuggets: Longhorns have newfound prosperity … don’t they?

Texas and prosperity. The two have been mutually exclusive in recent years. Until now. Prosperity is a good thing, even if it’s in a small sample like we’ve witnessed over the past couple of weeks. The Longhorns will take it given what’s gone down on the Forty Acres over the past four seasons. The sudden success led to an interesting...
UIL to consider how Ann Richards School would appeal classification
UIL to consider how Ann Richards School would appeal classification

The volleyball team at Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders has had to temper its expectations this season. A program that has made the playoffs every season dating back to 2012 is 3-6 through the first round of district play, in eighth place out of 10 schools. The reason has less to do with a change in skill level than it does with the competition...
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond thinks fondly of Arkansas
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond thinks fondly of Arkansas

Kellen Mond’s first real, bona fide, competitive game came this time a year ago, when Texas A&M faced Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The contest was the Aggies SEC opener, and it no longer mattered that Mond was a freshman struggling to learn an offense and lead a team as the anointed starter recovered from ankle surgery. Mond rushed...
Bohls: So how hot is Shaka Smart’s seat? Not very, according to his boss
Bohls: So how hot is Shaka Smart’s seat? Not very, according to his boss

So we’ll just cut to the chase. Now that Tom Herman is safely out of the woods, we turn our attention to Shaka Smart, who just so happened to show up for his preseason press conference at Bellmont Hall on Monday. So, Shaka, just how hot is your seat? “I don’t sit down,” the fourth-year Texas basketball coach said...
Having won three straight, Texas coach Tom Herman breezing through Mondays now
Having won three straight, Texas coach Tom Herman breezing through Mondays now

You can always gauge the mood of the Texas football program by the Monday press conference. Coach Tom Herman was trapped in a fox hole after the season-opening loss to Maryland. The next week, following a close win over Tulsa, reporters were asking Herman if he’s arrogant. Funny how the mood changes after back-to-back wins over...
More Stories