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?”