For the first time in history, three American rounds will be featured on the MotoGP schedule.This is due to the addition of the latest venue – the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. The newly-built 3.426-mile track featuring 20 corners (11 left, nine right) will host round 2 of 18 this weekend.The F1 COTA circuit now joins Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (July 19-21), and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Aug. 16-18) on the 2013 MotoGP Championship.This Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americans will surely be for the Americans, with much hype being built around stateside riders. This week, five of the US’ finest motorcycle racers will compete at Austin – Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, Ignite Pramac Racing Ducati’s Ben Spies, NGM Mobile Forward Racing CRT’s Colin Edwards, and CRT wild-card entries Blake Young Attack Performance) and Michael Barnes (GPTech).The 2006 MotoGP Champion Hayden is looking to impress his home crowd.Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP13 MotoGP) says: “Right after Qatar I had to fly to Asia for some promotional events, so I hope to be at my best for Austin! Having three Grands Prix in my home country almost seems like a dream to me and the Circuit of the Americas is really a great track that’s nice, safe and new, with great facilities. I’ve been around it on a street bike, so I know the layout, although it will obviously be much different on a MotoGP bike.”Hayden and Spies already got a taste of COTA during the launch of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R at the circuit.Although the hype will be there for the Americas, the two favorites heading into this weekend will be the Yamaha Factory Racing duo of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.Lorenzo immediately began protecting his second world title with an impressive win at the opening round two weeks ago. During Qatar MotoGP, held under the floodlights at Losail International Circuit, Lorenzo took the pole – his seventh at the circuit – and led all 22 laps of the race to take an easy victory. The win was Lorenzo’s second straight at Qatar, and his eighth podium finish there across all classes.Lorenzo, along with Rossi, also conducted some private testing at COTA in March. The Spaniard posted a quickest lap of 2:04.351, which was the second fastest speed behind Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez (2:03.853).Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “The Austin track has a very long straight and several corners in first gear where you are need good acceleration and traction. There we will have to work really hard from the first session to cut away the distance to our competitors. Anyway, I keep my confidence that we can also make a good result there. I want to win at Austin and that’s my mentality although I know in the USA it will be much more complicated.”As for nine-time World Champion Rossi, he qualified seventh at the season opener in Doha, Qatar. But he would fight his way to the top, eventually battling with Marquez for second. Rossi and the rookie swapped the second-place spot multiple times, but the 34-year-old Rossi – the oldest rider in the current MotoGP class that began in 2002 – took second ahead of Marquez.During the March testing at COTA, Rossi was fifth fastest, posting a 2:05.375.Valentino Rossi (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “Austin will not be an easy race but for sure the podium in Qatar is giving us extra motivation. We have done a great job there and we can go to Austin with some more certainty.“Our competitors will be very strong but our goal will be to bring home points. I am confident, I really like the track and my first impression, when we tested there, was that the circuit is beautiful. The track lay-out is very special: there is some downhill and uphill and the first braking zone is very technical. For me turn two is the best though and after when you enter into the chicane. The straight is very long, which is good for overtaking. I really look forward to racing at COTA.”Entering round two, Rossi has 20 points, five behind Lorenzo.Marquez had the most to gloat about, though, taking a podium finish in his opening MotoGP race. The reigning Moto2 Champion holds third place in the championship point standings with 16.Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) sasy: “To arrive on the podium in my first race was a dream come true, but now we must face the reality and focus on the job at hand.“I am looking forward to going to Austin, it will be interesting as we have already been there testing and we found a good base set up. But we will see because it will be a different scenario with more rubber on the track and the conditions will change. We will concentrate on our work and our own agenda to prepare ourselves in the best possible way for the race.”Marquez’s teammate Pedrosa took fourth at Qatar, and will also be a huge threat at Circuit of the Americas. During the private testing in March, the Spaniard posted a 2:04.662, finishing just ahead of Rossi.The final and fifth rider to pilot MotoGP machinery at COTA during the private testing was LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl. The RC213V rider was third fastest, posting a 2:04.640. Bradl will be looking to retaliate considering he suffered a crash during the opening round at Qatar.Bradl’s satellite Honda counterpart, GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, will be looking to better his sixth-place finish at Qatar. The Spaniard has been battling with healing fingers that were broke during preseason testing, but will be looking to move into the top five this weekend.But a bigger threat will likely arrive from Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow. He impressed during free practice at Qatar, leading the third session, though he couldn’t match that performance at the race. The Brit finished fifth, though, the fastest of the satellite machines. His rookie teammate didn’t have such luck; Bradley Smith crashed in Qatar, and will be looking to earn his first-ever MotoGP points.The fastest of the Ducati riders so far this season was Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, who finished seventh at Qatar. His team will have extra incentive, considering his teammate Hayden, of Kentucky, will have his US crowd roaring for him.The other crowd favorite will be Spies, who is from Texas. The 2009 World SBK Champion continues to recover from shoulder issues, and will be looking to put on a show before his home fans. Spies teammate, Andrea Iannone on the Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Ducati GP13, will also benefit from the added excitement.Also soaking up the local atmosphere will be NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, the Texas Tornado, as he looks to squeeze the most out of his new FTR-Kawasaki package with teammate Claudio Corti.Yet the CRT favorite will once again be Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró, who was on tremendous form in Qatar as he stormed into Q2 and ended as top CRT. His teammate Randy de Puniet will be hoping to challenge for that honour at the new circuit, whilst the other CRTs vying for a place in Texas’ Parc Fermé will be Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, PBM’s Yonny Hernandez and Michael Laverty, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and Lukas Pesek, GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring, as well as Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá and Hiroshi Aoyama.The race will also see the inclusion of two wildcards in the form of Attack Performance Racing’s Blake Young, on the Kawasaki-powered in-house APR chassis, and GPTech’s Mike Barnes on a Suzuki-powered BCL chassis.2013 Austin MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas TV ScheduleSPEED TV will broadcast qualifying at 9 p.m. EDT (delayed schedule)Saturday, April 20. On race day, SPEED will provide a pre-race show at 2:30 p.m. EDT, followed by live coverage of Red Bull of the Americas at 3 p.m.2013 MotoGP Championship Point Standings (after 1 of 18 rounds):
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.