The Throttle Stop – May 2024 – Greener Grass

2024 Grand Prix of the Americas winner Maverick Viñales. Photo by Mateusz Jagielski.

Being a fan of MotoGP or the FIM World Superbike Championship is an interesting experience for an American. Traditionally, the United States has hosted one event annually for said championships. Still, these days, WSBK no longer makes its yearly pilgrimage to Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca for reasons that I’m not privy to or fully comprehend. Taking a look across the pond, well, things are different.

World-class racetracks are dime-a-dozen in countries on the European mainland, which we’ll also extend to the United Kingdom despite that not being accurate anymore. The situation over there reminds me of when Pluto lost its planet status, but they’ll never pry that title away from my mind or the outdated textbooks that are probably still in use at my former high school.

Maverick Viñales at Circuit of the Americas. Photo by Tino Martino.

As an American motorcycle racing fan, it’s pretty easy for us to look at Europe and fawn over its wealth. Instead, that only makes the single American round even sweeter, and that is why the Grand Prix of the Americas, held at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, is a spectacle to behold for those of the two-wheeled persuasion.

There is a cold truth that I must admit, dear readers, a truth that many will be shocked to read: I have never seen a MotoGP race in person, despite following the sport for longer than I’d like to admit. It is a burden that has weighed heavily on my psyche and a fact that often encouraged scorn from colleagues, if not outright chastising. This curse has been lifted, as I finally flew to Austin and joined leagues of our readers during this year’s affair.

Aleix Espargaró in the pits at Circuit of the Americas. Photo by Mateusz Jagielski.

Being an esteemed member of the motorcycle press gives me a particular benefit—I was afforded credentials that provide almost unlimited access. I say nearly because my colleagues and I promptly tested the limits of this credential, being redirected away from hot pits, garages, and other areas that probably weren’t safe for some aloof journalists to be found wandering. Drat! We did get to go on some garage tours, though, and MotoGP bikes are just as rad in person as they are on the broadcast.

We watched what I’d say will go down in history as the most exciting COTA round. Marc Márquez made things interesting, Enea Bastianini charged to the podium, and Maverick Viñales secured two wins throughout the weekend with what would be mildly described as untouchable performances. Some days, certain riders have it, and Viñales had it. It was a great show, with cookies pilfered from hospitality suites and hanging with friends. That’s all you can ask for a first-timer’s experience at MotoGP.

The thing is, I had a tough job to do the following day. You see, the Aprilia Racer Days track day is typically scheduled for the Monday immediately afterward. This means you, the common man or woman, can fly to Texas and rip laps on a MotoGP circuit right after your favorite riders did the same. However, some race attendees may have also noticed that Alpinestars announced its latest Tech-Air 7X airbag vest during the race weekend, the long-awaited replacement for the venerable Tech-Air Race unit.

The Throttle Stop - May 2024: Nic de Sena with the new Alpinestars Tech-Air 7X air bag.
UM Associate Editor Nic de Sena experiences a deployment of the new Alpinestars Tech-Air 7X air bag.

For those unfamiliar with the Alpinestars Tech-Air 7X, it’s a new airbag vest designed to work with current and prior-generation airbag-compatible suits. We’ll have the full story on that soon enough, but here’s the gist: the Tech-Air 7X can be physically connected to older Tech-Air-compatible suits and jackets featuring the LED panel on the arm. However, it can also be used as a standalone airbag vest, allowing riders to use it with today’s Alpinestars suits and jackets that no longer feature the LED panel. Are you savvy? Alpinestars partnered with ARD, and we were allowed to test the bag for ourselves. Fortunately, no one tested the airbag, though I did wear it during a demonstration activation.

The Throttle Stop - May 2024: Nic de Sena on-track at Circuit of the Americas
Nic de Sena at the Circuit of the Americas on the Aprilia RSV4 superbike.

Seeing as Aprilia cleaned up at COTA, the atmosphere was positively charged. Aprilia Racing team staffers spun laps in celebration while Trackhouse Racing Aprilia riders Miguel Oliveira and Raúl Fernández demonstrated why they get paid to drag their knees through COTA’s paint. It was a sight to behold. Also, COTA isn’t half bad either, especially when running an Aprilia RSV4 Factory and Tuono V4 Factory. The esses and those triple right-handed corners? Wowee! That’s sweeter than stolen honey! (I’m told people in Texas say this).

This job has perks, and this was one of them. The sights and sounds of MotoGP seem to stick with you, even if that is just race-fuel fumes clinging to your clothes. Buy the ticket and take the ride because I shouldn’t have waited this long to find a way to MotoGP in Austin. The grass is greener in Europe, where you can cast a stone in any direction and hit a racetrack ridden by legends. But we’ve got COTA, and it’ll do just fine. Plus, who doesn’t want fantastic barbeque afterward?