MotoGP not definite for Austin yet

Motorcycling legend Kevin Schwantz said he would still like to have a MotoGP race run at Circuit of the Americas, and that negotiations no longer would have to go through promoter Tavo Hellmund.

But Schwantz also said he's still waiting to hear from officials with the circuit, which is still under construction and slated to host its inaugural Formula One grand prix in November.

In response to a query, Schwantz emailed the American-Statesman: "Several weeks ago, Tavo was nice enough to step aside and asked COTA to talk directly with me about a MotoGP contract for them. To date, COTA has not had any meaningful discussions with me regarding MotoGP at COTA.

"Your question is probably better addressed to COTA. I, of course, hope that there is MotoGP in Austin and have offered COTA multiple options in how to achieve that."

Schwantz did not say what those options were.

On Tuesday, circuit officials said there's no update on the MotoGP situation at this time.

Schwantz, the 1993 world champion, and his company 3FourTexas have the rights for MotoGP in Texas. Hellmund, a longtime friend of Schwantz, and Hellmund's company, Full Throttle Productions, had a deal to be the promoter. It was assumed Hellmund's rights would then be assigned to the Circuit of the Americas at some point.

The 10-year deal beginning in 2013 was announced at a splashy news conference last April at the Long Center. Landing both Formula One and MotoGP — motorcycling's equivalent of F1 — was considered quite a coup for the circuit. But a serious rift between Hellmund and other circuit investors and officials developed, and the promotional rights never changed hands.

Much the same thing happened with the rights to F1's U.S. Grand Prix, but Hellmund's deal was declared void late last year by Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, who then cut a new deal with the circuit.

This February, Schwantz sent a blunt letter to circuit president Steve Sexton saying, "I urge you one final time to contact Mr. Hellmund about obtaining the rights to host a MotoGP race in Texas, after which I would be glad to open discussions with you as the new promoter. If you have not obtained such rights from Full Throttle, then unfortunately Circuit of the Americas will not be included as a round of the FIM Grand Prix Road Racing World Championship."

This year, MotoGP has 18 races in 13 countries. It is quite popular in Europe and has two races in the United States, at Indianapolis and Laguna Seca in California. At both U.S. locations, the three-day weekend can draw 130,000-140,000 fans, including 60,000 or more for the Sunday race.

Laguna Seca's CEO/general manager Gill Campbell has estimated the MotoGP race creates about $100 million in revenues for that area, about one-half of the economic impact of that track for an entire year.

While American drivers have been a non-factor in Formula One for the past two decades, Americans have been successful at MotoGP.

Last year two Texans, Ben Spies and Colin Edwards, finished in the top 10. Spies was at the MotoGP news conference last year when circuit investor Red McCombs proclaimed, "This is a big deal."

A MotoGP logo still adorns a door at the circuit's downtown offices, but there has been no mention of it for months in the track literature or in its seat licensing plans.

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