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Throwback Thursday: Austin MotoGP 2019 Revisited

I wrote the following piece for another publication shortly after the American round of last year's MotoGP race but it was never published.

This year the only American round of MotoGP fell on the same weekend as round 2 of the AFM season. As I am on the board of directors for the AFM, had people depending on me for photos, and had my own racing season to think about, I had no plans to attend the races in Austin.

That is until Aliki of VNM Sport baselayer fame let me know that Remy Gardner asked for me, by name, to take some photos of him. Yeah, I didn't believe it either, but I heard the voicemail. It seems my pics rank a little higher in his eyes than the team photographer, so if anyone on the ONEOX TKKR SAG team happens to read this, yes, I am for hire.

A man, his machine, and custom VNM Sport baselayer.

With that bit of information obtained I decided to split the difference and cover the first part of the MotoGP race weekend (read Friday practice) and then fly into Bakersfield Friday night to participate in my own race Saturday. Just another day in the office.

Like last year I also was taking some promo photos for VNM Sport, so Thursday was spent working with Remy as well as Marcell Schrotter and Sam Lowes. While I was grabbing some pics of Remy I asked him a few questions about the new Triumph triple that is the spec motor for Moto2 this season, as well as his improvements in the standings from last season.

MK: So let’s start with getting your first podium last round in Argentina. What were your thoughts as you crossed the line?

RG: It was a bit of relief, disbelief, and I don’t know, honestly I didn’t think it was real.

MK: This year not only are you adapting to the new spec motor but also a new chassis and a whole new team.

RG: Yeah, lot’s of changes!

MK: What is your favorite thing about the new package?

RG: Everything! *laughing* It turns, it’s got grip, it’s good on brakes, it’s got good feeling, it’s quite fast in the straights...everything is better.

MK: What’s your take on the new motor?

RG: It’s a bit more torquey, a bit more MotoGP style, more stop and go. It’s another step closer to a MotoGP bike also with the electronics package we have this year which is nice. There’s a few new things we can play around with and get the maximum out of the bike.

MK: How much work is it developing a whole new bike? In your case you are coming off something that you were not necessarily happy with but at least there was some familiarity.

RG: It wasn’t too bad honestly, the Kalex is a great bike, it works for most riders so honestly I didn’t have any problems adapting. I have a little bit to go understanding qualifying times but we have consistency and have set some quite fast laps on it already. Yeah, so I’d say getting an absolute 110% will take some adjustments but it will come in time.

MK: What’s your favorite track?

RG: Phillip Island, not because it’s Australia, it’s just a sick track. It’s a magic place, even the island itself. Beautiful beaches and a beautiful track.

Packed house for the retirement of #69. I wasn't even in the back row.

After grabbing some more photos with Remy, I hustled over to the media center. MotoGP retired the #69 of Nicky Hayden on Friday in an emotional ceremony In a room packed tighter than the first turn of a Moto3 race start. After a highlight video of Nicky’s career, FIM President Jorge Viegas and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta presented Nicky’s father Earl with a trophy.

Even though I was only in Austin for practice, I still managed to get a few pics of all three classes. Thanks to United calling to tell me that my flight was cancelled, I was able to stick around for another night of fun with my friends. I was on one of the first flights out Saturday morning and despite getting to the track after noon, discovering I had a flat tire on the race bike, and only getting one practice session, I still dropped my race time by 4 seconds.

Meanwhile, back in Austin, Marc Marquez did something that he has never done before, at least in Texas. With his seventh straight COTA win in his back pocket he threw his Repsol Honda away in turn 12, and with it the race. Alex Rins, who crashed in the same corner in 2018, went on to win. It was a close one with Valentino Rossi only 0.462 of a second behind with Jack Miller rounding out the podium.

In Moto 2, Thomas Luthi beat his teammate (and my photoshoot subject) Marcel Schrotter to take the win, and Jorge Navarro came in third. Moto 3 found Aron Canet, Juame Masia, and his teammate Andrea Migno battling for the win. They finished in that order with about a second between them.

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