until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


MotoGP's new team has already answered major concern

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The hotly-anticipated news that’s been MotoGP’s worst-kept secret for the past few months is finally official. American NASCAR team Trackhouse Racing will take over the RNF Aprilia spots on the MotoGP grid next year - and if its initial team announcement is anything to go by, then it’s fair to say that (just as we expected) team boss Justin Marks and his squad aren’t just here to make up the numbers.

Unveiled in a swish presentation at Sky Italy’s Milan studios, Trackhouse has already shown one facet of what series boss Dorna is hoping Trackhouse will bring to the grid by producing one of the best team presentations in a very long time, complete with the sort of high-quality highlights editing that should entice a new US audience into the sport.

But while the production quality might have been fantastic, it’s the words that were said that carry far more weight than the flashy images - and in those statements lies the realisation that Trackhouse is here not just to make up the numbers but to bring something new (and much-needed) to MotoGP.

Firstly, let’s talk about team boss Justin Marks. One of the reservations that I’ve seen from hardcore MotoGP fans since The Race first broke the news of Trackhouse’s interest in MotoGP has been scepticism over whether someone from the US stock car racing world would have much knowledge in MotoGP, or much experience that could help make them successful.

That was almost immediately shot down by my colleagues in the world of NASCAR, though, who have universally been quick to point out that above all else, Marks isn’t a team boss or someone who’s looking to make a quick buck out of motorsport. He’s a genuine race fan, they insisted, and if he’s coming to MotoGP it’s because he’s fallen in love with the sport.

It turns out that that’s not quite the case, though: his love for two-wheeled racing, rekindled as it might have been by a trip to the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this year, isn’t a new thing but rather something that the Northern Californian native was introduced to at a young age.

“I grew up in Northern California,” he explained at the team launch, “and I got to go see the motorcycle races at Laguna Seca as the first really big motorsport events that I went to. You think of names like Rainey and Schwantz and Eddie Lawson, and Nicky Hayden was one of my first racing heroes.

“It’s humbling and empowering for Trackhouse to be able to hopefully be a continuation of the great American story in GP motorcycle racing.”

That legacy is something that the team have made clear they’re keen to continue, too, with a US-flagged livery unveiled at the team launch in tribune to 2006 world champion Hayden, a figure that the squad are keen to pay tribute to in the coming months.

However, there’s obviously another reason why it's keen to get involved in the sport: because right now, MotoGP is seen by the US sports entertainment business as ripe for being expanded to a new audience both overseas and in its traditional market.

That’s something that Marks made very clear at the launch, with the man who has set out to turn NASCAR upside down now keen to bring that same energy to MotoGP.

“We feel that MotoGP is perfectly positioned for massive growth in the coming years not only in the United States but internationally,” he said.

“It has all the ingredients necessary to continue its rise to global prominence: a thrilling on-track product, aspirational stars, unmatched fan and partner experience, and an environment that’s fan-friendly and welcoming.”

Time will tell, of course, whether or not Trackhouse can realise that dream. But if its initial words and actions are anything to go by, then it's certainly coming into the sport with the right attitude - and with a healthy respect for those who’ve come before it.

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