until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Trackhouse's plan to revive MotoGP in the USA

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Confirmation earlier this month that American NASCAR Cup team Trackhouse Racing will join the MotoGP grid next year not only offers a great crossover opportunity, but more pertinently marks perhaps the most important turning point in decades for series organiser Dorna in its plan to turn the championship around in a flagging United States market.

And that's a plan Trackhouse boss Justin Marks is fully committed to - and has plenty of ideas for.

Speaking exclusively to The Race, the Nashville-based businessman reaffirmed his belief that there’s a big commercial opportunity waiting for him and his outfit - which will take over from the RNF Aprilia team - if its ambitions are achieved.

Trackhouse has established itself as a disruptor on the NASCAR scene and has made an impression since its formation in 2021, and Marks clearly has big ambitions for MotoGP as well - starting with untapped commercial opportunities he says present fantastic value for money for potential partners.

“One of the things that I’ve recognised, and one thing that I think Trackhouse can be a powerful participant in doing, is that a lot of the brands that are using MotoGP to activate and promote are relatively endemic to motorcycle racing,” he explains.

“They’re either motorcycle industry brands or they’re brands that have been around a long time because maybe the owner is a motorcycle fan. And then you have Red Bull and Monster.

“I think where Trackhouse can come in is, when you look at our commercial partners on the NASCAR side, they’re big global brands. We’ve got Coca-Cola, [Budweiser owner] Anheuser-Busch, [clothing brand] Jockey, Kubota tractors.

“We’ve got all these big brands and we want to position MotoGP in the global sponsorship market with the idea of trying to bring big global brands into it. I think that’s where Trackhouse can make a difference.”

MotoGP still has a significant American fanbase and a successful round at Austin. But it's not that long ago it had multiple races on the calendar, and its supply of American champions and even American premier-class riders has dried up.

There’s clearly more to the Trackhouse MotoGP strategy than just commercial interests. Marks is building a passionate team of race fans around himself and more than happy to share childhood memories of watching AMA Superbike races at his home track of Laguna Seca. He has also very quickly identified MotoGP’s biggest problem: a lack of storytelling.

That's something that the series has struggled with despite numerous efforts to change its strategies, and is perhaps best exemplified by the ultimately doomed MotoGP Unlimited series on streaming platform Amazon Prime, which has not had a second season.

But Trackhouse has quickly cemented itself in NASCAR, largely through its own content creation and fan engagement - so there's already a model for the team to roll out in MotoGP as soon as possible.

“I also think that one of the ways that Trackhouse has become popular in the United States in our industry is that we’ve invested a lot in content,” Marks adds. “We place a big importance on storytelling.

“We pull the curtain back and show the world what we’re all about, amplify our personalities in the race team. I’m excited about doing really interesting and exciting content that fans can be excited about following.

“We want to do a lot of behind-the-scenes content to show what being a MotoGP team is all about to the millions of fans around the world.

“The rest, I think, will just come as I get experience in the paddock. As I get experience and learn the sport and get inspired and find these ideas that come to me. That’s really what I do in NASCAR.

“Sometimes, I’ll walk through the garage area and an idea will come to me just by being at the racetrack, and then we’ll go and do it and it’s this really cool thing. So I think the rest will just happen over time.”

And while there's a much bigger goal here than drawing MotoGP to the attention of fans of NASCAR - a series that has in recent years expanded further beyond its traditional ovals to add more road course races and, in 2023, the Chicago street circuit (on which Trackhouse won with debutant guest driver Shane van Gisbergen) - there’s nonetheless a big opportunity to hook a whole new fanbase that’s already engaged with what Trackhouse is successfully doing in NASCAR.

“I think that Trackhouse can be very valuable advocates for MotoGP and their strategy to grow the sport in North America,” Marks tells The Race. “Even among fans of IndyCar, sportscars, even dirt racing - everybody kind of pays attention to what Trackhouse does. We’ve got a great voice in the industry.

“I’d love to see crossover promotion when MotoGP is in the United States, and we’ve already got some ideas about how to do that, but what’s also nice is getting the MotoGP action onto the Trackhouse platform is immediately exposing the sport to millions of new people.”

Helping that, he says, is the fact that the current MotoGP format should appeal so much to the US audience - not just with shorter, 45-minute main races and half-distance sprints every weekend but also, crucially, the ability to see exactly what’s happening on the bike.

“What I love about MotoGP is that it checks the boxes that have been a bit of a struggle for the American motorsports consumer - in the sense that the races are 45 minutes long and half the distance on Saturday,” he adds. “There’s three races [across the three classes] on Sunday. The turnover of the action is really good.

“And it’s one of the only forms of motorsport where you can watch the athlete play the game.

"A lot of times in car racing you can’t really watch the guy directing it. In NASCAR, we’re asking people to sit and watch a race on an oval that’s three and a half hours long and the cars could be driven by robots and [looking from the outside] they wouldn’t even know the difference.

“But when you see these guys hitting elbows, manipulating the weight of the bike, this kind of stuff - if we show NASCAR fans and the American consumer this kind of stuff, I think that we can immediately have a big impact in how many fans MotoGP has in the US because it’s got all the right ingredients.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks