Updated Jan 21, 2023 ...
Track Day At COTA, Circuit Of The Americas
My buddy Eric, who probably knew the answer already, said to me: "There's a track day at COTA coming up. You interested? Doug wants to go". COTA, or Circuit of The Americas, is located near Austin, Texas. It's a world class facility, home to MotoGP motorcycle and Formula 1 auto racing.
This 3.427-mile, challenging road course has twenty turns and one-hundred-thirty feet of elevation change. They offer premier paddock areas, luxury camping opportunities (with RV sites that view the longest straightaway), a swimming pool, clean bathrooms, exercise facility and showers.
What's not to like?
We, the veterans of numerous track days have countless miles on Texas tracks including Texas World Speedway, Motorsport Ranches at Cresson and Houston and Eagles Canyon Raceway. It had been several years since my last track day and I wanted to try out my new motorcycle.
So, yes. I wanted to do COTA!
Planning for COTA
Dates for COTA were July 2nd and 3rd. Texas is hot in July and temperatures were forecast at 100 °F.
The event was sponsored by 3:16 Trackdays, owned and operated by Ignacio Pedregon. Track days in general are expensive and even more so at COTA. Ignacio mentioned that it costs $96,000 to rent COTA for a weekend.
Cost for each attendee was $575.00 and while that's more expensive than most track days, it's reasonable given our sponsor's final bill. Planning to tow our 35-foot 5th wheel camper for the weekend, I reserved an RV spot for two nights at the campground. Cost so far, $695.00.
Preparing the motorcycles would be easy. Doug has a late model 600cc sportbike, dedicated for track days, that stays prepared. Eric rides a pristine 2005 Honda CBR1000RR, Repsol edition and I ride a 2021 Kawasaki Z H2 SE, described by Cycle News test rider Rennie Scaysbrook as a "demented, lunatic motorcycle".
Video courtesy of Kyle Green ...
My Z H2 is less than a year old and in excellent shape. Some tape is needed to cover the lighting, followed by minor preventive safety wire. Mount a pair of stickier tires, such as the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 and the bike is ready.
As for me, the back protector I should've bought years ago added around $100. New race boots should've also been on the list as my old ones literally fell apart by the end of the day. I guess too many summers in my 100 °F garage killed their plastics.
Groceries were needed. I didn't keep track of the cost but they tasted good! Let's figure the total now at around $1200.00.
Everything was ready to go, or so we thought. Eric's motorcycle developed a fork seal leak while strapped down in the trailer. Fortunately, as is common at most track days, a suspension specialist (vendor) was waiting, sourcing fork seals and completing the repair shortly after we arrived.
Getcha COTA Runnin', Head Out On The COTA!
Most track day providers label their groups "street", "intermediate" and "advanced" (or something similar). 3:16 uses "Love To Ride" for the street group and "Respect The Craft" for intermediate. It had been a while since any of us had attended a track day, so we signed up for "Love To Ride" and were assigned a mentor.
Being my first time here, I welcomed the first session where our mentor led us around the track. He was aware of our experience levels, so the pace was spirited and appropriate. Then, he worked with us individually, giving timely tips and critiques.
The track layout is challenging, with elevation changes, sharp turns and odd-ball corner combinations. For instance, turn 1 is sharper than 90 degrees, located at the end of the second longest straight after an aggressive uphill climb. The longest straight, between turns 11 and 12, allows for very high speeds and my ZH 2's relentless power skimmed the front tire off the pavement the entire time.
Turn 12, at the end of the straight, is another turn sharper than 90 degrees. Aggressive braking is required. After lunch, I was still surprised by a couple of curve combinations, particularly those of turns 13/14 and 17/18.
The extreme heat wore us all down but 3:16 was above average in that volunteers would continually check if we had water, quickly providing if we didn't. In the afternoon, they also gave out much welcomed frozen treats, fortified with nutrients to help with hydration.
The paddock area where we were parked was under cover and had power available. My shop fan helped me to cool down after sessions. I came in early from the fourth session and skipped the last one.
We all counted the day a huge success, managing to keep our bikes shiny side up with both tires on the ground.
“Well, except for Eric, who got black flagged and a stern lecture for a small, inadvertent (according to Eric) wheelie up the front straight.”
It turns out that COTA officials watch the track video monitors and do not have a sense of humor. They threatened to send him home.
I look forward to going back and building on my experience. I'll be able to skip most of the track introduction learning curves, instead working back up to intermediate speeds. After the day was over, we headed back to my camper and went swimming in the campground pool. That was a luxury not normally experienced at any track day!
About 3:16 Trackdays
As you might surmise, the "3:16" name of the company refers to a biblical verse, namely John 3:16. Ignacio Pedregon and his wife are devout Christians. Their website lists "Honor God and Give Thanks" as its first guiding principle and there's praying and blessing, etc.
While parked in the paddock, I was approached by a gentleman who asked if I wanted my motorcycle blessed. As a non-religious person, this part of the experience was neither wanted or needed. To be fair, Ignacio and his wife are charming and accessible people ... and I never felt pressured.
The gentleman who approached me in the paddock was fine with "no" as a response, kindly pointing the discussion back to motorcycles. Will this stop me from wanting to return for another track day with 3:16? No.
I'll probably sign up with them again. I'll also duck out of the room before the praying begins. Oh ... and don't even get me started about the green bike "bad luck" thing.
Do You Go-ta COTA?
There are a lot of great race tracks out there. Which ones do you prefer and why? Your input is invited. Leave a comment!