MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas gets new date with Japan canceled

MotoGP Grand Prix Americas
Thomas B. Shea / Getty Images

The Circuit of the Americas will host the MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas on Oct. 1 – 3 as the Japanese Grand Prix was unable to confirm its availability to host by the scheduled date.

This will give American racers Joe Roberts and Cameron Beaubier a chance to compete in front of a home crowd.

Roberts is seeking his first podium of 2021 in Moto2, having come close in both the Portuguese and Italian Grand Prixs with fourth-place finishes. In Italy, Roberts crossed the finish line third before being penalized for a track limit penalty that dropped him one position.

Roberts had another podium taken from him at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Round 3 after contact from a competitor on the final lap.

As a rookie in Moto2, Beaubier earned four top-10s in the first eight rounds. His best finish is eighth in Italy.

“Unfortunately because we need to reorganize the non-European part of the schedule, we need to know by now. Then talking with Japan, they were not in a position to ensure to us that October third was the date scheduled for that,” Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sport said. “We regret to say, this year it will not be possible to be in Motegi as has been the last years before the pandemic. We have been very happy working with MobilityLand since 1992. Japan is a very important country for us because three manufacturers in the premiere class are there.”

MobilityLand is the promotor of the Japanese Grand Prix.

“We have been preparing for this year’s MotoGP Japan Grand Prix with the hope of bringing the event back to Japan this autumn,” said Kaoru Tanaka, President of MobilityLand Corporation. “So that planning for the second half of the season could be carried out, we needed to make a decision about ensuring to hold the event now at this timing. Considering current travel conditions and restrictions about staying in Japan and abroad, we came to the conclusion that we have no choice but to cancel the Grand Prix. It is a very unfortunate outcome.

“On the other hand, the Formula 1 Honda Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday Oct. 10, 2021 at Suzuka Circuit and the Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Road Race on Sunday Nov. 7th, 2021 are now busily preparing to hold as planned.”

As part of the reorganization, the Thai Grand Prix will move one week later on the calendar to October 15 – 17.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”