Schwantz Sues Circuit of the Americas

September 10, 2012
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

The troubled Texas MotoGP race has run into more controversy, with Kevin Schwantz suing the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). The 1993 World Champion held a 10-year contract to promote a MotoGP race in Texas through his company 3fourTexas, but Schwantz filed suit in Travis County on Friday, September 7, with claims that COTA and its officials have illegally negotiated directly with MotoGP rights holder Dorna to host a race in 2013. Schwantz confirmed the lawsuit in a statement posted on his Facebook page, which states:

Proposed Circuit of the Americas in Austin  Texas. The plans to host MotoGP in 2013 have fallen into doubt during legal wranglings.
The Circuit of the Americas MotoGP round remains in legal limbo thanks to a new suit filed by 1993 World Champion Kevin Schwantz against the Austin circuit.

“Many of you have been asking about the status of MotoGP in Texas, and I wanted to share this statement:

‘I have devoted over 25 years of my life to MotoGP, the premier motorcycle road racing world championship. I spent four of those years bringing MotoGP to Texas, my home state. As a result, MotoGP agreed in 2011 to host an annual race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track.

‘I’m sorry to say that COTA is now attempting to unlawfully force me out of this project. I believe COTA has committed fraud in doing so. Earlier today, I took legal action against COTA. I was forced to file this lawsuit in order to protect my rights, my reputation, and MotoGP itself.

‘I want to see MotoGP come to Texas, but I cannot allow COTA to take advantage of me. More important, I will not sit idly by while a newcomer to racing discredits the sport I love.’”

COTA responded to the lawsuit on Saturday, in a statement reported by the Austin Statesman. In the article a COTA spokesperson states Dorna informed the COTA that Schwantz “has no contract to promote a MotoGP race in Texas.” COTA goes on to clarify that Schwantz “never had an agreement to conduct a MotoGP race at Circuit of the Americas, and to our knowledge, he has no agreement to conduct an event at any Texas racetrack.”

The controversy of the Texas MotoGP round began shortly after the announcement of the new circuit in 2011. Trouble surfaced when the main driving force behind the COTA project and its deals to host Formula 1 and MotoGP races, Tavo Hellmund, was driven out of the venture after he was deemed in breach of his F1 contract. Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone renegotiated a new contract with COTA without Hellmund, and the Formula 1 race is on track for November 16-18 (having been moved back in the schedule to complete track construction).

Hellmund, a close friend of Schwantz, then filed suit against COTA for his 20.58% founding partner share, as well as his 10-year work contract – a figure over $20 million. Spurred on by the F1 controversy, the Hellmund lawsuit put the Texas MotoGP round in jeopardy, and legal stalemate, as Schwantz had transferred his rights to MotoGP racing in Texas to Hellmund and his company Full Throttle.

With the MotoGP race in doubt, and news of the Laguna Seca and Indianapolis MotoGP USGP continuing for 2013, rumors of other racing series at COTA abounded. However, the Hellmund suit was settled this summer, seeming to pave the way for three USGP rounds for 2013. That may still be the case, as COTA and its officials have reputedly sidestepped 3fourTexas to negotiate a new deal with Dorna.

To be continued…