Ben Spies will have the honour, alongside Colin Edwards, of racing in the first MotoGP to be held in his home state of Texas, this weekend at Circuit of the Americas.
“I never thought it would happen. This type of facility in the US, let alone Texas,” said Spies.
Like most riders on the grid, Spies missed out on the private test held at COTA in March, but did at least get to try the technically demainding circuit on a road bike. But that experience has only made him more aware of how much he will need to learn.
“We managed to do about 30 laps here on a street bike a few weeks ago. I've had to learn some tracks before, but this is the most technical, long track I've ever been too,” he said. “There are a lot of blind turns that open or tighten. Lot of slow and fast stuff. There are so many drastic changes in the track.
“But it's great how they used the landscape and elevation. The track is world class.”
Sunday will mark Spies' second start for the Pramac Ducati team. The realistic approach is to continue building strength in his healing shoulder, but the special nature of the inaugural Austin event means he can't help but hope for a strong result
“It's a rebuilding season,” he said. “We didn't know what to expect at Qatar as I'd only done six consecutive fast laps. We got through it, got back into race mode and put some stress on the shoulder.
“With the bike and myself that is the way it is for the first few races. But I'd love a good result in Texas. It'll be difficult, but we'll get it 100 per cent for sure.”
There is currently only one 500cc/MotoGP world champion from Texas, Kevin Schwantz. However Schwantz is unlikely to be present this weekend due to the ongoing legal dispute with COTA over promotional rights for the MotoGP.
“I don't want to speak about it too much, because there's litigation outstanding,” confirmed COTA president Steve Sexton. “It's just unfortunate that it's got to where it has, where Kevin has filed a suit against the company. It's got to take its course through the legal channels.”
Spies added: “I can say me and Kevin are really good friends, but it's one of the things I do not ask and I don't know anything about...
“Kevin is such a MotoGP icon, and being Texan, it's kind of a shame obviously for him not to be here. But there are things going on that are beyond a lot of people's understanding, or knowing what is going on.”