MotoGP will make only its second trip outside of Europe since the start of the Covid pandemic with a return to COTA in Austin, Texas this weekend.

The only other 'overseas' premier-class event since March 2019 was this year's Qatar season-opener, with Argentina, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia cancelled for two years in row.

The COTA trip thus ensures MotoGP resembles more of a world championship than last year's all-European calendar, but this weekend is also something of a step into the unknown with no MotoGP action since the chequered flag flew at the Texan circuit on April 14, 2019.

Some further track resurfacing has also been carried out since that event, to help address the notorious bumps, and Tech3 KTM boss Herve Poncharal said it feels like 'arriving at a brand-new track'

"This is great to be able to have a race outside of Europe," Poncharal said. "We know how difficult it is for the promoter to realise that and we are very happy and proud to have a race in USA, which means a lot for all of us.

“It’s very difficult to predict anything regarding our performance there, because we haven’t been at COTA for quite a while. Our machine, the KTM RC16 has improved such a lot since then.

"It’s going to be very interesting as it feels like arriving at a brand-new track. I believe our two riders like the layout quite a lot and following the test in Misano, that was quite fruitful, I think we can start on a good foot in Friday morning’s FP1.

"It will be weird and fun to be in the overseas paddock and we just can’t wait to start the race weekend there!”

Iker Lecuona and Danilo Petrucci approach their final four races in MotoGP, just one point apart, in 18th and 19th in the world championship.

Although approaching the end of his second season in the premier-class, and set to join WorldSBK with Honda in 2022, Lecuona will still be a COTA MotoGP rookie this weekend.

“It was a long time, we didn’t go to Austin. I remember from 2019, that there have been a lot of bumps, so it wasn’t easy to ride. It will also be the first time for me to ride the MotoGP bike there," he said.

"From what I learned in MotoGP so far is, that the circuit changes completely when I ride the big machine, so my first target on Friday is to learn the track really quick and try to fight for the top positions. Obviously, we have to wait how the weather and the asphalt conditions will be.”

Petrucci meanwhile finished in sixth place for Ducati in the 2019 race.

“Austin is always a quite difficult track, but last year we didn’t have the chance to go there. So, I would like to see how the situation will be aboard my KTM," said the Italian. "There is a long straight, which will be pretty sure not the best for us, but there are plenty of interesting corners as well, so maybe we can be fast.

"The target is to score some points, because in Misano we fought a lot, but without the reward. Therefore, I really hope we can do it in America this weekend.”

Due to the high number of reported Covid cases n Austin, MotoGP has advised those in the paddock travelling to Texas to wear a mask at all times, keep socialising to a minimum and keep within the 'bubble' system as much as possible.