Outside The Lines: Coming To Grips With Utah Motorsports Campus

Valentin Debise says Utah Motorsports Park is a lot like Qatar. Don’t go off line. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

We haven’t polled the entire paddock, but to every rider we’ve asked – and we’ve asked most of them – Utah Motorsports Campus is a favorite track on the MotoAmerica schedule. The fast and flowing layout of the Outer Course is often compared with tracks located in other parts of the world.

In Friday’s qualifying practice sessions, there were a fair number of tipovers among the riders, which included defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Toni Elias having a very minor lowside crash. Elias was back on his feet in a matter of seconds, but his Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing Superbike was down for the count. The GSX-R1000’s fuel tank ruptured inexplicably, and a small bonfire resulted in Elias trying to douse the conflagration with the copious amounts of sand and dirt in great supply just off the asphalt. Other Superbike riders to go down included Broaster Chicken Honda’s Cameron Petersen, Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Garrett Gerloff. So, we wondered, why all the incidents?

A quick conversation with M4 ECSTAR Suzuki Supersport rider Valentin Debise provided some insight. When we asked the Frenchman how he likes the UMC track, he said. “I really like it. Is good. Reminds me of Qatar, which I also enjoy.”

The comparison makes sense, since Valentin raced at Losail International Circuit, which is located just outside the town of Lusail, north of Doha, Qatar, a couple of years ago when he was competing in the FIM World Supersport championship. For all intents and purposes, Losail International Circuit is a road racing oasis situated in the middle of a desert. The track layout is flat like at UMC, and airborne sand and dirt regularly make their way onto both tracks.

A helpless Toni Elias watches his Yoshimura Suzuki burn after yesterday’s crash at UMC. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

With five MotoAmerica racing classes competing this weekend at UMC, motorcycles of all sizes and specifications are lapping the Outer Circuit. That creates a disparity of racing lines around the track, with good grip across a fairly wide swath of asphalt. But, unlike the swath of racing lines at other tracks on the MotoAmerica schedule, if you happen to journey off the line, the lack of grip is much more pronounced at UMC in the same way that it is at Qatar.

“At Qatar, the wind is always blowing sand onto the track,” Debise commented. “So the racing line is good there, but off the line? Not so good. Same thing here. All good on racing line, fast and flowing. Off line, not good.”

It takes a lot of laps to get the grip up to snuff on the racing line, too. “On Friday, the track was still green,” continued Debise. “So, even the racing line was not as good as it will be on Saturday and Sunday. That’s why there were many crashes in Superbike on Friday.”

Despite what sounds like tricky conditions to mere mortals, it’s exactly what professional motorcycle road racers love the most, including Debise. “The racing line is the fast line. It’s the fastest way around the track. So, off line is off the pace. You don’t want to be out there anyway, not only because of lack of grip, but also lack of pace.”