Canadian Jon Cornwell is notoriously hard to please. A racer for twenty years in both Canada and US, Cornwell also raced his 250 in GPs and still fancies an odd race entry now and then. Once he stepped away from riding full-time, Jon went to work as a suspension engineer at Ohlins. Here is the thing about Jon Cornwell: he is about as close to a functioning perfectionist as one can get and still remain employed. Example? There is, of course, the famous story which took place during a garage conference with then world champion Carl Fogarty and his crew. Jon had just started his job with Ohlins, but after listening to Fogarty tell him how bad the bike was and how terrible the tires, Cornwell looked long and hard at Fogarty and said, in his opinion, the Briton was just not riding hard enough, that the bike and tires were fine. For a new-ish man in the garage this was probably career suicide. Clocks stopped ticking and breathing in the garage ceased momentarily as the men waited for Fogarty to explode. Instead. Cornwell stared him down with his distinctive 'you know I am right' facial expression and Fogarty scrunched his face, laughed and grudgingly agreed.
Thus, if he is notoriously hard to please and also incapable of self-editiing when asked for his opinion, what does Jon Cornwell think of the Circuit of the Americas racetrack? The Canadian with a slight limp and an XR750 in his garage visited the new MotoGP circuit last week as part of the Attack CRT effort with rider Blake Young.
"The track itself is fantastic. I only drove around it in a car, and it gave me goosebumps just thinking about what kind of fun you're going to have (there) on a motorcycle," he said. "It's one special place."
COTA is a road course the likes of which that are no longer built in America. Spain? Maybe. England? Probably. Asia? Probably. Texas? Texas, with its plethora of local stereotypes from hats to guns to trucks would seem to be a natural place to build a new NASCAR oval. But Circuit of the Americas is possibly the least NASCAR-centric track in the United States. This is not lost on Cornwell. "I'm trying to think of the wordnot necessarily heartwarming, but COTA is one of the most encouraging things that I've seen in North America, never mind just America," he says. "The attitude from these people to build the racetrack and a facility like this. Amazing. It's a true racing facility. It's going to encourage passing. It's going to encourage people to stretch the limits of their bikes, because there's lots and lots of safety, which is amazing."
How fast will a MotoGP bike go at COTA with its long straight, especially in light of the fact that MotoGP bikes already top 208 mph at Indy? Cornwell would only attempt a vague guess. "I don't know. Fast, really fast. 200 mph would be an easy guess and probably just a start," he said.