For want of a pencil…

There is an urban legend from the space race of the 1960’s that says NASA spent millions and used all kinds of clever technology to create a pen that would work in the zero gravity environment of space.  Meanwhile, the rival Russians just used a pencil.

It isn’t true, but the history of technological overkill in American culture is.  In this past weekend’s US round of MotoGP at the stunning new Circuit of the Americas (known as COTA) in Austin, Texas saw a little of that culture.

The MotoGP race was delayed by about half and hour due to rain water pooling  near the beginning of the circuit.  That’s not really newsworthy, but the cause of the pooling is.  An overhead pedestrian bridge/advertising billboard was channeling water along its length which then dripped down in a cascade.

250px-Space_Pen_CartridgeIt seems difficult to understand how a track that cost $400 million to build, utilizing the latest in simulation software and that boasts some of the most advanced communications and pit facilities in the world could have missed adding $50 of rain gutters to surfaces crossing the circuit.

Safety comes first, and the slight delay on Sunday’s race made little difference to many fans watching, however it did cause considerable financial loss to international broadcasters who book fixed blocks of time for races, and cannot always accommodate schedule changes.



  1. I didn’t even think about the cost to broadcasters, but as the minutes ticked by we thought, well might have to adjust number of laps, then adjust fuel amount, then maybe tires?, electronic settings, change race strategy altogether?? it was an exciting 37 minutes in some ways, to appreciate all that goes into a race, but serious (avoidable) flaw in the design of the track. Still what a memorable pole setting in Qual – Marquez’s jump and sprint was the judgement of a champion.

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