Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” – it really needs a better name for casual conversation. We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order. I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy!

MV Agusta F3 800 Ago Now Officially Debuts

We already announced the bike last November, and brought you a bevy of hi-res images of the special edition machine. Although now that we think of it, MV Agusta never released anything on this Giacomo Agostini tribute motorcycle — better late than never, right? Back at the EICMA show launch, where the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago was first shown to the public (and Agostini himself), the Varese brand promised us two additional motorcycle launches in early 2014. MV Agsuta made good on half that promise with the Dragster 800 model, hopefully this Ago special edition isn’t the other half of that statement, and MV Agusta still has something waiting in the wings. That being said, the Tricolore & Gold paint scheme is gorgeous, and looks even better in person.

Isle of Man TT Gets TV Deal for Australia & USA

Want to watch the Isle of Man TT from the comfort of your non-British TV, but haven’t been able to in the past? A new TV from the Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development will do just that. Inking a new TV contract with North One TV, the Isle of Man TT will be televised in the American, Australian, and of course British markets, making it easier than ever to watch the iconic road race. With a five-year contract with the Velocity Channel in the US, the American cable channel will show seven one-hour race shows. Each segment will air within 24hrs of each race, and be tailored for the American market.

Castiglioni Denies Fiat Buyout of MV Agusta Is in the Works

After reporting 22% growth in Q1 2014, Giovanni Castiglioni had some closing words about the rumors that Fiat could acquire MV Agusta — a popular rumor that has been swirling around in the press the last two months. Denying outright that MV Agusta had, or was in, talks with the Fiat-Chrysler group about an acquisition (some reports linked even MV Agusta to being bought by Fiat-owned Ferrari), Castiglioni said the Italian company solely was focused on building growth, and building motorcycles. “Moreover, I’d like to take this opportunity to deny rumours circulated by the media over the last few days concerning supposed negotiations vis-à-vis the sale of a share of MV Agusta to the Fiat-Chrysler Group,” said Giovanni Castiglioni, the President and CEO of MV Agusta.

A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research grant from DARPA. The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Colin Edwards Will Retire from Racing after 2014 Season

Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle. Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP. Talking about his inability to come to terms with the Forward Yamaha, which Aleix Espargaro was able to take to the front of the pack in Qatar, Edwards was at a loss when it came to understanding the Open Class machine and his lack of results.

MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 2 Summary: The Old New Tire, Lorenzo’s Lamentations, & Ducati’s Future (Again)

02/28/2014 @ 1:37 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 2 Summary: The Old New Tire, Lorenzos Lamentations, & Ducatis Future (Again) dani pedrosa repsol honda sepang

A cleaner track made for better times at the second MotoGP test at Sepang on Thursday, but conditions remain far from ideal. The track was still greasy, and the added heat made the situation worse. That meant the track remained empty for large parts of the day, the riders waiting for temperatures to come down at the end of the day.

When the riders did go for their fast laps, the usual suspects raised their heads. Aleix Espargaro was quick, Alvaro Bautista was quick, but if anyone was in any doubt about where the real power lies on the MotoGP grid, Dani Pedrosa quickly disabused them of their misconceptions.

The Repsol Honda man posted two scorching laps, faster than anyone else was capable of riding. At nearly three tenths of a second, the gap was convincing. When Dani Pedrosa decides to exert his authority, the world listens. Especially when his teammate is absent.

Pedrosa spent the day working on the front of the Repsol Honda, and deciding on which of the two chassis to use for the rest of the year.

The quicker of the two options was also less forgiving under braking, meaning Pedrosa elected to pursue the slower of the two frames. Sacrificing a little bit of speed for more stability and less effort to ride seemed like a suitable trade off.

But the talk of the second day of the test was not Pedrosa’s speed; that is taken as a given. The biggest talking point of day two was the lack of speed from Jorge Lorenzo. The factory Yamaha rider ended the day down in ninth spot, sandwiched between the two Tech 3 bikes of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith.

He was over a second slower than Pedrosa, the biggest gap since the rain-hit race at Le Mans last May. Worse still, he was the fourth-fastest Yamaha, with the Open Yamaha of Aleix Espargaro and the factory bikes of his teammate Valentino Rossi and Tech 3′s Pol Espargaro ahead of him.

His problem is simple: he cannot get the new rear tire to work. Whatever they do to the bike, Lorenzo simply has no grip, and no confidence.

So frustrated was Lorenzo with the situation that he refused to talk to the press at the end of the day. He had nothing new to say, the situation was exactly the same as on Wednesday, a spokesperson told the assembled media.

Instead, Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg spoke to the media, explaining that the problem was the rear tire, and not Lorenzo’s riding style. Lorenzo has always been fast at Sepang, he was fast at the first test with the old tire, he was fast last year, he was fast the year before.

But now they are forced to use the new construction tire, the Spaniard is struggling. His team have turned the bike upside down searching for a solution, but so far, none has been found.

What Lorenzo and his team are hoping is that the problem is specific to Sepang. If the situation remains the same at Phillip Island next week, then they will be in real trouble. In the mean time, crew chief Ramon Forcada and the rest of the team have a thousand and one options to work through, in pursuit of more rear grip.

Lorenzo isn’t the only rider struggling with the new tire, all of the Yamaha men are unhappy. Valentino Rossi explained that the problem was down to the reduced edge grip, meaning that the bike tends to move around when leaned right over.

This is a bigger problem for Lorenzo than for any of the other Yamaha riders, as Lorenzo’s strength is in exploiting the edge grip of the tires. Take it away, and he finds himself in trouble.

Rossi also has problems – understeer, and a lack of grip under acceleration, he told the press – but the gains he is making in braking are easing the problems with the rear tire.

To call the rear Bridgestone a ‘new’ tire is something of a misnomer. The tire which Lorenzo is struggling with at Sepang is the same tire he used to win the race at Mugello. The tire was used at Assen, the Sachsenring, Mugello, Indianapolis, and Phillip Island last year, Bridgestone’s chief motorsports coordinator Thomas Scholz told German-language website Speedweek.com.

The tire was modified to prevent overheating, with a special layer added to the side which is more heavily stressed. Bridgestone has decided to use the same construction at all of the circuits, to allow the teams to gain more experience and gather more data with the tire.

In theory, this should make setting up the chassis for the tire easier throughout the season, though on the evidence of Sepang, Lorenzo and his crew would dispute that assertion.

Lorenzo need not count on much sympathy outside the Yamaha camp, however. When asked about Lorenzo’s difficulties with the tire, Dani Pedrosa gave him short shrift. Yes, the tire had less grip, Pedrosa admitted, but that was a question of working to find a setup that worked.

Pedrosa also referred pointedly back to 2012, when Bridgestone introduced a new, softer front tire which had created massive chatter for the Hondas. “We had to put up with this s**t all that year,” he added colorfully.

Bridgestone’s Thomas Scholz held a similar view. “First, [Lorenzo] needs to go faster than Pol Espargaro. When things don’t go well for him, then everything is always complete s**t,” Scholz told Speedweek.com.

Scholz also pointed to the problems with Honda two years ago, adding that Yamaha had pushed for the front tire when it became clear that Honda was struggling. “You can’t please everyone,” Scholz said.

The root of Yamaha’s problems lies, just as it did for Honda two years ago, with the spec-tire rule. With Bridgestone contracted to supply a single spec of tires to all of the teams equally (with minor variations for hard and soft tires, and an extra construction for the Open class bikes), the tire becomes the central parameter around which the bikes are designed.

When the tire changes – always in response to requests from the riders and the teams, and usually in response to safety concerns – that means bikes need changing too, to adapt to the new circumstances.

This is, of course, putting the cart before the horse. After all, modifying the design of a tire can be done relatively quickly and easily. Modifying a bike to cope with a different tire can take months, and many, many iterations of chassis, modifying stiffness in varying directions, as well as suspension and electronics set up.

A better solution would be to offer multiple designs of tire for the teams to choose from. That, however, costs money, which Bridgestone has no interest in investing. Being single tire supplier is an expensive business, as the Japanese tire company has to pay Dorna a substantial sum for the privilege.

Some form of return to a tire war, albeit in cost-limited, open access form, would surely benefit all parties. The Australian Superbike series had the right idea, but whether that could be implemented in MotoGP is open to question.

Lorenzo’s tire travails took a little bit of the limelight off Ducati, a fact they were grateful for. The Italian factory took another step on the road to going Open on Thursday, sending both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone out on the spec, Magneti Marelli software with extra fuel on board.

Dovizioso was suitably reassured by the experience. Though he had not matched the time he had set in the morning with the Ducati software, the championship software had not been as bad as he had feared.

The electronics were a little worse, the traction control less sophisticated, and the anti-wheelie – one setting for the entire circuit, not separate settings for each individual corner – not as good as Ducati’s own. But the difference was small, offset to some extent by the extra fuel allowance for the bike. That, Dovizioso told the press, made the engine feel a little better, but once again, the differences were small.

Dovizioso will continue working on the Open configuration on Friday, trying to find improvement with the software. These developments make the impending switch to Open status inevitable for Ducati, though the ability to avoid the engine freeze is perhaps an even more compelling argument.

Whether an announcement will be made on Friday remains to be seen. It is equally likely that Ducati will want to wait until their official launch in Germany on 10th March.

Much will depend on whether the FIM will send out revised entry lists after 28th February, updating the status of the entries. Given the governing bodies notorious sloth in sending out press releases, Ducati might just get away with it.

Ducati’s defection will leave Honda on their own. Yamaha will have what is in effect a near-factory bike using the championship software, in the shape of the Forward Yamaha. Ducati will be all Open, with all of their bikes using the championship software.

Only Honda will be lagging behind, using the Open software on their RCV1000R, a bike which is several steps behind the factory RC213V. Will they hold out? Probably.

Their rearguard action to retain the right to develop their own software will last as long as possible, and perhaps even until 2017. But though they may win the occasional battle, it is looking more and more likely that they will lose the war. What happens then is anybody’s guess, but one thing we know for sure: Honda hates losing.

Photo: HRC

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Comment:

  1. Westward says:

    “After all, modifying the design of a tire can be done relatively quickly and easily. Modifying a bike to cope with a different tire can take months, and many, many iterations of chassis, modifying stiffness in varying directions, as well as suspension and electronics set up.” – DE

    I would seem to me that Bridgestone could make specific tyres for each manufacturer with relative ease. I think they should. Then we would see who and what situation is the best. Otherwise, it looks like Dorna is choosing Champions via Bridgestone. Once the Championship software is fully implemented in 2017, Dorna will have two mechanisms in which to dictate a Champion each season thereafter…

    The circumstances puts all of the championship titles into a new light since the single-spec-tyre rule in 2009…

  2. tony says:

    dont worry we (yamaha) will figure it out. jl is too fast, the goat is too smart. see you on the podium!