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 Test – Day 1 Summary: A Fast Rossi, A Fast Open Yamaha, & A Slow Black Honda

02/04/2014 @ 12:15 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

MotoGP Sepang Test   Day 1 Summary: A Fast Rossi, A Fast Open Yamaha, & A Slow Black Honda valentino rossi motogp sepang yamaha racing 635x423

It has been a fascinating first day of testing at Sepang. And like all fascinating days, it has been long, tiring, and utterly inspiring. There were surprises, disappointments, and rumors confirmed and denied. It was, in short, a good day at the office.

Marc Marquez was fastest – it barely goes without saying – the 2013 World Champion picking up where he left off. He was quick from the off, and put in a final burst of speed at the end of the day to open the gap on the rest, finishing with half a second advantage.

Braking stability was the watchword for the Repsol Honda team, especially rear grip on braking and corner entry, with both Marquez and Dani Pedrosa working on a slightly revised version of the 2014 RC213V which both men had tested at Valencia last year.

Their main focus – like those of everyone on their first day back on a MotoGP – was just to get used to the speed again. The switchover had been toughest for Cal Crutchlow, the Englishman claimed. He had ridden a motocross bike for exactly one day, he said, spending the rest of his winter training on his bicycle. The speed differential between a 20-speed racing bicycle and a 6-speed Ducati Desmosedici is nothing if not cavernous.

The happiest faces were at Yamaha, though in different garages and on unexpected faces. Valentino Rossi took the second fastest time, had led for a large part of the test, and looked a much happier rider all round. The rapport with new crew chief Silvano Galbusera was good, the atmosphere in the team was good, but above all, a few small changes which Yamaha had made to the YZR-M1 had proven to be significant.

Braking stability was better, the revised seamless gearbox and changes to the clutch making the bike behave better on corner entry. Rossi once again exuded confidence, looking like a completely different rider to the one we saw in 2013.

It was not just the changes to the bike, though, Rossi explained. Having spent a year getting back up to speed on the Yamaha after his two years in the Ducati wilderness he now felt comfortable right from the start. Working with Galbusera was no better or worse than with Jeremy Burgess – only ‘different’, Rossi said – but the change had been a gamble that it would help him find new motivation. It appeared to have worked.

Does this answer the big question which had been posed at the end of last year? Was it Rossi, or was it the bike? It’s a little early to say, but suffice to say that those who had written Rossi off may have spoken too soon. I myself was surprised, having thought Rossi’s lack of speed was down to age, rather than the bike. Though age may still be a factor, the bike may well prove to be a larger part of the equation than I suspected.

Does fixing the braking issue Rossi had make the bike better suited to him than to Jorge Lorenzo, shifting the balance of power in the factory Yamaha team once again? Not really, though Lorenzo was struggling elsewhere. It is the fuel allowance which was causing Jorge Lorenzo problems, rather than changes to the chassis.

To help the bike last race length with 20 instead of 21 liters of fuel, Yamaha’s electronics engineers have been devising strategies for saving fuel. Those strategies, Lorenzo complained, had made the bike more nervous when he opened the throttle in the corners.

It was a bigger problem for Lorenzo than it was for Rossi, as Lorenzo carries more lean angle, and even the slightest disturbance or roughness in power delivery can upset the bike, making it harder for Lorenzo to control. Jorge Lorenzo’s ‘mantequilla’ nickname was given for his buttery smooth style, and any hesitation in the throttle makes it almost impossible to keep up that smoothness.

Yamaha will find a solution, but it may take them the first half of the season, as they play with strategies and analyze race data. That will give Jorge Lorenzo an uncomfortable few months.

At Ducati, there was a completely new bike to see, with both Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso testing the new bike against the Desmosedici GP13. As with all new bikes, there were teething troubles, meaning that both men put in very few full laps on the GP14.

It was better on corner entry, was the consensus, though the understeer remained. Dovizioso declared it a real step forward, though Crutchlow was yet to be convinced.

So, will Ducati go Open or stay Factory? It is too early to answer that question, everyone in a Ducati shirt affirmed. They have until 28th of February to make a decision, and they won’t make an announcement before then. Dovizioso and Crutchlow will not even test the spec Open software, they told the press.

Then again, Ducati’s list of problems is long, and so the decision can even be made without testing the software with the factory riders, test rider Michele Pirro’s input likely sufficient to make a choice.

If proof were needed that electronics were not the be-all and end-all, Aleix Espargaro was keen to make the case for the Open bikes.

Aleix – though it is better to refer to riders by their last names, rather than their first names, the arrival of two brothers in the premier class makes it necessary to switch to the overly familiar use of first names – was thoroughly impressive, ending the day ahead of the two satellite Yamahas of Monster Tech 3 riders Bradley Smith and Aleix’ brother Pol.

Indeed, Aleix was quicker than most of the satellite riders for much of the day, truly putting the cat among the pigeons.

Was it electronics or was it Aleix? Hard to tell at such an early juncture, and the reality of the situation is that it was probably a bit of both. Clearly, the electronics have less of an influence on performance that many feared, despite the lack of sophistication – the spec electronics have just a single setting for wheelie control, to be used whatever the corner, Nicky Hayden explained, while his former factory Ducati had separate wheelie settings for every corner.

But is also clear that Aleix remains an underestimated talent. Given that he was the youngest rider to win a Spanish championship, a record he held for a long time, Aleix looks to be a rider to watch this year. As will be the Tech 3 garage.

Team boss Herve Poncharal will not be pleased to be forking out over twice what Giovanni Cuzari for the Yamaha FTRs, and still find his riders being beaten by the youngster.

While the Yamaha FTR was surprisingly fast, the Honda RCV1000R was surprisingly slow. The Honda Open bike may make more financial sense, it is not going to be impressing sponsors any time soon.

Nicky Hayden ended the day as fastest RCV1000R pilot, just sneaking ahead of his teammate Hiroshi Aoyama. But he was over three seconds off the pace of Marquez, and over two seconds slower than the satellite Hondas.

Both Gino Borsoi and Nicky Hayden said they were still uncertain how much performance could be gained just from electronics, and how much was an outright lack of power. Asked whether the bike reminded him at all of the four-stroke Honda MotoGP bikes he has ridden in the past, he pointed painfully at the 800cc RC212V.

That bike was woefully underpowered, only gaining competitiveness towards the end of Hayden’s tenure with Honda. Improving the electronics may find the bike a few tenths, but it will not pick up the couple of seconds required to make the bike competitive.

So it could turn out to be a long year at Honda. While their factory MotoGP team will continue to rip up the field, the RCV1000R looks like it really needs more horsepower. Honda’s aim was to beat the Aprilia ARTs, but without them here, there is no comparison material. When you compare the Honda to Yamaha’s offering, the Honda looks positively tepid.

Asked if he felt Yamaha had violated the spirit of the rules, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto looked annoyed, and told the reporter asking the question to go ask Yamaha about it. Nakamoto’s face made it clear he was not happy with the situation, a sentiment shared by the teams who signed up for the RCV1000R.

Of course, it is all only the first day of testing, and so jumping to conclusions on the meagre evidence of some 50-odd laps the riders put in is just a little bit premature. Much development will go on in the next few days, weeks and months before start to reach their full potential. All the signs, hower, are that we are in for a very interesting season indeed. There are a lot of reasons to watch MotoGP, and the list just got quite a lot longer.

Lap Times from Day One of MotoGP Testing at Sepang:

Pos.RiderBikeTimeDiff.
1Marc MarquezHonda RC213V2:00.286 -
2Valentino RossiYamaha M12:00.8040.518
3Dani PedrosaHonda RC213V2:00.9060.620
4Jorge LorenzoYamaha M12:01.0820.796
5Alvaro BautistaHonda RC213V2:01.2400.954
6Stefan BradlHonda RC213V2:01.3201.034
7Aleix EspargaroYamaha FTR Open2:01.4191.133
8Andrea IannoneDucati GP142:01.5381.252
9Pol EspargaroYamaha M12:01.6341.348
10Bradley SmithYamaha M12:01.8761.590
11Colin EdwardsYamaha FTR Open2:02.4832.197
12Andrea DoviziosoDucati GP142:02.4972.211
13Michele PirroDucati GP14 Test2:02.5522.266
14Cal CrutchlowDucati GP142:02.8602.574
15Yonny HernandezDucati GP13 Open2:02.8912.605
16Katsuyuki NakasugaYamaha M1 Test2:03.1262.840
17Nicky HaydenHonda RCV1000R Open2:03.3193.033
18Hiroshi AoyamaHonda RCV1000R Open2:03.3283.042
19Randy De PunietSuzuki Test2:03.8933.607
20Kosuke AkiyoshiHonda RC213V Test2:04.2673.981
21Scott ReddingHonda RCV1000R Open2:04.4314.145
22Hector BarberaAvintia Kawasaki2:04.9224.636
23Mike Di MeglioAvintia Kawasaki2:05.8255.539
24Broc ParkesPBM Aprilia2:05.8895.603
25Michael LavertyPBM Aprilia2:06.0705.784
26Karel AbrahamHonda RCV1000R Open2:06.7556.469

Photo: Yamaha Racing

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

Comment:

  1. Conrice says:

    So could HRC allow the RCV1000R to get some pneumatic valves, then? HRC will be pissed if Yamaha Open class wastes them – and that’s what it looks like is going to happen…

    Is there a freeze on modifying that bike? I shouldn’t think so, right?

  2. David says:

    That’s interesting that Ducati has not decided yet if they will race in the Factory class.

    Did Crutch know that he might not be riding in the Factory class when he made the switch?

  3. L2C says:

    Yeah, I was also surprised by the performance of the Open class Hondas. Surely the promises made to golden boy Scott Redding are stinging HRC in the ass right now. It can’t be right that the 2013 Moto2 runner-up is at such a stark disadvantage with Pol Espargaro, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion. Honda is obligated to respond. And Nicky Hayden was tossing out one-liners about the RCV1000R situation on Twitter early this morning. Sooooooo…

    But watching the timing sheets was exciting today. As I said earlier, the riders’ performances were gloriously all over the place. Was wonderful. I hope the next two days continue in the same way. And Aleix!! Ha ha, that was just great to see. And Colin Edwards, too! He lost half a day and still managed to make a very good performance, promising even more improvement in the preseason.

    Took a while for my man Dani Pedrosa to warm up, but going by the number of laps he put in, 75, and saving his best lap for the final moments, he seems to be in excellent shape. There’s hope! :-)

    Then there’s Valentino Rossi. He was just superb. And in comparison to last year, he physically looks completely vibrant, refreshed and composed. Healthy, jovial, and more than ready to get back to work. It’s only been three months, but he also looks a little older, yet in a very good way. His manner is more mature. Plus, I love his new helmet that he’s using for the test. Vintage Rossi.

  4. Conrice says:

    @David – Crutchlow is quoted on Crash.net as saying he’s not opposed to racing open class. He sees the advantages of doing it.

    I think he was just chasing the factory paycheck, not that there is anything wrong with that.

  5. Ben says:

    2014 – The year of Yamaha

  6. smiler says:

    Honda are not stupid. Thay are not going to make the production bike as fast as the satelite hindas. Hayden should clearly have gone to WSBK.
    Those who write off Rossi do so at their peril.
    Ducati will as promised have a podium bike in 2015. All the pieces are now in place.
    MotoGp is three championships in one. Factory, Satelite factory and open class and unlike the 90′s where there were swarms of riders and the lead changing each lap this will be dull only made exciting, as it has been ofr the past 10 years by Rossi.
    WSBK it is then. 8 manufactuers 10 nationalities and 27 riders.