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.

Fi Fo Fo FIM, Is the Beanstalk Swaying?

03/29/2010 @ 12:58 pm, by Harry Mallin6 COMMENTS

Fi Fo Fo FIM, Is the Beanstalk Swaying? old road race 560x397

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Harry Mallin that was originally published on the eMotoRules blog. Mr. Mallin is a lawyer by day, and in the motorcycle world is better known for his work as Brammofan, the Brammo Motorcycle enthusiast blog, and as the TTXGP Technical Rules Wiki moderator. In his post Mallin explores concerns about the FIM’s alleged anti-competitive behavior, and postulates about how the FIM may find itself brought up under antitrust charges in the European Union.

The sport of motorcycle racing has a rich history that winds its way through 20thcentury United Kingdom like the narrow roads on the Isle of Man. Recently, this history has included a new avenue of opportunity: electric motorcycle racing. But controversy, no stranger to motorsports, has already touched this new sport, and recent events indicate that a shockwave of change may be in store for the sanctioning bodies that currently organize the upcoming racing series.

According to an email recently published on, of all places, the personal blog of Ivar Kvadsheim, a Norwegian journalist who writes primarily on the subject of electric motorcycle racing, a UK government agency is likely to bring charges of anti-competitive behavior and monopoly practices against the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (International Motorcycling Federation, or the FIM). The FIM is “the world governing body for motorcycle sport and is an independent association formed by 101 National Federations throughout the world. It is recognised as the sole competent authority in motorcycle sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Among its 49 FIM World Championships the main events are MotoGP, Superbike, Endurance, Motocross, Supercross, Trial, Enduro and Speedway.” Source: www.fim-live.com. To understand the context of the email about the anti-competitive behavior, a review of the story behind the relationship between FIM and TTXGP is necessary.

TTXGP, an organization unrelated to the FIM, was founded in 2008 by Azhar Hussain, an entrepreneur in the electronics industry. It ran the world’s first zero carbon, clean emission motorcycle race on the Isle of Man TT in June 2009 which was the first sanctioned zero-carbon race in history. It pioneered many of the safety and technical standards used in electric motorsports today. Following the successful race on the Isle of Man, TTXGP worked closely with the FIM, sharing technical expertise and unique experience. TTXGP was invited to sit on the FIM zero carbon committee to help form the rules for 2010. Essentially, the TTXGP was courted by the FIM in hopes of building a partnership that would become the sole governing body for electric motorcycle racing.

That all ended in November 2009, when the FIM announced that it was going to run its own international e-motorcycle racing series called the ePower.  Notably absent from the press release was any mention of TTXGP or Hussain. Rumors and conjecture about the reasons behind the split followed, but regardless of all of that, it was clearly not an amicable parting of the ways. Since then, the news has come fast and furious – TTXGP announced its world series of races including four North American, four UK, four Italian, and a final race in Spain. FIM initially announced four races in the e-Power series (two in France, one in Spain, and one in Qatar). Later, it dropped the Qatar race, substituting a race in Imola, Italy, and it added a race for July 24, 2010,at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, USA. Meanwhile, the Isle of Man government split from TTXGP and decided to have its own electric motorcycle race, without TTXGP, which it would call TT Zero.  The TT Zero announced that it would follow the technical rules for electric motorcycles that had been published by FIM.

The FIM ePower rules, however, are almost identical to the technical rules created by TTXGP for this nascent sport. TTXGP shared these rules with FIM when the two organizations were moving forward, building a partnership which would not come to fruition. No legal action has been filed by TTXGP for the infringement, but a side-by-side reading of the nearly identical rules would certainly support such an action.

With this background, a closer examination of the email mentioned in the opening paragraph is called for. The email, dated March 23, 2010, is addressed to Azhar Hussain and the author is Simon Carter, Business Relationship Manager, Automotive Unit, Department for Business Innovation & Skills.  The email states in relevant part:

I can confirm that it is our view that the FIM based in Switzerland have a case to answer in anti competitive behaviour and in monoply [sic] practices. I am in contact with the Office of Fair Trading who are looking into bringing charges against the FIM in Europe.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is a Ministerial Department of the government of the UK. The key role of the BIS is “to build Britain’s capabilities to compete in the global economy.” The Department has many duties, but relevant to this matter, the following duties arguably apply:

  • Advocate the needs of business across government, especially of UK small businesses;
  • Promote an enterprise environment that is good for business and good for consumers;
  • Design tailored policies for sectors of the UK economy that represent key future strengths and where government policy can add to the dynamics of the market;
  • Encourage innovation in the UK;
  • Defend a sound regulatory environment that encourages enterprise and skills;
  • Collaborate with the RDAs in building economic growth in the English regions;
  • Work with the EU in shaping European regulation and European policies that affect the openness of the single market and the competitiveness of European and British companies.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is a non-ministerial government department that enforces European Community and UK competition laws including Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty and the Competition Act 1998. The Competition Act 1998 focuses on competition policy within the UK, but, given that the email mentions that FIM is “based in Switzerland” it is more likely that the OFT will turn to Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty which deal with free competition and monopolies, respectively, within the wider European Community.

If OFT brings charges against FIM under Article 81 and/or Article 82, the effects could be substantial on the self-proclaimed “sole competent authority in motorcycle sport” and on the sponsors and teams that do business with it. Article 81 provides that a violation of the Article not only raises the specter of fines levied against the violator, “[a]ny agreements or decisions prohibited pursuant to this article shall be automatically void.” In other words, if the OFT brings charges against the FIM, entities signing contracts with the FIM run the risk of those contracts being declared void. Based on my admittedly sparse knowledge of OFT procedures, it looks to me that if the OFT decided that FIM was engaging in anti-competitive practices, it would then refer the case to the Competition Commission of the European Commission. (Based on this recent referral of a case involving Procter and Gamble by the OFT to the EC).

Why would the UK want to get involved in the motorsports industry at all? The answer to that question can be found in a recently released report (Note: link opens a .pdf document) by the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BISC is a committee of the UK legislative body, rather than an executive department, which the BIS is). “Full speed ahead: maintaining UK excellence in motorsport and aerospace.”  22 March, 2010.  That report stated:

The motorsport and aerospace industries represent two jewels in the crown of UK manufacturing. The United Kingdom is a world leader in the motorsport industry, and boasts the world’s second largest aerospace sector after the USA.

(Report, p. 5).

Additionally, and relevant to the dispute between FIM and TTXGP, the report provides:

In addition to financial support for “green” research, the Government is considering the potential for using motorsport to challenge people’s perception of environmental issues. We welcome the fact the Government is considering this as an area of action and agree that motorsport has the potential to shift the debate about carbon emissions away from a dry conversation about carbon budgets, towards a more valuable debate on the role that technology and innovation can play in addressing climate change and other environmental issues.

(Report, p. 3).

Given the UK Government’s interest in preserving its image of leadership in the motorsports industry and its interest in green technology, what other current conflict could contain such ripe, low hanging fruit? The appearance of the dominant FIM using its influence and power to crush the TTXGP (not to mention the appropriation of its Technical Rules) would seem to be a ready vehicle on which to put the UK Government’s dual interests to the test.

But would a conflict involving motorsports ever be worthy of the attention of the European Commission?

It certainly would. In fact, precedent for the EC’s involvement in this case exists in competition proceedings it commenced in 1999 against the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the body in charge of international motor racing. (The EC later expanded the proceedings to include the Formula One Administration and International Sportsworld Communications). The EC’s proceedings, initially prompted by complaints by broadcasters over the way the FIA organized the sport, identified several areas in which the FIA appeared to be abusing its dominant position in the industry. Relevant to the current dispute, the EC found that the FIA used its power to block series which competed with its own events. As the “sole regulatory body” of international motor racing, any track owner, vehicle manufacturer, organizer of events, and drivers had to come to it to obtain an FIA license. License holders were tied to FIA and were only permitted to enter or organize events authorized by the FIA. Any license holder found to ignore this prohibition could have its license stripped and would thus be prevented from participating in most of the notable motorsports events held in Europe.

This case ended up with the FIA entering into a settlement agreement with the EC in which the FIA agreed to several measures which resulted in FIA’s division of its commercial and regulatory authorities, a freeing up of its stranglehold on its licensees, and arguably, an opening up of the motorsports marketplace in Europe. Admittedly, this is an over-simplification of the FIA matter, but I include it here merely to illustrate that the EC is not unwilling to enforce the laws of fair trade and competition as they apply to the motorsports industry.

What’s next?

Next, we wait to see if the BIS and the OFT follow through with commencing a case against the FIM and whether the OFT will bring the matter before the EC.  Sponsors, teams, manufacturers, media partners, riders, and fans should follow this story as it has the potential of being a big game-changer in the growing world of electric motorcycle racing. With three series vying for “world champion” status, it seems a foregone conclusion that each one will have to include an asterisk (*) after the name. The deeper question, however, remains to be answered: what will the record books say beside that asterisk?

Comment:

  1. BikePilot says:

    So FIM acted anti-competitively by competing head-to-head with TTXGP? I guess amicable collusion between the two would have been more competitive. Admittedly competition/antitrust law has probably always been about punishing big business to help small business rather than actually fostering competition, but the prosecutors/plaintiffs will have to invent a better cover story than this. (See Robert L. Bradley, On The Origins of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Cato Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Winter 1990); and Donald Boudreaux and Thomas DiLorenzo, The Protectionist Roots of Antitrust, The Review of Austrian Economics, Vol. 6, No. 2, 81 (1993)).

  2. malcolm says:

    Would have been a better headline if it read Fii Fi Foe FIM, but anywho well written.

    If this happens, can anybody who has ever been screwed by FIM also join the complaint?

    That should open a real can of whoop ass on FIM.

  3. Yes, Malcolm, just about any complainant can join in if the OFT or the EC initiates an action. That happened in the FIA matter, although the “piggybackers” ended up dropping out of the action for some reason.

    And BikePilot… it’s not about “competing head to head” when you have the big head and you tell the helmet makers not to make any other sizes.

  4. Fi Fo Fo FIM, Is the Beanstalk swaying? – http://bit.ly/dohghc #motorcycle

  5. TeeJay says:

    Well-well.
    I do not know the details of that “not amicable parting”, It might be that Hussain was too greedy, but even then, I hope UK gov. will achieve success in this issue. TTXGP was fun, innovative – as it is, the slow giant FIM cannot organize, or have any clue of it. They just took the know-how from Hussein.

    Sounds like a Babylon5 vs. DeepSpace9 issue for bikes.

  6. Wow a Babylon 5 reference on A&R, I never thought this day would come.

    I’m not sure how veracious of a move this is by the UK government (we’ve had some debate on Ivar’s blog about it), but one thing that will be a potential show-stopper in this case will be the success that TTXGP has achieved to-date. After all, it’s hard to cry unfair competition when you’re successfully growing and entering new markets.