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 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.

Lightning Motorcycles Announces Street-Legal Electric Bike for Sale – We Have Reservations

08/27/2012 @ 11:57 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Lightning Motorcycles Announces Street Legal Electric Bike for Sale   We Have Reservations Lightning Motorcycles street bike 635x476

Lightning Motorcycles is getting set to offer a street-legal version of its electric race bike. Featuring the same 240+ hp Remy motor as the racing stead, Lightning will have two battery packs available for street-riders: 12kWh & 14kWh — while the team continues to develop the 22kWh pack it unsuccessfully campaigned at the Isle of Man TT.

Basically the Lightning’s electric race bike with lights, signals, and new fairings, we have yet to see the new bodywork from Lightning, but if it looks anything like the concept sketch from Glynn Kerr Design (of Fischer, Boxer,  & Mondial fame), it should be quite stunning — as is the $38,000 price tag.

The Good:
Having done a few laps at Sears Point earlier this year on the Lightning race bike, I can tell you that the machine has power unlike anything currently being offered to consumers. Coming out of the bus stop at Turn 11, I had to practically crawl over the front of the motorcycle to keep the front wheel down while getting hard on the throttle — it really is a rocket ship, even compared to the venerable Mission R that I test rode just last month.

The Bad:
At well over 500 lbs, the bike isn’t as stable into the corners as a liter-bike is per se, and the wide tank only serves to enhance the notion that you’re riding a “big” bike, despite the Lightning’s relatively normal wheelbase, seat height, and maximum width. This makes the ergo’s mid-corner a bit uncomfortable, and one has to really adapt his/her riding style to fit the machine’s layout. One would think this will be less of an issue once the bike gets new fairings, though I fear the same constraints, i.e. the battery pack, will mean continued wideness in the fuel tank region.

The Ugly:
Lightning says that it will have bikes in the hands of customers within 60 to 90 days of purchase, though I have some reservations about that claim, and the company’s rush to produce road-legal machines.

More of an exercise in a custom one-off than full-fledged production bike like Brammo or Zero, Lightning’s announcement seems premature since not a single specimen of the company’s road bike has been built to our knowledge. Granted the changes Lightning needs to go from race to street are fairly simple and mostly cosmetic, but it still means that buyers are getting bikes that have only been vetted on the race track, not the street — and there is a difference between the two.

Seeing on multiple occasions the general state of the machines that Michael Barnes, John Burrows, Ted Rich, Tim Hunt & Paul Thede have campaigned for Lightning, it doesn’t surprise me that the team’s efforts have been plagued with a variety of failures, some in preparation, some in strategy, and some in mechanical/electrical terms. To some extent that is just the nature of racing, but to another extent that is just the nature of Lightning Motorcycles’s operation as a whole.

As a shoe-string budget track bike, you can forgive Lightning for its hacked together bodywork, worn pieces, and “just make it work” philosophy, but as an exclusive and high-priced street-legal machine that motorcyclists are going to ride on public roads — alongside cars, bicycles, and pedestrians — the rusted bolts, slacken chains, and a general lack of fit and finish become unforgivable cardinal sins.

At $38,000 a pop, buyers are going to expect the fit & finish that has been seen on bikes like the Mission R, Mugen Shinden, or MotoCzysz E1pc, not on Lightning’s Flying Banana. Can the San Carlos company deliver that to its customers? Maybe, but it hasn’t demonstrated that capability yet, which gives me some reservations. So far, Lightning is hoping to trade its handful of racing wins in for some street-bike cred, and unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

Instead of sticking an unwitting journalist on the race bike, and promising that all the machine’s deficiencies will be addressed in the production model, build the consumer-sided model first, and show us the proof of those claims. Looking at the sketch by Kerr, this is a bike I can’t wait to test, and hopefully I will be impressed by not only the bike’s evolution, but also by the company’s. However, to rubber-stamp the idea knowing the build-up to this point without voicing some serious concerns, that would be a cardinal sin on my part.

Photo: Lightning Motorcycles


  1. Westward says:

    $38,000 for 38 miles of fun is would suspect, and 5-8 hours ’til you can do it again. If I had to guess, I would guess it’s not going to work out as they think, cause obviously they have not planned…

  2. Ken C. says:

    A bit too expensive to become mainstream, but I applaud their efforts. Hopefully the bike will actually look like the sketch above and the range will be usable. 100 miles would be great, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  3. protomech says:

    Westward – if your “38 miles of fun” are conducted at the race pace used at the Isle of Man, then I hope you’re doing them on a track.

    Even very fast 100+ mph street riding will probably yield 50+ miles of range with the 12 kWh battery, and Lightning claims 100 miles at a steady 70 mph for the race bike. 120 Wh/mile is quite low for 70 mph, but Lightning knows a thing or two about aerodynamic fairings.

    Lightning claims a 2 hour charge time for the bike with a 30A J1772 charging station. Customers interested in using the bike for short track sessions might look at an offboard charger like the Manzanita Micro PFC-75, which could charge the 12 kWh model in around 40 minutes.

    Bringing this bike to production even in limited quantities is going to be a significant effort. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

  4. sideswipe says:

    Saw the Lightnings run and win this year at Laguna Seca. Does look like a whole lot of fun. Stomped those Brammos so on the track at least it’s not a slouch in that category. Your right though. It’s a big leap from a self run racing exercise and a commercial product.

  5. Strider says:

    You know that the 38-mile range was at race-pace right? That has nothing to do w/ public road range. Lightning believes the bike will deliver over 100 sport-riding miles which is a huge leap from where the industry was a few years ago.

    Remember that in the early days of ICE motorcycles they were slower than the competition (horses) and were very expensive but over time we’ve come to where we are today. So ebikes aren’t for everyone today but progress marches on. And if this bike is anything like my Tesla my Benelli will be gathering dust.

  6. Tom says:

    Looks like a Fischer. Wait, did the Fischer motorcycles ever get made either?

  7. JimBob says:

    We really need one of the japanese big 3 (or is it 4?) motorcycle outfits to swoop in and sell an electric motorcycle for less than 10k *with* decent performance/range.

    Clearly these small west coast companies cannot cut it. Lightning/Mission are/were way overpriced (no economies of scale). Brammo can’t deliver — 3 years late on empulse and price bumped up near 20k. Zero makes cheap chinese crap.