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.

Some Closing Thoughts About Marco Simoncelli

10/30/2011 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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It has taken me a week to collect my thoughts and process the passing of Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider that lost his life during the MotoGP race in Malaysia. I’m not one of those journalists that can belt out some poignant thoughts on an event immediately after it happens, nor did I personally know Simoncelli well enough to offer a comprehensive anecdote on the man’s short but distinguished life. Having only met and talked to Marco briefly a few times, I cannot shed some deeper insight regarding who he was as a man, stripped away of all the pomp, prestige, and PR spin of the premier class.

I’ve heard the MotoGP paddock described as a family or village, so as one of its most recent members, this tragedy both cuts me deeply, but yet also seems like a distant and surreal event. Perhaps it will affect me more as I travel to Valencia this week, or perhaps I will continue to feel as if I am on the outside looking in at cataclysm of grief that has befallen friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Time will tell in that regard, and I’ll leave it to those masters of the pen who are better suited to the task to account for the young Italian’s life and racing career.

Instead my closing thoughts about Marco Simoncelli are a mixed commentary of life, tragedy, and where we go from here.

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Racing Every Corner as If It Was the Final Turn

A modest, playful, and grounded personality, perhaps the only contentious thing about Marco Simoncelli was how he rode when he was on the track. We don’t have to look far back into the 2011 MotoGP Championship to find harsh criticism of how Marco raced. He was called dangerous and he was called reckless, and those elucidations of opprobrium are not completely unfounded.

Marco rode every corner as if it was the final turn of the race, and he raced every position as if it was for the top step on the podium. And as a result of this, Marco’s brash and bold riding style garnered him harsh words from Spaniards Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, along with others in the MotoGP field.

While unpopular with the riders, Simoncelli’s two-wheeled Italian bravado earned him the admiration of MotoGP fans around the world. And though his competitors would say his racing style was foolish, fans praised Marco for riding with heart instead of head. No matter where you come down on that argument, the one thing you cannot say is the Marco left anything unsaid on the track, and that’s the way he raced to the very end. Watching the final turns of Marco’s life, we gave witness to SuperSic twisting every last bit out of his factory Honda RC212V as he battled with Álvaro Bautista.

As his bike struggled with the humid Malaysian track conditions, briefly stepping out several times, it didn’t matter to Simoncelli that he was only one or two laps into a lengthy race, nor did it matter that he was battling for only fourth place. To the young Italian rider each position was a leg in a long war campaign, and each corner was a battle from which there was no retreat.

That train of thought extends to his final moments as his Honda finally lost the front tire, and Marco propped the bike up on his knee, trying to recover the slide. We know how the rest of the story unfolds, but what is worth repeating is how Marco, true to form, refused to give up right until the very end. Reflecting on all this, I can only encapsulate my thoughts with the word “bravery.”

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A Line of Completely Selfish Reasoning

If I had to chart my progress through the five stages of grief, I’d land somewhere in the anger stage. There is a vacuum of space left behind in MotoGP now, and as a fan of premier-class motorcycle racing, I admit that I have completely selfish and angry frame of mind when I think about GP racing without Marco Simoncelli. What keeps me up at night are the “what ifs” about what could have been in MotoGP racing. There was something special with Marco, something pure but still unrefined that we will now never get to see blossom.

When I try to describe it non-motorcyclists, I like to think of Marco Simoncelli as a diamond unearthed from some deep cavernous mine. Raw and uncut, the glimmer of talent shone through Simoncelli’s rough edges, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that we had just begun to scratch the talent that could be polished-out from that gift. Marco was good, there is no denying that. But given another season or two to cut the facets of his artistry, and he truly could have been one of the greats.

We are lesser people for not getting to experience that transformation and that product, just as the sport is now the lesser for not having one of its rising stars. Securing a factory bike for the 2012 season, HRC could clearly see the talent that was gaining steam in Marco’s riding, and like the fresh crop of riders now dominating MotoGP, Simoncelli surely would have been part of the sport’s next generation.

We’ll never know how good Marco would have been on the 1,000cc machines. We’ll never see the battles he would have with Casey, Jorge, Dani, et al. But, if they were anything like his final rides at Phillip Island and Sepang, they would have been truly captivating, and they would have returned some glory to the ailing series. We would have been excited about watching MotoGP again.

Away from the track Marco Simoncelli was already becoming a brand in his own right. His huge head of hair, his tall stature, his verbal sparring with other riders, and his approachable demeanor with fans cast him as a favorite personality in MotoGP. In a series inundated with the white-washing of charisma and a noticeable barrier between the riders and the public (I will include the press in my liberal use of the word “public”), SuperSic was a refreshing step in the right direction.

I stand frustrated by Marco’s passing, and I long for the day when all the riders can publicly be as vibrant and distinct as Simoncelli was to MotoGP fans (and I do believe many of MotoGP’s riders have vibrant personalities worth promoting). However with the media environment that currently exists in MotoGP, only riders like Marco are capable of shining so brightly that their light comes through the distance, and overcomes the system that is in place.

The sport will truly be at a loss from this perspective, and if Marco proved to be every good of a racer as his potential showed him to be, then perhaps the premier class of motorcycle racing would not be dominated by a single media icon, and a real marketplace of personalities would emerge. As I look at the field now, I know there will be young talented riders that will pick up the torch and carry the racing pace into the next generation, but I’m not sure who will manifest from the gray and captivate our hearts with their effervescence.

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We Are Not Guaranteed Tomorrow

If anger is the second step in the grief process, then let us attempt to move onto the final one: acceptance. A week later now, I’m starting to find solace in my lingering thoughts about Marco Simoncelli, focusing on the idea that in death we celebrate life. A life like Marco’s is certainly worth celebrating, but honoring his passing should serve more than just to acknowledging a life in the public spotlight that was cut unexpectedly short.

Marco surely knew the dangers inherent in motorcycle racing, but he also surely did not wake up that Sunday morning believing it would be his last waking day. Much has already been said about the risks that riders accept when they line up on the starting grid, and I would echo the sentiment that it is the risk of death that adds to the thrill of each victory.

That may sound perverse, as we don’t like to admit that we are frail creatures, and generally try to avoid thinking about our own mortality. While we all may still struggle with our ultimate end, the motorcycling community can at least understand to a greater extent what it means to truly live in our finite existence. While it saddens me that Marco has departed us far too soon in life, it warms my heart to think that he died doing what he loved. If motorcycling is one of the greatest celebrations of taking life head-on, Marco Simoncelli is the benchmark on living each moment to its fullest.

If there is any truth in life, it is that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Accordingly, prudence would teach us that we should live each moment in life as if it is our last in time. Marco showed us how to live that mantra right up until his end. If there is something from Marco that any of us can take down the road a bit further, it’s that we should live the corners in our life’s course as if they were the last ones before the finish line. If that’s something we can internalize and carry forward with us, then maybe it won’t feel like Marco’s death was so arbitrary and meaningless. Ciao Maro, SuperSic Forever.

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Photos: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

Comment:

  1. Victor Knowles says:

    Well spoken. He was a conundrum to be sure. He will be missed.

  2. JCB says:

    Ciao SuperSic.

    Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live. ~Henry Van Dyke

  3. Patrick Derry says:

    Well written. I must admit that I hate hearing about his “overly aggressive” riding style. The riders that are also his critics, had same unfortunate mistakes when they were first and second year MotoGP riders. His style of riding would have only changed with his maturity in the sport. No doubt, Marco would have been a future world champion in MotoGP. He was a true “racer”. You can fault EVERY rider at some point in their carreer for being too aggressive. This includes the two Spaniards, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. That list is a long one….Rossi, Doohan, Schwantz, Lawson, Rainey.

  4. Westward says:

    Too aggressive, in racing, or sporting competition in general, is never a bad thing…

    Not aggressive enough, now thats is a real cause to fret, especially when your goal is to win…

    So strong on the track, so sweet in life…

  5. dc4go says:

    Marco was great on and off the track! He was the most exciting rider to watch and also the friendliest to have a chat with! SUPER SIC FOREVER!

  6. invisible cities says:

    A thoughtful and well written eulogy.

  7. Steve Lang says:

    Outstanding read. It is a gift indeed to write what others feel with you…Thanks.

  8. Aaron Sargent says:

    i was there at Sepang and watched this incident unfold no more that a few hundred meters in front of me. Your words have again bought tears to my eyes, i have struggled with Super Sic’s passing and i feel that your words here are amazing, not like the average journalist..
    Thank You!!

  9. Holly Rowbotham says:

    He is a gentle giant
    He is a flash of lightening
    He is a motorbike always on the go
    A falcon flying to the sun
    The smell of petrol
    The sound of laughter
    Hair like a fizz bomb
    As tall as Blackpool tower
    A Champion!