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.

Where’s the Innovation? Why Moto2 Spurs Identikit Bikes

07/09/2013 @ 1:39 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

Wheres the Innovation? Why Moto2 Spurs Identikit Bikes elf honda no bodywork 635x425

After the initial disappointment at the death of the 250cc two strokes, the advent of the Moto2 class raised hopes that Grand Prix racing would enter a new era of chassis innovation, as the teams spent the money saved on engine development on exploring novel solutions to the problem of hustling a motorcycle around a circuit is the shortest time possible.

The first set of designs unveiled did little to feed that hope, with most bikes being of the aluminium twin beam variety which is standard in most sports and racing machinery, with a couple of tubular trellis frames thrown in for good measure.

Even that variety did not last. The trellis frames were the first to go – mostly as a result of the extra weight the design created – and the number of chassis manufacturers dropped from 13 in the first year to 6 in 2013.

Even that figure gives an inflated picture of the variety in the paddock: 28 out of the 32 permanent entries form Moto2 this year use either the Kalex, Suter or Speed Up chassis. The bikes vary in stiffness, in aerodynamic detail and in aesthetics, but other than that, they are virtually identical.

So why is there no real innovation in the Moto2 paddock – or MotoGP or Moto3, for that matter? The answer is simple, and has been discussed here many times before. The attitude which characterizes the paddock in technical terms is not one of the fearless pursuit of knowledge and innovation.

It is not a hotbed of blue sky thinking and adventurous engineering. It is a place of conservative evolution, of cautious refinement, where proven concepts are polished to as near perfection as possible.

Why the conservatism? Surely a gamble on a radical new approach could end up paying big dividends? That is certainly true, but major changes often take a lot of work to get right.

With teams struggling for sponsorship contracts year on year, they simply cannot afford to risk a year (or two, or three) of terrible results, as they work to iron out the flaws and bugs in their radical new concepts.

It is better to stick with what you know, working on perfecting a set up, and put pressure on your rider to find the extra tenth in their riding.

The chances of that path paying off spectacularly may not be large – unless you happen to find an undiscovered talent, which is rare enough in itself – but at least if you fail, you will not fail badly. At worse, you end up running around at the back of the pack, a second or so off the pace. You can then try and remedy that by picking up a new rider, and maybe a new crew chief into the bargain.

This aversion to innovation has come to pervade the paddock to such an extent that even relatively small changes are feared. In 2010, chassis builder FTR tried to persuade Moto2 teams to use their stemless headstock design, which swapped the stem joining the top and bottom of the triple clamps for a much stronger set of bearings at the top and bottom of the headstock.

This removed the stem from the air intake for the airbox, creating a much cleaner and less turbulent flow of air to the inlets, something which offered a significant advantage in terms of fueling. The teams were not interested, not even to try and test the bike. It was not what they were used to racing with, and they feared the difference in feel such a construction might create.

Since then, that conservatism has only grown. It has been fueled by Ducati’s problems, as they have struggled since the departure of Casey Stoner with both the carbon fiber frameless chassis, and then with the aluminium twin spar chassis which has replaced it.

If a major manufacturer like Ducati is having such problems, the thinking goes, then what chance does anyone else have of making a new chassis design work? As one chassis designer said to me recently, “Ducati’s current woes have set us back to almost post-Elf like aversion to innovation.” If the teams feared innovation before, they are in absolute terror of it at the moment.

The pursuit of alternative chassis technologies is also made much harder by the use of a spec-tire. With everyone constrained by a single stiffness and construction, handling flex and road irregularities has to be found in chassis and suspension design.

It is not possible to simply ask your tire manufacturer for a tire with a softer carcass or a different profile, you have to design your bike around the tire, rather than the other way around.

The other major factor in limiting innovation is what is affectionately termed ‘the nut between the handlebars’. To be able to go as fast as possible, riders depend on the feedback they get from the tires. They use that feedback to determine how close to the limit they are, and then respond appropriately.

If the front is pushing, they know they can’t turn much faster. If the rear is starting to step out, they know they can’t get on the gas much harder.

I once asked Tech 3 crew chief and technical guru Guy Coulon why we don’t see any unconventional front fork designs, and he pointed at the ground and then at his head, saying “because you do not want anything getting in the way of the information traveling from here to here.”

Every rider currently in Grand Prix has grown up racing bikes with a completely conventional design, and they have many years’ experience with the feedback such a design provides. Unconventional designs usually provide different feedback, and riders have to spend more time relearning a skill set they thought they had already mastered.

The only area in which there is any real progress being made is in electronics, but such progress is invisible to the spectators. Where previously, a design like the Elf Honda might have gathered a group of admiring fans to wonder at the technology, Honda’s latest software algorithm optimizing fuel conservation during engine braking is invisble to the naked eye. There is literally nothing for the fans to see.

Even the changing electronics strategies are only accepted because most engineers have no need to fully understand just what has been changed. After all, all the electronics systems are doing is controlling vehicle dynamics in a number of directions, the precise details are not directly relevant.

Crew chiefs merely need to tell the electronics engineers that they need a little less wheelie in this section, or a little less torque in that section, the ingenuity of the code which actually manages this is beyond the scope of their interest.

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

Comment:

  1. TexusTim says:

    moto is great spec engine and tires means this class is to train and bring moto gp stars not really develope much other than software..thats ok this class is awsome close racing most times

  2. TexusTim says:

    please explain the head stock bearing thing…are you saying they did away with the steering stem ? or the bearings are now pressed into the head stock ?…not sure exactly what you man here as the bottom fork clamp/steering stem has a bearing there and a bearing on the top of the headstock that presses down on it, then top clamp and nut…what other configuration are you saying there using ?

  3. Motoputs says:

    TexusTim, From the description is appears that the stem is removed and that the top and bottom triple clamps are connected independently to the head stock.

  4. FafPak says:

    Wait wait what?!? ELF: Honda invented (and patented) single-sided rear swingarm technology in the late 1970s/early 1980s! Well I’ll be damned…

  5. kww says:

    The article laments FTR’s stemless steering head not gaining traction, but SpeedUp has a conventional stem (I assume), but manages to have air intake between the triple clamps – thus making the frame rails a gigantic air box:
    http://www.speedupfactory.com/img_moto/moto_2.jpg
    http://www.speedupfactory.com/img_moto/moto_1.jpg

  6. paulus says:

    Limited tyres, limited fuel capacities, limited electronics, limited budgets for suspension and brakes…. nobody can afford to take a risk… ever increasing logisitcs and rider costs. To make the grade you need to run with what you know works.
    These are no longer ‘protoype’ race classes.

  7. Norm G. says:

    re: “what other configuration are you saying there using ?”

    it’s like a swingarm pivot turned vertical. instead of a thru axkle, some swingarms have 2 pivot pins. one coming in from the left, the other from the right. for simplicity, usually one is side is designed to be bottomed out, and the other side takes care of preloading the bearings. ezpeezee japaneezee.

    re: “Ducati’s current woes have set us back to almost post-Elf like aversion to innovation.” If the teams feared innovation before, they are in absolute terror of it at the moment.”

    like I said, it’s the kiss of death.

  8. Norm G. says:

    re: “the nut between the handlebars”

    btw, the phrase you’re looking for is… “the nut that connects the SEAT to the handlebars”.

  9. joff90 says:

    In France, we have some people who’s trying to build new bike generation
    http://www.progecomoto.fr/lassociation-progeco-moto/affichez-votre-soutien-au-projet-geco/

  10. RoToR says:

    Yes Geco seems to be the next try for this. I hope and personally want Pepe is right. In another way Bell has tried some things with the XB in 2002.

  11. TexusTim says:

    I get it..there is a small spindle at the top and bottom with bearing and a nut thus removing the steering stem…not sure this is reguired as kww shows it can be done and keep the steering stem.
    the 2007 cbr 600 rr did it this way….ok it’s a street bike but the speedup is simular just much beefier and a lot bigger opening.
    anyone have a picture link of the stemless design ?

  12. Jeram says:

    ELF-HONDA DID NOT INVENT THE SINGLE SIDED SWINGARM AND THEIR PATENTS WERE PROVEN INVALID

    Honda’s army of lawyers triend to sue Ducati for pattent infringement when they released the 991 superbike.

    However Ducati’s gentlemanly CEO simply offered the honda team a ride in the hills on some exquisite italian motorcyles.
    He opened the blinds to his office windows which overlooked a carpark and out there sat a Ducati and next to it was a 1951 Moto Guzzi Galletto 160.

    The Lawyers took one look at the vintage Galletto sitting on its center stand in the car-park with its spindly single sided swingarm and immediately returned to Japan.
    Ducati was never again bothered regarding patent infringement regarding single sided swingarms.

  13. FafPak says:

    @Jeram

    I stand corrected. Apparently the single-sided swingarm can be traced all the way back to the 1948 Imme R100 produced by Norbert Riedel of Germany had both a single-sided front wheel suspension as well as a single-sided rear swingarm that doubled as the exhaust pipe.

    Cool Ducati CEO story btw…

  14. froryde says:

    I think someone is going to do things differently in Moto2:

    http://www.gp-inside.com/News/Detail/5136

  15. Norm G. says:

    re: “not sure this is reguired as kww shows it can be done and keep the steering stem.”

    as fatpak eludes, nothing new under the sun. see entry for Honda SP1/RC51 debut circa ’99. see entry for triumph 675 circa ’05.

    same as IOM, any self respecting biker owes it to themselves to make a pilgrimage at least once to places like Barber, Wheels Through Time, etc. one of the newest places is Motorcyclepedia. best documentation of Indian history you ever did see.

    http://motorcyclepediamuseum.org/

  16. Hugo says:

    The Bottpower M210 also has such a stemless headstock, a pic can be seen here:
    http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2575/4087376868_920d25075b_o_d.jpg
    And the bike showing the concept:
    http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4071/4649603304_65b291e219_o_d.jpg
    Some info: http://www.bottpower.com/?page_id=521

  17. MikeG81 says:

    Dorna is going spec everything, so why bother try to innovate and make your bike better? Build a fancy chassis, then they’ll spec another manufacturer diluting any perceived or real advantage yours may have had, under the guise of ‘cost-saving’.

  18. zed says:

    I knew I had seen the exhaust pipe/swing arm combo on an ancient bike. Confederate/JT Nesbitt – you weren’t the first.

    “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” – George Edward Woodberry

    Blame for the lack of innovation should also be placed on the media …something new is worthy of equal press that the winners get simply b/c those other companies are innovating. Stories covering a Lorenzo/Marquez/Pedrosa win is predictable and on the verge of boring, and only requires a minimum of time to cover. So, why not add more interesting content to your coverage by closely following the “innovators”?

    Maybe then we would see the Vyrus & Martin Wimmer’s bikes as well as the 600cc v4, American-made CosoMoto with its own front-end

    The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of people who want to see those stories told equally with the winners. Therefore, if the media gives those innovative attempts their due coverage, then corp sponsors would be inclined to spend the money b/c they would get the same exposure + be seen as an innovating company.