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.

Analyzing MotoGP’s Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test

06/17/2013 @ 10:18 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Analyzing MotoGPs Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test catalan test motogp analysis 635x419

Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn’t rained off that is.

Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top.

The Factory Yamaha man had been working on setup, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.

On the other side of the garage, Valentino Rossi was once again pursuing weight distribution changes to improve his feel with the bike, especially to help him in braking. A more radical change was planned for the afternoon, but a fast crash at Turn 3 left the bike damaged, meaning that plan had to be abandoned.

Rossi returned to the track at the end of the day to test the new rear tire Bridgestone had brought, and was positive about the feel of the tire. The new construction hard rear tire was a clear improvement, Rossi said, and it was good for the hard rear to once again be an option.

So far this year, the only tire that has worked at most tracks has been the softer option, leaving the riders with a de facto rear allocation of just seven rears for a weekend.

In the Tech 3 garage, the focus was on riding with a full tank. Both Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith had spent their time on track riding with a full tank, and both had found improvements for the start of the race. The first seven to eight laps, when the fuel is in the top section of the tank, is where they struggle most, and this is where the Tech 3 men had focused their efforts.

Smith’s test was cut short as he had to leave the track early to prepare for surgery. The English rookie was scheduled for surgery in the evening, to have a skin graft on the finger he injured at Mugello, as well as a screw fitted in his cracked scaphoid.

Cal Crutchlow also spent some time on the newest version of the 2013 chassis, the frame which had been tested and rejected by Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, though Lorenzo raced the frame at Qatar. Crutchlow’s comments on the frame were the same as the factory riders, he told reporters.

The chassis was better in braking stability, but less good everywhere else. Once back on his chassis – the one used by Lorenzo from Aragon onwards in 2012 – he was much more comfortable, Crutchlow said.

At Ducati, there were few, if any, signs of progress. Both Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso had tried the new lab bike chassis, but neither were particularly impressed. Dovizioso felt it gave a small improvement on corner entry, but it also created more pumping on corner exit.

It gave no improvement in lap time, so there was not much point in using it. Hayden said he actually felt less comfortable on the new frame, finding some set up improvements on his standard GP13 that helped him a lot. Both men were clear: if Ducati is to make real progress, bigger changes are needed, and changes which address the fundamental problems of the bike: understeer, pumping on corner exit, and a general lack of feel.

But all eyes were fixed on Suzuki, and how the bike would do on its first public outing. Given that Randy de Puniet managed to get the new XRH-1 (as the Suzuki prototype is currently called) within eight tenths of the time of Lorenzo. Even more impressive was the fact that De Puniet was capable of running those times consistently.

His fastest lap was set during a string of three consecutive 1’42s, and prior to that run, he had been setting 1’43s and another 1’42. “I like the position, I feel very comfortable on the bike. It is easy to do many laps and be consistent. The base of the bike is already at a high level, so we just need to improve,” the Frenchman said afterwards.

The biggest problem for the Frenchman was that he had no problems, and so very little to actually improve. The bike was reliable, and made good power – I watched as De Puniet followed Lorenzo along the main straight, visibly maintaining pace with the Yamaha M1.

By the time they returned to cross the main straight, the gap was appreciably bigger, though, and this is clearly where Suzuki have to work. “I like the feeling from the front but we need to work on it to get the corner speed,” De Puniet said.

What is the bike like? Well it looks and sounds an awful lot like a Yamaha M1. The sound is very similar – a flat, booming drone – though the pitch appears a little higher, and the bike is a little quieter. The engine layout looks similar, with the gearbox configuration almost a carbon copy. The clutch, located on the input shaft, is up high, just as it is on the Yamaha, to allow for a longer swingarm.

Analyzing MotoGPs Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test suzuki xhr1 catalan test motogp david emmett 1 635x476

Peeking through the fairing side vent, you can just see the camshaft cover, which hints at a very forward sloping engine. This is also similar to the Yamaha, though if I had to guess – and it is no more than that – it appears to be a little further from the vertical than the Yamaha.

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The chassis seems rather frail by modern MotoGP standards, though that may merely be an illusion. The chassis beams on the Yamaha and Honda are taller, but Suzuki may have found a different way to manage stiffness.

Analyzing MotoGPs Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test suzuki xhr1 catalan test motogp david emmett 3 635x476

The big question is, of course, if De Puniet was so fast on the bike, why are Suzuki waiting until 2015 to make a return to the series? The challenge is twofold, and was explained by Suzuki’s MotoGP project leader, Satoru Terada. First, there are the electronics, with Suzuki so far using the Mitsubishi system from the previous V4 GSVR 800.

From 2014, all MotoGP bikes, whether factory or non-factory, will have to use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU. MSMA entries will be free to develop their own software, in exchange for being limited to 20 liters of fuel.

Suzuki, who wish to come in as an MSMA entry, and will therefore have 20 liters of fuel and 5 engines, have not yet started on porting their software to the Magneti Marelli system, and were not due to start until the autumn, Terada explained.

The bigger challenge could prove to be the fuel consumption, however. Just 20 liters of fuel to last for a 120 kilometer race is very little indeed, with Yamaha already struggling at some tracks with the current 21 liters.

“This is very hard for us,” Terada told reporters. “Especially fuel consumption is very hard for us, so we have to develop the fuel consumption.” So difficult will it be to maintain performance while consuming so little fuel that Suzuki require another year of development to before they believe they can hit their target.

The difficulties faced by Suzuki point to the madness of the rules imposed by the MSMA on the series. Remaining competitive at this level with just 20 liters of fuel is a Herculean task, and one which requires vast amounts of time and effort to achieve.

The fuel rules demanded by the current MotoGP factories are effectively functioning as a barrier to entry to any new manufacturers interested in the class, and preventing new factories from coming in. As a way of limiting competition in MotoGP, fuel limits are an excellent tool.

It is much easier to win championships when your rivals simply cannot afford to compete, but this also debases the nature of competition. It effectively allows factories to buy MotoGP titles, by pricing everyone else out of the sport.

Give bikes more fuel, and it is still possible to compete, however, as Aleix Espargaro’s stunning time on his Aprilia ART machine demonstrated at the test. Espargaro spent the day testing frames, and found a new frame good enough to get him within two thirds of a second of Jorge Lorenzo, on a bike which has a good 30 horsepower less than the factory Yamaha.

That time wasn’t even set on the full-power Aprilia RSV4 engine. Espargaro has two of the high-power spec Aprilia engines, which he is saving for use in the race. Instead, he used the lower power engine to set what is a deeply respectable time.

If the ART is so down on power, where is the lap time coming from? Quite simply from handling, the bike gets through corners well and is very easy to ride. The bike is especially good in braking, Espargaro explained. It’s weakest point – apart from horsepower, naturally – is in corner exit.

That a small workshop can produce a sound chassis was proved by the PBM team and Michael Laverty. Laverty said that the chassis had come on in leaps and bounds, and he had found some further improvements during the test. He had recently suffered a spate of front end crashes, with the front wheel letting go while leaned over if the bike encountered bumps.

Laverty was delighted to have found a solution in the set up of the bike which prevented the front from folding in those conditions. It hadn’t prevented a crash in the morning, but by the afternoon, Laverty was ahead of one ART machine, and under a tenth behind another. Solid progress for a bike which only got its first run out on track in Malaysia, less than five months ago.

The test complete, the factory Yamaha team and Suzuki head to Aragon, where they will join the Honda teams for a test. At least that is the plan: judging by the weather forecast for Aragon, they will head to the circuit to spend two days sitting in the garage watching the rain fall. Honda may come to regret their decision to skip the Barcelona test.

Photos: © 2013 David Emmett / MotoMatters – All Rights Reserved

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

Comment:

  1. TexusTim says:

    wow is right..very smart write up, the things teams have to do to be in motogp seem to be as much political as race bread…not sure the spirit of racing is the main focus anymore…..it is the top tier of motorcycle roadracing I guess part of this is to keep it from making it look cheap?…I dont think any crt team would say it’s that cheap when engines and the other equipment still require the same mechanical work to prepare..the original hard cost of course is less but operational cost must be fairly close.
    man I am liking the apriila more and more if I get another litre bike it will be the rsv4 factory.

  2. Silas says:

    Agree, great write up. A&R is one of the few sites where I don’t just skim the headlines.

    Tim – you won’t ever regret getting an RSV4. Factory I’ve had one for three years which is the longest I’ve ever owned a bike and I actively seek out test rides to tempt me into the next, best thing. That just hasn’t happened with the Aprilia.

  3. JW says:

    To limit other manufactures out of moto GP by having rules that only benefit the largest bank accounts? What the… As a fan of this sport many years I am finding the more I learn about this business, the once ignorant bliss I once had and enjoyed is replaced with disappointment, dang..

  4. The RSV-4 is an incredible machine. Well balanced, great braking, stable through corners. the S1000RR comes close, but I still really like the RSV-4 better. Get it Texus.

  5. dc4go says:

    @ Prichinello……. agree with you 100% I have over a dozen bikes in my collection and my RSV-4 Factory is my favorite. Smooth, powerful, sounds amazing(V4), great feel front and back just a great package with tons of soul.

  6. Ziggy says:

    It you want some real fun find an old Aprilia RS250.

  7. L2C says:

    Yes, very informative.

  8. dc4go says:

    @ Ziggy… had a RS250 two stroke lots of fun but just to expensive to keep especially after a good spill. Parts are super expensive especially a new frame.