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.

Preview of Assen: Does a Flowing Track & A Final Chicane Make for a Recipe of Thrills?

06/25/2013 @ 7:07 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Preview of Assen: Does a Flowing Track & A Final Chicane Make for a Recipe of Thrills?  TT Circuit Assen plattegrond 635x647

Ask anyone what makes a great circuit, and they will tell you that it takes three things: fast corners, great scenery, and lots of elevation changes. So what makes the TT Circuit at Assen so great? It only really has one of the three factors that makes it a great circuit.

If the track has elevation changes, they can be measured in centimeters. The scenery is mostly absent, though that does allow more of a view of the expansive skies the Dutch masters of the 17th Century were so famed for. The only factor which the track still possesses is a collection of really fast corners, testing the mettle of anyone with ambition to take on the circuit.

Despite having the splendor of the old North Loop surgically removed, leaving it with just the flaccid remnant of a sequence of right handers, the southern section of the track is still as glorious as ever.

From the Ruskenhoek and then De Bult, the track starts to build, the tempo picking up through Mandeveen, Duikersloot and Meeuwenmeer, before the high speed flick of Hoge Heide, and then the vast, sweeping left at the Ramshoek. The GT chicane has seen more than its fair share of last-lap battles, acting as judge, jury, and executioner before heading back across the line again.

Though the removal of the North Loop took away some of the Dutch track’s glory, Assen remains a favorite with the riders. Given the way the track still flows – at least, once you have left the Strubben hairpin – that is hardly surprising. It is a riders’ track, suiting anyone who can string a series of corners together, and has the courage to keep the throttle hard open.

Of course, some bikes make it easier to do that than others. The flowing nature of Assen, where carrying corner speed counts for more than getting the bike stopped and turned, plays to the strengths of the Yamaha, as three victories in the past four years can attest.

It could potentially have been four in a row, if Alvaro Bautista hadn’t suffered a first-corner brain fade last year and wiped out Jorge Lorenzo – and one of Lorenzo’s fresh engines – at the start of the race. Casey Stoner’s victory on the Honda is the one blot on a Yamaha landscape.

Given the state of the title race, and Jorge Lorenzo’s current form, it would be a foolish fan who would bet against the reigning champion. Lorenzo is coming off two back-to-back victories and has started to make serious inroads into Dani Pedrosa’s championship lead, closing the gap to just 7 points.

Going on past form, the only thing that will keep Lorenzo from victory at the Dutch circuit is the atrocious luck he has had at the track in recent years: while Alvaro Bautista took Lorenzo out in 2012, the year before it was the turn of Marco Simoncelli to ruin Lorenzo’s race. The Italian got into the Strubben hairpin too hot, taking Lorenzo down in his fall. At least Lorenzo could continue the race after being hit by Simoncelli. Lorenzo will be staying as far away as possible from Hondas in Gresini colors come Saturday.

One thing which many fans are wondering is whether Valentino Rossi can finally find his feet on the Yamaha M1. So far, Rossi has struggled on his return to the Japanese factory from whence he departed in 2010. His biggest problem has been braking: the combination of a revised M1, an extra 200cc and 10kg, and a modified front tire has made it difficult for Rossi to brake with the kind of confidence he used to have.

At the test at Aragon, after the race at Barcelona, his team finally found a set up which Rossi believed alleviated the problem. Assen will be his first chance to put the solution to the test. His first objective will be to get onto the first two rows in qualifying, something he has significantly failed to do so far this year. The second row would be adjudged a success; the front row could herald a Rossi renaissance. But first, there is the small matter of actually riding.

A Rossi podium would suit Jorge Lorenzo very well, as long as the Italian could insert himself between his teammate and Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda man has had his strongest start to a season ever, and looked like a man on his way to his first world title. Pedrosa knows he can bide his time, as Assen is the last of the ‘Yamaha tracks’ before heading to tracks where the Honda is strong.

While he may be content to sit in behind Lorenzo, and allow him one last hurrah, there is good reason to believe Pedrosa will be out for glory at Assen. Though he has amassed plenty of podiums here, he has never won a MotoGP race in Holland. In fact, he has won only once at Assen, and that was 11 years ago on a 125cc bike.

His teammate, on the other hand, has won the last three races he contested at the circuit. Marc Marquez won at Assen in his final year in 125s, and then both times he raced here on a Moto2 machine. Marc Marquez’s lightning fast adaptation to MotoGP continues apace, and at a track which he clearly loves, he should once again get a chance to shine. Assen proved to be a turning point for Marquez in 2011, when he won the Moto2 race while then championship leader Stefan Bradl crashed out.

The Dutch circuit could serve the same purpose in 2013, if he can stay close to Jorge Lorenzo in the opening laps. With a chicane made for last-lap passes, the circuit seems tailor-made for Marc Marquez. After two races where Marquez has been hesitant to pass his teammate, and not close enough to attack Lorenzo, the gloves could well come off in Holland.

The wildcard at Assen could well turn out to be Cal Crutchlow. The Tech 3 Yamaha man continues to impress, despite crashing out of the race for the first time this year at Barcelona. Though he professes to love the track, Crutchlow’s record is not exceptional here, either in MotoGP, World Superbikes, or World Supersport.

Even in his championship-winning season in World Supersport, Crutchlow only finished second, though his gap to winner Eugene Laverty was negligible, only a tenth of a second. But the Englishman is on a roll, and he must fancy his chances at the track. With Jorge Lorenzo having tipped Crutchlow to start winning races soon, this could well be the place where it starts.

Crutchlow could well be helped by the weather, as Assen is set to take place under typically Dutch conditions. Weather is expected over the weekend, and lots of it, a region of low pressure passing through, and likely to disappear again on Sunday. Rain seems a certainty for practice, and probably for qualifying as well, while race day* could go either way.

That could also play into the hands of the Ducatis. Though the flowing nature of the circuit does not suit the bike at all, the Desmosedici still suffering with understeer, wet weather is when the Italian machine shines. Both Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden will be hoping for rain at the track, as it offers their best hope for a good result.

The disappointing test results of the lab bike means that progress with the Desmosedici has come to a standstill. Forward momentum is likely only to return once the next step reaches fruition, a second upgrade to the chassis aimed at tackling understeer. That is only likely to appear at the Misano tests, however, and that is still nearly three months away.

After two runaway victories at two iconic tracks, MotoGP fans will be hoping to see a return of some excitement. Assen has seen both monster victories and very close racing at the circuit, and so both are clearly possible. A shortage of set up time, and a chicane offering the perfect passing opportunity could be the magic ingredients to spice MotoGP up again. We live in hope.

*Race day at Assen is always a Saturday. The reason for that lies in the earliest years of the race: when the first Dutch TT was staged back in 1925, racing, along with all forms of sport, was banned on a Sunday, as it violated the strict Calvinist ethos of the region. The race remained on Saturday, joining the Grand Prix circus when the World Championship started in 1949. Despite the region undergoing the same process of secularization which the rest of the Netherlands also went through, racing on Saturday had become a tradition. Though the circuit management is constantly evaluating whether a switch to Sunday would be a good idea or not, there are no plans to change. For the short and the medium term, The Dutch TT at Assen will be run on the last Saturday of June.

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

Comment:

  1. Norm G. says:

    Q: Does a Flowing Track & A Final Chicane Make for a Recipe of Thrills?

    A: YES…!

    unless of course it rains. :(

  2. Gutterslob says:

    Assen in the wet has more grip than some tracks do in the dry. Before the last bit of neutering/butchering a few years ago, Assen was my favourite circuit on the MotoGP calendar. Not quite as magical nowadays.

  3. Alasdair says:

    I can say hand on heart Assen was the reason I got not only into MotoGP, but interested in motorcycles in general. I saw Hiroshi Aoyama battle Bautista in the 250 race, and it was the most interesting racing I had ever seen; that and the beautiful camera angles as you had a line of bikes come through the chicane and you could see both sides – that’s when I decided I needed to try a Motorbike. Got my first a few years later (took a while to save, I never finance things).

  4. james says:

    It did today.