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 Mugello: Of Yamaha’s Travails, Rossi’s Hopes, Ducati’s Dreams, & Honda’s Domination

05/29/2013 @ 4:32 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamahas Travails, Rossis Hopes, Ducatis Dreams, & Hondas Domination Cal Crutchlow Mugello MotoGP Jules Cisek

Mugello is arguably MotoGP’s crowning glory. The location is stunning, in the verdant hills of Tuscany, a few miles north of Florence, one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. The track itself is gorgeous and beautifully laid out, rolling round the valley in which the circuit is set.

It is one of the few tracks left at which a MotoGP bike can fully stretch its legs, even a 260+ horsepower fire-breathing 1000cc Honda RC213V. At the end of the front straight, as riders drift right then left for the slight kink of the pit lane exit just before the track drops off for the spectacular first corner at San Donato, the bikes approach the magical barrier of 350 km/h. An obstacle that has not yet been cleared, but one which must surely fall in the near future.

A lap of the circuit passes in under 1’48, an average of 175 km/h, or nearly 110 mph. It is verily a temple of speed.

It may seem odd, then, that the fastest bike does not necessarily win at the circuit. Of the past ten editions of the race, seven have been won by Yamahas, a bike which has never been the fastest in a straight line.

While speed is not the secret to the circuit, a glance at the list of winners over the years reveals exactly what is: Valentino Rossi has won seven times at the circuit in the premier class (as well as twice more in the support classes), Mick Doohan won here six times, Jorge Lorenzo won twice, and the list of one-time winners includes Dani Pedrosa, Kevin Schwantz, Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner.

To win at Mugello is simple: it is merely a matter of being one of the very best riders in the world.

With seven victories in the last ten years, Yamaha arrives at Mugello with a clear mission: to get their 2013 season back on track. Jorge Lorenzo’s lack of rear grip at Le Mans left him struggling to his worst result since his rookie year in 2008, at a track where normally he would hope to be clawing back points on Dani Pedrosa, rather than giving them away.

Though there is still a very long way to go in the championship – 14 races remain, with a total of 350 points still in play – trailing Dani Pedrosa by 17 points, and Marc Marquez by 11, is not the situation Lorenzo and his team had envisioned at the start of the season. There is much work to be done.

Mugello is a good place to start. Lorenzo has won the last two races in a row here, and it is a track he loves to ride. The flowing nature of the track suits the Yamaha, Lorenzo’s high corner speed style a perfect match for the layout. It suits Valentino Rossi too, the Italian having reigned here throughout the first decade of this century.

After two difficult years on the Ducati, Rossi comes to Mugello – a place he regards as his real home race, despite being much further away than Misano, which is just a stone’s throw from Tavullia, the village he grew up in – with vindication on his mind.

He wants to get back on the podium on merit, not be invited up to wave to the crowds who came to Mugello to see him succeed, and have gone home disappointed in the last three years.

A good result at Mugello for Rossi is not just important for the Italian’s many fans, but even more for Rossi himself. The race this weekend is not quite make or break, but after one strong race followed by three which have been mildly disappointing, Rossi should expect to be on the podium here.

Mugello is a track which he loves, the Yamaha is a bike he can ride, and he has had full program of pre-season testing and four races to get to grips with the updated bike. The pressure is on for a good result, not least from Rossi himself.

But the Yamaha is not the bike which Rossi left behind. Since his departure, Yamaha have chased an ever more nimble machine, looking to exploit Jorge Lorenzo’s great strength: the ability to go through corners several kilometers an hour faster than any other man on the planet. Lorenzo’s sweeping 250-style lines have brought him two world titles and a bevvy of wins, but it has also led Yamaha down an increasingly narrow performance envelope.

As the bike has been made to work better and better for Lorenzo – braking early, then letting off the brakes early and carrying as much lean angle and speed as possible to fire out of the corner and onto the next straight without losing momentum – it has worked less and less well for other riders.

Lorenzo’s ability is unquestionable, but similar to Casey Stoner’s time at Ducati, Lorenzo could be leading Yamaha down a blind alley, where one single rider becomes the crucial component to success. Once that rider is gone – through injury, retirement, or tempted away for whatever reason – that could leave Yamaha with a bike that is basically unrideable for anyone with a more conventional style.

So will the crowds at Mugello see the Rossi success for which they have longed these last three years? On the face of things, it is not looking good. Making things more complicated is Yamaha’s engine situation. Reports are emerging from the Yamaha camp of a problem with one of Jorge Lorenzo’s engines, which has forced a rethink of their strategy.

Lorenzo has not used his number 1 engine since Jerez, and reliable reports put this down to a strange lack of power. Since then, the other Yamaha engines have all been throttled back a fraction, to ensure that they do not develop problems, much to the frustration of the riders.

A bike built for another rider, engines dialed back to ensure their safety, and doubts about whether he can be as competitive as he was before he left to join Ducati. All these things are what Valentino Rossi faces. The tool he has to tackle these problems is simple: desire. The desire to be back where he still feels he belongs, and the reason he left Ducati to return to Yamaha. To run at the front, and win in front of his home fans again.

The weather may play into his hands, and the hands of all of the Yamaha riders. Rain is set for Mugello for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the weather for race day is looking decidedly unsettled. At best, it rains all weekend, at worst it rains for practice, and the race takes place in the dry.

Either way, it helps level the playing field against the Honda blitzkrieg that we have seen in MotoGP so far. A wet race would give Rossi heart, Lorenzo a chance to redeem his performance at Le Mans, and Crutchlow a shot at back-to-back podiums. This could be Yamaha’s best hope for the weekend.

It would be pretty good for Ducati too, with two possible exceptions, which we shall come to later. For the factory riders, and probably for Andrea Iannone as well, a wet race would negate the biggest disadvantage which the Ducati still has, and with which it will continue to struggle until (they hope) the Misano test.

The understeer which plagues the Ducati is worst in big, fast corners, and if there is one thing which Mugello has in spades, it is big, wide, fast corners. That would leave Ducati struggling at the track – despite the many laps which the bike has put in around the circuit, as it is the Italian factory’s designated test track – but a wet race may well boost Ducati’s fortunes.

Andrea Dovizioso came close to his first podium on the bike at a soaking Le Mans; the extra motivation of riding at Mugello may get him even closer. Nicky Hayden finished a little way behind Dovizioso in France, and a could match that in the wet at Mugello.

Two Ducati men will not be wanting a wet race, however. Ben Spies returns to the Ignite Pramac after a two-race absence, muscle problems in his chest having made him decide to skip Jerez and Le Mans. Those chest problems were a result of overcompensating for his weakened shoulder, Spies having returned to testing and to racing too early from the shoulder injury he suffered at Sepang last year.

Shoulder injuries are painful, difficult to repair and slow to heal, as Spies has found out to his cost. Though a wet race would place less strain on the muscles in his chest and his weakened shoulder, the risk of crashing is higher. More damage is the last thing which Spies wants.

Michele Pirro would also much prefer a dry weekend, though he will not have any choice in the matter. The Ducati tester is once again present as a wildcard, and riding the lab bike once again. To gather real data requires a dry track and the pressure of a race weekend. Pirro will get only the latter, though that may allow him to score a stronger result than he might otherwise expect. It may not necessarily provide the data which Ducati want, but a strong finish at Mugello would be a fillip for Pirro, whatever the weather.

Of course, all these presupposes that wet weather will necessarily prejudice the chances of the Repsol Hondas. Going by the results of Le Mans – and the results of a soaking Sepang last year – that may be more idle hope than realistic projection. Dani Pedrosa was just about untouchable two weeks ago in France, and his teammate Marc Marquez performed well above expectations. Pedrosa has transformed himself in the past couple of years from a rider who struggles in the wet to a man who rides with confidence, whatever the weather.

Pedrosa is on a roll, having won 8 of the last 12 races, and growing progressively stronger with each event. If he hadn’t struggled with rear grip on the dusty surface at Qatar, his advantage in the championship could be much, much greater than the 11 points he has over his teammate, and the 17 over Lorenzo. Even in this, the first half of the season which is supposed to favor the Yamahas, it is a foolish gambler who lays money against Pedrosa on any given Sunday.

Should such a gambler fancy a wager, he could do far, far worse than to put his cash on Marc Marquez. Expectations for the rookie were sky high when he entered the MotoGP class, and he has matched or exceeded even the most optimistic projections. Marquez has already become the youngest man to win a race in the premier class, taking over from the legendary Freddie Spencer.

He was expected to struggle in the wet, having had little time on a MotoGP in the rain. At Le Mans, he struggled as expected, but only for five laps. Once he had wrapped his head around what it takes to race a MotoGP machine on a wet track, he was off, constantly among the fastest riders on track to the end of the race.

Only his teammate was out of reach, having gotten away well from the very start. Marquez is now a factor, his maturity impressing as much as his speed has. If he continues as he has, then he could yet turn out to be the biggest threat to Dani Pedrosa’s first world championship.

Though the rain could throw up an interesting race for the fans, conditions will also confound the hopes of the circuit. Numbers have declined steadily for the past few years, down in part to Valentino Rossi either missing the race due to injury, or failing to perform on a Ducati.

The other reason was a shift of date for the race, being moved into July, when Italians prefer to head to the beach and the balmy climes of the Mediterranean, rather than the broiling heat of the interior. With the race now back where it used to be, at the beginning of June, and Rossi back on a competitive bike, the race organizers were hoping to see crowd numbers swell. The prospect of three days camping in the pouring rain may dampen any such hopes.

Rain or shine, Mugello remains one of the jewels in MotoGP’s crown. Even in the pouring rain, in front of empty grandstands and muddy hillsides, the circuit remains a glorious place to go racing. If you are going to visit a MotoGP race in the rain, it might as well be at the most beautiful setting we see all year. And the racing should be good too.

Photos: © 2012 Jules Cisek / Popmonkey – All Rights Reserved

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

Comment:

  1. TheSwede says:

    Mugello is too sweeping for the Duc’s to perform in their current trim.. Looking for an improvement from them when they get their first update that Pirro’s been working on but not till then

    Rossi is approaching put up or shut up time, this is as good a place as any to do that..

    My prediction: Rossi and Marc duel for 1st & 2nd, but Marquez out drags him to the line. In parc ferme, Biaggi appears from nowhere with a shit eating grin on his face. Pedrosa takes 3rd, then Lorenzo and Cal. Espargaro wins CRT. Edwards retires with a bike issue. Smith finishes ahead of Spies, who wallows around abouts 12th position. RdP and Abraham crash. Laverty in the points.

    Unless it rains.. then the only thing we know for sure is Bradl will crash as well

  2. TexusTim says:

    wow…okay swede well see if these predictions come true…too bad spies injury will keep him from being competitive in this race, Biagi ? wiil we see Valintino”I slapa yo face offa”rossi when biagi apears ? go at it again ? ….and no rain please.

  3. CTK says:

    For whatever it’s worth, Mugello is my favorite track in Forza 4. No stupid hairpins, no jagged or strange turns. It just flows like a river. It should be a shoe in for Yamaha and a throwaway for Ducati, but with the weather thrown in it’s literally anyone’s race.

    I think the Ducatis are good in the wet because their understeering nature builds confidence in the wet. I would imagine a rider would feel more comfortable knowing pushing too hard would more likely result in a low side than a high side. Still though, they absolutely need to get the balance right. Hopefully Pirro will pull some worthwhile data.

  4. TheSwede says:

    @Texus

    Ha ha well if i’m gonna give a prediction might as well go all out. I want some excitement! Yeah Spies season is already a wash, best he can do is steadily improve, stay healthy, and get some decent finishes to try and either stick with Ducati or land a ride at Suzuki for next year. If not I see him back in SBK sadly.. Maybe BSB? There’s some proper racing in that series, might be a good refresher for him..

    @CTK

    I actually can’t stand Mugello in Forza, I think I enjoy it much more in the GP 09/10 demo I downloaded. I think it suits bikes better.. In Forza I gravitate towards Laguna and Catalunya (though I enjoy the MotoGP layout more than the one for cars, I wish it kept the flow of the last few corners)

  5. jimmy smith JR says:

    “As the bike has been made to work better and better for Lorenzo – braking early, then letting off the brakes early and carrying as much lean angle and speed as possible to fire out of the corner and onto the next straight without losing momentum – it has worked less and less well for other riders.”

    Don’t know if I buy this….Crutchlow is more like a bull in a China shop than a fluttering ex 250 riding butter..or mantequilla-fly.

    I think Rossi is the happy medium of both. He’ll do just fine if he still has it. I think the argument that the Yam-bike is getting less rideable is not valid.

  6. Gutterslob says:

    @JR
    Actually, Cal rides the thing like a 600 in my eyes. Pretty similar to how you’d ride a 250 in some aspects, particularly corner speed, though he does tend to brake a bit later. I think, more than anything, the new Lorenzo-era M1 doesn’t like much load moving about from back to front (and vice-versa). Still pretty similar to the Rossi-era M1 (he hated the thing when the fuel tank was full), just more finely tuned.

    Electronics probably play a huge part here. I was watching WSBK the other day and the Eurosport commentators (most qualified of all the channels, imho) were saying that the bkes have advanced to such a level that you had to sort out all electronics before you even had a dig at chassis/suspension setup these days. And that’s in SBK, Who knows how electro-centric MotoGP is. Perhaps it’s electronics that that Rossi (and Burgees) struggle with the most.

    I still rate Phillip Island as my favourite MotoGP track. Second used to be Assen, but the last mod kinda spoiled it a tad, so Mugello probably steals the place now.

  7. ctk says:

    I think its just Honda’s HP and zero-time shifts. Getting perfect drive out of corners and more top speed on straights is huge. There’s really only 1 chicane where drive is important here, but the big straight is good for a LOT of speed. I don’t know. If it’s dry and Yami doesn’t win here it def doesn’t bode well for their season.

  8. Ronald Burgundy says:

    Emmett’s article was awsome…and thanks to the motoGP.com video pass I’m going to catch all the pre-race action this week. This weekend will be a fun qualifying/race.

    MM shuffles the deck so much this season. …and Pedrosa is on a roll, he’s really feeling it. Previous comments about the Honda seem to be right on.

    Pedrosa for the win and then a battle royal for places 2nd thru 5th. I think we have the perfect storm for things coming to a head: MM becoming more and more bold (reckless), Lorenzo desperate to get points, Rossi desperate to show he still has it, Dovi/Hayden desperate for results on their home track, Crutchlow desperate to return to the podium. Something’s going to give.

    A storm is definately brewing. I can’t wait.