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.

Friday Summary at Catalunya: On Weather, Ducati Upgrades, And The Cost Of Monopolies

06/02/2012 @ 5:19 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Catalunya: On Weather, Ducati Upgrades, And The Cost Of Monopolies Brembo brakes Aprilia ART MotoGP Scott Jones

After the fickle weather which has dogged the first three European rounds of MotoGP, the first day of practice at Barcelona weekend got off to a dry, warm and sunny start. It was just what the teams and riders needed, some dry track time to work on the issues they face: for Honda, the chatter which they have suffered since the introduction of the RCV213V in the middle of last year, for Ducati, the lack of rear grip and poor drive out of corners, and for Yamaha, well, nothing really, it’s a pretty good bike as it is.

Conditions were pretty near ideal, though the blazing afternoon sun made the track a little too hot to get the best out of the tires, and it showed in the times. In the MotoGP class, Jorge Lorenzo posted a time well inside the race lap record, while in Moto2, Thomas Luthi obliterated the outright lap record in the morning session. Only Moto3 lagged behind, the brand new four-stroke class still a way off the times set by the 125cc bikes which they replaced.

In Moto3, the honors were shared between Maverick Vinales and Louis Rossi, the Frenchman showing that his win at Le Mans was no fluke. Sandro Cortese, the man Vinales looks set to fight for the inaugural Moto3 championship, is not far off the pace of the Spaniard, and the race is looking promising. For Rossi – the name is loaded with significance in motorcycle racing, but we really are talking about the young Frenchman here, rather than his illustrious namesake – Friday was the first time he had topped a session in the dry, another key step in his progression.

A French journalist friend tells me that Rossi (L.) is truly multitalented, having played chess to a very high level, competed in show jumping on horseback, and even been a ballet dancer. Grace, balance, and intelligence are all key components of riding a motorcycle very fast, so his varied past is standing him in good stead.

In the Moto2 class, it is Thomas Luthi who is dominating. The Swiss rider crushed the outright Moto2 lap record in the morning session, then did it all again in the afternoon. More significantly, he was at least four tenths faster than his nearest rival in both sessions. Pol Espargaro and Scott Redding are the only two men who look capable of living with Luthi, though the gap is still significant. Marc Marquez is way down the order, the Spaniard struggling with a tendon injury in his right thumb.

Tendons are bad news: bones heal quickly, muscles not quite so quickly but still at a decent pace. But tendons take a long, long time to get back to normal. Marquez needs to recover quickly if he is to stand a chance in what is turning into a much more competitive Moto2 Championship than was expected.

In MotoGP, the timesheets do not tell the whole story, or at least that is what several people would have you believe. That Jorge Lorenzo is blisteringly fast is beyond question, and the remainder of the Yamaha squadron are pretty quick too. At one point during the afternoon session, Yamahas occupied 4 of the top 5 positions, with only Dani Pedrosa spoiling the party in 3rd. But while most of the rest of the paddock tried the softer of the two rear options in the latter part of FP2, significantly improving their time, the two Repsol Honda men, along with Valentino Rossi, elected to keep working on the hard rear tire to find a setup that will work at the end of the race, as the tires wear. Both Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were having problems with chatter, the Australian admitted afterwards, but the biggest difference had been in the tires. The chatter was causing him to run wide in some of the tighter corners, he said, and will be the main focus of HRC’s testing program on Monday at Barcelona and Wednesday at Aragon.

Stoner was also asked whether he believe that heat was a factor, or whether it was specific to the Öhlins suspension being used, as Alvaro Bautista, who uses Showa suspension on his San Carlo Gresini Honda, has not reported any. The heat, and probably the extra rubber being laid down by Moto2 and Moto3 bikes was clearly a factor, Stoner said, but he rejected the suggestion that the main difference was between Showa and Öhlins. Bradl had also not reported any chatter, the Australian said, which suggested to him that the problem only occurs at the higher pace set by himself and his factory teammate Pedrosa.

Valentino Rossi also believed that the timesheets did not show the Ducati’s real position, but he was a lot less optimistic than Stoner was. The changes which had worked at Mugello had not worked out as well at Barcelona, both Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden admitted. The electronics had been the biggest improvement, both men said, making the response much better at the first touch of the throttle, but the new aluminium swingarm which Rossi was using had not given the advantage which it had during the test at Mugello.

Both Hayden and Rossi were struggling for rear grip – mechanical grip, Rossi clarified – and so were losing out on acceleration. All attempts at improving grip at the rear sacrificed feeling at the front, and that was a sacrifice Rossi was unwilling to make. This is an old refrain, one of the issues which has dogged the Ducati almost from the start: every time Rossi’s crew try to create more rear grip by shifting the weight back or lengthening the wheelbase, Rossi loses the front end feel he relies on to go fast.

Salvation may come in the form of rain. While Friday was a beautiful sunny day, and Saturday looks set to be even better, rain is forecast for Sunday from around 11am onwards, and quite a lot of it. Fresh from his best result at Le Mans in the wet, rain on Sunday could inspire Rossi to shoot for one better than his Ducati-best in France. But even a win in the rain would be deceptive: the problems with the Ducati remain, and the mildly-detuned engine due to be introduced at Silverstone has been rejected, the engine offering no benefits.

Instead, Hayden and Rossi will wait until Laguna Seca, when a major upgrade is expected, requiring a whole new set of mappings, Hayden let slip. Hayden will probably have to spring for an engine earlier than that, though, one of his engines is getting a little long in the tooth and starting to burn oil, as demonstrated by the puffs of smoke appearing, especially at the end of the straights.

There was also much talk of silly season, or rather, journalists started to question some of the riders about their future plans. Jorge Lorenzo deflected such queries by deferring to his manager, saying that he was a rider, not a manager, and reiterating that his first priority was to stay with Yamaha – a status reinforced when Lorenzo’s manager Marcos Hirsch was spotted in discussions with Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis on neutral territory in the Alpinestars hospitality unit. But he was also keen to suggest that he would have no problems adapting to the Honda if he did decide to switch, saying that bikes are just “two wheels and an engine.”

Cal Crutchlow was also questioned about his future plans, and though he remained vague, he did reveal that he has an offer on the table from “another team”. Whether that was with another factory or not was another question altogether, and not something he was keen to reveal. When questioned specifically about whether he would consider going to Ducati, he said he was not worried about it. His style was the closest to Stoner’s, Crutchlow affirmed, giving him confidence he could tame the bike, though he was also quick to concede that Stoner was also a second a lap faster at some races.

Until Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi sign contracts, Crutchlow opined, there was not much point thinking about it. He was talking to several people, but all hinged on where Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi ended up.

Crutchlow was also asked about the new brakes he had had fitted to his Yamaha M1, and the British rider was keen to downplay the difference. Performance-wise there was not that much in it – “I’ve always said we won’t win races with the brakes,” he said – but the feeling and safety margin was improved. No longer would he threaten to run into the back of other riders as he struggled to get the bike stopped. The feeling was fairly similar, but the big difference was in the amount of brake lever travel, giving a more consistent feel.

On the subject of brakes, IRTA, the association of private and satellite teams, had a meeting on Friday to discuss their position on the choice between staying with carbon brakes and going to steel brakes ahead of Saturday’s Grand Prix Commission meeting. There was no real consensus on using one system or the other, but what everyone was clear about is that the costs of the braking systems have to be reduced. Whatever the GPC decides to do about it, IRTA will be pressuring to reduce the cost of brakes and other components, as they upgraded parts seem to cost more and more each year.

The teams are in part a victim of their own and their riders’ conservatism. One crew chief recently remarked that riders were more focused on having what everyone else had rather than worrying about how well their own equipment was performing. “If another rider has one brand of suspension, then your rider will always want to have that brand,” he said, “regardless of whether his own suspension is working well.”

This also holds true for brakes. With the exception of the Gresini squad, everyone in MotoGP uses Brembos, because Brembo is perceived as having the best equipment – which they probably are, but the perception is much more important than the reality. Riders push their team managers for brake parts – or in the case of Tech 3, riders buy their own upgrades – and so teams feel they have no option but to buy the latest offerings by Brembo. The Italian brake manufacturer knows this, and having a virtual monopoly on the situation in the paddock, prices brakes accordingly. After all, who can blame them? They have a product on offer, and teams are willing – or perhaps feel obliged is a better way to put it – to pay for that product, almost irrespective of the asking price.

Brembo is not really to blame for this situation, but it is one which cannot continue. If they can be persuaded to reduce their prices, then the debate over carbon or steel brakes will cease, as the most important factor is the affordability. Dorna has ways of pressuring companies such as Brembo into drastically cutting their prices: the tire situation is a case in point.

By pointing to their solution for the spiralling cost of tires at the end of the tire wars (Team KR was said to be spending 50,000 euros a race weekend on tires alone) Dorna can make it clear that there are alternatives to allowing one company to exploit its monopoly position. A spec braking solution is unlikely, but it is entirely feasible, and could be done on the cheap without compromising safety. If Brembo want to stay in MotoGP – which they definitely do – then they could well be persuaded to push through some significant price cuts.

Brakes and their materials is one of the issues under discussion for the rule packages to be discussed in tomorrow’s Grand Prix Commission, but major changes will also be under discussion, as MotoGP’s rulemaking body draws closer to finalizing the future rules of the sport. Where previously, the new rules looked like being introduced in 2015, it is now looking more likely yet again that 2014 will be the major year of change, and once again, a spec ECU and a rev limit between 14,500 and 15,000 RPM is under discussion.

Imposing those two changes would save enough money to make a one-bike rule or a switch to steel brakes irrelevant. It is nearly crunch time for the rules in MotoGP, and more should become clear in a few weeks time. Once the rules come out, then we can get on with the business of racing once again. If we haven’t been completely diverted by the madness of silly season that is…

Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

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

Comment:

  1. Ugo Sugo says:

    carbon brakes should be banned for one simple reason, the dust produced has asbestos like characteristics. Therefore, they should be banned on simple health grounds and possibly, down the road, mechanics and other people working in the box will not develop lung cancer.

  2. Peter G says:

    There are a lot more things that will be causing cancer, apart from some particles of carbon dust.