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.

This Is Pretty Much What the Monster 800 Will Look Like

With the advent of the Ducati Monster 1200, it was only a matter of time before Ducati’s middleweight liquid-cooled “Monster 800″ would be spotted, and unsurprisingly the machines have a great deal in common. The one big difference seems to be that the 821cc Monster gets a double-sided swingarm, which has become Ducati’s new way of differentiating between its big and medium displacement models of the same machine, see entry for Ducati 899 Panigale. With the spied Ducati Monster 800 looking ready for primetime, and a pre-fall launch isn’t out of the question. Giving us an excellent glimpse into what the Ducati Monster 800 would look like, Luca Bar has again used his Photoshop skills to render up images of the still unreleased “baby” Monster.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni. You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mugen Shinden San (神電 参) Electric Superbike Revealed

Mugen’s third purpose-built electric superbike for the Isle of Man TT, the Mugen Shinden San, has been revealed in Japan. Campaigning two machines for this year’s TT Zero race, Mugen has John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey at the helm of its “Shinden San” bikes, as the duo looks for a one-two finish in this year’s race. With MotoCzysz not racing at the Isle of Man this year, Mugen is a hot favorite to take the top podium spots, as well as crack the 110 mph barrier for electrics on the historic Snaefell Mountain Course (Mugen is targeting a 115 mph lap). An evolution on the company’s previous designs, the Shinden San fits 134hp — 10hp more than last year, thanks to a new smaller three-phase brushless motor provided by Mission Motors — into its 529lbs bulk.

Trackside Tuesday: The Winning Personality of Jack Miller

Chatting with a couple of NASCAR fans recently, I was reminded that any competition is boring if you don’t care who wins. But if you do care, then even cars driving around in circles can be very compelling entertainment. Those NASCAR fans really cared about how their favorite drivers finished, and not only how they finished in the latest race, but what and how those drivers were doing off the track as well. Those fans had been captured by the personalities of those drivers. One of the things NASCAR does well is sell personalities. All major sports-related businesses do this to some extent, but some organizations do it better than others.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Qatar

Imagine if just for once you didn’t have to stick to your usual nine-to-five job. Instead you were able to do the one job you’ve always wanted to do, but any number of things (it’s usually money) have stood in the way. This is exactly the situation I found myself in six months ago when the company I had worked at, for the last 14 years, decided to close, making everyone redundant. This decision did not come as a surprise; in fact, I had been hanging around for the last few years hoping that it would happen, as I had a plan. Fast-forward six months and I have just finished photographing the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. The plan is starting to unfold.

Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R?

The news that Honda would be building a production racer to compete in MotoGP aroused much excitement among fans. There was much speculation over just how quick it would be, and whether it would be possible for a talented rider to beat the satellite bikes on some tracks. In the hands of active MotoGP riders, the gap was around 2 seconds at the Sepang tests. Nicky Hayden – of whom much had been expected, not least by himself – had made significant improvements, especially on corner entry. The difference in performance and the big gap to the front has been cause for much speculation. Where are the Honda production racers losing out to the Factory Option bikes?

Friday Summary at Mugello: Lorenzo’s Speed, Stoner’s Attitude, & Bridgestone’s Tires

07/14/2012 @ 1:17 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Friday Summary at Mugello: Lorenzos Speed, Stoners Attitude, & Bridgestones Tires Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Thursday Jules Cisek 06 635x423

“I don’t really want to look at the timesheet,” Cal Crutchlow said at the end of the first day of practice at Mugello, “because Lorenzo’s run was an absolute joke.” Crutchlow is well-known for his colorful language – in every sense of that phrase – and his words are easy to misinterpret. But a glance at the consistency of Lorenzo’s times soon makes you understand exactly what Crutchlow meant. On the hard rear tire, Lorenzo was running mid to low 1’48s, with many laps within a few hundredths of each other. On the evidence of Friday alone, Lorenzo is not just going to win this race, he is going to embarrass the entire field.

Just where does this speed come from? Crutchlow had told an Italian journalist previously that looking at Lorenzo’s data, he leans the bike over further than it has any business being leaned over. Whenever any other rider uses that much lean angle, they crash. Lorenzo was reluctant at first to divulge his secrets, joking that he treated his tires with Rockstar, the brand of energy drink that is his personal sponsor, but later he explained the key to carrying so much lean angle was mainly smoothness. “It’s a combination of things, it’s the way you brake, the way you enter the corner, the way you move on the bike, if you are smooth or you are aggressive. If you are more aggressive, you can enter faster but then if you want to make the same angle you can crash. It’s not easy to change your riding style to get more lean angle.”

Though several riders got close to Lorenzo’s time, most were on soft tires at the time, and none had the spirit-sapping consistency of the Factory Yamaha man. For example, despite posting the third-fastest time of the afternoon session, Nicky Hayden was fairly downbeat after practice. His pace on hard tires had been around a 1’48.9, he said, but the Ducati Corse rider had struggled with corner entry. That is a long way from Lorenzo’s pace.

Hayden’s teammate Valentino Rossi was well down the timesheets, but the Italian had never bothered fitting a soft tire. There was little point, as racing on the soft is not an option: the prototype riders have been advised that the soft won’t last the race distance, though it could be possible for the CRT riders to race the soft, the CRT bikes not loading the tires as much as the prototypes.

But it was not just the soft not being a race option: Rossi had suffered chatter for most of both sessions, he said, and his first priority was trying to fix that. The problem seemed to be a setting with the front fork, and his crew appeared to have solved the issue by the end of the day. Rossi was losing his time in the second half of the track, and if the chatter was fixed, then he felt he was not too far from the group at the front, he said. Saturday would see whether the problem really was solved or not.

The Hondas were in deeper trouble, however. Both riders struggled with the hard tire, though Dani Pedrosa’s crew had found some solutions in the afternoon, which Pedrosa described as “a big step forward”. Stoner, however, had had a very tough day indeed. They were a long way off the pace, Stoner said, explaining that they simply could not get the hard tire to work, in much the same way as they had at Assen.

They were not getting enough temperature into the normal hard tire – never mind the additional hard tire, with the extra rubber layer to dissipate the heat. They can’t get any feeling from it, especially on the left side, and that made the bike very nervous, Stoner said.

Stoner had not just struggled with the tires, though, as he had also had a spot of bother with a CRT bike. On the TV feed, all we saw was Stoner nearly running into the back of Danilo Petrucci on the IODA CRT machine, and then putting a rather hard move on the Italian. But there was more to it than that, Stoner explained. After Stoner had passed him going into one corner, Petrucci had outbraked the Australian and tried to go around the outside.

Petrucci had then hit the limiter and Stoner had nearly run into the back of him. “He destroyed my lap,” Stoner told the press, and that had prompted Stoner to make it clear to Petrucci that he was not happy with the chain of events. He had not actually touched Petrucci, he said. “I didn’t push him off track. I just didn’t give him a lot of room and needed him to back off and give me my space,” Stoner said, before launching an attack on the CRT bikes, and the danger of the speed differential between the CRTs and the factory prototypes.

After Stoner’s media debrief, debate raged hotly between journalists over the wrongs and rights of the move. A part of the press – probably the majority – believed there was not much wrong with Stoner’s move: there had been no contact, and Stoner was the faster rider by far.

Another part said that though the move was on the edge of acceptability, it was not a good example to the younger riders which Stoner had been so vocal about wanting better behavior from. Race Direction more or less agreed: both Stoner and Petrucci were hauled in to have a conversation about the incident. No action was taken against either rider, but the very fact that they were hauled up before the beak should have been enough to inform the pair to take it a little easy.

From my perspective, certainly from the initial viewing, the move appeared way over the top from Stoner. His explanation of what happened prior to that incident – events that Race Direction would have seen, having access to every camera shot at the track, not just the few shown on the live feed – mitigates Stoner’s behavior a little, and certainly goes a long way towards explaining it.

It was certainly a lapse of judgment, however, and a move which Stoner would have been wiser not to make. The biggest problem is that at a stroke, Stoner has undone all the good he has attempted to do in improving rider safety. Any criticism he now makes of other riders will be thrown back in his face, with charges of hypocrisy. He will find it hard to be taken seriously in his criticisms in the future.

The reality of the situation was summed up by several journalists after the event. Stoner is just like Mick Doohan, they said: like Doohan, Stoner really just wants the track to himself. Anyone else having the temerity to use the track is a mere irritation, impinging on what Stoner and Doohan believed was their territory. Arguing the point with them was impossible, for as one journalist pointed out, “Mick was right even when he was wrong.”

That self-belief, that utter conviction is what allows them to scale the giddy heights they do. There is no room for nuance, or debate, or shades of opinion in their world: if they stopped to contemplate situations, they would lose a couple of seconds a lap. What the rest of the world thinks is irrelevant: it won’t make them any faster on the track, so it is not even worth thinking about. Riders are extraordinary individuals, so it is perhaps churlish to expect them to be open to the kind of reason which might persuade ordinary people.

On Thursday, there had been much complaining about the tire situation, and the fact that Bridgestone had asked all of the MotoGP riders to put in a run of 12 consecutive laps on the normal hard tire – the original construction, not the new ‘safety’ construction with the extra heat dissipation layer – before allowing them to race on it. The red flag that came halfway through the afternoon session of practice – a result of a Hector Barbera crash that required cleaning the track of the gravel and dust thrown on to it – meant that was impossible for most of the riders, but almost everyone had put more than enough laps on the tire.

The preliminary results of the examination looked positive, though I asked before the examination was complete. No damage was found, and no anomalies which point to the tires disintegrating in the heat. The hard tire, the version which Bridgestone had originally planned as the harder of the two options, will be the one that almost all the prototype riders, at least, will race. The safety tire is still an option, but the original hard gave fractionally better edge grip, though they both felt almost identical.

And so the tire situation at Mugello looks like ending not with a bang, but with a whimper. Bridgestone’s original allocation turned out to be a pretty good fit to Mugello’s hot and high-speed track. The problems at Assen were just that, problems in very specific conditions, with temperatures much higher than expected causing unforeseen problems.

That is in itself a fundamental flaw of the spec tire system: the allocation is decided at the start of the season, and tires manufactured a very long way in advance, then shipped from Japan to Europe by surface freight. A larger allocation with an extra tire choice might fix the problem, as would requiring the tires to be manufactured in Europe, to allow tires to be built especially much closer to the event, when the tire manufacturer has a clearer idea of the weather conditions likely to prevail.

Change, at least in the short and medium term, is unlikely. Cost is key, and until MotoGP can start to generate massive income from sponsorship, the keeping costs down will be the most important factor in the rules. On any given Sunday, MotoGP should be about the very best riders on the very best bikes featuring the very best components that money can buy. But MotoGP simply does not have the money to do that, and so we have the very best riders on some extraordinary machines, on top flight components. It is better than no Championship at all.

Photo: © 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. Micahel says:

    “Whoa, Casey Stoner is complaining about something, that never happens!?!”

    Said no one, ever.

    To Casey, good riddance, arrivederci! Someone get him a glass of milk, so he’ll retire early.