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.

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.

MotoGP: Friday at Estoril Round-Up: On Intra-Team Enmity, Electronics, 285 hp Engines, & Rookies

05/05/2012 @ 12:19 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

MotoGP: Friday at Estoril Round Up: On Intra Team Enmity, Electronics, 285 hp Engines, & Rookies 2012 Portuguese GP Estoril Friday Scott Jones 1

There appears to be a new rule of thumb for gauging the weather: If there’s a motorcycle race on, then chances are it will be raining, at least for some of the time. After a weekend of climate-curtailed practice 7 days ago at Jerez, the weather looks like being a major factor at Estoril as well. Though no rain fell during any of the nine sessions of practice – two Moto3, two Moto2, two MotoGP and three Red Bull Rookies – took place, the rain was still very much a factor. The day started with a wet Moto3 session, the track taking a long time to dry out after the overnight rain that lashed the circuit. The track started to dry during MotoGP FP1, and by the second half of that session, it was dry enough for everyone to run slicks, albeit the softer compound that Bridgestone has brought.

By Moto2 FP1, the track was nominally dry, but problems with the damp remained. Parts of the track have been resurfaced, in particular, Turn 6 and Turn 13, and though the new surface is pretty good in general, the problem is that the new asphalt is still dark, and it is impossible to see where the damp patches are. At Turn 13, the sweeping Parabolica that leads back onto the front straight, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that water appears to be seeping up through the ground, which is still saturated after weeks of heavy rain.

As a result, though the afternoon sessions all looked to be perfectly dry, in fact there was still a lot of water in the final corner. Worse still, the water was invisible to the naked eye – or at least the naked eye travelling at upwards of 100 mph aboard a racing motorcycle. Consequently, everyone was taking it easy through that final corner, and losing out massively in terms of lap times. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha estimated that most riders were losing about 1.5 seconds in that part of the track, not just in terms of corner speed, but also due to losing the drive on to the front straight.

Top speeds for the 1000cc MotoGP class are only a couple of km/h faster than in 2011, when the bikes were still 800cc, and had 30-40 hp less. At a track with a reasonably fast final corner followed by a kilometer-long straight, the 1000′s should be slaughtering the top speeds set by the 800s. The MotoGP bikes are four tenths down in the third sector, and nearly half a second slower in the final sector, including the final turn and run on to the front straight. All that means that lap times are seriously down on where they were last year, in all classes.

Or at least, for everyone except for Scott Redding in Moto2. The Marc VDS Racing rider does not appear to have received the memo, which decreed that the track is slower. Redding crushed the race lap record during FP2, getting in under a quarter of a second faster than Andrea Iannone’s lap record. Marc Marquez is the only rider to get near the young Briton, also managing to get under the lap record but still two tenths slower than Redding. Two tenths further back, a bunch consisting of Thomas Luthi, Toni Elias (making a welcome return to the front of the Moto2 field) and Pol Espargaro are all close. It is still early days, but Redding has impressed so far at Estoril.

In the MotoGP class, the bikes lined up by factory very much as expected, with a Honda leading a gaggle of Yamahas. The name of the Honda rider is barely a surprise – Casey Stoner is fast any time he gets on a bike, and despite a chest infection and a nasty cough, which kept him awake at night, posted the fastest time in the afternoon session – but the two Yamaha names are a little more unexpected. Second fastest in the afternoon was Ben Spies, the Texan finally getting some feeling back into the front end of his M1. After two miserable races – at Qatar due to chatter induced by a cracked subframe, at Jerez caused by a setup that just didn’t work – Spies is back and flying, after a major weight distribution change to the bike. Spies’ crew chief Tom Houseworth and his team took some weight off the front end of Spies’ bike, and paradoxically created much more feeling from the front tire. This was a change that Spies had tried on the 800, but which he had never liked. The different character of the 1000′s means that the changed worked out nicely, and Spies was once again feeling confident on the bike, saying the front end now felt “100%” better.

In 3rd is Cal Crutchlow, and perhaps it is no longer fair to say that it is a surprise to see the Englishman so far up front. After two 4th places and a front row start in the first two races of the year, it is clear that this has been breakthrough year for Crutchlow. A lot of factors have helped: the new tires warm up more quickly and are much more responsive, and the bigger engine is much more forgiving than the 800 ever was. But all those appear mainly to have been just kindling, while the arrival of Andrea Dovizioso in the Monster Tech 3 team has truly lit the fire that burns in Crutchlow’s belly.

The atmosphere is clearly tense in the team; last week, Dovizioso made comments about Crutchlow saying that the Englishman benefited from having “a superbike style” when riding the 1000′s. Crutchlow was livid. “Maybe he needs to change his style to ride like a Yamaha,” Crutchlow said of Dovizioso, referring to the problems that the Italian has had in adapting to the Yamaha after spending so long riding the Honda. “He says I have a superbike style, but if you look at the data, I ride now more like Lorenzo than any of the other Yamaha riders. I’ve spent a year looking at data and learning how to ride. Whether it was Colin’s data, or whether it was Ben’s data, or Jorge’s or whatever, but learning to ride a MotoGP bike is difficult. But I’m more like a GP rider than I ever have been, or else I wouldn’t have finished 4th last weekend.” The pressure from Dovizioso, and the competition at Yamaha – only Jorge Lorenzo’s seat is safe, Spies’ place in the factory team is uncertain, and Bradley Smith has a contract with Tech 3 to ride in MotoGP for 2013, leaving Dovizioso and Crutchlow fighting both over a seat at Tech 3, with an eye to promotion in the factory team as well – is driving Crutchlow to excel, and forcing Dovizioso to do the same. And this is a very good thing for MotoGP fans.

The other factory Yamaha rider is a little further down the order, Jorge Lorenzo not happy with the setup of his bike. The rear wheel is “blocking” – by which Lorenzo appears to mean grabbing under braking, and getting the bike sideways – which upsets the Yamaha on corner entry, costing Lorenzo a lot of speed. The Spaniard chose to sit out the morning session because of the conditions, and with hindsight, a quick sortie may have highlighted the problem so that crew chief Ramon Forcada and his team could have spent their lunch hours dreaming up solutions.

As for the Ducatis, the bike has been working reasonably well under the difficult conditions. Now that Valentino Rossi has accepted that he will have to make the “Ducati-style” settings work, he has set about trying to get the best out of them. Corner entry is now much better, Rossi able to brake into the corner as he wishes, but the rear remains a problem. The Ducatis suffered more than most in the patchy, damp final corner, as well as in the second section of the track.

That is down to the one problem which Ducati is yet to fix, and which is not done so easily. The Ducati’s power delivery is extremely aggressive, and producing in the region of 280hp makes it difficult to use. Such power cannot be controlled using just electronics, major changes to the engine internals are also needed. Whether such parts will be available for testing on Monday is not yet known, with everyone inside Ducati very cagey about the subject.

Though the figure of 280hp is the speculative figure being bandied about inside the press room, there are hints that the number is not a million miles off being accurate. Today, Casey Stoner let slip a ballpark figure on MotoGP horsepower figures, when talking about the role of electronics. When asked what he thought of the idea of a spec ECU, as used in BSB, Stoner was less dismissive than usual. Stoner pointed out that he did not believe the manufacturers would accept a spec ECU – a point of which Carmelo Ezpeleta is all too aware as he discusses the rules for the future of the series – but he was broadly in favor of limits on electronics. The problem, Stoner pointed out, was that the last time the bikes ran without traction control, they had 185-190 horsepower. “We’re getting into the regions of 85 and probably in the not too distant future, close to 100 horsepower more than what the old bikes ran without traction control.” Stoner’s remarks put the horsepower of the MotoGP bikes at somewhere between 270 and 290 horsepower, so 280 is pretty much bang in the middle of that.

Trying to control that was difficult, Stoner said, and when it goes wrong – Stoner was careful to say when and not if – “It will spit you sky high.” Stoner revealed that he had ridden the old 990cc RC211V a couple of times without traction control, and to do so required careful planning and a different approach to managing the engine. At the Sachsenring in 2006, he had been told that his traction control wasn’t working so he had to ride his way around the problem. Since then, the bikes have added another 35-40 horsepower, making it even more complicated.

Stoner was very much in favor of some kind of limit to how much traction control the riders can actually use. “Fun-wise, some kind of limit of [traction control] would be great,” Stoner said, but there should be a small amount as a safety measure, to catch unsuspecting riders when they hit a wet patch on the track. “A lot of the riders in this paddock criticizing traction control are actually the ones who use it most, so without it, it would be interesting to watch those particular riders as well,” Stoner said. He did not specify further just who those riders were, but given the enmity and long history of accusations in the past, it is not hard to guess who he is referring to.

The subject of Stoner’s retirement has now passed as a topic of conversation in the paddock, after the Australian denied that that was on his mind. But concerns remain in HRC, as Stoner has simply not made up his mind about next year, or the year after, or any of the years after that. At this moment, he has every intention of racing next year, but until he signs a contract, it is not inconceivable he could change his mind. Highly unlikely, perhaps, but it is not impossible that Stoner could walk away at any time.

Though Stoner’s retirement is exceptionally unlikely, the minds of the media – especially the Spanish section – has turned to 2013, and where to put Marc Marquez. The Rookie Rule is being hotly debated, with most of the talk focusing on Honda’s stated desire for the rule to be dropped. The independent teams assembled in IRTA are radically opposed to such a change, as they consider the Rookie Rule a success, as it is their best chance of securing the services of a high-profile youngster.

Nobody is under any illusion that a rider like Marquez would receive anything other than full factory support, but the independent teams would rather he received such support in one of their teams, much as the late, lamented Marco Simoncelli did at San Carlo Gresini, or Ben Spies did at Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. Cal Crutchlow was quick to see the positive side of it, if solely from a selfish perspective. “At the moment it’s a great thing, because it means Marquez can’t go straight into a factory team,” Crutchlow said, implying that that left one seat open for himself. Valentino Rossi summed up the situation succinctly: “For me, the problem with the rule is that Marquez is Marquez,” he said. “Is not a bad rule for the rookies, but maybe Honda has a problem because they want to put Marquez in the factory team, and have a problem with the rule.”

The Rookie Rule is just one battle front in the ongoing war between Dorna and the factories. IRTA will be hoping that it is a battle that Dorna wins. Whether Marc Marquez wants Dorna to win is another question.

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.

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