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.

Friday Summary at Qatar: Qualifying Heats, Rain in the Desert, & the Race Pace

04/05/2013 @ 11:22 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Qatar: Qualifying Heats, Rain in the Desert, & the Race Pace Friday Qatar GP MotoGP Scott Jones 08 635x422

Racing at the desert at night, in the false noon created by the astonishingly efficient lighting system at the Qatar circuit, is always going to be a weird experience. But on Friday, events conspired to take it from the merely odd into the strangely surreal.

The culprits? The weather was one, the odd fleetingly brief shower of thick rain drops sending everyone scurrying into the pits and scratching their heads over what to do.

The other thing that had many people confused was the new qualifying rules. Though not necessarily particularly complex, like all rule changes, the effect they have on the system, the way the weekend operates, only becomes apparent once the changes are put into effect.

But before I get to that, some attention deserves to be paid to Marc Marquez. In his very first MotoGP weekend, he topped his second ever session of free practice, and followed it up by being fastest in his third session of free practice as well. He has now been quickest in the majority of the official MotoGP sessions he has ever taken part in. OK, that’s only two out of three, and the conditions have been a little unusual, but to be this fast this early is astonishing.

Marquez is an engrossing rider to watch. Veteran Dutch journalist Henk Keulemans, who had been out shooting photos at trackside, commented that he didn’t understand how Marquez didn’t crash in every corner. The young Spaniard is intensely physical with the bike, Keulemans describing Marquez as throwing the bike around like it was a 125, especially through some of the more complicated sections. While everyone is impressed with his speed, the question is, does he have the physical endurance to fling the bike around so much for twenty laps? That could be a different kettle of fish altogether.

Qatar has traditionally been kind to rookies. In 2008, Jorge Lorenzo took three sessions to top the timesheets at his first ever MotoGP event, going on to take pole, while two years earlier, Casey Stoner was fastest in FP1. For Stoner, Qatar was his second race, the 2006 season having started in Jerez, where Dani Pedrosa – Marquez Repsol Honda teammate now – had shared top three places with Casey Stoner during practice.

Lorenzo and Stoner both went on to take two world championships each, while Dani Pedrosa has come tantalizingly close a couple of times. Marquez’s first two days at Qatar should be regarded as an unmitigated success, whatever happens during the race.

Back to the weather: a front in the Persian Gulf had been threatening to blow across the circuit all day, but in the end it just glanced the track, creating incredibly powerful gusts of wind, and the occasional heavy shower, which was thankfully over in the blink of an eye. But the showers consisted of big, thick drops of rain, fat as ripe figs, which exploded onto every surface at the track kicking up a wall of dust. The desert heat meant that the water they contained evaporated minutes after hitting the ground, so the track was never wet enough for sessions to be postponed or canceled.

Don’t they bring rain tires, I hear you cry? No, they do not. By the time the surface gets wet enough to require rain tires, the wet track is reflecting so much light from the overhead spotlights that it is impossible to see anything. If it rains hard enough, all and any action is simply canceled, or as it was in 2009, put back a day and run in the dry.

Then there was the new system of qualifying. Yes, qualifying isn’t until tomorrow, but dividing qualifying into two groups has (predictably) had an (unpredictable) knock-on effect on free practice as well. A lightning recap of the system:

  1. At the end of FP3, the MotoGP riders are ranked in order of the best lap time posted in any of the three free practice sessions they have contested.
  2. The fastest 10 riders automatically go through to QP2, and are assured a spot in the top 12 starting positions.
  3. The remainder of the field have to take part in QP1, and the two fastest in QP1 will join the 10 previously selected to battle over the front four rows of the grid.

QP1 and QP2 are now 15 minute sessions, which is preceded by a 30 minute FP4 session, now ironically the only truly session of free practice left during the weekend.

Before the riders had turned a wheel, most were claiming the new system would not change their approach. But come Friday night, and the heat of FP3, the action started heating up into something resembling a real qualifying session. Not so much for the top four or five riders, confident enough in their own abilities of not having to worry about not making QP2, but riders between, say, 6th and 18th place turned it into a real contest. Some were caught napping – Stefan Bradl was one, nearly being dropped out of the top 10, only saving his bacon with a fast lap at the very end.

Opinion on whether the new system was a good thing or not was divided. The fans appeared largely to love it, as it gave them an extra contest to get excited about. Riders having to step up their game to stay in the top 10 made for much more of a show than an ordinary FP3 session, which last year was run in a much less competitive atmosphere. Most of the riders either liked it or were indifferent – the riders at the front completely unaffected, though Valentino Rossi did complain of riders hanging around hoping for a tow.

Some were less impressed, with Stefan Bradl’s boss Lucio Cecchinello complaining that having just 15 minutes of qualifying was not enough. At a long track like Qatar, with a lap time close to 2 minutes, he may have a point. Crutchlow reckoned he would get 4 laps in during QP2: an out lap, two fast laps, an in lap for a new tire, then an out lap and two more – maybe three, depending on the timing – and that’s it, the session would be over.

The new qualifying system left journalists puzzling over the best way to describe the system, with TV commentators struggling more than most, having to sum up a relatively complex system in just a single phrase or simple explanation which won’t confuse their audiences. My own personal favorite was put forward by Dennis Noyes: while the rest of us were tripping over whether this was now pre-qualifying, and whether that was actually a word, Noyes chipped in “It’s simple, free practice now becomes a qualifying heat.”

Noyes’ background in dirt track – he raced the four-wheeled version in his distant youth, and son Kenny raced flat track when younger, and now has a dirt track school at the Motorland Aragon circuit, called Noyes Camp – prompted the use of the phrase. He is essentially correct: Free practices 1 through 3 are now essentially qualifying heats, the winners going through to QP2, while the losers hope for a second chance in QP1.

The new qualifying system also distorted the results, a little. Several riders put in a fast lap at the end, while their race pace is of a different magnitude. Disregarding single fast laps, Jorge Lorenzo seems to hold the best cards. Lorenzo is consistently fast, his race pace a tenth or more better than anyone else.

Only Cal Crutchlow is in the same league as Lorenzo, though he will have to fight to try to keep up with the Spaniard. Valentino Rossi is not far behind – but still behind – another tenth or so slower than Lorenzo, and maybe around the same pace as Marquez.

Two big names caused some surprise. First came the failure of Dani Pedrosa to get closer, though the Spaniard did make a good deal of headway on the second day. His problem remains the same as it was yesterday: the difficult surface meant that Pedrosa doesn’t have any grip, and with no rear grip, he can’t get the bike to turn.

The RC213V is helped in turning by using the power to slide the rear just enough to point the front wheel in the right direction, while still getting enough drive to go forward. Without the grip, Pedrosa can’t get the drive, and without the drive, he can’t get the bike to turn.

The other name which surprised many was Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian is doing exceptionally well on the Ducati, contrary to the expectations of most. Though most of Dovizioso’s laps were a good deal slower, he did two laps in the high 1’56s, achieved all on his own. Dovizioso’s problems may come as the race progresses, as the Ducati is still heavy on tires. His fifth spot during the three FP sessions may be promising, but making the tire last for 20 laps is going to be hard.

Not so much a big name, but certainly a surprise was Bradley Smith. The young Briton had just made it into QP2, which was the goal he had set himself, he had also got within a second of the front runners.

“That’s always something I’ve been edging towards,” Smith told the press, “but I didn’t realize how hard you have to ride to be within that second. I thought it would come easier, but you have to be absolutely wide open to be within a second of these guys, it’s made me realize that the job’s a lot harder than I very first thought. Definitely riding 20 laps at that type of intensity as well, hats to these guys, and, yeah, it’s opened my eyes to MotoGP.”

Throughout testing, Smith has not looked brilliant, strictly on the basis of position, but if you compare Smith to where Stefan Bradl was last year, Smith is pretty much matching him.

So, who will win? For Cal Crutchlow, it will come down to whether Jorge Lorenzo can keep Dani Pedrosa – or Marc Marquez, the other Repsol Honda man – behind him. The two contrasting styles of the bikes – the Yamaha’s majestic, sweeping lines, versus the square point-and-shoot style of the Honda – mean that once he gets behind a Honda, it may be impossible to pass.

The Hondas have the straight line speed and especially the drive out of the corner to keep the Yamahas at bay, while the Yamahas can’t exploit their strength – the 250-like corner speed – to pass the bikes. Lorenzo needs to get away at the front. If he finds himself behind Dani Pedrosa or Marc Marquez, it could be a very long night.

Photo: © 2013 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. How long will Spies be mired in ‘last factory’ place before deciding, “F*** it, my shoulder is fine on bicycles. I’ll go home and race those”?

  2. phs says:

    My take on Spies is that this year and maybe next is just the opportunity to stay in MotoGP and hope a better team/bike comes along. I think we all agree that when you leave MotoGP it becomes very difficult to get back in to the class. If he went to World Superbike he may not have the chance to come back to GP, especially after whatever took place last year. Last year can’t be a good reflection on his ability or career going forward. I believe it is going to be a very long season for Spies between his shoulder and trying to exploit the Ducati, as changes to the bike are not going to happen fast enough. I wish him the best because he is a very talented rider.

  3. TexusTim says:

    I too wish Spies the best of luck..maybe his dues are paid and he can move forward..somtimes thats what it takes.
    he is very talented and I think can exploit the ducatti but not with a messed up shoulder, too hard to push it , it’s too bad he didn get it fixed sooner like a day or two after Malaysia.
    Now the only thing I want to hear is ” I will give the best I can every race” no more telling us the problems, there starting to sound like excuses and if uses them too much he will belive in his bad luck.
    Healthy I think his style may suite the duc.