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.

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Tire Conspiracies & Windy Tracks

06/17/2012 @ 1:33 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Tire Conspiracies & Windy Tracks Casey Stoner

The weather has been a cruel mistress at Silverstone this weekend, much as it has been every year MotoGP has paid a visit. The track is built around an airfield, and consequently sits on a plateau just enough above the surrounding area to catch any wind which may be about. On Saturday, that was a lot, with the wind blowing hard and gusting harder all day, catching many a rider out, especially on the way into Brooklands. The wind also blew in occasional showers, though it blew them back out again just as fast, a small blessing on an incredibly difficult day.

Despite the conditions, three men braved the wind to take pole in each class, to varying levels of surprise. That Maverick Vinales should take pole in Moto3 is much as expected, Silverstone being the Spaniard’s third pole position in a row. Though his advantage is relatively modest, there has been no one to mount a serious challenge to his supremacy all weekend, and if he gets a decent start he will be a very hard man to beat.

Pol Espargaro’s Moto2 pole is hardly unexpected – the Spaniard is one of the main candidates for the title this year, and is looking particularly fearsome at Silverstone this weekend – yet it is his first ever pole in the class. A front row regular this season, things have really come together with the Pons team and the Kalex chassis, the bike performing exceptionally well in the windy conditions. Mostly, though, Espargaro’s performance is down to the man himself: he has led every session at Silverstone so far, his advantage over his rivals increasing each time.

The big surprise came in MotoGP, Alvaro Bautista snatching his first ever pole in the premier class. Luck – and judgment – were certainly on Bautista’s side, the San Carlo Gresini man timing his first fast run just right, the first light showers appearing shortly after he claimed the spot atop the timesheets. Though the rain may have hampered his rivals – Casey Stoner, in particular, was confident he could have gone a lot faster than he had, his crew finding a big improvement just before the rain came down – Bautista’s time was of itself highly respectable, and came on top of strong performances throughout free practice.

The improvement, Bautista explained, was down to a major set up change the team had found, moving the weight further forward and modifying the Showa suspension (Gresini is the only team on the grid using Showa, the rest are all running with Öhlins), changing the front fork internals to improve response at the front. They had intended to test the changes at the test after Estoril, but conditions there caused that test to be canceled and they had to wait until Barcelona. The changes worked on Monday at Barcelona, so it seems reasonable to expect Bautista to be much closer to the front, perhaps battling it out with the Tech 3 Yamahas from now on. With a seat vacant at Repsol Honda, Bautista’s timing is impeccable.

Elsewhere on the grid, things are not looking half as cheerful. Cal Crutchlow’s run of poor luck at his home Grand Prix continues, the Englishman crashing heavily in the morning, badly banging his ankle up, though fortunately without breaking any bones. He was discharged from hospital and is set to ride on Sunday, an improvement over last year, at least, when he was forced to miss the race with a broken collarbone. When he starts, he will have to start from the back of the grid, so a podium is out of the question. His main aim is to ride in front of his home fans, whatever the wisdom of such a decision.

Crutchlow was not the only rider to crash. A spate of riders either went down or ran into the gravel, with two spots being the main culprit. The first was on the way into Turn 6, Brooklands, where gusting crosswinds made it very difficult to get corner entry right there. Even when you thought you were inch-perfect, the wind would either pick you up and force you wide, or let off and make you fall into the corner, Jorge Lorenzo explained, that spot catching the worst of the wind at Silverstone.

The other trouble spot caught out both factory Ducatis, causing first Valentino Rossi and later Nicky Hayden to crash heavily, causing extensive damage to their Desmosedicis. The fact that both crashes were identical had the conspiracy theorists out in droves, wondering whether it was an electronics problem, or a tire problem, or something even more complex. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was convinced it was the tires, pointing the finger of blame squarely at the new construction Bridgestone which both factory Hondas despise so thoroughly. “You can see how many front-end crashes there were today,” Pedrosa said, explaining that he believed the root cause of the crashes was because the tire was much less rigid, and the teams were being forced to run more air in it to provide the stability they had lost from moving to a softer construction.

Enquiries among other riders showed Pedrosa to be in a minority of one, however. Even Casey Stoner, while criticizing the new front Bridgestone and reiterating his exasperation at the way the tire was introduced, said that he didn’t think the new tire was the cause of the crashes. The Ducati riders themselves put it down to something completely different. Nicky Hayden acknowledged that his crash had been a combination of pushing that little bit harder – the American had been fastest in the first three sections of the track, before crashing on his way into Vale – and the particularly difficult nature of that stretch of the track. For Valentino Rossi – Vale also crashed at Vale, a small but wry irony – the problem was the Ducati’s continuing lack of front-end feel, combined with the bumps, dips and rises that for that section going into Vale.

According to both Rossi and Hayden, the main culprit was the nature of the track. Just as you start to brake there, both men explained, there was a slight dip followed by a rise, right at the point where you are making the first move to start tipping it in for the final chicane. What’s more, Andrea Dovizioso had weighed in earlier, that part of the track is very slightly off-camber, meaning that there is less of the tire on the ground than you think there is. The combination of the front unweighting as it crested the slight rise and heavy braking had been what had caused his crash, Valentino Rossi explained, the new tires having nothing to do with it. It was easy to crash there, Dovizioso had explained earlier, as it was impossible to brake fully for that corner because of the bumps.

It really is only the factory Hondas who have the problem with the new tires, as everyone else is either extremely positive about them, or at the very worst, mildly indifferent. Polesitter Alvaro Bautista preferred the new tire, as it gave him better feedback, he said. Valentino Rossi denied they were using more pressure in the front to provide more support in the tire, as Pedrosa had claimed that everyone was being forced to do. Only Pedrosa and Stoner were doing that, in an attempt to provide some of the stability they had lost when the old construction had been scrapped. Though it is perhaps strange to switch to the new Bridgestone tire after five races, the decision had been taken much earlier, back in March after the IRTA test at Jerez. Logistical and production problems meant that limited quantities of the tire were available until now, making it impossible to do the switchover before the season began.

The change may not have been particularly well organized or well handled, but to lay the blame entirely at the door of Dorna or Bridgestone is neither fair nor accurate. The vast majority of the riders prefer the new spec tire, and only the factory Hondas are suffering with chatter from it. Honda’s problems have more to do with Honda than with Bridgestone, the bike having chattered from the beginning, though the new tire has added more chatter to the front of the machine. Pedrosa and Stoner’s campaign to gain sympathy for the injustice of Honda’s situation keeps foundering on the fact that it really is just the factory Hondas that are suffering.

How that will affect the race remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the Yamahas should do well during tomorrow’s race. Casey Stoner is certain to be up among the front runners, while Jorge Lorenzo is much closer to the front than he was at the end of the first day. The big question mark is just how well Ben Spies can do, the Texan slowly regaining his confidence in the bike as his team moves back towards a setting that he feels comfortable with. Spies looks strong, certainly, but his problem has been making too many costly mistakes on race day. A mistake-free race is the aim, to get his season back on track.

The Ducatis appear to be heading in opposite directions, Nicky Hayden improving while Valentino Rossi continues to struggle with a lack of front-end feel. Rossi’s situation refuses steadfastly to improve, and one is forced to wonder just how long he can keep up his enthusiasm for a road so obviously bestrewn with major obstacles and setbacks. Very soon, the Italian will have to ask himself whether it is not time to give up on every being able to ride the Ducati. What he does then is the million dollar question, and one which more and more people are starting to ask.

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. ANdrey says:

    Scott
    Any chance we could get a download of the Stoner photo at the head of this article. Fantastic shot!. Will pay for a copy!. Let us know please. Thanks in advance!