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.

Sunday Summary at Silverstone: Of a British Hero, Tire Problems, and a Troubled Marriage

06/18/2012 @ 3:00 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Silverstone: Of a British Hero, Tire Problems, and a Troubled Marriage Rossi Bradl1

For the past few years, attending a MotoGP round has been a disheartening experience for most British fans. After sitting in traffic for several hours, they then faced a day of getting soaked to the skin while watching their local heroes – if any were actually on the grid – circulating around at the rear of the pack. At the end of the day, they faced yet more hours sitting in a chaos of traffic chaos, with usually another downpour of rain, just to get home again. They loved it, of course, but it tested their courage.

2012 would be different. The miserable weather magically disappeared for race day – it was far from perfect, but it remained largely dry – Scott Redding got on the podium in Moto2, and Cal Crutchlow put on a heroic and brilliant performance in MotoGP. It might be fair to question the wisdom of Crutchlow’s decision to lie about his foot not being broken and race anyway, but there is no question about his bravery or pain threshold, nor, after starting at the back of the grid and slicing through the field to finish 6th, matching the pace of race winner Jorge Lorenzo, about his ability. The British fans have a hero again. More than one, in fact.

It started well with the Moto2 race, the first laps enlivened by an intense battle between Scott Redding and Bradley Smith. There is no love lost between the two young Brits, adding a fierceness to the battle for the front. Redding came out on top, but he could not do much about Pol Espargaro, the HP Pons rider dominating at Silverstone all weekend. A win may have been just beyond his reach, but Redding would not be denied the second spot on the podium, holding off a fierce challenge from Marc Marquez at the end of the race. Where Espargaro’s performance was imperious, Redding’s was deeply impressive, showing resolve, grit, intelligence and a big dollop of talent to keep Marquez behind him. If Redding could put in this kind of race on a more consistent basis, he could seriously challenge for the Championship.

The man Redding beat to the line was at the center of a lot of speculation over the weekend. On Sunday, it became clear that the Rookie Rule is to be dropped for next season, allowing Marquez to go straight into the Repsol Honda team in 2013. That Honda should want him there is no surprise, but after a strong start to the season, Marquez’ momentum is just starting to flag. The Spaniard will likely be signed at the Repsol Honda team within the next few weeks, but with Espargaro growing stronger every weekend, those who had penciled Marquez’ name in for the 2012 Moto2 championship are reaching for their erasers. It is entirely possible that Marquez could find himself going to MotoGP without having won a Moto2 title. That is not necessarily a disadvantage – Casey Stoner did not win a single championship in the support classes, and that did not slow him up in MotoGP – but it will certainly take some of the shine off Marquez’ silver spoon.

In MotoGP, we had a serious and interesting race, for a whole host of reasons. The track, the weather, the lack of setup time, all of these conspired to make the MotoGP race pretty entertaining, almost to the end. Silverstone’s fast and flowing nature allows passes to be made, but more importantly, it offers the rider being passed an opportunity to strike back immediately. This was demonstrated vividly by Casey Stoner, who swapped the lead with Jorge Lorenzo for the better part of half a lap, despite Lorenzo being half a second quicker than him at that point.

Lorenzo is having ‘a perfect season’ in his own words, and Silverstone was just another example of this. A difficult start on Friday, some bad luck during qualifying on Saturday, but on Sunday, Ramon Forcada gave Lorenzo just what he needed to win. The Yamaha is the better bike in 2012, though Lorenzo would be the first to deny that. “Just a few more km/h on the top, and it will be perfect,” Lorenzo said after the race. When riders are complaining about something as trivial as three or four kms of top speed, then you know the bike is good.

Lorenzo could perhaps come to regret those requests for more top end power. The 2012 season is about tires more than anything – even more than usual – and the bikes that can get the best from them. The switch to a softer construction has been a massive safety improvement, with the cold-tire highside on Friday morning firmly a thing of the past. But the softer construction also means that the tires are wearing more quickly and generating more chatter, for some at least.

Managing that is key, and this is what Yamaha have got so right this year. Winning a title requires a few things to come together: a smattering of luck, a bike which offers some kind of advantage to be exploited, a smart crew who can put a package together, and a massive dose of talent on the part of the rider. Lorenzo’s talent has never been in doubt, that 90% of the equation has not changed, but the small things are coming together to make Lorenzo’s season just that little bit easier.

The same thing happened to Casey Stoner in 2011, the coin falling in the Australian’s favor more often than not, as he acknowledged himself towards the end of the season. 2012 is not going quite so swimmingly for Stoner – when it all comes together, as it did at Estoril, he is absolutely unstoppable, but that has not happened as often as he would have liked. Tires have been the bane of the Honda this season, the bike chewing up the rear more often than it should. Engine braking appears to be part of the problem at the rear, while at the front, chassis stiffness is an issue. The factory Hondas have suffered with chatter, while the satellite bikes (which use an older iteration of the RC213V frame) have had no such problems.

At Silverstone, Stoner was hampered by more than just the usual tire wear, however. The Australian’s rear tire lost grip within a few laps, the left-hand side of the tire destroying itself far more quickly than it ought to have. Nor was Stoner the only rider to suffer: Ben Spies had a similar issue, losing grip within four laps and the left-hand side of the tire blistering severely, causing the Texan to drop back from the lead and finish 5th, 11 seconds off the pace of the winner, teammate Lorenzo.

There was clearly a quality control issue for Bridgestone at Silverstone, an extremely unusual occurrence in MotoGP. When asked how often he had had a bad tire from Bridgestone, Casey Stoner pondered a while, and replied “very rarely”. Simple statistics means it must happen from time to time, and then it is just a matter of chance who gets the bad tire. If one of the CRT machines had had a bad tire, we would never have heard of it, but it in this case it was the defending champion…

Though Honda may be having a few issues with the tires, they are minor compared to the situation at Ducati. The aggressive nature of the Ducati’s power delivery means that it rips up rear tires very quickly, as Nicky Hayden showed at Silverstone. After a strong start where the Kentuckian ran at the front with Spies, Stoner and Alvaro Bautista – the Spaniard had an outstanding weekend, and topped it off with a superb result – Hayden burned through his tire too fast, through no fault of his own, and switch to defensive mode, trying mainly to limit the damage.

The taste of running at the front had whetted Hayden’s appetite, and dropping back through the pack had not gone down well. The new engine to be tested at Mugello this week by Franco Battaini, and by the factory riders after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello is supposed to help in this regard, providing much better response to the first touch of the throttle and being less hard on tires.

It needs to be better if Valentino Rossi is to stay at Ducati. The Italian said that his only priority now was to have a competitive bike, and he hinted that this was the only issue standing between him and a new contract with Ducati. As an observer, it looked like Rossi’s patience is slowly starting to wear thin, after nearly 20 months of being pummeled into submission by a bike he has never been able to ride.

In the rain, when Rossi knows he can be competitive, the Italian looks like the old Rossi, the man who can work magic on motorcycle. In the dry, once the limitations of the Ducati meet the limitations of Rossi’s riding style – without a solid front end with good feedback, Rossi is a little lost – the old Rossi goes away again, to be replaced by the timid shadow of a man who circulates in mid-pack. Rossi himself admitted that he had nothing on his teammate at Silverstone – “The real Ducati was the one being ridden by Nicky Hayden,” he said – but his dejection was clearly visible.

The new engine could end up being decisive for Rossi’s future, though he himself said that it was not “the last chance” for Ducati to keep him. The performance of the new bike with the new engine will be important, he said, though assessing it will be difficult at a track with such a tight layout as Laguna Seca. The marriage between the two Italian icons may not yet be over, but the bed in the spare room is starting to get much more use than is healthy.

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. Sunday Summary at Silverstone: Of a British Hero, Tire Problems, and a Troubled Marriage – http://t.co/ihVMe40F #motorcycle

  2. Slangbuster says:

    Nice to see Nicky and Ben at the front again if only briefly and I must admit my frustration seeing them go backwards. A great race overall, but for me the man of the day had to be Crutchlow. Outstanding ride.

  3. New Zealand Dan says:

    Enjoyable read, last line cracked me up.

  4. Smilo says:

    This season will prove why Lorenzo is better than Stoner.
    It seems also that Motogp is becoming more like F1 in that tires and how the manufacturing can ensure their survival, more than anything are dictating the success or failure of the rider. What a shame that is. It seems like it is the tail wagging the dog.
    Fingers crossed for Rossi.

  5. Westward says:

    It’s hard to distinguish who is a better pilot than another in MotoGP, unless they are on the same bike. Stoner is clearly better than Pedrosa. Lorenzo maybe better than Spies. But until Stoner and Lorenzo are racing straddling the same machine, it will be hard to say who is better.

    In Moto2 it is a little easier to sort, everyone has the same engine and choice of tyres. The only real differences then becomes pilot, chassis, and crew…

    Of course a little bit of luck is necessary too.

    I read once that Jeremy Burgess said that racing was 80% pilot and 20% machine. I tend to believe him, though I would tweak that a bit, and say it’s 70% pilot, 20% machine, and 10% tyres…

    The best real comparison of talent between two riders was 2009 on the Yamaha Fiat squad. It would have been even more exciting if Rossi had not injured himself in 2010…

    The only situation that baffles me this season is the performance of Spies. There is every indication that he should be better than he is showing on race day. But if I had to hazard a guess, I would say the pilot is good, the bike is good, but the crew is questionable…

  6. BBQdog says:

    In the german press Rossi told that the only thing holding him to resign with Ducati is the PERFOMANCE of the engine, not the steering anymore.