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.

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.

Sunday Summary at Laguna Seca: Contrasting Styles, Racing Softs, & A Decision is Nigh

07/30/2012 @ 5:04 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Laguna Seca: Contrasting Styles, Racing Softs, & A Decision is Nigh Laguna Seca MotoGP US GP 2012 Scott Jones 141

Laguna Seca has a habit of throwing the Championship a curveball. The epic race between Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi in 2008 was a prime example, a turning point in the Championship when Rossi halted what looked like the inexorable rise of Casey Stoner. Last year, too, Laguna proved to be key moment in the Championship, when Stoner stopped Jorge Lorenzo’s resurgence with one of the bravest passes in racing for a long time, through the ultra-fast Turn 1. With Laguna Seca the last race going into the summer break, winning or losing at the US GP can have a dramatic effect on the momentum of the Championship.

Whether the same will be said of Laguna Seca in 2012 will only be clear at the end of the season. But it has all the signs of being a significant moment, for more than just the five points Casey Stoner clawed back from Jorge Lorenzo. The race, if not thrilling, was at least tense: there was little between the two men for most of the race, Stoner shadowing Lorenzo closely, snapping at his heels but not quite able to attempt a pass. The turning point came on lap 18. As the leading pair plunged down the Corkscrew, Lorenzo’s sliding rear tire almost threw him out of the saddle. “I closed my eyes during the highside,” the Yamaha man said afterwards, “and I was happy to still be in the seat when I opened them again.”

Like a wolf scenting weakness, Stoner knew his prey was ripe for the kill. It took him a little over three laps, but as they powered out of the final corner and onto the front straight, Stoner managed the drive better, Lorenzo hesitating slightly as he fought the Yamaha’s urge to wheelie along the the straight. Sliding through on the inside – a much easier pass than a year earlier, when Lorenzo had forced him to take the terrifying outside line through Turn 1 – Stoner was past, and pressed on to pull a gap. The winning margin, though not huge, was still very comfortable, large enough for Stoner to cruise across the line to seal victory.

The race had been one of tire management. Lorenzo, along with factory Yamaha teammate Ben Spies and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, had gone for the hard tire, the more conservative choice with the sun out and the temperatures starting to rise. But Stoner had not been able to make the hard rear tire work, struggling as they had for most of the season, and his crew took a gamble on the softer rear option. It paid off: though the Australian had to go easy on his tires in the middle of the race, to stop them from getting too much temperature in them, they gave him exactly what he needed to beat Lorenzo. While the hard tire was sliding more than expected, Stoner could exploit the extra grip he had to take the win.

The win was important to Stoner, but what he and his crew found at Laguna Seca could be even more significant. After being banned from racing the soft tire at Mugello, and fears that Bridgestone would prevent them from doing so again at Laguna, being able to race the softer of the two options opens up perspectives for the rest of the season. Now they have data for Bridgestone that shows the softer tire can be made to last without destroying itself, an issue which surfaced at Assen and has thrown Bridgestone into safety mode, the Japanese factory now being very conservative in all of its choices, issuing strong recommendations over tire choices and counseling teams to run with a little more pressure than they would like in order to keep temperatures down. If allowed a little leeway, the Stoner and his crew could be much more competitive for the rest of the season.

That still leaves him with Jorge Lorenzo to beat. The gap from Lorenzo to Stoner is 32 points, an easily achievable target with eight more races to go. But it will be very far from easy: a bad day at the office – an ordinary bad day, not one where he is being skittled into the gravel by another rider, that is – for Jorge Lorenzo merely means he finishes second rather than first. Lorenzo’s results this year have been intimidating – 1 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 1 – 1 – DNF – 2 – 1 – 2 – and the Spaniard has never really looked like he was trying. The change to the capacity has brought the performance of the Yamaha much closer to the Honda, meaning that Lorenzo is no longer having to ride at the very limit every lap just to try to match Stoner. If Lorenzo was having to use the Hammer too much in 2011, this year, it’s all about the Butter.

Watching the two men circulate provides a stunning contrast, and is a thing of beauty to behold. Lorenzo, at his most ‘Mantequilla’ is smooth as butter on a summer’s day. He never looks like he is trying, riding more like he was being scored for style than racing a motorcycle at the outer limits of its performance envelope. Stoner, on the other hand, punishes the Honda RC213V beneath him as if he had been taking lessons from Torquemada. His style is wild, ragged, throwing the bike around and letting it squirm and wriggle like a captured eel. Lorenzo rounds the corners with the grand sweeping gestures of a medieval nobleman, while Stoner flings the bike into the corner, squares it off, and squirts it out like a Victorian pugilist, doing it what it takes to beat the corner into submission. Though there may not be passing on every lap, yet there is great aesthetic appeal in watching the two best motorcycle racers of the moment slug it out.

While everything is going perfectly for Jorge Lorenzo, the same cannot be said for Ben Spies. A mechanical failure could be said to vindicate Spies’ earlier announcement that he would be leaving Yamaha, a collapsed swingarm leaving the Texan in the gravel. The official explanation was “a technical failure of the swingarm” – a phrase Spies needed prompting from Yamaha’s press officer for – though no real details were revealed.

The swingarm itself looked to be in one piece, with the failure clearly related to the shock support structure. Whether the failure was due to a bolt breaking, a linkage failing or snapping or a mount shearing, we are unlikely to find out. But what is clear is that Spies’ run of bad luck is apparently endless. Two mechanical failures in a season – a cracked subframe at Qatar, and now a swingarm failure at Laguna Seca – is not acceptable at this level. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to have one mechanical failure in a season may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two….

Spies was not the only rider to suffer misfortune, Valentino Rossi crashed out late in the race. The Italian locked the front under braking for the Corkscrew, throwing his Ducati Desmosedici into the air fence. The problem Rossi has is much the same as it has always been, getting temperature into the front tire, and providing feeling and feedback from the front end. The front tire was “like new” after the crash, 30 laps in to a 32 lap race. It was an ignominious end to a difficult weekend for the Italian, and does not bode well for his future at Ducati.

The Italian had a meeting with Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio at Laguna Seca, where he was presented with an offer for next season. The offer – Rossi strongly denied the rumored 17 million euro salary level, saying that it was less than the last two seasons, a reduction he said was justified by the results he has scored on the Ducati – was less important than the conditions of the deal, and the promise of improvements from the Bologna factory. Spanish magazine Solo Moto is reporting that Masao Furusawa had meetings at Borgo Panigale, suggesting that Ducati is doing everything in their power to keep the Italian.

Rossi was asked many times this weekend about what he will do, and each time he replied that he will go away for a holiday to think about what he wants to do. The choice is clear: to be immediately competitive on a Yamaha or to continue on his quest to win a title on a Ducati. The Yamaha will give him a shot at Agostini’s record of wins in all classes; the Ducati offers him the opportunity to write history of his own, and be the first man to conquer a title in the premier class on three different makes of motorcycle.

The temptation of that challenge is great – Rossi emphasized it again and again, especially to the Italian press – but he needs Ducati to start making progress, which they simply haven’t shown so far. He does not have too much longer in the class, two to three years at most, and he may not be able to hold out until the influence of new owners Audi starts to trickle through to Ducati Corse.

What will Rossi do? I really do not know, though most paddock insiders are convinced he will make a return to Yamaha – whatever the conditions imposed upon him. As far as I can tell – harder than usual, sitting in my home instead of at trackside in Laguna – I don’t think Rossi has made his mind up yet, and his decision will depend on the time of day you ask him. Another week, and he will have made a decision; a couple of weeks more, and that decision will be public. Whatever his decision, the title of his autobiography is as relevant as ever: What if he had never had tried it?

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. Ed Gray says:

    Did anyone manage to get a picture of the broken swingarm? My guess would be that it broke at the linkage mount just thinking about force concentration and the fact that it appeared to fail at max compression of the suspension.

  2. MP says:

    When i was watching qualifying (Thanks SPeed for finally showing it!!!) I noticed in the beginning of the session that Spies high-sided in, he had oil blowing out of the right vent of his fairing. I think the oil blew out of it and onto the tire. Really bad mechanical luck for a home race.

  3. frod04 says:

    jesus fellas, I’m a Spies fan but what is next? a broken front fork? a tank linkage? a flat tired? or sushi meal?

  4. anti says:

    Great piece.

    I agree, even when battling for position is scarce, it’s always awe inspiring to watch Stoner or Lorenzo cutting laps at full race pace. They are both stunning pilots to watch with these machines right now.

  5. JoeD says:

    Whoa! Stop the Presses! Speed Channel showed something other than Hillbilly Truck Racing or Hey Bubba, Watch This…

  6. MikeD says:

    I think Rossi should stay with Ducati. There’s only one direction to go from there, and that’s up. If he switches to Yamaha, all expectations suggest he’ll have a good shot a the title. But what if he encounters the same misfortunes that are hitting Spies, w/ Lorenzo being the favored rider? What if he can’t keep pace? I think the pressure would be much greater with a switch to Yamaha, while the reward of staying with Ducati and turning it into a winning machine would rewrite history.

  7. Assen and Mugello have much longer straights and top speeds than Laguna Seca so the info. gained from this past weekend would be best applied to only Brno since the rest of the schedule has top speeds much higher than Laguna Seca.

    @MikeD – I agree. Imagine the pressure of not doing as well as expected on a Yamaha while at the same time someone else does finish well on the Ducati (even if it is sorted out by then).

    @Dave Emmett – Rossi’s decision to race Ducati is great for the sport. Although he had impressive wins on an inferior Yamaha during its development, the same can’t be said yet of the Ducati. So, the last 2 years highlight another very important (yet sorely underrated) topic to admire about various racers and their riding abilities….

    who can make the worst bike finish the best?

  8. Gritboy says:

    At JoeD: Speed always shows the MotoGP and Moto 2 & 3 races. I was surprised they showed the qualifying though. :D

  9. RT Moto says:

    Speed only shows qualifying for the races here in the states unfortunately. The commentating still sucks. I would much rather have the world feed than their crappy announcers calling the race.

    I had thought about just that a very long time @MikeD. I think while VR was at Yamaha his input made the bike to his liking which Lorenzo very much liked and helped him grow. If he goes back to Yamaha that bike might have evolved into something beyond what he is comfortable with. It’s just a maybe though. If he stays with Ducati the payout would be greater but he would continue to suffer until they figure the bike out. There is still half a season left so we will see how development evolves on the red machine.

  10. arkangel says:

    what a great article.

    I missed the race (broadcast only at midnight in South Africa) but sure got the vibe and energy from your prose.

    thanks