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 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.

Thursday Summary at Assen: It’s Not As Close As It Looks

06/29/2012 @ 3:30 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Thursday Summary at Assen: Its Not As Close As It Looks Ben Spies Assen MotoGP Yamaha 635x422

The times were close after the first day of practice, closer than they have been for a very long time. Just 0.471 seconds separates the top 11 MotoGP prototypes (Karel Abraham is barely fit enough to ride, after breaking fingers in his left hand, and is way off the pace), with Ben Spies leading Cal Crutchlow by just 0.006, just a tenth separating Nicky Hayden in 3rd from Dani Pedrosa in 6th, and less than a tenth between Andrea Dovizioso in 7th and Stefan Bradl in 11th. It has all the makings of a great race, right?

Not according to Cal Crutchlow. “Lorenzo will run away with it,” the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man opined. Everyone except for Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa had set their fastest time on the soft tire, Crutchlow explained. Lorenzo’s best time, a 1’35.057, was set in the middle of a run with a used hard tire, his race rhythm in the 1’35.0 while everyone else was running 1’35.3. Lorenzo was looking very smooth on the bike, team manager Wilco Zeelenberg saying he was pretty pleased with the bike and the way the first day had gone.

Lorenzo himself did not get much time to talk about how the day went, spending his time with the press fielding questions about the split with his manager Marcos Hirsch, the man who started out as his personal trainer before taking over from Dani Amatriain as his business manager. The split was amicable, as he was at pains to point out, but it was because Lorenzo felt it was time to take the next step in his career, working on sponsors both on track and off track.

His new manager, Albert Valera, would be at the track more often and would work more on sponsorship, the main priority now that Lorenzo’s contract extension with Yamaha had been tied up. Rumors had appeared in the Spanish media that the split had come about because Hirsch had not discussed the final offer from HRC with Lorenzo, but the Majorcan was adamant that there was no truth in this rumor. Lorenzo had known all of the details of all of the deals, and made a fully-informed choice to stay with Yamaha.

While the Yamaha men were happy – Ben Spies affirmed that though being top was nice, what was more important was that he was happy with the bike – the mood at Honda and Ducati was different. Upbeat but concerned perhaps best summarizes the situation at Ducati. The four tenths that separated him from Spies was Valentino Rossi’s best dry result on the Ducati, the gap to the front very much closed. Nicky Hayden had looked even better, leading the session at one point, before finishing in 3rd, a tenth down on Spies. They can do five or six fast laps, both factory Ducati men told the media, the problem comes after that. Maintaining that pace beyond that point was virtually impossible, though.

The problem is the tires: the Ducati’s aggressive power delivery uses them up too quickly, and the lap times drop off far too much after that. Nicky Hayden’s race at Silverstone was a prime example: the American was running hard in the early laps, but once his tire was gone, his only option was to go into damage limitation mode and salvage what he could. The good news for Ducati is that the updated electronics package they are using at Assen is helping, providing “a better connection on the bottom end” as Nicky Hayden put it.

The relationship between throttle and rear tire is improved, some of the aggressiveness gone. More was needed, especially more mechanical grip, Valentino Rossi explained, and geometry changes might help with that. Though the power delivery was improving, the understeer remained, however. “Understeer remains in the character of this bike,” Rossi said.

At Honda, there were far from happy faces. The Repsol Honda riders have a new chassis, but that had done little to help. Casey Stoner told the press that the new chassis had felt a little better in the morning, but worse again in the afternoon. Dani Pedrosa’s experience was much the same, saying that he couldn’t feel much difference between the two. They had both concentrated on the standard chassis in the afternoon, explaining in part why Stoner had spent so much time in the pits, effectively working with one bike, as the other had the new chassis that was causing so many problems.

The problem was the tires, and Stoner once again launched into an attack on Bridgestone, expressing his unhappiness with the way the new front tire was introduced. He also pointed out – with a little prompting from a veteran journalist – that the performance of the 2012 tires was much worse than the previous generation of tires, offering that as an explanation for the fact that the 1000cc bikes were not really any faster than the 800s had been. Valentino Rossi defended the new tires, however, telling the press that the drop in performance was the price that had to be paid for the massively increased safety of the new tires. The early morning highside is a thing of the past, and the price for that is greater performance drop off.

Stoner was also asked about why the satellite riders don’t get chatter on their bikes, and whether the fact that Alvaro Bautista was using Showa suspension rather than Ohlins could have anything to do with that. The Australian replied that the satellite bikes do actually have chatter – he had spoken to Honda technicians who could see it very clearly in the data – but that the satellite riders apparently cannot feel it. Perhaps they were not sensitive enough to detect it, Stoner suggested, while he and Pedrosa are.

After the news that Cal Crutchlow had been offered a two-year big money deal with Ducati, Nicky Hayden was asked about his situation at Ducati. With Crutchlow holding an offer and Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio having made his intent to keep Rossi at Ducati perfectly clear, there may not be room for Hayden at the Ducati inn.

Hayden joked most of the speculation off, saying that he had offers, but that he wanted to stay in MotoGP, hinting, perhaps, that those offers had come from WSBK. Ducati had an option to keep Hayden, but that ran out at the end of the month, the Kentuckian said. Though talks with Ducati had been positive, they were telling Hayden that their hands were tied until the deal with Audi was finalized.

Hayden himself was keen to stay. The bike had to come good some time soon, he was certain, as the people at Ducati were working too hard for it not to. After several hard years at Ducati, Hayden said he would find it frustrating not to be there when the bike finally started winning races. The American was also asked about who was representing him, and he said that he was doing most of it himself nowadays, adding that he was making a lot more money since he starting managing himself. Getting rid of his managers had been a smart move, he said: “So much bulls**t comes with those guys,” he quipped.

Given that Hayden has often been the fastest Ducati rider, there is no question he deserves to stay, if not at Ducati, then at least on a competitive MotoGP bike. The problem is, there are ever fewer of those available, and right now, the talent pool is pretty deep.

Photo: Yamaha Racing

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

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