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.

Where Will Rossi End Up Racing in 2013 and Beyond?

07/23/2012 @ 5:31 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

Where Will Rossi End Up Racing in 2013 and Beyond? Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Thursday Jules Cisek 171 635x423

It has been an intense week or so for speculation about the next and biggest cog in MotoGP’s Silly Season merry-go-round. The question of Valentino Rossi’s future has filled the media, with multiple, and sometimes conflicting, stories appearing in the international press. So, that Rossi should dominate the headlines is logical.

After all, with Casey Stoner retiring, and the futures of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all settled, Rossi’s decision will determine not just where he lands, but also to a massive degree it will determine who will fill the rest of the seats in MotoGP next year.

Rossi’s choice is fairly straightforward: he can elect to stay at Ducati and hope that Filippo Preziosi can soon provide him with a competitive bike; he can take up the offer he is believed to have from Yamaha to join the factory team; or he can accept a ride with a satellite Honda team aboard a full-factory RC213V.

During his daily briefing with the press at each race weekend, Rossi has suggested that his primary focus is to stay with Ducati and make the Desmosedici competitive. Yet all of the news stories in the past 10 days have been suggesting that Rossi is close to signing a deal with Yamaha, with the sponsors backing the deal varying depending on the source.

So what is the truth? Just where will Valentino Rossi end up next season? Is it possible to make any sense of the rumors and conjecture that surround the future of the nine-times World Champion? Let us examine each possibility, and see what we can piece together.

First, the offer of a factory Honda in a satellite team. There is no doubt that HRC Vice President made the offer to Rossi, but there is good reason to expect that it is an offer which the Italian will decline. His reasons would be very much the same as those given by Cal Crutchlow, who is still waiting for the paperwork to materialize on the offer he has to join the factory Ducati squad. It is impossible to win a title on a satellite bike, as the factory simply won’t let you.

Repsol is reported to pay HRC between 5 and 10 million euros a year to sponsor the factory Honda team, money which the Spanish oil giant may regard as wasted if they were to be beaten by another Honda team. Even though the bike Rossi would be offered would be to the highest factory-spec machine, it is the HRC electronics specialist who comes with the bike who has the final say over engine revs and power delivery.

Much of the recent news regarding Rossi’s future has linked the Italian to a move back to Yamaha, the factory he left behind when he embarked on the adventure with Ducati. Though it is widely accepted that this is the most realistic opportunity for the Italian, these reports raise more questions than they do answers.

The longest and most comprehensive news story on Rossi’s future was on the Spanish website Motocuatro.com. That site reported that various meetings had been held at Mugello involving Rossi, Marlboro representative Maurizio Arrivabene, and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. The reported outcome of those meetings was that Rossi convinced Arrivabene of his concerns over the ability of Ducati Corse to build a competitive MotoGP bike, and that Ezpeleta had persuaded Arrivabene that Philip Morris (owner of the Marlboro brand) should fund Rossi’s move to Yamaha.

Without a sponsor, Yamaha would simply not be able to afford the Italian, not just because of his salary demands, but also because of his entourage. Rossi would undoubtedly want to bring his crew back with him, but though the salary demands of Jeremy Burgess, Alex Briggs, Brent Stephens et al are in line with market expectations, the cost of flying them to and from the races from their home bases in the Antipodes is much higher than for the Europe-based mechanics on, say, Jorge Lorenzo’s side of the garage.

If Carmelo Ezpeleta has tried to persuade Philip Morris to sponsor Rossi at Yamaha, the Dorna boss would be taking a massive risk. Without the money provided by Marlboro’s deep pockets, Ducati simply cannot afford to go racing in MotoGP. Even now that the company has been taken over by Audi, the loss of both Marlboro and Valentino Rossi would probably make the return on investment of MotoGP look highly unfavorable for Ducati.

With Suzuki and Kawasaki already having left, and a return to MotoGP by Suzuki and BMW at the earliest by 2014, Ezpeleta simply cannot afford to risk losing Ducati. A series with two factories and eight factory prototypes would look very thin indeed, and risk losing even more talent to World Superbikes. That is a risk Ezpeleta will not countenance.

Motocuatro suggests that Ezpeleta’s tactic is to try to persuade Marlboro to back both the factory Yamaha team and the factory Ducati squad, to allow Rossi to switch to Yamaha while still keeping Ducati in the series. Yet this itself would be difficult, mainly because of the obstacles faced by accepting any form of new tobacco sponsorship in MotoGP without falling foul of the ban on tobacco advertising in place throughout large parts of the world, but especially in MotoGP’s target markets in the EU, Italy and Spain.

Motorsports are a high-profile target for the EU regulators, and Ducati has already massively scaled back on the prominence which Philip Morris and the Marlboro brand is given in their public statements. Where in 2010, Ducati’s factory squad was officially named the Ducati Marlboro team, since last year they have been known solely as Ducati Team. The visual allusions to Marlboro – the bar code on the livery, and the mixture of red and white – have been made less obvious every year, in the hope of deflecting accusations from EU regulators.

If Ducati are already facing such massive challenges, how hard would it be for Yamaha to create a livery linking their brand to Marlboro without falling foul of the ban on tobacco advertising? Though Yamaha’s traditional corporate colors are white and red, to suddenly drop the blue they have been carrying for many years now would immediately get the attention of the regulators. The added value of Ducati is that their own colors are so close, and still so closely linked to Marlboro that no direct association is needed any more: ask any MotoGP fan who sponsors Ducati, and 99% of them will answer ‘Marlboro’.

At Yamaha, that link would need to be recreated – Marlboro backed the factory Yamaha team through much of the ’80s and ’90s – something that the EU regulators would almost certainly put an immediate stop to. Philip Morris is stuck with Ducati, as the legal complications of a switch elsewhere are simply too great to overcome.

The other brand being linked to a Rossi move to Yamaha is Monster, a much more realistic option. Monster is already a personal sponsor for the Italian, and expanding their backing to include the Yamaha team is not beyond the realms of possibility. Yet even the stories linking Monster and Rossi to Yamaha give reason to doubt them. The report in the Italian daily Il Messaggero, where this story surfaced, states two curious things as fact.

The first is that Monster was recently taken over by Coca Cola, a statement that thirty seconds of fact checking will reveal to be completely false. Though Coca Cola and Monster have a distribution agreement, Monster Beverage Corporation is an independent company traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Such an error does not inspire much confidence in the story, especially when added to the second part of the story.

Il Messaggero writes that the decision not to extend Ben Spies’ contract is to be announced at Laguna Seca. Though it is entirely possible that Yamaha may decide not to extend Spies’ contract, that it would be announced at Laguna Seca would be a form of PR suicide. Laguna Seca is one of the biggest events of the year for Yamaha, because of the pivotal role which Yamaha USA plays in the Japanese company’s sales and marketing plans. Dumping an American rider at their biggest American event would be a faux pas of epic proportions. If Spies were to be dropped, it is unlikely that a statement would be issued at all. Instead, what would be announced is the signing of the rider to replace Spies, if he were to be replaced.

The noise coming out of the Spies camp suggests that he is close to extending his contract with Yamaha, however. Yesterday, on his Twitter page, Ben Spies first made a couple of jokes at the expense of internet sites reporting on his future, suggesting a change in his situation was imminent. He then followed it up with a statementthat he was just “being dramatic” the same way that the media has been, and suggesting that he is likely to end up back in Yamaha, “where we’re meant to be.” With Yamaha USA providing strong financial backing for Spies, dropping the American would have a significant effect on the Factory Yamaha team’s already strained budget.

In short, though Yamaha is certainly an option for Valentino Rossi, he would only be welcome if he could bring a sponsor capable of paying both his salary and the extra expenses he incurs along the way. No doubt he would be able to attract such a sponsor, but the candidates being bandied about in the media seem unlikely at best. And looking at the situation from Yamaha’s point of view, they have no real need to hire Rossi unless he did bring a substantial sponsorship sum with him.

With Casey Stoner leaving, Jorge Lorenzo will be the hot favorite to win the next few MotoGP championships. Though Dani Pedrosa has won races with some regularity, somehow circumstances always seem to conspire against him mounting a serious challenge for the title. Marc Marquez will have a lot to learn in his first year, and will not pose a real threat until 2014 at the earliest. And as long as the Ducati remains uncompetitive, Yamaha face no real challenge from Valentino Rossi either.

There are good reasons for Yamaha to sign Valentino Rossi – not least because he should be able to challenge for wins once he climbs back on board a Yamaha – but there are at least as many reasons for them not to sign the Italian. Yamaha don’t need Valentino Rossi to win title, as they already have Jorge Lorenzo.

That leaves Ducati. After meetings with very senior Audi staff at both the Sachsenring and Mugello, Rossi was optimistic when talking to the press. At Mugello, he spoke of the positive effects he expected from Audi’s involvement, but he added a very important proviso. “I have to trust that with the help of Audi we can fix the problem of the bike,” Rossi said. “But it’s just a bet. I don’t have any insurance about the future and whether we will be able to fix the bike, because in one and a half years, we have not been able to.”

That, in a nutshell, is Rossi’s dilemma. His reputation of being able to ride around problems and still win on an inferior bike has already been damaged irreparably by his tribulations at Ducati. Seeing Casey Stoner win on the Ducati gave Rossi and his crew the impression that it was already a competitive bike. It took him just a few laps at Valencia to realize just how wrong they had been, and how much of Ducati’s success had been down to the ability of Casey Stoner – something which Alex Barros told Ducati way back in 2007.

If Rossi walks away from Ducati, then another part of his legend – of being able to develop a bike, and turn an uncompetitive machine into a winner – will also fall by the wayside, deservedly or undeservedly. Rossi is facing the same problems that prompted Casey Stoner to leave the Italian factory, a resistance to make the changes necessary to keep the bike competitive, as witnessed in a fascinating piece very recently by Mat Oxley over on the website of Motorsport Magazine. Yet if he leaves Ducati, history will not record the reasons for his failure, merely that he tried at Ducati and failed.

Rossi’s hope is that Audi can exert sufficient pressure on Ducati to make the changes necessary – both organizational and mechanical – to turn the bike into something which Rossi is able to fight for wins on. Some progress is already visible: part of the rideability improvement package tested at Mugello was a revised weight distribution, while changes to the inlet system – either new injectors, or possibly the addition of secondary injectors to the inlet tract, Ducati currently the only factory using a single set of injectors – should improve throttle response. Just how much of that package will be available at Laguna Seca remains to be seen, though the original plan was to have most of the parts ready to be used in the US. Rossi has consistently told the press that he will only make a decision over the summer, before making an official announcement at Brno. Signs of progress – and signs of support from Audi – will be a key part of that decision.

The million dollar question is, of course, just what Valentino Rossi will do. Will he jump ship to Yamaha, with the backing of a big-money sponsor, in an attempt to get back to his winning ways, or will he stick it out with Ducati, and hope that help from Audi will turn that project around and allow him to secure an unrivaled place in history, as the only rider to win races – and perhaps even championships – with three different manufacturers in MotoGP. It is a test of Rossi’s patience, and of his optimism. It pits his desire to win – which still burns feverishly within him, visible for all to see whenever it rains – against his sense of his place in motorcycle racing history.

And the answer to the million dollar question? I honestly have no idea. I have heard and read so many conflicting reports on Rossi’s future that I am not sure what to think. What is clear is that there are leaks emanating from within Rossi’s circle, though just how reliable those leaks are – is the public being softened up for an imminent switch to Yamaha, or are the leaks aimed at putting pressure on Ducati and Audi by suggesting that Rossi is prepared to leave at any moment? – remains to be seen.

The most curious thing about the Rossi/Yamaha rumors is the deafening silence emanating from the Italian racing media. The sources I trust most, those closest to Rossi and his entourage, have remained quiet on his future. Prior to news breaking of Rossi’s move to Ducati, there were stories leaking out in the Italian media that Rossi was ready to make the jump. So far, there has been little or nothing on an imminent move to Yamaha in the Italian motorcycle racing press. That, in itself, is reason enough to doubt that any decision has been made — yet.

If you really want to know where Valentino Rossi will be racing in 2013, there is only one thing you can do. Along with the rest of the motorcycling media – with the exception of one or two outlets, who will be granted early access to the news – you will have to wait.

Photo: © 2012 Jules Cisek / Popmonkey – All Rights Reserved

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

Comment:

  1. Sixty7 says:

    To be honest I couldn’t care less…..there’s other riders out there just as important…..he chose to go the ducati….so deal with it….

  2. tonestar says:

    this is all so absurd! highlighted by the fact that the racing itself has become so freakin boring- the moto3 race was way more fun to watch! all hail world superbikes!

  3. AC says:

    Mugello was pretty darn entertaining, especially in the final laps. But yeah, WSBK is consistently more entertaining, race after race.

    I think Rossi will stay with Ducati. Switching to another team just makes him look bad and he’ll have to redevelop a bike there.

    He wants a guaranteed winner but there’s no such thing. He spent so much time winning easily that he needs to remember what it’s like to work your way up.

  4. Stevenk27 says:

    I think Audi has bought Ducati to challenge BMW in the WSBK.
    It is the series that sells bikes on the Monday owing to how close they look to the commercially avialable bikes.
    IMO it is only a matter of time before they bin the Ducati MotoGP project as it is not financially viable.

    Too much fuss is being made over Rossi, that bike has owned him for almost 2 years now and has only proven what an immense talent Casey Stoner really is. Besides Hayden has been the star performer at Ducati for the last 2 seasons and yet they build the bike around somebody elses requests. Absurd!!!

  5. New Zealand Dan says:

    Statistically, over the last 2 years there’s nothing to prove that Hayden is the better performer. He goes out every now and again on a soft tire, bangs out a hot lap and it looks fantastic. But it doesn’t come easy and it’s not something he can do for 20+ laps.

    Hurts to say, because I do like Nicky, there is no doubting his ability or work ethic. He is the man.

    Still there’s still half a season to go. It’s anyone’s guess

  6. froryde says:

    Whether you like to admit it or not, MotoGP – AS A BUSINESS – still revolves around Rossi…

  7. Damo says:

    I am actually more interested in where Nicky ends up.

  8. Jordan says:

    Spies apparently just announced that he is leaving Yamaha at the end of the season.

    http://www.superbikeplanet.com/2012/Jul/120724spiesnoy.htm

  9. John says:

    This development seems to open the door slightly wider for a return to Yamaha by Rossi. That being said, I am looking for Dovi to occupy the now vacant 2nd Yamaha factory seat.

  10. tonestar says:

    last post! it’s obvious that nobody can ride the motogp ducati. rossi has said that he wants to end his racing career w/ ducati, so let’s do that…shut down the whole gp program and…

    let vale do anything he wants for 2013, on a ducati. imagine it- pikes peak, wsbk rounds in italy, isle of man/manx tt/macau, satellite team wildcards as he would like, even do the 24hrs lemans w/ audi, his new boss.

    of course he doesn’t need the $, and we don’t need more tobacco dollars in the premier class. let the silly bugger have some fun for his final season, and ducati fans worldwide would have a ball watching him.

    ps ducati- while i’m dreaming, could you bring back the aircooled ss w/ the 1100 monster engine please?

  11. jimmy smith JR says:

    Ok here is a completely original idea. Its just crazy enough to work. Rossi has a problem with his current bike a descendant of the frameless GP Ducs and team leader Filippo Preziosi and Ducati has money woes. Enter Audi. They tell Ducati, cost is no object, we want a winning bike ridden by Rossi ASAP. But we still have that problem with Filippo Preziosi being vested and having job as a team leader.

    Heres the solution move Filippo Preziosi and his team to WSBK next year to champion the frameless Panigale, built based on his team’s work in GP, with Ben Spies at the helm. Allow Rossi to pick his team and continue to develop the Ducati GP13.

    Everybody’s happy!

  12. Andrey says:

    Good article Jensen but it is easy to get absorbed by all the conjecture; remember, it is all just fluff and filler until he decides to do something and make an announcement. Last sentence sums it up… let’s wait and see.

  13. Jo says:

    Enter WSBK Rossi. He’s a big fan of WSBK, has been to many WSBK events, would love to see him enter.

  14. Ryan says:

    I kind of think @jimmy smith JR is on to something…

  15. Cam says:

    i think its all just HYPE to try and get rossi’s name back into the limelight that it hasn’t seen since he was on a yamaha, whether he sticks with ducati or goes to yamaha, he’s still gonna find it hard to win against the younger guys riding the factory bikes who are so dam quick and not frightened by him anymore, i think that Lorenzo will have very little challenge in 2013, but it’d be great to see Pedrossa really get a good season, if rossi leaves Ducati it will just highlight Casey Stoners immense talent even more, but in a way i’m glad to see that Pedrossa is beating Stoner in a few races this year, hopefully we see a great finish to the season, see u all at Phillip Island…