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Best Laid Plans: Roger Hayden at the Indianapolis Grand Prix

December 6, 2010

American Honda wanted a taste of world championship racing in the ultra-competitive new Moto2 series. They got it in spades at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

Hayden leaving the pits for QP1 *Photo by J.Cecil

From its inception and through six full days of testing, the American Honda Moriwaki Moto2 wildcard project seemed to come together so smoothly, it was almost scary—as if things were going too well. The team was eager for a taste of the newest Grand Prix class, and with 1993 500cc GP World Champion Kevin Schwantz managing the effort, Erion Racing running the technical side, and 2007 AMA Supersport Champion Roger Hayden on a Moriwaki chassis similar to that of class points-leader Toni Elias, hopes for success were understandably high. Once the team hit the track at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, however, it took just a few minutes for the harsh and unpredictable reality of Moto2 racing to be made clear.

ALL-STAR LINEUP

Hayden with Kevin Schwantz and tech staff *Photo by J.Cecil

As soon as the first press release in May announced that American Honda would collaborate with Moriwaki to field a Moto2 wildcard entry at Indy, fans and pundits began pondering the possibilities, and interest only grew with news that American racing favorites Schwantz, Erion, and Hayden would be on the roster. As the race weekend gets underway, the scrutiny has become almost overwhelming.

“We didn’t think it would get this much media attention,” American Honda PR manager Bill Savino admits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway following a Friday Q&A session with fans, the Honda Powersports tent bathing his face in a red glow that matches his enthusiasm . People wearing Aldo Drudi-designed American Honda Moriwaki team gear mill about, and it’s unclear to an outsider which are actual team members and which are enthusiastic fans sporting the team gear that’s being sold to benefit Ride for Kids and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

“Obviously, we’re not road racing right now,” Savino adds, “so this is a perfect opportunity for us to get into [the Moto2 class], which we feel is superior to anything we have here [in America].”

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Law Enforcement: The red-headed step child of conservation

November 29, 2010

Eyes open for sturgeon poachers

Refered to alternately as game wardens, conservation officers, or — in a recent move to invoke more respect for officers — conservation police officers, members of the conservation law enforcement community are perhaps the most important link in the chain if any wildlife or natural resource legislation is to succeed. After all, the government could regulate that you tie your shoes with the left hand only, but unless there are boots on the ground ensuring that the public is following those regulations, people will continue doing what they’ve always done, be it poaching endangered species or tying their shoes all willy-nilly with whichever hand they want.

Game Wardens inspect a catch while searching for poachers

Conservation law enforcement officers work is the most dangerous of any law enforcement work, barring recent years in the US Border Patrol. More COs are assaulted, shot at, and killed in the line of duty than FBI agent, city police, state troopers, or US Marshals. This is in-part due to the nature of the work. COs often patrol in the wilderness, sometimes out of radio and cell-phone range, and typically hours away from backup in case of emergency. Suspects are often hunters and sportsmen, armed, sometimes under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and occasionally prior violators or felons. Despite officer’s best efforts to maintain control of the situation, sometimes a simple traffic stop or license -check can end in tragedy.

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Whispers of Moto3

November 22, 2010

Teaser image of the upcoming Honda NRS250 Moto3 bike *Courtesy Honda

By the time the official rules for the new Moto3 Grand Prix class (set to replace the 125cc class in 2012) were released in early November, there was already much rumor and speculation flying as to which manufacturers would take part, and to what extent. With regulations allowing more freedom of innovation within a given specification (a 250cc single-cylinder engine with an 81mm maximum bore  and a spec ECU, with RPMs limited at 14,000)  than that provided by Moto2, it’s likely that a number of makers will be interested.

Honda even released shadowy teaser images of what they call the Next Racing Standard (NRS) 250, then followed up in late October by revealing the CBR250R, a street-legal, single-cylinder sport bike. The CBR250R is no race machine, but its release – combined with the NRS250 teasers– indicate that Honda, at least, is taking this new class very seriously.

Ducati Exits World Superbike

November 15, 2010

Troy Bayliss in his usual position *Courtesy Xerox Ducati

Following a frustrating 2010 season in which the factory Ducati Xerox team scored only three race wins (compared with eleven in 2009), Ducati will not field a factory team in the World Superbike Championship for 2011 after twenty-two years of participation in the series. Instead, Ducati has stated they will focus on development of their next-generation 1200cc replacement for the current 1198 road- and race-bikes. However, a difficulty in achieving the desired level of parity between the twin-cylinder 1200cc Ducatis and their four-cylinder 1000cc competitors is rumored to have contributed to the decision, despite two reductions in Ducati’s required minimum weight during the 2010 season. Satellite teams such as Althea Ducati (which outperformed the factory squad in 2010 by virtue of Carlos Checa’s three race wins, five additional podiums, and third in the overall championship points) will continue to receive a strong level of support from the Italian manufacturer.

The Bologna-based team is the most successful squad in World SBK championship history, producing unforgettable champions like Doug Polen, Carl Fogerty, and Troy Corser on the way to winning the rider’s and constructor’s titles thirteen and sixteen times, respectively, in the series’ twenty-two years of existence.

Electric motorcycles (quietly)take off

October 21, 2010

Brammo Empulse

In the past few years there has been a huge surge (no pun intended) in the electric vehicle market, particularly of the two-wheeled variety. Many companies are coming out with street-legal, livable, and even downright sporty motorcycles that run on electricity. These e-motos, as they are often called, are no longer an oddity or an inconvenience, some of them can even produce performance and range numbers that approach those of internal combustion motorcycles. The battery technology isn’t quite to the point where truly equal performance with IC engines can be affordably had by all, but with so much money being invested into the industry, it is only a matter of time.

Brammo Enertia

One company in particular is leading the way in producing affordable, cutting edge e-motos for the public: Brammo. Based in Ashland, Oregon Brammo made a name for itself a few years ago with the Enertia, an entry-level, short-range, commuter motorcycle intended for the urban setting. The original Brammo Enertia had about a 40-50 mile range and topped out somewhere near the 50mph mark. Which is fine for the environment in was intended to operate. Still, old-school bikers and those that don’t live in the urban setting needed a little more. So recently, as technology has improved, Brammo released the Enertia Plus, which features double the range of the original model, but with no weight gain. The improvement is due to a battery pack that has the same size and weight as before, but with double the energy density. And this will continue to improve as the technology develops.

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Only at the Motor Inn

October 18, 2010

Although this is a short post, it is totally worth it’s digital weight in gold, and I don’t know what I would add to it that would make the post any better. This article was taken from the Jackson County, WV (that’s Ripley, more specifically) paper. I’m thinking about sending it Jay Leno. Check it out…

Taken from the Jackson County paper...

The Art of Commercial: Musical Montage

October 11, 2010

There have been quite a few excellent commercials out lately, and my personal favorites are generally ones that feature music with very little script. I’m a huge fan of a good musical montage in movies, like for a training sequence or something like that, but commercials are great for that as well.

Here are a few examples of some of my recent favorites

L.L. Bean winter gear commercial:

 

Subaru has had a string of fantastic commercials, of which here are two:

Love-Outback

Reunion-Forester

These new Windows Phone 7 commercials are great, showing all the stupid places people are using their phones:

Fable3 is the latest in a series of really great role-playing games for the Xbox, and when I recently caught this commercial for the first time, it gave me cold chills.