Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Up-Close with the Norton SG1 TT Race Bike

05/31/2012 @ 7:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Norton SG1 TT Race Bike Norton SG1 Isle of Man TT 10 635x423

The Norton SG1, as it is now being called, is the talk of the Isle of Man TT paddock (we presume the SG designation stands for Norton’s new owner, Stuart Garner). Completed just before the TT fortnight, the Norton squad has an enormous amount of work ahead of it to bring the SG1 up to speed. Norton’s rider, Ian Mackman, posted a 112.364 on Tuesday night’s practice, and was out again Wednesday night, scaring the hell of out of elderly Manx women.

What is rapidly becoming the Norton SG1′s defining feature, is the bike’s anti-wildlife system, which is able to produce enough of a intone a sound somewhere between “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” and “Queen of the Harpies” — as heard from several miles out. Scaring virtually anything within earshot, the anti-wildlife system also doubles as the bike’s exhaust, and would be banned twice-over at noise-restricted tracks like Laguna Seca.

Drawing some resemblance to the rotary-powered Norton NRV588 project, the Norton SG1 also features an Aprilia RSV4 motor in a custom Spondon frame. With all the trappings of a CRT bike, it doesn’t take too much imagination to link the SG1 to the rumors about Norton’s return to MotoGP, which makes for some interesting conjecture on the trajectory of the team’s racing future.

IOMTT: John McGuinness Strikes First with a 130 MPH Lap

05/30/2012 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

IOMTT: John McGuinness Strikes First with a 130 MPH Lap John McGuinness the Nook 635x425

Mr. McPint continues to raise the bar at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, as the #1 plated Honda TT Legends rider was the first, and so far the only, rider to bust the 130 MPH barrier at this TT fortnight. Doing a 130.079 mph lap on his second time around the Mountain Course for the evening, John McGuinness is looking well on the pace to raise the outright lap record of 131.578 mph (a mark he himself set) during the race week.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Not Racing in TT Zero

05/30/2012 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Kawasaki Zytek ZX10ev Not Racing in TT Zero Kawasaki Zytek ZX10ev 635x542

Talking to a few of the Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing mechanics this afternoon in the Isle of Man TT paddock, unfortunately it looks like the the team’s electric entry, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev, is going to be a scratch for the 2012 SES TT Zero race.

When asked why the Kawasaki-Zytek entry would not be racing, the team cited the bike not being ready for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, intoning that the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev’s first laps ever would be on the Isle itself. Considering that the Kawasaki electric racing effort has been in the works for over a year now, the news is a bit surprising that it hasn’t been as extensively tested as its Honda Mugen counterpart.

IOMTT: McGuinness Sends a Message at First Practice Night

05/29/2012 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

IOMTT: McGuinness Sends a Message at First Practice Night john mcguinness honda tt legends isle of man tt daniel lo 635

Monday night marked the first practice session for the returning riders to the Isle of Man TT, and John McGuinness got things started off on the right foot. While most riders at the TT spent the evening shaking off the cobwebs, sorting out new bikes, and generally getting a feel for thing, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner McGuinness went out onto the Mountain Course, dropped a 128.267 mph lap on his third lap of the day, and promptly called it a night.

With the Top 15 riders were lapping in the lower 120′s, McGuinness was the talk of the Isle today, and sent a clear message to his competitors with his lap: the Lancastrian means business this fortnight. Feeling very comfortable on his Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR, McGuinness’s time is sure to get into the heads of his TT rivals, as they go out again this evening for the second practice session for the solo classes. McGuinness is the holder of the outright fastest race lap around the Mountain Course, with a 131.578 mph average course speed.

Trackside Tuesday: Soft-Spoken, But Not Broken

05/29/2012 @ 9:57 am, by Daniel LoComments Off

Trackside Tuesday: Soft Spoken, But Not Broken ian hutchinson trackside tuesday iomtt daniel lo635

Ian Hutchinson has experienced the extreme highs and lows of racing, from taking the first clean sweep of all five solo class wins at the 2010 Isle of Man TT, to nearly losing his leg in a first lap accident in a British Supersport race at Silverstone later that same season. After sitting out of the 2011 event, “Hutchy” is back at the TT on the esteemed Swan Yamaha team’s Isle of Man debut entry.

It was just after 8pm last night, and Ian was on his final lap of the day. Even after a year off the Mountain Course, he was still able to promptly churn out an average speed of 123.025 miles per hour by the end of the first Superbike practice session.

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing Mugen Shinden electric motorcycle 15 635x476

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT

05/24/2012 @ 5:43 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT Mark Miller Ballaugh Bridge pass Isle of Man TT 635x425

For those who have never attended, the Isle of Man TT is truly a special race. I will concede the point that saying that the TT is merely “a special race” is a bit trite, as there is so much that encompasses the full experience one gets during the TT fortnight, that it becomes hard to explain to someone who has never attended the TT, even veteran motorcycle race journalists, what it is that makes the TT so special.

Part of this equation is the racing spectacle itself. Set on a small island in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man’s quaint few towns serve as the venue for tens of thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, while the roads between these villages are connected by the island’s lush countryside. It is hard to travel around the Isle without the island’s beauty striking you — something that is captured extremely well with the race’s many aerial shots via helicopter, but not fully grasped until it is witnessed in person.

The fan experience is truly unique as well. Inside the paddock in Douglas, the atmosphere is campy, an almost carnival affair, and while virtually any other racing venue would sequester the teams and riders from the fans, the TT’s paddock is wide-open, with the team garages setup rows, and constructed in an open pavilion layout that encourages passersby to stop, lean on the waist-high barriers that are maybe 10 feet from the mechanics’ bike lifts, and strike up a conversation with any team member that doesn’t seem to have a task at hand.

The experience is tenfold when one of the riders is present, which they often are, and even the greats of the sport are approachable and genuinely engaged with their fan base. Try getting that same experience at the next MotoGP or WSBK event you attend, and even in the AMA paddock you would be hard-pressed to get so much access and interaction to what goes on behind the scenes.

Then there is of course the racing, which all occurs on city streets and mountain roads. In the Superbike classes, the average speeds of the top riders exceeds 130 mph, with top speeds in the fastest sections cracking past 200 mph with regularity. Again I reiterate, this is all occurring on city streets, littered full of telephone polls, houses, trees, and of course fans. Speaking of fans on the course, imagine watching a race from the side of a hedgerow, at worst only 10 feet from the action, and in some cases only a few inches away. Experiencing motorcycle racing at such propinquity will take your breath away, if not figuratively then literally.

In my short time running Asphalt & Rubber, I have had the opportunity to cover motorcycle racing on four continents, and as I travel to my second Isle of Man TT, I know the next two weeks of racing will be unlike anything I have covered before in MotoGP, World Superbike, or AMA Pro Racing.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Kawasaki Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK Kawasaki Zytek TT Zero electric motorcycle 635x423

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

Norton V4 Gets Shakedown Test Ahead of Isle of Man TT

05/10/2012 @ 8:47 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Norton V4 Gets Shakedown Test Ahead of Isle of Man TT Norton V4 Isle of Man TT test 01

More news from Norton, as the British firm has begun track-testing its V4 road race bike, in preparation of the 2012 Isle of Man TT. Focusing on the bike’s handling, Norton has been working hand-in-hand with Öhlins and Dunlop developing the bike’s chassis. The trio has devised the highly sophisticated “165 mph no hands” test, which supposedly checks the stability of the bike, though we imagine Health & Safety would frown upon it.

With the bike’s Aprilia RSV4 motor putting out 195hp at the crank, and with the total race package weighing 419 lbs (195 kg) when it is sopping wet, the Spondon-framed Norton may not be exactly what fans of the famous marques were hoping for after seeing the very appealing Norton NRV 588, though it does seem to be a potent package.

Norton Returns to Racing at the Isle of Man TT – New Bike Features Aprilia RSV4 Motor

04/18/2012 @ 7:10 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Norton Returns to Racing at the Isle of Man TT   New Bike Features Aprilia RSV4 Motor Norton Isle of Man TT race bike 635x423

After a couple failed returns, Norton is set to race in the upcoming Isle of Man TT with a race bike that features an Aprilia RSV4 engine and proprietary chassis (does that remind you of anything?). Sponsored by Monster Energy, at the helm of the still unnamed Norton will be top be the TT Privateer’s Champion Ian Mackman, who will race in the Seniors TT on June 8th (the first time a Norton has been in the Senior TT since 1992).

The new Norton is a bit of a departure from the British company’s last race bike, the rotary motor-powered Norton NRV588. Unable to race the NRV588 in the 2009 Isle of Man TT, the new Norton is surely a byproduct of the firm’s heavily rumored MotoGP entry, as it fits very well within the premier class claiming rule team (CRT) provisions.