California Formalizes Lane-Splitting Law

It finally happened, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 51 into law, making California the first state to put lane-splitting on its books. Lane-splitting has always been legal of course (despite what other headlines might suggest), though was legal only by a technical loophole in the California Vehicle Code (CVC). The passage of AB 51 now formally adds lane-splitting as a condoned practice by the CVC; and more importantly, it expressly allows government agencies, like the California Highway Patrol, to create and teach best-practice guidelines. AB 51 still creates some basic jurisprudence issues, like granting legislative powers to the executive branch, but many in the pro-lane-splitting movement seem to look past that issue, instead focusing on what it brings to motorcyclists.

EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

The EPA DOJ have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices. Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Moto3: Sky VR46 Fires Romano Fenati

As expected, Romano Fenati has been formally released from his contract with the Sky VR46 team. The Italian was suspended from the team after an incident at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That was a temporary measure, but it has now been made permanent. Fenati was released for behavioral issues. The Italian had been abusive towards members of the team, and had not behaved in a professional manner. The incident in Austria was just the latest in a long line of breaches of behavioral conduct, which included confirmed reports of verbal abuse and unconfirmed and unsubstantiated reports of physical conflict. The Sky VR46 team have announced that they will be bringing Lorenzo Dalla Porta in to join Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega in the Moto3 team.

Two New BMW R nineT Models Coming

Filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that BMW Motorrad has two more variations of its retro-styled motorcycle line coming to the USA: the BMW R nineT Pure and the BMW R nineT Racer. These two bikes would join the other two air-cooled models we have already seen from the Germans, the base model BMW R nineT and the recently released BMW R nineT Scrambler, which debuted at EICMA last year. Our friends at Motorcycle.com spotted the CARB filings, and believe one of the machines will be based off the BMW Lac Rose concept – an ADV throw-back to when the Dakar Rally actually raced to Dakar. The other model though, could be anyone’s guess, as BMW hasn’t dropped any other concepts or hints in the past months.

Q&A: KTM On-Road Technical Director Sebastian Risse – The Development of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Bike

Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008. He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class. Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike. After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.

Here’s a Custom Ducati XDiavel by Roland Sands Design

In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel. Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches. This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog. There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel.

2017 KTM RC16 Officially Debuts

The Austrian GP might be tomorrow, but today the news is all about MotoGP’s newest entrant, KTM Racing. The Austrian team used its home to debut officially its MotoGP program, showing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike in its officially Red Bull livery for next year. The livery itself is what you would expect between at KTM/Red Bull collaboration, with the same blue and orange paint scheme as can be found on the Red Bull KTM Moto3 squad. The big difference of course is the rumored fire-breathing, 270hp, V4, engine, which Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will attempt to tame. The bike’s next outing will be at Valencia, where Thomas Lüthi and Mika Kallio will ride with the MotoGP-regulars once again, competing as wild card entries.

MotoGP Considering Team Communication via Dashboards

Dorna is considering allowing communication between teams and riders via the dashboard. At a meeting today between Dorna and the teams, initial discussions took place over a system to allow teams to pass very brief messages to the dashboard of the bikes. The ability to pass messages between team and bike has been made possible thanks to the transponders currently being used in MotoGP. Those allow for a very limited and very short burst of communication as the bikes pass the timing loops at the track. Race Direction is currently using the system to pass signals to the dash in the case of a red flag, black flag or ride through penalty, but the system would also allow teams a limited ability to pass messages to the riders.

Norton Announces V4 Superbike, Again

A year ago, to the day, Norton announced that it was working on a street-going superbike that featured a 200hp, 1,200cc, V4 engine. Now, Norton confirms that news, saying that we will see the limited-production (200 units) machine later this fall. Yay. On the bright side, Norton posted a concept drawing of the new bike to its Facebook page, giving us at least something new to whet our appetites on the new motorcycle. The concept looks very similar to the sketch we saw last year, making today’s new a little bit about nothing. But, our friends at MotoFire report that Norton is still working on a 650cc project, which will debut later this year as well.

Is This the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6?…Nope

Someone is trying to pass off the above photo as the eagerly awaited 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 – unfortunately, it’s a fake. I’m actually surprised this piece of photoshop has some legs, and is making its way around the internet, considering how obvious the forgery. To verify its authenticity, all one would have to do is to compare the above photo with photos of the current generation Yamaha YZF-R1. Contrasting the two, it’s clear that the chassis and exposed parts of the engine are right off the Yamaha YZF-R1 (it’s easiest to see on the swingarm). The real smoking gun though is that the forger used a Yamaha press photo as their base. I was able to find the base photo, which clearly shows that the five-spoke wheels on the alleged R6 are in the exact same ones from a R1 press photo.

2012 MotoGP Calendar Updated

12/14/2011 @ 1:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Finally finalized, the 2012 MotoGP calendar hasn’t exactly seen a huge revision from last season’s schedule, though it does put to rest some outstanding issues. Previously only listing Germany as a stop for MotoGP action, the Sachsenring’s name has been inserted as the venue to host the German GP, subject to the circuit coming to terms with Dorna of course.

Also still subject to contract, Estoril has yet to come to a full agreement with the MotoGP rights holder. Other changes include the confirmation of the Spanish GP at Jerez, and that the season-opener at Qatar will come a week earlier than last season. For 2013, MotoGP’s calendar will include a stop in Argentina, as well as an additional round in the United States.

Carlos Checa Re-Signs with Althea Ducati…Finally

10/17/2011 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Good news for Carlos Checa, as the Althea Ducati race team has finally extended the reigning-World Superbike Champion a contract for the 2012 season. Recently, Checa was in the precarious position of having clinched the 2011 World Superbike Championship, and yet had no contract for the 2012 season. Stuck in the tug-of-war between Althea Racing and Ducati Corse, as well as the scandal currently gripping Althea Ceramics, Checa’s future with the Ducati squad was in question to such an extent that the BMW Italia team offered the Spaniard €800,000 to ride one of its BMW S1000RRs in 2012.

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island

10/10/2011 @ 6:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear  from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

Dovizioso Signs with Monster Tech 3 Yamaha for 2012

10/08/2011 @ 9:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Another seat in the silly season game of musical chairs has been snatched, as Andrea Dovizioso has signed a contract with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad for the 2012 season. Shit out of luck, in more common vernacular, Dovizioso found himself the odd-man out after Honda announced that it would only have three factory riders for the upcoming season. With Stoner and Pedrosa still under contract through that term, this news meant a tough choice between Dovi and rival Marco Simoncelli. Though consistently placing higher than his fellow Italian, Dovizioso lost out to SuperSic’s bold track moves and likable off-track demeanor.

While bad news for Dovi, the falling-out from Honda meant good news for the rest of the MotoGP teams who were anxious to retain the services of the potently quick Repsol Honda rider. Hervé Poncharal’s Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team seemingly won the battle of the offers, as it’s being reported that the French team has signed Andrea Dovizioso for the 2012 season, beating out the many other offers Dovi had on the table, including a reportedly factory-spec Honda at LCR Honda.

WSBK: Melandri to BMW Motorrad for 2012

10/02/2011 @ 4:08 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

Marco Melandri will join Leon Haslam at BMW Motorrad for the 2012 World Superbike season, leaving Troy Corser presumably out of the factory team. The Italian’s maiden season this year at Yamaha proved to be an excellent one, as he his Championship battle with Carlos Checa come down to this penultimate race weekend. Over the 2011 season, Melandri won one pole out the twenty-three races run so far this season, and has three race wins to his credit. Earlier in his career, Melandri won the 2002 250GP Championship, and seemed to find a home in WSBK this season. However, he and fellow WSBK rookie rider Eugene Laverty were left in the cold when Yamaha announced that they were shelving their WSBK effort in 2012.

“We are really looking forward to working with Leon and Marco. I am convinced we will have arguably the strongest rider’s line up in the Superbike World Championship field,” said Bernhard Gobmeier, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director. He continued, “We are delighted to have two riders who are both hungry and experienced for the coming season. That is the next important step for our team.” There is no word yet on where current BWM rider Troy Corser will land, nor Laverty.

2012 Provisional MotoGP Championship Calendar Released

09/15/2011 @ 7:43 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The 2012 provisional MotoGP calendar is out, and while all the basic locations remain the same, next season does see some shuffling in the order of things. While everything is still subject to some change, perhaps the biggest change on the roster for next year are the back-to-back US rounds, which sees the Indy GP moved up a week, and the Czech GP moved down the calendar to accommodate for one solitary trip to the United States. Allowing for a more streamlined supply chain for the MotoGP traveling circus, this change should be a welcomed one in the GP paddock as teams, journalists, and support crew won’t have to make two trips to the US in quick succession.

The other big change of note is the “TBC” for the venue to host the German GP. With Sachsenring reportedly out of the 2012 calendar because of event unprofitability, it remains to be seen whether Hockenheim or Nurburgring will replace it for next year. Should another German venue not be secured, it is entirely possible that we could see the German GP dropped from the MotoGP calendar in perpetuity. Speaking of dropping off the calendar, with Jerez still dealing with its creditor issues, it is also entirely possible thst we could see the Spanish round dropped from the final calendar as well, making this provisional calendar carrying a heavy emphasis on the word provisional.

Kawasaki Tightening Control Over WSBK Team in 2012 – Paul Bird Motorsport Out

09/13/2011 @ 10:20 am, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

Kawasaki will not renew its World Superbike contract with Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM) for 2012, instead focusing on bringing the race team further under the control of the Japanese manufacturer. Kawasaki had invited bids for teams interested in the 2012 and beyond contract, and received as many as six offers. Just days ago though, Kawasaki European Race Planning Manager Steve Gutteridge indicated that a decision between PBM and current Kawasaki factory World Supersport team Provec would be forthcoming.

Now stating that is has made the decision not to renew PBM’s contract, Kawasaki’s announcement is also devoid of naming the Provec team as the bid winner. “We have enjoyed three valuable years alongside the Paul Bird Motorsport team and would like to put on record our sincere thanks for the time, effort and dedication they have shown to the Kawasaki World Superbike racing programme,” said Race Manager Ichiro Yoda, as he indicated that there would be no contract renewal.

Yamaha Withdrawing from WSBK at the End of the Season

08/01/2011 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

In a shocking statement made today, Yamaha has announced that it will be withdrawing its official presence from FIM Superbike World Championship at the conclusion of the 2011 season. After reviewing its marketing operations within Europe, Yamaha Motor Europe (the driving force behind the company’s WSBK effort) has decided its euros would be better spent on other events that directly engage potential Yamaha customers.

Yamaha says it remains committed to seeing Marco Melandri (3rd) and Eugene Laverty (4th) win the 2011 World Superbike Championship, though with four rounds remaining that would seem a tall order as Carlos Checa leads both Yamaha riders by 71 & 135 points respectively. Checa, of course, is on the “satellite” Althea Ducati team, which is rumored to have more links to Bologna than a sausage cook-off held in Ducati’s factory parking lot.

WSBK: Melandri Re-Signs with Yamaha for 2012

07/26/2011 @ 6:59 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

Marco Melandri has renewed his contract with the Yamaha World Superbike team for 2012, resulting in an unchanged line-up for the factory team next season. Teammate Eugene Laverty had signed a two-year contract with the Japanese team after moving up from nearly winning the World Supersport championship in 2010. The Italian, the 2002 250 GP world champion, has fared well in his rookie WSBK season and won three races to this point.

“Next year I’ll still be here in Superbike,” said Melandri. He continued, “After changing four bikes and four teams in the last four years I am very happy to be able to build something that will last rather than having to start over again every time.” He must also be happy with his results on circuits both familiar and new, having won pole once and been on the podium nine times in so far, including recent duels at Motorland Aragon and Brno with Max Biaggi.

Pikes Peak to be Fully Paved by 2012

07/18/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Probably the worst kept secret on the mountain, the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will occur on a fully-paved race course. Responding to legal and safety pressures, Pikes Peak has slowly been paving its dirt sections, which during the hill climb week made for spectacular plumes of dust and breath-taking slides from cars and bikes alike. With under 3 miles of dirt section currently remaining on the course, Pikes Peak has slowly been adding more asphalt sections over the past few years, which in-turn have been a major contributing factor to the hill climb seeing records smashed across virtually all classes each year.

While the remaining dirt section resides in a lower portion of the race course (between mile markers 10 & 13), which is relatively safer than the higher elevation sections (do NOT look over the edge), Pikes Peak has been under pressure to increase the safety of the mountain, adding guardrails and paving dirt sections. Even in its current form, our initial impression of the course was that there were seriously risky corners that we couldn’t imagine taking at speed, let alone with a dirt surface.