At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

AMA’s Blake Young Racing in the US MotoGP Rounds

01/17/2013 @ 4:30 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

Indianapolis-GP-Thursday-Jules-Cisek

AMA Superbike runner-up Blake Young will ride the Attack Performance CRT machine at all three US MotoGP rounds this year. The former Yoshimura Suzuki rider has signed with Attack Performance owner Richard Stanboli to race at the Austin, Laguna Seca, and Indianapolis rounds of MotoGP, aboard the Kawasaki-powered CRT machine designed and built by Stanboli and his team.

The Attack CRT bike has been undergoing some major changes since making its debut at Laguna Seca in 2012, where it was ridden by US veteran racer Steve Rapp. According to Roadracing World, Attack owner Stanboli has modified the chassis to work better with the Bridgestone tires, and has altered the firing order of Kawasaki ZX-10R engine to more closely resemble a Yamaha R1 engine.

Continue Reading

Chris Vermeulen Back in MotoGP?

12/07/2012 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Former Rizla Suzuki-man Chris Vermeulen may be returning to the big show, as the Australian has been linked to a CRT ride, after contacting the IodaRacing Project. Also former factory rider for Kawasaki’s World Superbike team, Vermeulen sat out most of the 2010 WSBK season because of a knee injury, and 2011 proved to be no better, as again Vermeulen was sidelined with injuries.

Said to be healthy and ready to ride, Vermeulen’s options for racing MotoGP at this point in time are limited to only CRT entries, and for 2013 IodaRacing and its BMW/Suter machine are the only offer still available. Vocally against the CRT concept, Vermeulen certainly may not like his options in GP racing, though his presence would bring some much needed talent to the CRT-rider pool.

Continue Reading

MotoGP: Paul Bird Motorsport Confirms Yonny Hernandez and Michael Laverty for 2013

12/04/2012 @ 2:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Paul Bird Motorsport has finally announced its rider line-up for the 2013 MotoGP season, and unsurprisingly James Ellison is not a part of the team. Bumping up to a two-rider squad, PBM will have Yonny Hernandez and Michael Laverty on dueling, but differing, Aprilia-powered bikes. The Colombian Hernandez will continue PBM’s efforts on the Aprilia ART racking package, while the British Laverty will campaign a British built CRT bike that uses an RSV4 motor.

Laverty’s chassis is reportedly being made by GPMS Technology, and the project is being headed by Phil Borley. PBM’s move to field a team-made bike is an interesting one, especially as the Aprilia ART is one of the most developed CRT packages on the MotoGP grid. Additionally, the team’s choice is interesting after Ellison’s comments about the PBM’s lack of testing and development for the 2012 season, an issue that will have to be turned around if the PBM-CRT project is to have any success.

Continue Reading

Bryan Staring to Ride the Gresini CRT MotoGP Bike in 2013

11/27/2012 @ 9:38 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

One more slot in the 2013 MotoGP line up has been filled. Today, the Go & Fun Gresini team announced that they have signed Bryan Staring to ride the FTR Honda CRT bike for them in MotoGP in 2013. The 25-year-old left his native Australia to contest the Superstock 1000 Cup two years ago, winning races in 2012 and contending for the title all season, before ending in 4th.

Staring will continue to develop the Honda CBR1000RR-powered FTR machine contested by Michele Pirro in MotoGP in 2012. The name of Ryuichi Kiyonari had been linked to the ride, the former WSBK and MotoGP rider seen as one candidate to help HRC develop the production racer version of the Honda RC213V, which they intend to start selling for the 2014 MotoGP season.

Continue Reading

New MotoGP Rules for 2014: Spec-ECU, Spec-Software, Fewer Motors, Less Fuel, & Combined Weight for Moto2

11/10/2012 @ 10:57 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on New MotoGP Rules for 2014: Spec-ECU, Spec-Software, Fewer Motors, Less Fuel, & Combined Weight for Moto2

After an almost interminable period of discussions and debate, agreement has at last been reached over the technical regulations to be applied in MotoGP for the 2014 onwards. The agreement has been a compromise, with both sides of the table being given something to satisfy them.

The new rules see the introduction of a compulsory spec ECU and datalogger, and the ECU now acts as a divide between the two classes of teams in the paddock. MSMA members will be allowed to use their own software for the spec ECU, but the punishment for doing so will be a reduction in the fuel limit from 21 to 20 liters for a race.

Teams electing to use the spec software supplied by Dorna will be allowed 24 liters. The MSMA members will also be limited to 5 engines a season, while the rest will be allowed 12 engines. The reduction in fuel and engines was made at the request of the factories, to give themselves an engineering challenge to conquer.

Continue Reading

Hiroshi Aoyama Back in MotoGP for 2013

11/09/2012 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Forced to go to World Superbike for the 2012 season, Hiroshi Aoyama will return to the big show for the 2013 season, with the Avintia Blusens team. Trading his Honda CBR1000RR superbike for a Kawasaki-powered CRT entry, Aoyama will perhaps miss the days when he was on a Honda RC212V prototype, but certainly won’t miss the Pirelli-shod production machine, which he only managed to race to a 18th place championship points finish.

Entirely unimpressive in WSBK, Aoyama has something that many CRT riders do not: experience on the tricky Bridgestone tires. That fact alone should make Aoyama a potent weapon for the Avintia Blusens squad, which has struggled to develop its CRT entry — due partially to the talent on the machine. With the help of Aoyama’s MotoGP experience, and 250GP Championship title behind him, the BQR team might find some more traction and direction with its work — having Hector Barbera along for the ride as a teammate won’t hurt either.

Continue Reading

Yamaha Considering Leasing M1 Motors to MotoGP Teams

11/08/2012 @ 3:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The battle for the future of MotoGP continues to gain intrigue, as Yamaha is reportedly considering leasing to private teams the motor found on the Yamaha YZR-M1. The news is being reported by MCN, which heralds the event as the end to the CRT experiment, and while that last part seems a bit hyperbolic, Yamaha’s move could have a profound affect on the series if it comes to fruition.

Currently on proposal for the 2013 MotoGP Championship is a grid comprised of 12 prototype machines (four from each of the three remaining factories), with the rest of the grid comprised of CRT entries (production motors in prototype chassis). That landscape could change however in 2014, as HRC has tipped that it has a production-racer, based off the Honda RC213V in the works, which it will sell to teams for around €1 million.

Adding yet another dimension to the bike line-up, Yamaha is said to be considering leasing the M1 motor to private teams, who in turn could use the prototype-based engine design in their own chassis design, much in the same manner that is currently being done with the production-based motors.

Continue Reading

Lap Times: Prototypes vs. CRT vs. Moto2 at Phillip Island

10/27/2012 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

For qualifying at Phillip Island, it would be safe to say that the weather conditions were tricky. Cold, cloudy, windy, with at times drops of rain, both MotoGP and Moto2 had to overcome the variable climate at the coastal Australian track.

With three turns clocking well over 200 km/h (~125 mph), Phillip Island is a fast circuit, but not necessarily a circuit dominated by bikes with a lot of horsepower. Instead, rhythm is the name of the game at PI, with the riders who are able to navigate the circuit’s intricacies benefiting the most: cue Casey Stoner.

Almost a full season now into the great CRT experiment, Phillip Island is one of the circuits where the production-motor machines can shine brighter, and none of them shine brighter than Team Aspar’s Aprilia ART.

Embarrassing some prototype machines during Saturday’s sessions, Randy de Puniet will start on the grid Sunday right next to Valentino Rossi, having qualified only 0.006 seconds behind the factory Ducati rider. Behind him will be the other prototype Ducatis, with Aleix Espargaro also in the mix.

The progress of the Aprilia ART is said to be down to Aspar getting a new set of motors from Aprilia Racing for the Australian GP, with those new motors making a sizable step in horsepower (+10hp according to Cal Crutchlow).

With the WSBK-spec Aprilia RSV4 Factory proving to be a potent machine in its own right, MotoGP’s CRT riders are clearly benefiting from getting closer to Aprilia Racing’s capabilities, but what about the Honda-powered 600cc Moto2 machines?

Continue Reading

Randy de Puniet & Aleix Espargaro Sign With Aspar for 2013

10/04/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

The Power Electronics Aspar Team confirmed today that it has extended the contracts of current riders Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro for the 2013 season. Both the Frenchman and the Spaniard are to remain with Aspar for another year, and will once again contest the season on Aprilia-built ART machines under the Claiming Rule Team regulations. The two teammates are currently battling it out to take the honors as top CRT rider for 2012.

The Aspar team has been the showcase for the CRT rules this season, with both De Puniet and Espargaro closing the gap on the prototype bikes. How the team will fare next year when most of the other CRT bikes will start to use the highly advanced Magneti Marelli ECU, while they stick with Aprilia’s electronics package developed in World Superbikes remains to be seen, and will provide a good yardstick by which to measure the spec ECU on offer.

With the prototype rides all filling up quickly, remaining with Aspar was the best option for both men. With a year of development on them, the Aprilia CRT bikes should be even closer to the prototypes next year, allowing De Puniet and Espargaro to put themselves in the shop window for the 2014 season, when Suzuki makes a return to MotoGP, and more factory rides should be available.

After the jump is the press release from the Aspar team announcing the re-signing of its current riders.

Continue Reading

MotoGP: Magneti Marelli Offering Free Electronics in 2013

09/26/2012 @ 8:35 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

MotoGP has taken its first step towards the formal introduction of a standard ECU. Today, Dorna announced that they have reached agreement with Magneti Marelli to supply an electronics system to MotoGP teams for the next four years, starting from the 2013 season. To support the electronics system, Magneti Marelli will set up a MotoGP R&D center at their base in Bologna, Italy.

The system to be supplied is complete, and highly sophisticated. The system will comprise an ECU, a complete sensor package, data logger and all of the various wires and switches to make the system. The ECU on offer is described as being Magneti Marelli’s “highest technological option”. More importantly, the Italian electronics firm will supply full support for the ECU, both on and off the track, helping teams develop and set up the system. The system will be supplied free of charge to any team that requests it.

The system on offer will be supplied on a voluntary basis for 2013, with the teams free to continue to develop and use their own systems should they so choose. To allow teams to compete with the teams electing to use proprietary systems, the Magneti Marelli system supplied to the teams will be fully functional for the 2013 season. The Magneti Marelli system is the de facto standard in the paddock, with both Yamaha and Ducati already using a very similar system on their factory prototypes.

Continue Reading