MV Agusta Looking to Part Ways with Mercedes-AMG

The story of MV Agusta continues with even more interesting developments, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer seems intent on buying back its shares from Mercedes-AMG, and recapitalizing with new investors. Talking this week to Italy’s Il Giorno, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni said that he is “negotiating a buy-back of shares,” though that might be a task easier said than done for the Italian CEO. This is because MV Agusta’s current financial predicament is due primarily from the company’s massive debt accumulation, which now totals over €40 million. To complicate matters further, some of that debt was secured by the involvement of AMG, and its investment contract stipulates that if AMG doesn’t own 20% or more of MV Agusta then the loaned sum is due immediately.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity. Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so. But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well. Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs. To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine. We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda. How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine. The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

Could BMW Be Working on an XDiavel Killer?

Here’s some more BMW Motorrad speculation for your two-wheeled consumption, as Germany’s Motorrad Magazine says that BMW is looking to take on the Ducati XDiavel, with a power cruiser model of its own. This of course isn’t the first time that BMW has included a cruiser-styled motorcycle in its lineup, with the BMW R1200C being a unique, though slightly odd, offering to the cruiser demographic. Like Ducati, BMW seems to be learning from its mistakes in going after the cruiser crowd, and instead of offering a motorcycle that is BMW’s take on the cruiser concept, they are building a cruiser that has cues back to the BMW lineup. A subtle but potent distinction. Time will tell on how this rumor plays out, though there are number of interesting things to consider with a BMW power cruiser.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles. As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride. With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Is BMW Working on 300cc GS Model?

When the BMW G310R arrived, the German brand indicated that the small-displacement street bike would be the first of many model based on the 313cc platform. Now it seems that the first iteration is ready to drop, with news that BMW Motorrad is working on a G310R-based adventure-touer model. According to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, BMW Motorrad UK’s Director Phil Horton has confirmed that a BMW G310GS model will debut, perhaps in time for the 2017 model year, saying “new models aside, the line-up isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be. But there are plenty more bikes to come, including, hopefully in 2017, a G310R GS-style derivative.” The idea of small-displacement ADV machine does mimic what we have been seeing from other brands.

EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events. The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts. Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days. In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country. If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016). Honda says that its subsequent production plans will be determined according to facility restorations and component supply.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed. We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

2015 Superprestigio Set for December 12th in Barcelona

12/03/2015 @ 1:01 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The Barcelona Superprestigio race is becoming a regular fixture in the winter break, and this year is no exception. The third edition of the race is due to take place on December 12th in the Palau Sant Jordi, part of Barcelona’s Olympic Ring up on the Montjuic hill which sits on southwest edge of Barcelona.

Once again, the feature will pit some of the best MotoGP riders in the world against the cream of the US flat track scene, as well as top riders from many other motorcycling disciplines.

Star of the show is once again Marc Marquez, the man who helped organize the show after hearing about previous editions of the race which had been run in the 1980s and 1990s.

Sunday Summary at Valencia: How Championships Are Won, Lost, & Destroyed

11/08/2015 @ 9:53 pm, by David Emmett80 COMMENTS

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They say that truth is stranger than fiction. The more pressing question is how to distinguish between the two.

Narratives are easily created – it is my stock in trade, and the trade which every sports writer plies – but where does stringing together a collection of related facts move from being a factual reconstruction into the realms of invented fantasy?

When different individuals view the same facts and draw radically opposite conclusions, are we to believe that one is delusional and the other is sane and objective?

Most of all, how much value should we attach to the opinions of each side? Do we change our opinion of the facts based on our sympathy or antipathy for the messenger?

That is the confusion which the final round of MotoGP has thrust the world of Grand Prix racing into. What should have been a celebration of the greatest season of racing in the premier class in recent years, and possibly ever, was rendered farcical, as two competing interpretations of a single set of facts clashed, exploded, then dragged the series down into the abyss.

Bitterness, anger, suspicion, fear, all of these overshadowed some astonishing performances, by both winners and losers. Looked at impartially, the Valencia round of MotoGP was a great day of fantastic racing. But who now can look at it impartially?

Saturday Summary at Phillip Island: Lorenzo’s Tactics, Iannone’s Smarts, & Marquez’s Speed

10/17/2015 @ 10:32 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Phillip Island: Lorenzo’s Tactics, Iannone’s Smarts, & Marquez’s Speed

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Will championships be decided tomorrow? The Moto3 title could well be settled after the race, a lot of bleary-eyed British fans clinging to their cappuccinos in a desperate attempt to stay awake. It won’t take much: Danny Kent just has to finish ahead of Enea Bastianini and higher than seventh to be sure.

The MotoGP title is still too close to be settled at Phillip Island, but tomorrow’s race could well turn out to be pivotal. If Valentino Rossi finishes ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, the Italian will have one hand on the MotoGP crown.

If Lorenzo finishes ahead of Rossi, and especially if he can put some bodies between himself and his Movistar Yamaha teammate, then the pendulum might finally start to swing back Lorenzo’s way.

MotoGP, Moto2, & Moto3 Silly Season Loose Ends

10/01/2015 @ 10:37 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Aragon was a busy time for the riders and managers in all three Grand Prix classes. Wrapping up contract negotiations before the circus heads east for the Pacific Ocean flyaways was high on the list of priorities, though not everything ended up getting sorted before the teams packed up at Aragon. Plenty of agreements were reached, however, as we shall see below.

Though most of the loose ends have been tied up in MotoGP, a few question marks remain. The Aspar team was one of those question marks, which came much closer to a conclusion at Aragon.

The original plan was to have Jack Miller join the team, bringing his crew with him, and covering most of the cost of riding, but various obstacles prevented that from happening.

Money was a major factor, in part the amount Aspar were willing to pay to have Miller in their team, but perhaps a bigger factor was being left with Hondas.

The Open class Hondas have both been a huge disappointment for all of the teams that have run them. The 2014 RCV1000R was massively underpowered, and was getting blown away by the factory bikes along the straight.

To remedy that situation, Honda offered the RC213V-RS, a cheaper version of the factory RC213V, but without the seamless transmission and using the spec electronics.

That bike has also not been competitive, perhaps in part because it is a stripped down version of the original. “This bike was designed to use a seamless gearbox,” Nicky Hayden explained last weekend. “You can’t get the best out of it without one.”

Saturday Summary at Aragon: Can the Weather Save the Championship Lead?

09/26/2015 @ 7:26 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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The last two races have followed a familiar pattern. On Friday and Saturday, Jorge Lorenzo has laid down a scorching pace, which his rivals – and more importantly, his teammate and rival for the 2015 MotoGP title, Valentino Rossi – have been unable to follow.

Lorenzo’s name was penciled onto the winner’s trophy, and his grip on the MotoGP class looked secure.

Then on Sunday, everything changed. The weather gods intervened, rain lashed down at Silverstone, then started and stopped at Misano, throwing the race into disarray. Both times, Valentino Rossi handled the conditions better than Lorenzo, gaining big points in both races.

At Silverstone, Rossi won comfortably, while Jorge Lorenzo struggled home in fourth. At Misano, Rossi rode a tactically poor race, but still managed to come home in fifth. Lorenzo got caught out by the pace of Scott Redding, failing to understand that the Marc VDS rider had already been out for several laps and had his tires up to temperature and his brain up to speed.

The Movistar Yamaha rider tried to stay with Redding, and paid the price when he turned left after a long series of rights, crashing out and scoring zero points.

What do we have at Aragon? Another weekend where Lorenzo is dominating, Marc Márquez his only clear rival, with Dani Pedrosa there as a dark horse.

Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, is struggling with tire degradation, the performance of the tires dropping in the heat. Rossi could lose a big handful of points to Lorenzo on Sunday, if he is unable to match the pace of the top three.

He really needs a bit of a miracle, either in the shape of rain, or in the form of colder temperatures.

Thursday Summary at Aragon: Being Fastest vs. Finishing First, And Advice for Young Riders from a Moto2 Champion

09/24/2015 @ 5:17 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday Summary at Aragon: Being Fastest vs. Finishing First, And Advice for Young Riders from a Moto2 Champion

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When different riders agree on a subject, it is worth listening. Summing up the 2015 championship, both Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso independently came to the same conclusion.

When asked in the press conference who was stronger, Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez explained that it wasn’t as simple as that.

“It’s difficult to say,” Márquez said. “If you ask me, I would say Jorge is faster because his speed is really good. On the other side, Valentino is doing his 100% and he always finishes in front these last two races.”

Earlier in the day, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso had been asked if he could become one of the wild cards which could help decide the championship.

“In a normal situation, it’s quite difficult. But not impossible,” Dovizioso replied. But the championship was far from decided, Dovizioso went on to add.

“I think that the points gap between Valentino and Lorenzo is quite big now, and Valentino is really good at managing the points. But I think Lorenzo has the speed to fight and to gain the points. Still there a lot of races left. I think he has the speed and is strong enough thinking about himself to try to win the race, and anything can happen.”

Dovizioso and Márquez echo a broadly-held opinion in the paddock: that Jorge Lorenzo is the faster of the two, but Valentino Rossi is the man who finds a way to cross the line first.

Preview of the Aragon GP: Championship Battles on the Line

09/23/2015 @ 7:37 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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From the coast to the high plains. From the hubbub of a string of seaside resorts along the Adriatic Riviera to the vast unspoiled mountains and hills of Baja Aragon. From the green and fertile Po basin to the arid olive orchards and vineyards of the Maestrazgo.

Contrasts don’t get much greater than between Misano in Italy and Motorland Aragon in Spain.

The tracks, too, are very different. Misano is fairly slow, with a lot of tight first gear corners. Aragon is much faster, with some tighter sections, but a couple of seriously fast and flowing corners.

Misano is pretty much flat as a pancake, where Aragon has its own version of Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew, though not quite so precipitous, and a long, fast downhill back straight leading to a long double-apex left hander and a climb uphill to the finish.

The scenery may change, but the storyline in MotoGP remains the same. The championship remains a head-to-head battle between the Movistar Yamaha men, much as it has been since Le Mans.

After Misano, the ball is very much back in Valentino Rossi’s court, having extended his lead over Jorge Lorenzo to 23 points.

He will need that cushion, as the championship now arrives at Aragon, a circuit where Lorenzo arrives as a clear favorite, having had some strong results here in the past. Rossi, meanwhile, is at one of his worst tracks, Aragon being one of just two tracks where the Italian has never won, Austin being the other.

Saturday Summary at Misano: The Prospect of a Furious Fight, Mind Games That Weren’t, & Three-Stop Strategies

09/12/2015 @ 11:22 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Misano: The Prospect of a Furious Fight, Mind Games That Weren’t, & Three-Stop Strategies

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Remember Brno? A scintillating qualifying left Jorge Lorenzo on pole, with Marc Márquez beside him and Valentino Rossi filling out the front row. Race pace for the three was very similar, and the fans were left with the mouthwatering prospect of a thrilling race on Sunday. They were disappointed.

Jorge Lorenzo surged to the lead off the line, shook off Marc Márquez, disappeared into the distance, and won comfortably. The battle royal promised by free practice never materialized, and we were all left with a hollow feeling of disappointment, no matter how brilliant Lorenzo’s victory was.

Hence my reluctance to play up the prospect of a good race at Misano. The ingredients are the same. The same three riders on the front row, in the same order.

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

08/29/2015 @ 10:59 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

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Predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is hard. Scratch that, predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is downright impossible. We scour the sector and lap times, talk to as many riders as possible, try to make sense of what they tell us, and take our best guess based on all we have learned.

And inevitably, we get it wrong. Because there was something we missed, or because some random factor intervened, or because we didn’t pay enough attention to what the riders were telling us, or perhaps paid too much attention to it. Which is why you should probably take the following with a pinch of salt.

After qualifying and practice at Brno, we confidently predicted one of the best races of the year, with Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez setting almost identical pace during free practice.

The chase lasted for five laps, before Lorenzo picked up his heels and disappeared, riding a perfect race to an unstoppable win, and killing any burgeoning excitement stone dead.

Silverstone looks like being very similar. There are two riders who are clearly a step ahead of the rest, and on the basis of practice times on Saturday, their pace is very similar indeed.

Though you wouldn’t say that just based on the headline numbers: in FP3, Jorge Lorenzo destroyed the rest of the field, beating Márquez by nearly half a second.

In the afternoon, during FP4, Márquez returned the favor, laying down a withering pace to put over eight tenths on everyone else, and posting a string of ten laps, the slowest of which was faster than fastest lap set by any other rider on the field.

The difference between Lorenzo’s FP3 lap and Márquez’ FP4 lap? Just 0.062 seconds, in Lorenzo’s favor.

Tires are what made the difference. Lorenzo put a brand new tire on for the last two laps of FP3, and obliterated the rest of the field. Márquez put a brand new medium tire in FP4, and blew the field away, then slapped in a new hard tire, and was fast with that too.

In FP3, Márquez was working on getting the best out of old tires, in FP4, Lorenzo was doing the same, as well as trying out a setup change that simply did not work.

Two riders, similar pace on new tires, both much faster than the rest. Who will come out on top? At this point in time, it is impossible to say. What it will come down to is who manages tires the best.

The Massive MotoGP Silly Season Update

08/20/2015 @ 11:51 pm, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

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Brno was a busy time for teams, managers and riders. Apart from dealing with jet lag and the sweltering heat, silly season kicked off in force at the Czech round of MotoGP.

The summer break and the chaos which ensued from the situation around the Forward Racing team put everything on hold over the summer, with tentative talks starting at Indianapolis.

Those talks, and events outside the paddock, helped clarify the situation, and at Brno talks began in earnest. The empty spaces on the MotoGP grid are starting to be filled.