Report: Apple Looking at Acquiring Lit Motors

I had to check the A&R archives to see if we have even mentioned Lit Motors before, mostly because the the San Francisco startup has been slow to develop its self-balancing motorcycle, and I’m not terribly bullish on the project. That doesn’t mean the concept is without merit though, and its apparently caught the interest of Apple. If that sounds strange to you, then you need to understand that Apple, along with a bevy of other tech giants, is working on an autonomous car for the masses. This “Project Titan” as it’s called, has already seen Apple poach a couple of Lit Motors’ personnel, and now the most valuable company in the world is looking at acquiring Lit Motors, and/or other automotive entities, according to the New York Times.

WSBK: Milwaukee SMR Switching to Aprilia for 2017+

Aprilia have finally confirmed that they will be providing factory backing for the Milwaukee SMR squad in WorldSBK for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. It had been an open secret for months that the Milwaukee team were looking to make a switch to Aprilia, and they had signed Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori to contest the championship for them. But, it took a long time for the official confirmation to come through. One of the key factors in the choice, for both Laverty and Milwaukee SMR, was to have strong factory support from Aprilia for the 2017 season. The Aprilia RSV4 RF is still widely viewed as the best package on the WorldSBK grid inside the paddock, subject to the condition that the team running the bike has support from the Noale factory.

Is This the Year of the Monkey, The Honda Monkey?

If you read as many motorcycle news sites as I do, then you surely know that Honda is almost definitely probably maybe debuting a new “monkey bike” in the near future. The source of this news is Honda’s recent application for design patents in the European and Japanese markets. Intellectual property filings are a great way of seeing what a motorcycle OEM is up to, but as our colleagues at Motorcycle.com correctly pointed out, they can also be a great source of red herrings. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when one sees a filing that exactly mimics a show bike or concept, as we’ve seen this week with the Grom-powered Honda Monkey.

A Baby Version of the Ducati Multistrada Cometh?

The above photo was sent to the Italian website Moto.it by one of its readers, and it is supposedly a photo of an upcoming new version of the Ducati Multistrada, which is physically smaller than the current 1200cc model. Presumably, this would make the machine in question then the Ducati Multistrada 939, thus adding to the Euro4 compliant engine’s call to action for the 2017 model year. We say this all hypothetically however, because it is hard to verify anything from this photo…beyond the very obvious double-sided swingarm setup. What we do know is that the photographed motorcycle shares a chassis with the current Multistrada models, with both the cast and trellis pieces of the frame matching the Multistrada 1200 models, and not the Hypermotard 939.

Two New Ducati Scramblers Spotted in CARB Docs?

More new model news, as filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that we will see two new Scrambler models debuting, later this year. We come to this conclusion because emissions papers from CARB state that “Scrambler CR” and “Scrambler DS” models are coming from Ducati for 2017, in addition to the models we already have from the Italian manufacturer. The two-letter designations imply that we are likely to see a café racer (CR) version of the Ducati Scrambler, as well as a dual-sport (DS) version of the machine, which we have already seen in spy photos. This news isn’t surprising, since Ducati has made no secret about its desire to expand the Scrambler lineup.

New Four-Cylinder MV Agusta Brutale Debuting at EICMA

You know the new-bike season is just around the corner, because we’re starting to get glimpses of what the motorcycle OEMs will debut at shows like INTERMOT and EICMA. We’ve already had a glimpse of the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR, as well as the 2017 BMW S1000R, and if the folks at Italian motorcycle magazine Motociclismo are correct, the following is a concept sketch of the four-cylinder 2017 MV Agusta Brutale. The new Brutale is one of two new bikes that MV Agusta will launch at the EICMA show, with the other machine pegged as a special edition three-cylinder model. To be up front, we don’t expect anything too crazy from MV Agusta for the 2017 model year, with the Italian company still limited in options by its financial situation.

Spotted: The Subtly Changed 2017 BMW S1000R

Thanks to our loyal readers, we were pointed in the direction of some photos of what looks like a pre-production version of the upcoming 2017 BMW S1000R streetfighter (one of the machines we tipped for an update this coming model year). It appears that the new BMW S1000R is going to get a bevy of changes already found on the current BMW S1000RR superbike, both visually and mechanically. Caught at the Oschersleben track in Germany, we can’t imagine how many people walked by this parked motorcycle, without realizing what it was. We can’t blame them though, because the updates coming to the 2017 BMW S1000R are subtle, and you’d really have to know what you’re looking at, in order to see the changes.

More of the Sexiness That Is the KTM Moto2 Race Bike

KTM’s Moto2 project officially debuted today, with Aki Ajo managing the team that will consist of riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira. Like KTM’s MotoGP project, with the KTM RC16 race bike, the Moto2 project uses some intriguing elements. Namely, the frame is of a steel trellis design, the suspension is provided for by WP, and of course the engine is a lightly tuned Honda CBR600RR lump. If looks could win races, the WP KTM Moto2 machine would already be a contender. That being said, we have high expectations for the racing program in next year’s Moto2 Championship. Until then tough, we’ll let you drool over the high-resolution images we have waiting for you, after the jump.

Hi, Are You the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR?

If you were hoping that the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR would be a completely new machine for sport bike enthusiasts, the following might disappoint you. This is because photos published on Twitter seem to suggest that the 2017 Honda Fireblade will get mostly cosmetic changes for the upcoming model year. As you can see after the jump, what looks like the new CBR1000RR was caught lapping for what appears to be a PR video spot for the Japanese OEM. While it is clear from these shots that the pictured Honda CBR1000RR has a radically new fairing design, a closer comparison to the chassis (see above) suggests that the machine is simply the current generation machine, with new clothing.

Official: KTM Enters Moto2 with Binder and Oliveira

KTM is to enter the Moto2 class. The Ajo team is to expand its current Moto2 operation to two riders, with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira (not Tom Lüthi, as we had previously reported) taking the place of the departing Johann Zarco. The team is also to switch from Kalex to KTM, as part of KTM’s project to provide a career path for young riders from the FIM CEV Moto3 championship through all three Grand Prix classes to MotoGP. The names of the riders involved should come as no surprise. Brad Binder is a race or two away at most from becoming the 2016 Moto3 world champion, and Miguel Oliveira came very close to winning the Moto3 title in 2015, as Binder’s teammate in the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team. Both riders are highly rated both by KTM and by team boss Aki Ajo.

AMA Pro Racing Hires Michael Lock as a Consultant

02/13/2015 @ 10:57 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

michael-lock

It seems DMG has made its second smart decision in recent memory, the first being to sell its interesting AMA Pro Road Racing to the KRAVE, which started the MotoAmerica series.

What is this new “smart” decision, you might ask? The hiring of former Ducati North America CEO Michael Lock as a strategic consultant AMA Pro Racing.

Certainly a contentious name in the Ducati dealer network, one cannot deny however that Lock brought growth to DNA (not to mention Triumph) during his tenure, and that he understands the importance of branding and public perception — something DMG clearly does not have at its core competencies.

Moto2: Josh Herrin Dropped from Caterham Racing, Replaced by Ratthapark Wilairot for the Rest of 2014

09/05/2014 @ 10:57 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

Josh-Herrin-Moto2-Silverstone-2014

Josh Herrin’s difficult debut year in Moto2 has come to a premature end. The AirAsia Caterham Moto2 team today announced that from the Misano round of MotoGP, Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot will take the place of the 24-year-old Californian.

Wilairot is currently riding in the World Supersport championship for the Core PTR Honda team, but the remaining WSS schedule will allow the Thai rider to compete in both series. Wilairot already subbed for Herrin when the American broke his collarbone in a training accident back in April.

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

09/04/2014 @ 2:07 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

wicked-witch-melting

Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM.

It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

Long-serving staff were replaced, circuits were dropped, classes were dropped, rejigged and renamed, and the manufacturers – or rather, the national distributors of the Japanese manufacturers – were either chased out of the series, or left over disagreements over the technical regulations.

The series reached a low point this year, when the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series held a grand total of just six races. Making things worse was the fact that just one of those rounds was in California, traditionally a very strong base for motorcycle racing in the US.

To alleviate the situation, Roadracing World’s John Ulrich stepped in to organize the Superbike Shootout, a three-race series held in California and Utah, to offer road racers something approaching a fuller season. However, DMG did not have a deal to televise the Superbike series, relying instead on live internet streaming of the events.

The decline of the series cannot be laid completely at the door of the DMG. They took over the AMA Superbike series at the start of 2008, a few months before the global financial crisis hit. That crisis had a massive impact on all forms of motorsports, and saw a great deal of sponsorship money evaporate.

So Long DMG — New North American Road Racing Series Established by Wayne Rainey & Co.

09/03/2014 @ 2:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

ama-pro-racing-logo-ghost

For months now, we have been talking about a North American road racing series that would compete against the ailing AMA Pro Road Racing championship that DMG runs. The series in question was rumored to be headed by Dorna and Wayne Rainey, and today’s news confirms at least half of that partnership, as the three-time World Champion is affiliated with the project

Called MotoAmerica, the North America series is run by KRAVE Group LLC. Rainey is a partner in the KRAVE Group, along with Chuck Aksland who was a 20-year manager of Team Roberts and recently the Vice President of Motor Sport Operations at the Circuit of the Americas race track. Terry Karges, a marketing executive from Roush Performance is a part of the team, as is Richard Varner, a motorcycle industry entrepreneur.

According to the AMA, MotoAmerica will promote and manage the series, which will be sanctioned by the AMA and FIM North America. This means that MotoAmerica will be able to award AMA and FIM North America #1 plates to series class champions, replacing the role of AMA Pro Road Racing as run by the Daytona Motorsports Group.

Dorna & Wayne Rainey Looking to Develop American Racing

08/12/2014 @ 9:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

merica

There has been so much smoke lately about Dorna doing something in the American market for road racing, that surely there must be some fire. Our sources, and the consensus in the MotoGP paddock is that Carmelo Ezpeleta has his eyes on a North American Championship, of sorts — a move designed to side-step issues with DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing.

With the France family perhaps responsible single-handedly destroying American interest in motorcycle racing, it should not be too surprising that the often unliked entity that is Dorna Sport, is being hailed as a possible savior of the sport in the United States. Whatever you think about those two entities, it is clear that something has to give.

Talking to Fox Sports 1, Ezpeleta tipped his hand on what he envisioned for the US market, saying that he has been talking to “relevant people” to create a program that will develop American riders for the Grand Prix Championship. Helping him spearhead that plan is none other than a certain Mr. Wayne Rainey.

Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy

07/23/2014 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

photogp-lens-scott-jones

A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.

I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.

As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.

For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.

I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.

I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.

No TV or Live Stream for AMA Pro Racing at Laguna Seca

07/09/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

elvis-shoot-tv-simpsons

Near the start of the 2013 AMA Pro Road Racing season, DMG had yet to announce a TV package for America’s premier motorcycle road racing series.

The issue was of great concern to riders and teams, who had made sponsorship commitments, with TV exposure being an integral piece of consideration involved in those contracts. Luckily at the last-minute, a TV package was announced, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Fast-forward to the 2013 Laguna Seca round, and it became apparent that not all of the AMA Pro Road Racing events would be on TV, namely the AMA’s stop at Laguna Seca, which was being held with the now Dorna-control Superbike World Championship. Again the news was a shock, and sent the AMA Pro Racing paddock into a fervor.

Thanfully again a remedy was found at the last minute — albeit, an imperfect one — with a free online live stream being offered to two-wheel racing fans.

Moving into the 2014 season, once again it was revealed that AMA Pro Road Racing would see a downgrade in its exposure levels, as no TV contract would be produced for the season. Instead, the 2014 races would be broadcast solely on the FansChoice.tv website for free.

Laguna Seca has once again proved to be the stickler though, as DMG announced this week that the only AMA round west of The Rockies would not even be shown on the company’s streaming website. The reactions are predictable.

Dorna Eyeing a North American Championship?

06/23/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

spanish-inquisition

The discourse in AMA paddock is palpable. From 2013’s surprise revelation that AMA Pro Road Racing’s TV package would not cover all the events, to 2014’s complete lack of television coverage, there have been serious questions raised about DMG’s ability to market the premier road racing series in the United States.

A constantly dwindling calendar of events has caused many to wonder about DMG’s ability to organize race weekends, as this year’s provisional five-event calendar was marked with the absence of any races west of The Rockies (the motorcycle industry’s sweet spot), a move that would cause John Ulrich of Roadracing World to start his own three-event “Superbike Shootout” series (Laguna Seca would later be added to the AMA calendar as a sixth event).

This year was also marked by an exodus of top-level teams (Michael Jordan Motorsports and Erik Buell Racing), as well as marquee sponsors (The Army National Guard and GEICO).

Just recently torrential rain, a field of Superbikes on slicks, and not a red flag in sight caused a dust-up just a few weeks ago at Road America, resulting in a modest investment in publication ink regarding the officiating at AMA Pro Road Racing events, especially in regards to rider safety.

American road racing has long been in decline, but never before has the frustration with the series been so evident across the series’ stakeholders of riders, teams, sponsors, fans, and journalists. The malcontent is evident whenever the subject is broached.

No one can say for certain what form American road racing will take for the 2015 season, but things do not seem to be taking a positive direction with DMG’s ownership of AMA Pro Racing.

American road racing is in serious danger of fracturing if the Superbike Shootout continues, and it could legitimately collapse altogether if DMG continues operating the way it has to date. As if that wasn’t enough, a third option is waiting in the wings: Dorna.

Thursday Summary at Austin: Edwards Retires, Blandspeak Returns, & The Dearth of US Racers

04/11/2014 @ 7:58 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

circuit-of-the-americas

It was fitting – some might say inevitable – that Colin Edwards chose the Grand Prix of the Americas in his home state of Texas to announce his retirement. He had just spent the last couple of weeks at home, with his growing kids, doing dad stuff like taking them to gymnastics and baseball and motocross, then hosted a group, including current GP riders and a couple of journos, at his Bootcamp dirt track school.

He had had time to mull over his future, then talk it over with his wife Ally, and come to a decision. There wasn’t really a much better setting for the double World Superbike champion to announce he was calling it quits than sitting next to former teammate Valentino Rossi, the American he fought so memorably with in 2006, Nicky Hayden, the latest US addition to the Grand Prix paddock Josh Herrin, and with Marc Marquez, prodigy and 2013 MotoGP champion. It felt right. Sad, but right.

You can read the full story of Edwards’ retirement here, but his announcement highlighted two different problems for motorcycle racing. One local, one global, and neither particularly easy to fix.

The loss of Colin Edwards sees the MotoGP paddock, indeed all of international motorcycle racing, robbed of its most outspoken and colorful character. Edwards was a straight talker, with a colorful turn of phrase and uninhibited manner of speech.

His interviews were five parts home truths, five parts witticisms and a handful of obscenities thrown in for good measure. He livened up press conferences, racing dinners, and casual conversations alike.

With Edwards gone, motorcycle racing is a much blander, less appealing place. Though Edwards was always careful not to upset sponsors too much, he refused to toe the line and just spout the politically acceptable line handed down by his corporate paymasters. He spoke his mind, complained when he was annoyed, gave praise where it was due, and always, always entertained.

Watch Jake Gagne’s Daytona 200 Pit Stop in Slow-Motion

03/26/2014 @ 3:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

jake-gagne-roadrace-factory-daytona-200-pit-stop

We have a strange love affair with motorcycle pit stops here at Asphalt & Rubber. Maybe it’s the added spectacle that comes with rider and crew racing to change tires and fuel the machine.

Maybe it’s the carefully planned and choreographed dance that ensues, with an ever mindful eye on the stopwatch. Maybe it’s because any number of things can go wrong in those few precious seconds, which could alter the result of a race.

Whatever the case may be, we are enthralled, and at 120 frames per second, what takes only a handful of seconds to achieve, is drawn out into nearly a minute of precise motions. So without further ado, watch the RoadRace Factory Red Bull team pit their rider Jake Gagne, and help solidify his second place finish in this year’s Daytona 200.