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.

Aprilia ART – A Thinly Veiled World Superbike?

03/30/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.

Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.

If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.

Continue Reading

Infographic: Aprilia – Ride Like a Champion

03/20/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Aprilia has the dubious distinction of having some of the most compelling motorcycles in its product lineup, which are mated to some of the worst market communications in the industry, but the Italian manufacturer certainly seems to be trying this year. Getting ready to launch the Aprilia Tuono V4 APRC in the US later this month, Aprilia is trying to expose more riders to the Italian brand and its racing heritage.

While we were less-than-impressed with the company’s more recent strategy of hiring motorcycle blogs to create online commercials for the brand, this latest media effort seems more genuine and original. Find after the jump an ever-so-trendy infographic on Aprilia’s racing heritage, APRC electronics system, and V4 engine, and RSV & Tuono motorcycles. Click on it for an even bigger version, it’s actually pretty interesting.

Continue Reading

A New Aprilia RSV4 for 2014?

02/09/2012 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

It seems a bit silly to be talking about the 2014 model year when we are only into our second month of 2012. However, such is the case today because a certain Max Biaggi let it slip during the Aprilia Racing Team’s World Superbike presentation that 2012 would be the penultimate season for the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC. Adding that Aprilia would not be developing its race bike for the 2013 season, the signs would seemingly indicate that a new liter bike model from the Italian manufacturer is on the horizon for 2014.

Continue Reading

Photo: The Aprilia Moto2 Racer that Never Was

01/11/2012 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Aprilia’s bid to race in the Moto2 Championship was apparently very short-lived, as Italian moto site Infomoto2 has uncovered a photo of the project, that is of course before Piaggio executives killed the racing effort. Hoping to continue the brand’s domination in the middle-class of GP racing, Aprilia’s Moto2 effort surely suffered from the fact that a Honda CBR motor would reside inside the Italian company’s prototype machine. The conflict of interest is surely understandable, although admittedly Aprilia had no 600cc motor of its own to use for the Moto2 class. Still, a piece of “what could have been” racing history, if you squint hard enough you can see some of Aprilia’s other GP racing efforts in the bike’s design.

Continue Reading

Official: Randy de Puniet & Aleix Espargaró to Aspar MotoGP Team on a Aprilia-Powered CRTs

11/28/2011 @ 5:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

To say Randy de Puniet had a tough season this year might be an understatement. Seemingly finding his groove at LCR Honda during the 2010 season, RdP found himself going into the 2011 known more for his well-raced finishes than gravel trap disappointments. The Frenchman showed a new maturity with his riding, and many thought his riding style would suit the troublesome Ducati Desmosedici GP11 well.

While the beginning of the season often saw de Puniet the fastest of the Italian bikes, it was clear that the move to Pramac Ducati was a misstep in the rider’s career. Jumping ship for 2012, and clear that he did not want to race in World Superbike or on a CRT machine, de Puniet seemingly had a number of options in front of him despite the 2011 season winding to a close: a return to LCR Honda, a factory ride with Rizla Suzuki, and ties to the well-run Aspar MotoGP team.

Those options would be limited though, as 2011 Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl was shoe-horned into the LCR Honda squad to keep the pretense alive that Moto2 prepared riders to race in MotoGP. Similarly the rug was pulled out from underneath the Frenchman, as Rizla Suzuki got its plugged pulled almost immediately after RdP tested the Suzuki GSV-R, with promising results we might add. Left with few other choices, and certainly none of them better, it comes with little surprise then that Jorge “Aspar” Martinez’s MotoGP team has announced that Randy de Puniet will be one of its two riders for the 2012 MotoGP season.

De Puniet will be joined by former-MotoGP/Moto2 racer Aleix Espargaró on the two bike team. Dropping Ducati and announcing that Team Aspar will run an all CRT effort, the Spanish team will use Aprilia-powered bikes (De Puniet tested one of these bikes at Jerez last week). While a chassis manufacturer has not been announced, paddock gossip has been suggesting that Aprilia could be supplying a custom chassis for the racing effort. If you’ve been following MotoGP and the CRT movement closely, your eyebrows should be raised right now.

Continue Reading

Caption This Photo: Find the Extra Two Seconds

05/28/2011 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Photo: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

Photo of the Week: It’s Not Easy Being Max Biaggi

05/23/2011 @ 10:16 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

With World Superbike coming to Miller Motorsports Park next weekend, many eyes are on reigning champ Max Biaggi. Will Max be able to recover from a rocky season’s start to keep the title in Aprilia’s trophy case? Or will a charging Carlos Checa and upstart Marco Melandri continue to show no respect for Max’s greatness? Since his early days as a fantastic 250cc two-stroke rider, Max has had his share of disrespectful rivals.

Last year he, and the dominant Aprilia, added another star to his dorsal display of world titles. But in 2009 he ran into some trouble with Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga. You can never fault Max for not trying hard enough–in qualifying Max held onto the throttle as he dumped the RSV4 in the Attitudes, though Spies would win both races that weekend. Whether you love him or hate him, Max gives it all he’s got.

Continue Reading

Biaggi Breaks WSBK Top Speed Record at Monza

05/06/2011 @ 12:10 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off on Biaggi Breaks WSBK Top Speed Record at Monza

Though provisional pole went to Leon Haslam in Friday afternoon’s World Superbike qualifying practice at Monza, reigning World Champion Max Biaggi made headlines of his own by breaking the WSBK top speed record. Despite this feat, Haslam outqualified the Italian at home by just 0.019s in a final lap dash, with Eugene Laverty and Ayrton Badovini completing the provisional front row for Yamaha and BMW Motorrad Italia.

Though there will be another qualifying practice Saturday morning and the three sessions of Superpole yet to be held to determine the pole sitter for Sunday’s race, Biaggi is looking to gain back momentum lost in the debacle that was Donington Park. “We need to recover points and we have plenty of potential to be able to do so, even the Assen round showed that,” said Biaggi. He added, “Racing in Italy in front of my supporters will obviously give me a little more charge.” That charge led to the new record of 332.5 kph (206.62 mph) set by Biaggi on Friday.

Continue Reading

Max Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 Race Bike Caught with Illegal Fuel Injection Pump at Assen – No Penalty Given

04/19/2011 @ 12:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Aprilia and the FIM deny any irregularities with Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 at Assen.

Respected source in the World Superbike community, Sport-Bikes.fr is reporting that WSBK technical scrutineers have found an illegal fuel injection system on Max Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 Factory at the Assen round of the Championship series. According to World Superbike rules, the entire fuel injection system must be original to the street homologated motorcycle, including the pump, fuel lines, and injectors.

Scrutineering at Phillip Island found that the injectors of all three Aprilias were in compliance, as was also the case for the outlet pressure injection pump, which was checked at Donington Park. However at Assen, Max Biaggi’s RSV4 was found to be different from the bikes used by Camier and Haga, and was racing with a non-original fuel injection pump.

A fuel injection pump seems hardly a worthy offense to crucify the reigning World Champion over, and many will state that pushing the limits of the rule book is a part of racing (something Aprilia is already known for). Accordingly World Superbike has not docked Biaggi of his results from Sunday’s races, nor has it levied any sort of penalty for the team’s actions. Instead, Aprilia has simply been told it much replace the pump by the next race at Monza.

Continue Reading

2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Special Edition – More Than Just Traction Control Comes to the RSV4

10/07/2010 @ 5:07 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

APRC, short for: Aprilia Performance Ride Control…that just about sums up the latest special edition motorcycle out of Noale. Taking the World Superbike winning RSV4 Factory, Aprilia joins a bevy of other manufacturers in applying race-bred electronic packages to their sport bike offerings for 2011. More than just a traction control system, Aprilia has added a multitude of electronics to the 2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Special Edition.

Already leaked before Intermot, the Special Edition RSV4 Factory gets Aprilia Traction Control (ATC), which features 8 settings that are selectable via the left handlebar. However we also know now that the 2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Special Edition comes also with Aprilia Wheelie Control (AWC) and Aprilia Launch Control (ALC), both of which have three settings. Similar to the Ducati 1198 series, the RSV4 is also getting a quick-shifter, dubbed the Aprilia Quick Shift (AQS), which allows the rider to shift gears without using the clutch and without closing the throttle. Photos and more after the jump.

Continue Reading