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.

Lessons from Austin: Marquez’s Star Rises, Rossi’s Wanes

03/15/2013 @ 1:50 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

marc-marquez-elbow-hrc

So the three days of testing at Austin are over, and what did we learn? That Marc Marquez is something special? We knew that, though we didn’t perhaps realize just how special. That Yamaha really needs to find more acceleration? This, too, was known, but becoming clearer every time the M1 goes up against the Honda RC213V on track. That Valentino Rossi’s return does not equate to an automatic 8th MotoGP title? We suspected as much.

The first thing that became obvious is that the Austin circuit itself is pretty decent. Valentino Rossi described it as “a typical Tilke track, with corners that remind you of Shanghai and Turkey.” Unsurprising, given that Herman Tilke, who also designed Shanghai, Istanbul, and many other race tracks around the world, was responsible for designing the track.

The input from Kevin Schwantz was helpful, though, making the track more like Istanbul than Shanghai. The circuit has a couple of highly technical sections, where you go in blind and need to have memorized which way the track goes. It is wide, giving opportunities for overtaking and braking, and has a couple of the fast, fast sweepers which motorcycle racers love.

It also has a couple of tight corners, leaving the bike in a low gear with a lot of acceleration to do. This, it became apparent, favors the Hondas, the RC213V strongest off the bottom, and capable of pulling a gap. Acceleration issues will be a problem for Yamaha this year, unless Masahiko Nakajima and his fellow engineers can find some extra grunt out of the corners.

The situation was similar in 2012, but Yamaha was helped by the problems the Hondas had with chatter. So far, the Repsol Honda men have remained silent on the issue, meaning the worst of it is over. Yamaha have their work cut out, and Jorge Lorenzo’s second title defense could be a little too reminiscent of his previous one in 2011.

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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.

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COTA Looking for Volunteer Race Marshals for MotoGP

12/17/2012 @ 9:43 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

The Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas is seeking some volunteer race marshals for its inaugural MotoGP event next April. One of three stops for the MotoGP Championship in the United States, the Texan track recently hosted a well-received Formula One race, and proves to be a spectacular venue for motorcycles, so here’s your chance to get in for free to see the bikes.

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2013 MotoGP Championship Provisional Calendar v.3

11/23/2012 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

True to the rumors heard in the MotoGP paddock, the Argentinian GP has been canceled by Dorna. Scheduled as the second round for the 2013 MotoGP Championship, the loss of the round in Argentina means that the season-opener at Qatar has been pushed further back into the year, and is now slated to be held on April 7, 2013.

The Austin GP is now the second round of the series, and will continue to be held on April 21, 2013. The full provisional 2013 MotoGP calendar is after the jump, and now supersedes the previously published provisional calendar. Click here for Dorna’s statement as to why the round was cancelled.

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2013 MotoGP Championship Provisional Calendar v.2

10/17/2012 @ 4:45 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on 2013 MotoGP Championship Provisional Calendar v.2

The FIM has issued a revised version of the 2013 MotoGP calendar. The new calendar is only a minor update to the initial calendar issued on September 21st, with only one real change, the switching of the Sachsenring to a week earlier. That move was forced on the FIM, as Formula One had scheduled the Grand Prix of Germany at the Nurburgring for the same date. Holding an F1 race and a MotoGP race in the same country and on the same date was not a viable situation, and so the Sachsenring race was moved.

The other update to the calendar was not a change, but a confirmation. The Grand Prix of the Americas has been confirmed as taking place on April 21st, at the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. That had been widely expected, but could not be confirmed until contracts were signed. The continuing dispute between the Circuit of the Americas and Kevin Schwantz over the rights to organize the Austin round of MotoGP will not affect the scheduling of the race.

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Dorna & Circuit of the Americas Confirm Austin GP

10/03/2012 @ 10:45 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

The Texas round of MotoGP is to go ahead. The race, due to take place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas has been confirmed for April 21st, 2013, with Dorna and the Circuit of the Americas issuing a joint press release announcing the date. The race in Texas was one of the two races marked as being subject to confirmation, but today’s announcement leaves just the race in Argentina and the Jerez round to be confirmed.

Confirmation of the race comes despite the ongoing legal action between Kevin Schwantz and the Circuit of the Americas. That legal action should have no effect on the race actually taking place, however. The lawsuit filed by Schwantz against COTA will take some time to actually get in front of a judge, and the most probable outcome is that money will change hands to settle the deal, either one way or another.

The signing of the Austin contract leaves just Argentina and Jerez to be sorted out. The Jerez deal is a question of paperwork and, most likely, money; it is inconceivable that Dorna would pull out of the deal to host the first European round of the season in Jerez, where it has been for several years now.

Argentina, on the other hand, is far more complex: there are reports from local Argentine sources that work on the facilities at the circuit is slow, but the bigger problem is political. The expropriation of Repsol’s Argentinian subsidiary Repsol YPF by the Argentine government has deeply upset the Spanish oil giant, and Repsol has threatened not to allow the teams it backs to attend the race, saying that they cannot be certain that their property will be safe, a claim which the local organizers have denied.

The full press release announcing the MotoGP race in Texas is after the jump.

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Schwantz Releases Another Statement about COTA & Dorna

09/14/2012 @ 12:34 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Kevin Schwantz has issued another statement in response to the press releases put out by both the Circuit of the Americas and Dorna, concerning his legal proceedings over the case. In the press release, Schwantz lays the blame for the situation at the feet of the Circuit of the Americas, and claims they attempted to obtain the contract to organize the MotoGP race in Texas by forcing him out of the deal with Dorna. The full statement issued by Kevin Schwantz is after the jump.

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Dorna Weighs in on the Schwantz/COTA Controversy

09/12/2012 @ 12:22 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

After news emerged at the end of last week that Kevin Schwantz is suing the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), the track in Austin, Texas where the third US GP is to be held in 2013, attention turned to the details of just who held the contract to organize the event. In their lawsuit, Schwantz’ company 3FourTexasMGP alleged that the COTA had attempted to defraud him out of the rights to organize the race, something which the circuit denied in a press statement, with COTA claiming that Schwantz had never held a contract to organize the event.

In a statement issued by Dorna, the Spanish rights holders to the MotoGP series clarified the current legal situation between the various parties. The statement shows that both Schwantz and COTA are right: Dorna states that it signed a contract with both COTA and Schwantz’ company 3FourTexasMGP for the event, with Schwantz being granted the rights to organize the race, subject to being able to show he had come to an agreement with the circuit.

However, when asked by Dorna to provide the proof that he held a contract with COTA which would allow him to organize the MotoGP race there, Schwantz was unable to, and the contract was then passed to the Circuit of the Americas. COTA currently holds the rights to organize the event.

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MotoGP: Austin GP in Doubt as Schwantz Sues COTA

09/08/2012 @ 4:38 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

The chances of a MotoGP round taking place in Austin, Texas seem further away than ever. Yesterday, Kevin Schwantz filed suit against the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), claiming an attempt to fraudulently deprive the 1993 500cc World Champion of the rights to organize the MotoGP race that would be held at the circuit outside of Austin, Texas.

In the lawsuit, Schwantz accuses COTA of going behind his back to arrange a deal directly with Dorna to organize the Austin round of MotoGP, while Schwantz’ company, 3fourTexasMGP, has a ten-year contract to organize the race. In a statement issued tonight by the circuit press office, COTA denies that Schwantz holds any rights to organize the event.

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Question Marks for MotoGP at Austin – WSBK Instead?

03/09/2012 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

News of a possible MotoGP round in Austin, Texas sent GP fans in the United Stats into a flurry, but the proposed third US round has been anything but a sure thing since its announcement, and continues to be so even after the signing of a 10-year contract. Trouble first started brewing as the Circuit of the America’s had trouble finalizing its deal with Formula 1, a deal that was the linchpin to the circuit’s financing. With the issues with F1 resolved, and the premier car racing series set to take the green flag at Austin later this year, MotoGP seemingly is having the same problem of coming to Austin.

Reported by the local Austin news site the Statesman, the issue is both complex and relatively simple. As with Formula 1, the rights to host MotoGP at the Austin track reside with Full Throttle, a promotion company owned in part by Tavo Hellmund, who in turn was a partner of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) project. When last year Formula 1’s contract with Hellmund was found to be in breach, F1 Boss Bernie Eccelstone terminated his contract with Hellmund, which then sent the F1 deal at Austin into a tailspin, and caused COTA to deal directly with Formula 1 in securing the racing series.

With Hellmund also being the bond that tied MotoGP to Austin, the same issue has arisen with COTA and Dorna, the media rights holder to the MotoGP Championship. According to court documents, Hellmund alleges that COTA had an opportunity to buy the rights to host MotoGP for $18 million from Full Throttle/Hellmund when it bought the similar rights to Formula 1. Clearly unable to close that deal at the time, unless the Circuit of the Americas can secure those rights in the coming months, the Austin GP scheduled for 2013 will likely not be held.

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