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.

Friday Summary at Indianapolis: The New King Kenny, Yamaha’s Seamless Gearbox, & Returning Next Year?

08/17/2013 @ 6:53 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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There’s something about America. Especially if you’re name is Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda Rookie led both sessions on the opening day of the Indianapolis Grand Prix (the last one? Too early to say) going quickest both in the tricky morning, when there was very little grip, and in the afternoon, once the bikes had laid down some rubber. Marquez has won both US rounds so far, dominating at Austin and winning comfortably at Laguna Seca, and he has picked up at Indy where he left off before the summer break.

Unsurprisingly, the parallels with Kenny Roberts are starting to be made, the only other rider to become world champion as a rookie. Those parallels are unfair yet perfectly valid: both men exceeded expectations and raised the bar, shaking up the established order with a radical new riding style. Yet Roberts and Marquez also came from totally different backgrounds: Kenny Roberts had grown up racing dirt track, switched to road racing and then came to Europe to win his the championship at the first attempt, on tracks he had never seen before.

MotoGP Engine Usage at the Halfway Mark: Yamaha Struggling, Honda Dominating, & Ducati Managing

08/06/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.

In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.

For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.

MotoGP: Alex De Angelis to Replace Ben Spies at Laguna – Spies Expected Back at Indianapolis GP

07/01/2013 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies’ absence due to his shoulder injury will extend to Laguna Seca. The Texan is still going through physical rehab to get the shoulder he injured at Sepang last year up to strength, and he hopes to be back to full fitness for the final US round of MotoGP at Indianapolis at the end of August.

With Spies still out for two more races, the Ignite Pramac team needs a replacement. Michele Pirro will take Spies’ place at the Sachsenring in just under two weeks’ time, but Ducati’s official test rider is not available for Laguna, as he has more testing scheduled that week at Misano in Italy.

As a result, Pramac has asked Alex De Angelis to step in for the Laguna Seca round, as the lack of a Moto2 round at Laguna means the NGM Forward rider is availabe to take Spies’ seat at the California circuit.

De Angelis already has MotoGP experience, having raced two seasons for the Gresini Honda team in 2008 and 2009, and having replaced Hiroshi Aoyama for three rounds in 2010.

MotoGP: Biaggi’s First Day of Ducati Testing

06/06/2013 @ 3:48 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Max Biaggi is back on a MotoGP machine, for the first time since he lost his ride at the end of the 2005 season. The reigning World Superbike champion took to the track at Mugello today to test Ben Spies’ Pramac Ducati, and get a feel for a MotoGP machine again.

Biaggi was invited to ride the bike by Ducati, mainly just as a friendly gesture towards an old rider, but in part also to give his input on riding the bike. With Spies still absent recovering from his shoulder injury, putting Biaggi on the bike was an interesting prospect. Because of Biaggi’s Italian connections, he rode Spies bike, but with bodywork from Iannone’s Energy.TI machine.

In a series of posts on his Twitter feed, Biaggi took some time getting up to speed on the machine. An enormous amount has changed since Biaggi last rode a V5 990cc Honda RC211V back in 2005, all of which take a lot of getting used to. The spec Bridgestone tires and the amount of electronic rider aids are two of the biggest changes, though the electronics on the factory Aprilia RSV4 WSBK machine are already highly sophisticated.

Caption This Photo: The Prodigal Son

06/06/2013 @ 3:04 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Max Biaggi To Test Ben Spies’s Ducati at Mugello, Michele Pirro To Replace Spies at Barcelona

06/04/2013 @ 3:33 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

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Max Biaggi is to make a surprise return to riding a MotoGP machine. The former 250 and World Superbike champion will take a seat on Ben Spies’ Ignite Pramac Ducati as part of a one-day test at Mugello, as part of Ducati’s testing program, according to Italian site GPOne.

Spies was scheduled to stay on at Mugello to take part in a two-day test, but after the first day of practice at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, it was clear to both Spies and Ducati that his shoulder was still too weak to ride a MotoGP machine. With work continuing on the Desmosedici, it was important for Ducati to get as much data as possible on their bike, and so Biaggi was offered the chance to ride the machine.

MotoGP: Ben Spies Will Skip the Italian GP at Mugello

06/01/2013 @ 2:04 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies has decided to pull out of the Mugello round of MotoGP, after struggling on the first day of practice at the track. The Texan continues to have problems with a weak shoulder, as he recovers slowly from the surgery performed to correct the damage done in his crash at Sepang last October.

This is the second time that Spies has been forced to withdraw after returning to action too early. After a short period of physical rehabilitation, Spies went straight into winter testing, and then participated in the first race at Qatar, in which he struggled.

He tried again at Austin, but was forced to withdraw from that race after developing severe strain in his pectoral muscles as they struggled to compensate for the lack of strength. Spies then decided to skip both Jerez and Le Mans, to recover from both the chest strain and the shoulder surgery, before coming back at Mugello.

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamaha’s Travails, Rossi’s Hopes, Ducati’s Dreams, & Honda’s Domination

05/29/2013 @ 4:32 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Mugello is arguably MotoGP’s crowning glory. The location is stunning, in the verdant hills of Tuscany, a few miles north of Florence, one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. The track itself is gorgeous and beautifully laid out, rolling round the valley in which the circuit is set.

It is one of the few tracks left at which a MotoGP bike can fully stretch its legs, even a 260+ horsepower fire-breathing 1000cc Honda RC213V. At the end of the front straight, as riders drift right then left for the slight kink of the pit lane exit just before the track drops off for the spectacular first corner at San Donato, the bikes approach the magical barrier of 350 km/h. An obstacle that has not yet been cleared, but one which must surely fall in the near future.

A lap of the circuit passes in under 1’48, an average of 175 km/h, or nearly 110 mph. It is verily a temple of speed.

It may seem odd, then, that the fastest bike does not necessarily win at the circuit. Of the past ten editions of the race, seven have been won by Yamahas, a bike which has never been the fastest in a straight line.

While speed is not the secret to the circuit, a glance at the list of winners over the years reveals exactly what is: Valentino Rossi has won seven times at the circuit in the premier class (as well as twice more in the support classes), Mick Doohan won here six times, Jorge Lorenzo won twice, and the list of one-time winners includes Dani Pedrosa, Kevin Schwantz, Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner.

To win at Mugello is simple: it is merely a matter of being one of the very best riders in the world.

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season

05/21/2013 @ 11:06 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

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As Randy de Puniet heads to Japan to test Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP bike, the possible availability (some won’t be convinced it’s a reality until a pair of Suzuki motorcycles appear on the grid in Qatar next April) of two new factory seats has spawned a Silly Season unto itself.

If that possibility entailed another satellite prototype team, the furor would be considerable, but that it’s a new factory team means reason and rationality are running for their lives.

So once again we have the chance to observe the unique mindset of the top level motorbike racer. To that mindset, at least in this modern era, the factory ride is the Holy Grail of motorcycle racing. It’s easy to see why this has happened.

After the days of the 500cc two-strokes, when a highly-developed formula meant a privateer team could compete with the deep-pocket teams, the four-stroke era has seen costs skyrocket, and factory-deep pockets dominate the win column. It’s for very good reasons that riders feel you have to be on a factory bike to win races. But the thing is, not all factories are equal.

Preview of Le Mans: Can Lorenzo Get Back the Momentum?

05/16/2013 @ 3:56 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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Three races into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the Yamaha Factory Racing team have been forced to tear up the script they had written for themselves after pre-season testing. Their original goals were for Jorge Lorenzo to win as often as possible in the early part of the season, building a lead at the tracks at which Yamaha is supposed to be strong, then defend that lead in the second half of the year. Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, was to finish adapting to the Yamaha once again, and get on the podium ahead of the Hondas as much as possible, to help build out Lorenzo’s lead in the championship.

The plan worked perfectly at Qatar. Lorenzo was untouchable in the race, and won easily. Rossi showed he still had it by getting on the podium and taking second, while the first Honda was Marc Marquez in third. This worked out even better than expected, as although Marquez is clearly an exceptional talent, the real title threat, Yamaha believed, would come from Dani Pedrosa.