Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

MotoGP: High-Drama Defines the San Marino GP

09/16/2012 @ 11:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

MotoGP: High Drama Defines the San Marino GP Sunday Misano San Marino GP MotoGP Scott Jones 16

Even before the lights could go out to start the San Marino GP, the pre-race drama for MotoGP fans was intense. Stalling on the starting grid after the riders’ sighting lap, Karel Abraham raised his arm to signal the dangerous race conditions. Virtually a moment away from the start of the race, the yellow flags of the marshals flew, and the start was aborted — though, the confusion didn’t stop some riders from rocketing off the line. Thankfully however, the situation was without incident.

With a number of bikes needing to be restarted because of the failed start, teams and mechanics again filled the grid, and the start of MotoGP’s visit to Misano was delayed. No one was more affected by the restart than pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa, whose Honda RC213V had its front wheel locked-up when the team attempted to take off the tire warmers for the race’s restart. With the one-minute horn sounding, the Repsol Honda mechanics had exceeded their amount of time to work on the bike, though the situation was resolved in time for Pedrosa was able to join the field for the sighting lap.

Noticeably shaken by the incidents that occurred just a moment from the lap, and running on essentially cold tires, Pedrosa was lapped by the pace car, and ultimately had to start the San Marino not on pole, but instead at the back of the grid. Yes, even before the race started, the San Marino GP proved to be one of the most dramatic rounds of the 2012 MotoGP Championship.

MotoGP: Qualifying Bodes Well for the San Marino GP

09/16/2012 @ 2:24 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: Qualifying Bodes Well for the San Marino GP Saturday Misano San Marino GP MotoGP Scott Jones 071

Not too hot, not to cold…that’s Misano for Saturday’s qualifying event. After seeing Friday’s FP1 & FP2 sessions obliterated by a damp, but not wet, track, MotoGP riders found things for Saturday to be just right. The first chance for Jonathan Rea to get a proper go at the Honda RC213V, the Honda WSBK rider is merely “filling in” for the injured Casey Stoner, but many in the paddock believe that a good showing from Rea could land him on the Honda Gresini machine for next year — the last prototype seat in MotoGP still available.

While we will undoubtedly have to wait a bit longer to see that seat filled and sorted, the big attention for the day was the battle between the two Spaniards, as Dani Pedrosa is running out of rounds to catch up to rival Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship. Needing a win this weekend to keep those hopes alive, many GP fans are hoping for another battle between the two riders, like the one we recently saw in Brno. If the qualifying session is any proof of the matter, racing on Sunday should be quite good.

Thursday Summary at Misano: Of Fallen Riders, Ducati’s Junior Team, & The ECU Face Off

09/13/2012 @ 4:57 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Misano: Of Fallen Riders, Ducatis Junior Team, & The ECU Face Off shoya tomizawa 635x430

The return to Misano was always going to be an emotional affair, the first time MotoGP has returned to Marco Simoncelli’s home circuit – now renamed in his honor – since the Italian fan favorite was killed in a tragic accident at Sepang last October. Though Simoncelli is being remembered in many different ways during the weekend – nearly all of the riders in all three classes joined for a lap of the track by bicycle this evening – the remembrance has been cheerful rather than mawkish, a celebration of his life rather than mourning at his death.

Fans, riders, mechanics, photographers, journalists, many have made the pilgrimage to Coriano, Simoncelli’s home town just a few short miles from the track, paid their respects and headed to the circuit feeling better for the experience. Simoncelli’s ghost may haunt the paddock at Misano, but happily, he does so in the guise of Casper rather than Banquo.

There is more than enough to keep the minds of those present engaged. Uppermost in most people’s thoughts is Ben Spies’ decision to go to Ducati to race in the Ducati junior team that is to be run by Pramac. Both of the 2013 factory Ducati riders welcomed the signing of both Spies and Andrea Iannone, with Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden saying it was a good decision by Ducati.

Both Spies and Iannone had proven their speed, and Spies’ experience at the factory Yamaha team would be very valuable to Ducati in helping to develop the bike. There was surprise at Spies’ decision – “I thought he would go to World Superbikes” Dovizioso told reporters – and both men were interested to see how he would perform on the Ducati.

Official: Ben Spies & Andrea Iannone to Pramac Ducati

09/12/2012 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Official: Ben Spies & Andrea Iannone to Pramac Ducati Ben Spies MotoGP Laguna Seca Red Bull Scott Jones

The speculation on where Ben Spies will land for the 2013 MotoGP Championship can finally come to conclusion, as Ducati Corse has announced the signing of the American to its “Junior Team” for next season. Spies will be joined by Moto2′s Andrea Iannone, where the two riders will race out of the Pramac Racing garage, which has also renewed its partnership with Ducati. Both riders will use “official” equipment according to Ducati’s press release.

You may recall Ducati’s “Junior Team” strategy, where the satellite Ducati effort will be closely linked with the folks back at Borgo Panigale. It is Ducati Corse’s hope that having four closely equipped Desmosedici GP13 race bikes will aid in the development pace for the company’s MotoGP program. While Iannone is clearly a talent the team wants to develop for the future, the addition of Ben Spies to the Pramac squad ensures that a capable hand is on the bike from the onset.

Before taking the ride at Pramac Ducati, Spies was linked to a multitude of other offers, including Honda Gresini and Suzuki in MotoGP, as well as the factory BMW team in World Superbike. With each option having its drawbacks and advantages, Spies’ move to Ducati keeps him on factory/near-factory equipment, and perhaps more importantly, in the MotoGP paddock where better options could come to light for the 2014 season. Ducati Corse’s press release is after the jump.

Ben Spies Talks About Doping in MotoGP

09/10/2012 @ 6:15 pm, by David Emmett29 COMMENTS

Ben Spies Talks About Doping in MotoGP Ben Spies Laguna Seca MotoGP Scott Jones

The use of performance-enhancing (or in the case of Anthony Gobert, performance-reducing) drugs in motorcycle racing is an interesting subject. There have been very few racers who have been caught for using doping of one kind of another – Noriyuki Haga being the most high-profile example, banned for the use of ephedrine – but the FIM continues to police the issue very strictly, even organizing a special educational briefing session for all of the riders in the MotoGP paddock in 2011.

Trackside Tuesday: Chemin Dangereux

09/04/2012 @ 7:02 pm, by Scott Jones8 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Chemin Dangereux Ben Spies Rizla Suzuki Donington Park MotoGP Scott Jones

Going through images of the 2008 British GP at Donington Park, I got to thinking about what a strange road it has been for Ben Spies. It started when Loris Capirossi was injured and Suzuki needed a rider to wild card at the event. Ben was their hot young AMA Superbike champ, and together with Mat Mladin, accounted for years of utter Suzuki dominance in the class.

I spoke briefly to Ben that Thursday as his #11 was displayed to replace Capirossi’s #65 for the first time. As soft-spoken and affable as ever, Ben didn’t seem over-awed by MotoGP, but just got about his job of not crashing Loris’ motorcycle. He would later go on to win the World Superbike title, and was rookie of the year at Tech 3. Again, all with his typical composure.

Since then we have seen his rising star take a sharp turn to port. He has managed to show signs of his potential, such as his win at Assen last year. But this year in particular he has been a frightful reminder that talent, hard work, and a good machine are not quite enough for success as a motorbike racer. As Ben’s bad luck has refused to come to an end, I’m not the only one in the paddock thinking about it. In Ben, the riders have another walking reminder of the uncertainties they face.

The Spies Enigma: Where Will Ben Spies Be Racing in 2013?

09/04/2012 @ 9:07 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

The Spies Enigma: Where Will Ben Spies Be Racing in 2013? Indianapolis GP Friday Jules Cisek 07 635x423

To say that Ben Spies has caused a few surprises in 2012 is one of the larger understatements of the year. Sadly for the Texan, though, those surprises have not come in the form of podiums and race wins, as he himself may have hoped. Rather the opposite, and often through no fault of his own, Spies’ 2012 season has been dogged by bad luck, unusual mechanical failures, and mistakes.

The surprises reached their apogee the week before the Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, when Spies announced he would be leaving Yamaha at the end of the 2012 season. That he should be leaving Yamaha was unusual enough – the factory Yamaha ride is probably the most desirable seat in the MotoGP paddock, as the M1 has proven to be the most competitive bike this season – but his choice of media was extraordinary: a post on his Twitter feed, followed by a more conventional (if unusually timed) phone call to Superbikeplanet to explain his decision in a little more detail.

Since that stunning revelation, Spies has stayed almost silent. He has continually played down rumors about where he could be headed for next season, leaving much room for speculation, conjecture and rumor, some reliable, others much less so. So where will Ben Spies be racing in 2013? MotoGP, World Superbikes, or will he even be racing at all?

Sunday Summary at Brno: Of Racing Like Champions, Bad Luck, & Replacement Riders

08/27/2012 @ 10:10 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Brno: Of Racing Like Champions, Bad Luck, & Replacement Riders Dani Pedrosa Jorge Lorenzo Brno Pass 635x425

Dani Pedrosa has something of a reputation. Blisteringly fast when out on his own, but put him under pressure and he crumbles. Once passed, he is history, and he will trouble you no more.

There has never been that much truth to that accusation, and the MotoGP race at Brno should drive the final nail into its coffin, for what the diminutive Spaniard displayed on Sunday was the heart and courage of a lion. The race did not have much passing – just three passes for the lead in the entire race – but it was a genuine thriller nonetheless.

MotoGP: Last-Lap Thriller at the Czech GP

08/26/2012 @ 6:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Last Lap Thriller at the Czech GP dani pedrosa repsol honda motogp brno1 635x421

With the signing of Cal Crutchlow for another year with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad, before the Czech GP even got started it was turning the page on another chapter of the MotoGP silly season. The racing too would prove to be pivotal to the Championship. A mix of good and bad weather during the week, Brno would prove to be a dry race, despite hosting a wet warm-up session.

With Dani Pedrosa on form all through Free Practice, the Spaniard’s off in qualifying took him off a step, as he had to ride his “B” bike, which suffered from more chatter. Despite Cal Crutchlow placing second on the grid for the race, the Brit noted what everyone already knew: Sunday’s race would be between Pedrosa and Lorenzo — and he was right.

MotoGP: Yamahas Dominate Qualifying at Brno

08/26/2012 @ 12:19 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: Yamahas Dominate Qualifying at Brno Ben Spies Yamaha MotoGP Brno 635x423

The 2012 MotoGP Championship continues its trend of mixed weather, as riders had to contend with an evening rain that washed the Brno circuit. A decisive moment in the Championship points, the Czech GP already dashed the hopes of Casey Stoner, who after consulting with his Doctors back in Australia, was advised to sit out the Czech round and return back to Oz for surgery on the ankle he injured last weekend at Indianapolis. Also sitting out the weekend were Nicky Hayden and Hector Barbera, with the Spaniard being again replaced by Toni Elias.

It was not all doom and gloom on Saturday though, as Cal Crutchlow announced his new contract with Monster Yamaha Tech 3, ending the speculation as to where the likable Brit would land for the 2013 season. With Jorge Lorenzo only 18 points ahead of Dani Pedrosa, Brno is a critical round to nail down a solid lead in the Championship, though the Repsol Honda man has been gaining momentum the past few rounds.