Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Interview: Filippo Preziosi Talks about Ducati’s Four Riders, Future Developments, & The Spec ECU Rule

09/19/2012 @ 3:10 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse director and Ducati’s engineering guru Filippo Preziosi was a busy man at Misano. Besides overseeing the race weekend at the circuit and preparing for the test on Monday, Preziosi spent a lot of time talking to a number of journalists. I was one of the lucky few who were offered ten minutes with Preziosi, and so I jumped at the chance.

In the interview, Preziosi covered a number of topics: the Ducati junior team strategy, Ducati’s four riders for 2013, the current and expected developments for next season were all among the subjects discussed. Preziosi also talked about the effect of the spec ECU, which will be introduced for 2014, and gave the impression he was not necessarily opposed to the idea. After the jump is what Preziosi had to say.

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MotoGP: High-Drama Defines the San Marino GP

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

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.

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MotoGP: Qualifying Bodes Well for the San Marino GP

09/16/2012 @ 2:24 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on MotoGP: Qualifying Bodes Well for the San Marino GP

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.

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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

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.

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Official: Ben Spies & Andrea Iannone to Pramac Ducati

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

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.

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Ben Spies Talks About Doping in MotoGP

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

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.

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Trackside Tuesday: Chemin Dangereux

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

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.

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

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

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?

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

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

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.

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MotoGP: Last-Lap Thriller at the Czech GP

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

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.

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