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.

Marco Simoncelli Named a “MotoGP Legend” at Mugello

05/30/2014 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

marco-simoncelli-motogp-legend

The Italian GP at Mugello kicked off with a special tribute, as Marco Simoncelli was posthumously inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame as a MotoGP Legend.

A popular figure in the MotoGP paddock, Simoncelli tragically lost his life in 2011, during the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Continue Reading

MotoGP’s ‘Factory 2’ Situation To Be Resolved on Monday

03/16/2014 @ 11:03 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

motogp-logo

It has been ten days since Carmelo Ezpeleta announced to an unsuspecting world that a new category would be added to the MotoGP class to contain Ducati, the ‘Factory 2’ class.

The change was to be ratified on Tuesday, 11th March, in a telephone meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, and Ezpeleta was confident that it would go through without too many problems.

Tuesday came and went, and no agreement had been reached. In fact, it has taken all week and much of this weekend for the situation to approach a resolution.

Sources with knowledge of the situation have now confirmed that an agreement will be announced on Monday, allowing the rules to be set in place for the start of the season on Thursday, March 20th.

Continue Reading

Examining the “Factory 2” Farce in MotoGP

03/10/2014 @ 6:17 pm, by David Emmett39 COMMENTS

2014-ducati-desmosedici-gp14-andrea-dovizioso

So, who is to blame for the three-class farce? When the ‘Factory 2’ regulations were first announced, fans and followers were quick to point the finger of blame at Honda. With good reason: HRC has made a series of comments about the way everyone except HRC have interpreted the Open class regulations.

Honda thought it was their duty to build a production racer, so that is what they did. The fact that it is hopelessly uncompetitive against the Forward Yamahas – 2013-spec satellite Yamaha M1s running the 2013-spec Open software – led to suggestions from Honda that what Yamaha was doing was unfair.

When Ducati announced that they would also be switching to the Open category, Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo was quick to denounce the move, saying it would drive costs up for the Open class teams.

Thus, It was easy to put two and two together, and come up with HRC putting pressure on Dorna to impose a penalty on Ducati, for fear of them exploiting the benefits of the Open class. Those putting two and two together appear to have come up with a number which is not as close to four as they thought, however.

Continue Reading

MotoGP Rule Change Imminent: ‘Intermediate’ Category To Be Added Between Factory Option & Open Classes

03/06/2014 @ 9:07 am, by David Emmett101 COMMENTS

Cal-Crutchlow-MotoGP-Ducati-Corse-Valencia-Test-Scott-Jones-07

The CRT-replacement Open class in MotoGP is causing an even bigger shake up of the class than was expected. The outright speed of the Forward Yamaha at the first two Sepang tests provoked a testy response from Honda, who claimed it was entirely against the spirit of the rules.

Then came news that Ducati was to switch to an Open entry, giving them the freedom to develop their engines and use more fuel, in exchange for giving up their own ECU software.

This provoked an even angrier response from Honda, Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo telling the MotoGP.com website that they were unhappy with the introduction of the new ECU software Magneti Marelli brought to the second Sepang test, which was much more sophisticated, though it was not used by the teams.

It seems Honda’s complaints have not fallen on deaf ears. Today, in an interview with Spanish sports daily AS, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta announced that a third, intermediate category is to be introduced for 2014.

Continue Reading

Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP over a Spec-ECU?

12/30/2013 @ 12:33 am, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

dani-pedrosa-hrc-motogp-scott-jones

The 2014 MotoGP season marks a key point in the evolution of Grand Prix racing. Next season, all entries in the MotoGP class must use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU and datalogger as part of their hardware package. For the first time in history, electronics have been limited in motorcycle racing’s premier class.

It is a small victory for Dorna and the teams; however, only the hardware has been regulated. All entries must use the standard ECU, but the choice of which software that ECU runs is up to the teams themselves.

If a team decides to run Dorna’s standard software, they get extra fuel to play with, and more engines to last a season. If a factory decides they would rather write their own software, they are also free to do so, but must make do with only 20 liters to last a race, and just five engines to last a season.

The difference between the two – entries under the Open class, using Dorna software, and as Factory option entries using custom software – is bigger than it seems. Open class entries are stuck with the engine management strategies (including launch control, traction control, wheelie control, and much more) as devised and implemented by the Magneti Marelli engineers, under instruction by Dorna.

Factory option entries will have vastly more sophisticated strategies at their disposal, and manufacturers will be free to develop more as and when they see fit.

The freedom to develop electronics strategies has been a deal-breaker for the factories throughout the four-stroke era. The change in capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007 vastly increased the importance of electronics in the overall package, with more and more money going into both the development and the management of electronics strategies.

The combination of a vast array of sensor inputs, fuel injection, and electronic ignition has meant that vehicle control has moved from merely managing fueling to dynamic and even predictive engine management. Engine torque is now monitored and managed based on lean angle, bike pitch, tire wear, fuel load, and a host of other variables.

So it comes as no surprise that Honda is already making threatening noises over the regulations due to come into force from 2017 onwards. Dorna intends to remove the freedom for factories to use their own software from 2017 onwards, with all bikes using the same, spec, Dorna-supplied software, as currently being developed for the Open category.

Continue Reading

MotoGP Returns to Indianapolis for 2014 & Maybe More

08/18/2013 @ 7:45 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

indianapolis-motor-speedway-pagoda-motogp-scott-jones

Despite the posturing ahead of this year’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, which seemed to suggest that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would exercise an option to forgo hosting the 2014 MotoGP Championship, Dorna and IMS have come to an accord on keeping the Indianapolis GP for next season, with a date in mid-August still to be announced.

Keeping three American races on the calendar for at least the immediate future, IMS also announced that it was working with MotoGP on a “long-term future” to keep the premier class coming back to Indianapolis, which bodes well for the US keeping its dominant role in hosting the MotoGP Championship.

Continue Reading

Casey Stoner Rules Out a MotoGP Return…Again

06/15/2013 @ 1:04 am, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

casey-stoner-podium-hrc-motogp-scott-jones

Casey Stoner has quashed rumors that he could make a return to MotoGP. In an interview with the British magazine Autosport, he says he will not come back to Grand Prix racing while it continues in the direction it is heading in. “I’m closed. I’m done with it,” Stoner told Autosport.

There have been persistent rumors that Stoner could come back for a couple of wildcards at the end of the season, though the Australian has denied he would be interested in coming in as a wildcard.

More outlandish rumors surfaced a month ago, claiming that Stoner was close to making a shock return to Ducati, and that the Italian company’s new German ownership had offered him a large sum to race again.

Continue Reading

Report: Indianapolis “Opting-Out” of 2014 MotoGP Race?

06/12/2013 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Indianapolis-GP-Sunday-Jules-Cisek-32

Talking to the Indy Star, Mark Miles (CEO of Hulman & Co, the parent company to Indianapolis Motor Speedway) has put some doubt into the historic venue’s commitment to host the MotoGP Championship.

Having a contract to run the race through the 2014 season, Miles said that IMS might opt-out of the final year in its agreement with Dorna (IMS apparently has this option for a brief window after the 2013 Indianapolis GP).

“We’re going to make the most of the opportunity,” said Miles talking to the Indy Star. “Our mindset now is that we’re going to go through 2014, but we’re going to look at this year and evaluate it right after.”

However while the news has focused so far on IMS’s ability to opt-out, both Dorna and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have options in their contract to go through with the 2014 round, and with a bevy of variables in the air, we may or may not see three American GP rounds next year.

Continue Reading

Friday Summary at Le Mans: Of Four Fast Men, Improved Ducatis, Redding’s Reign, and a Quota on Spaniards

05/17/2013 @ 4:43 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

valentino-rossi-yamaha-racing-le-mans-wheelie

So far, so good. That seems to be the story from the first day of practice at Le Mans. A full day of dry weather – except for the last few minutes of FP2 for the Moto3 class, where the rain turned briefly to hail, only to blow out again as quickly as it came – means that everyone had a chance to work on their race set up.

With the top four separated by just 0.166 seconds, the top five are within a quarter of a second, and Alvaro Bautista, the man in ninth, is just over seven tenths from the fastest man Dani Pedrosa.

A good day too for the Hondas. Dani Pedrosa was immediately up to speed, as expected. Marc Marquez was also quick in the afternoon, which was less expected. Unlike Jerez and Austin, this was the first time he rode a MotoGP machine at Le Mans, and getting used to hauling a 260 hp, 160kg bike around the tight layout of the French track is a different proposition to riding a Moto2 bike with half the horsepower here.

He took a morning to get used to the track, asked for a few changes to the base set up inherited from Casey Stoner, and then went and blitzed to second in the afternoon, 0.134 seconds off his teammate.

More important than Marquez’s speed is his consistency, however. In the afternoon, he posted seven laps of 1’34, which looks to be the pace to expect for a dry race. Only two men did more, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo having posted nine laps at that pace, with both men also consistently a tenth or two quicker than the Spanish rookie.

Continue Reading

Reuters: MotoGP Seeks to Reduce Presence in Spain & USA

05/16/2013 @ 1:24 am, by David Emmett63 COMMENTS

spanish-bull

That MotoGP is too Iberocentric – too many Spanish races, and too many Spanish riders – is obvious to all who follow the sport, with the possible exception of a blinkered Spanish journalist or two. The series has to change, to move away from having four races a season in Spain, and to explore new markets in South America and Asia.

This is exactly what is to happen, according to an interview Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta gave to the Reuters news agency on Friday. Reuters reporter Alan Baldwin spoke to Ezpeleta at the Barcelona circuit, where the Dorna CEO was attending the Formula 1 race.

In the interview, Ezpeleta laid out his intentions to move away from Spain and, to a lesser extent, the US, and towards Asia and South America, with new races to be held in Brazil and Asia, though as he has done before, Ezpeleta would not be drawn on exactly which Asian country.

Continue Reading