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.

Deciphering the 2016 MotoGP Calendar

08/24/2015 @ 1:25 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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With the news that the Brno round of MotoGP has been handed to a consortium consisting of local and regional governments, and that they are working to secure the long-term future of Brno, a major piece of the puzzle surrounding MotoGP’s schedule for 2016 slotted into place.

Brno, along with Indianapolis, had been the two biggest question marks still hanging over the calendar.

Most of the schedule fell into place once Formula One announced its calendar several weeks ago. The combination of an unusually late start (F1 kicks off in Melbourne on April 4th, two weeks later than last year) and an expansion of the schedule to 21 races has left few gaps for MotoGP to fit into.

The upside to F1’s late start is that MotoGP can get a head start on its four-wheeled counterpart, and kick the season off before F1 begins.

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Notes from the Catalunya Post-Race Test: Honda’s 2014/2015 Hybrid, & The Frustration of Weather

06/16/2015 @ 12:03 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Frustration and resignation. Those were the two most prominent emotions at the post-race MotoGP test at Barcelona.

Two sides of the same coin, in reality, as the weather robbed teams in desperate need of track time of any chance of doing the hard work which will make them all a bit more competitive.

After an hour and a half of a dry track, a massive thunderstorm washed over the circuit, drenching the track and leaving it wet for the rest of the day.

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Monday Summary at Catalunya: Rain Hits Post-Race Test

06/15/2015 @ 12:36 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Monday Summary at Catalunya: Rain Hits Post-Race Test

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Bradley Smith leaves Barcelona as the fastest of the MotoGP riders, after heavy rain disrupted testing shortly before midday, and left the track wet for the rest of the day.

The weather meant that some teams were forced to change their plans. Yamaha’s original plan to go riding in the afternoon was scrapped, the factory heading straight to Aragon for two more days of testing. There, they will be joined by Suzuki, as well as a number of Moto2 teams.

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Sunday Summary at Catalunya: The Stuff of Champions

06/15/2015 @ 12:41 am, by David Emmett29 COMMENTS

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Barcelona was the place the champions emerged. In Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, riders laid a solid claim to the titles in their respective classes.

Danny Kent rode with heart and head, and won the Moto3 race with a plan, extending his lead in the championship to 51 points.

Johann Zarco pulled back a big gap and made the right move when it mattered most, extending his lead to 31 points.

And Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi demolished all-comers to make it a Yamaha one-two, and push their lead out to 44 and 43 points respectively, the Movistar Yamaha men separated by a single point between them.

A lot can happen in the eleven races which remain, but the chances of the three titles not bearing the names of three of those four men are getting slimmer by the race.

The fat lady is still a long way from starting to sing, but you get a sneaking suspicion that you just heard her taxi pull up at the artists’ entrance.

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MotoGP: Race Results from Catalunya

06/14/2015 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Catalunya: Suzuki’s Triumph, Lorenzo’s Pace, & Preventing Moto3 Towing Madness

06/14/2015 @ 1:25 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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1993. That was the last time there were two Suzukis in the first two positions on the grid. Then, it was Kevin Schwantz and Alex Barros who qualified first and second at Jerez. Now, twenty-two years and six weeks later, it is Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales.

Then, Suzuki were at the height of their competitiveness, before beginning their slow decline, which went on until they withdrew at the end of the 2011 season. Now, Suzuki is back after a three-year absence, with a brand new prototype at the start of its development.

Taking pole and second in just their seventh race is quite an achievement for Suzuki, and vindication of their choice to build an inline-four, something they know all too well, rather than messing around with a V4, as they had done throughout the MotoGP era.

It is also a vindication for the team of people Suzuki chose to lead their return to MotoGP. Davide Brivio has proven to be a shrewd team manager, to nobody’s surprise.

Tom O’Kane, Aleix Espargaro’s crew chief, has been instrumental in providing direction to the development of the bike. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales have lived up to their expectations, combining experience, attitude and a hunger for success.

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MotoGP: Qualifying Results from Catalunya

06/13/2015 @ 8:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Catalunya: Fast Suzukis, The Deceptive Pace of the Yamahas, & Tires and Electronics

06/12/2015 @ 5:46 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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What did we learn from Friday practice at Barcelona? We learned that things are not quite what they seem. Does the fact that the Repsol Honda riders are second and third overall mean that HRC’s travails are behind it? Certainly not.

Do the two Suzukis in the top five – and Aleix Espargaro setting the fastest overall time – mean Suzuki have found the horsepower to match the Honda and Ducati? Absolutely not.

Will the Yamaha’s lowly positions on the grid put them out of contention on Sunday? Leaving aside the fact that it’s just the first day of practice, with another full day on Saturday, definitely, absolutely, certainly not.

Are all these assumptions completely baseless? That’s where it gets interesting. In fact, there is a kernel of truth underlying them all.

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Introducing The Paddock Pass Podcast

06/12/2015 @ 3:28 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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The start of the Catalan GP is upon us, so I wanted to share with you all a little project Asphalt & Rubber has been working on with the better part of the English-speaking press in the MotoGP paddock — it’s a racing-focused podcast called The Paddock Pass Podcast.

We’ve been working on this podcast for the past few months, and after a few trial runs, we have something that we’re at least comfortable sharing with our readers.

That being said, we are well aware that we still have a few technical and production kinks to iron out. As such, think of this as a “public beta” that should improve rapidly over time.

The goal is to provide insightful and entertaining commentary and stories, something you can listen to on the way to work perhaps, which you wouldn’t necessary catch reading the headlines of the major mags and websites. For now, we’re focusing on MotoGP, though we have eyes on branching out to other championships and events.

Without further ado, David and Stephen have done a great job previewing this weekend’s Catalan GP (Tony is stuck at the Isle of Man, getting more content for us hopefully). Give it a listen, it’s only 35 minutes long or so, and give us your feedback in the comments.

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Thursday Summary at Catalunya: The Merits of a Good Base Setup, A Wet Weekend, & Arm Pump

06/11/2015 @ 5:43 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The difference between a successful race weekend and going home with empty hands is often made before the bikes have even turned a wheel on the track. “Base setup,” that is the elusive goal that teams spend so long chasing during testing and practice.

A good base setup will give you two full days to try to go faster, knowing that the worst case scenario is that your bike is only very good, rather than perfect.

If the bike is competitive from the start, you can focus on winning, rather than trying to find something that works, and gambling on changes that you are not certain will be effective.

This, then, is the dilemma facing Jorge Lorenzo’s rivals at Barcelona. Lorenzo has that base setup that makes him the man to beat from Friday morning.

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