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.

Edwards with NGM Forward & Abraham To Aprilia for 2013

09/14/2012 @ 9:08 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

With the available seats at the teams with factory prototypes all now full with the exception of the final satellite Honda – most likely a toss-up between Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista at Gresini Honda, though rumors persist of Marc VDS Racing taking the Honda RC213V from Gresini and fielding Redding in their own team – attention has now turned to the CRT grid, and the available seats being filled there.

At Misano, two teams announced their plans for 2013. On Thursday, the NGM Forward squad announced they had persuaded Colin Edwards to stay for another season, meaning that the Texan will remain in MotoGP for another year. The team is to finish the 2012 season on the Suter BMW, before making a decision on which bike to use for 2013. The team had been considering a switch to the Aprilia ART machine, but promises of an expanded testing program and more development have kept Forward on board for the rest of the season.

The Cardion AB team will be using the Aprilia ART, however. Today, the team officially confirmed that they would not be continuing with Ducati and would be switching to an Aprilia ART machine. The team will work in partnership with Aprilia and the Aspar team to help develop the Aprilia, in preparation for the new rules in 2014, which will see a rev limit and spec ECU imposed. Karel Abraham will remain the rider for the team.

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MotoGP: IODA to Suter, Salom Replaces Silva, & Edwards’ Bike Choice Uncertain for Misano

09/06/2012 @ 10:40 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

The Misano round of MotoGP in just over a week will see a host of changes at the CRT end of pit lane, as teams reevaluate ahead of the final part of the season. Perhaps the least surprising swap is that of the IODA Racing team, who are dropping their own IODA racing machine – an Aprilia powerplant housed in a steel trellis frame built by the team themselves – in favor of the Suter BMW bike currently being raced by NGM Forward’s Colin Edwards.

Danilo Petrucci’s biggest complaint all year has been a lack of top speed, sometimes as much as 50 km/h to the factory MotoGP bikes and close to 30 km/h to the other CRT machines, so the Italian will be hoping that the much more powerful BMW unit will give him a power boost. Petrucci and IODA tested the BMW at the Vairano circuit just south of Milan in Italy, but the persistent rain meant that Petrucci and Dominique Aegerter got little time on the bike.

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A Lap Around Indy with the GP Tech CRT Bike

08/18/2012 @ 8:16 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

For the Indianapolis GP, race fans will delighted to see two American wild card entries on the grid, as both Attack Performance and GP Tech will likely be racing CRT bikes come Sunday afternoon. We have already gotten a chance to see Attack’s bike, as Steve Rapp piloted it around Laguna Seca for MotoGP’s first stop on American soil this season. Unfortunately for Rapp & Attack, they failed to qualify for the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, missing the cut-off by just under seven-tenths of a second.

Meanwhile GP Tech, a veteran to wild cards at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has stepped up to the big show this year, with Aaron Yates on board the team’s Suzuki-powered CRT bike. Getting a chance to try the road course at Indy during the AMA tire test, GP Tech put some cameras on its roided-out GSX-R, and today brings us a lap of IMS from the perspective of a CRT. With both Attack and GP Tech expected to qualify later today, Sunday’s race fans should have a couple more familiar names to follow during the race. Check the lap out after the jump.

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Thursday Summary at Laguna Seca: Silly Season Reopened, & Edwards Entertains

07/27/2012 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

As a MotoGP rider, dealing with the press can be a lot like boxing against a stronger opponent: put in a quick attack, and then grab on and defend for dear life. At Laguna Seca, Ben Spies showed he had mastered the art perfectly. After dropping the bombshell that he would be leaving Yamaha on Tuesday — on Thursday Spies was in full defensive mode, deflecting questions and saying that he would not be discussing the situation and what had motivated his decision “until I’m ready to talk about the future.” To carry that off, and persist in your position in a room full of journalists hell-bent on wheedling the truth out of you, is quite an achievement.

Fortunately for Spies, his announcement had given the assembled media hordes – well, not quite a horde, as dwindling print sales, economic stagnation in the key markets of Spain and Italy, and a few broader issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down – had plenty of other issues to sink their teeth into. Spies leaving Yamaha opens up another seat, and with the Texan looking almost certain to switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia squad next season, an extra factory prototype, something of increasing scarcity in these days of dwindling factory involvement.

Naturally, with Spies out of the equation, the media and fans have joined in an epic game of fill-in-the-blanks to try and slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited space for available rides.

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Honda Building “Production Racer” Variant of the RC213V

06/20/2012 @ 3:34 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

Honda is working on a simplified version of its RC213V MotoGP machine to sell to teams as a CRT bike. Working together with Thomas Baujard, journalist for the French magazine Moto Journal, we have learned that work on the V4 machine is already underway, though a production date for the bike is not yet known.

HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto confirmed to Baujard at Silverstone that work was ongoing on the project, though Nakamoto did not like it being referred to as a CRT bike. “Not a CRT bike,” Nakamoto told Baujard, “it is a production racer!” When asked later about the engine layout, Nakamoto confirmed that the bike was a V4 rather than an inline four. “It is a replica of this bike,” Nakamoto told me, pointing to the Repsol Honda garage, “But cheaper. It is easier to use an existing design.”

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Bimota/BMW Concepts by Oberdan Bezzi

06/19/2012 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We follow Oberdan Bezzi’s work pretty closely here at Asphalt & Rubber, if for no other reason than we like the Italian designer’s ability to fantasize about the endless possibilities available in the two-wheel world — and after, who here doesn’t like to daydream about exotic motorcycles? Lately it seems Bezzi’s imagination has gone to a world where Bimota uses more than Ducati’s v-twin lumps in its exclusive street bikes, with his most recent sketches envisioning a BMW/Bimota collaboration.

Inking the Bimota BB-2 superbike, and it’s naked sibling the Bimota BB-3 “Paura”, the usual Bezzi lines and style are present in the designs. Oberdan’s thought-process on the Bimota BB-3 seems to be well-timed though, as the Bavarian company has recently been caught testing a naked version of the well-selling BMW S1000RR at its facility. Set to be a true Germans streetfighter, BMW could very well succeed in a motorcycle segment that the Japanese have historically struggled with here in the US.

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MotoGP: Casey Stoner Will Retire at the End of 2012 Season

05/17/2012 @ 10:07 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

In a shocking turn of events, Casey Stoner announced at the Thursday press conference for the French GP that he would be retiring at the end of the 2012 MotoGP season. The news is a turn of events, as the Australian denied such rumors at Estoril, saying he would quit motorcycle racing when he no longer enjoyed it, though not any time soon.

Citing his disappointed with the direction MotoGP is currently headed, Stoner main critique with premier-class motorcycle racing has been the introduction of the CRT rules, which use production-based motors in prototype chassis, and have been notably slower than the full-prototype machines.

Stoner first voiced the idea of his retirement over the CRT issue back in Valencia of last year, when the newly crowned World Champion stated that if the future of the MotoGP Championship was in the CRT formula, then it was a future he did not want to be a part of. Today’s announcement seems to make good on that statement.

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MotoGP: GP Tech Racing a Suzuki CRT Wild Card at Indy GP

05/15/2012 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The folks at GP Tech are no strangers to running wild card entries at Indy, as the American motorcycle parts seller fielded one-off wild card rides in the Moto2 Championship at both the 2010 and 2011 Indianapolis GP’s. Using FTR-built bikes, GP Tech raced with Jason DiSalvo in 2010, were the American rider finished a very respectable 9th place, while in 2011 Jake Gagne rode to a forgettable 31st spot.

Stepping up to the big-boy leagues, GP Tech has been granted a wild card entry for the 2012 Indianapolis GP, and will run a Suzuki GSX-R1000 motor in a billet aluminum frame that is being prepared by BCL Motorsports. GP Tech has also tapped Vesrah Suzuki/MCJ Motorsports to help with the project, which should give us some clues as to whom the unnamed rider will be for the Grand Prix race.

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Photo of the Week: Here’s to the Unsung Heroes of MotoGP

05/14/2012 @ 1:15 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

This, race fans, is Danilo Petrucci, one of the brave souls trying his luck on the future of MotoGP hardware, in his case the doggedly underpowered Came IodaRacing Project machine. Not on a (relatively) zippy Aprilia ART, or a Honda-powered FTR, Petrucci qualifies on the same grid as Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, and brings to this gunfight a knife that packs a whopping 185 bhp, compared to the factory prototype engines that are rumored to be around 260 bhp.

As I photograph a race, I see a much different version of the event than TV viewers. I watch the recorded TV broadcast later, and can tell you that there is a lot going on with the Claiming Rule Team bikes that doesn’t make in onto TV. I’m generally moving the entire time (when I haven’t stopped to photograph a turn obviously), so I see the entire field go past, lap after lap. Since Qatar I’ve noticed that most of the CRT talk has centered around the machines, and that no one I’ve seen has talked much about what the CRT riders are going through.

Though we currently have in the sub-set of MotoGP bikes a group of machines that are less expensive to run and correspondingly less impressive in the performance category, the fellows riding them are not similarly handicapped when it comes to racing spirit. They aren’t trying half as hard because they have no chance to win. Much of the time it seems just the opposite; because they don’t want to be six seconds a lap slower, they are trying that much harder merely to get within four seconds of the fastest times.

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MotoGP: Avintia Blusens Switches to Carbon Frame

04/25/2012 @ 11:32 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

We will have to update our CRT spotter’s guide, as BQR’s Avintia Blusens team has dropped its aluminum Suter frame in favor of Inmotec’s carbon/aluminum chassis for rider Spanish Ivan Silva. Making at least Silva’s side of the garage an all-Spanish affair for the team, BQR has reportedly been working with Inmotec since the pre-season, but opted for the British-designed FTR chassis for the start of the MotoGP Championship.

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