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.

Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Disaster for Cyril Despres

01/08/2014 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Day four of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw some interesting events, as riders competed on machines that they had to prep themselves the night before, as a part of the first “marathon” stage. Racing over 353 km in Argentina, between San Juan and Chilecito, for Stage Four, riders had another tough day of racing, though favorite Cyril Despres had arguably the worst of it.

Just 9 km from the finish line, and likely to take the outright lead in the process, Despres’ Yamaha YZ450F Rally encountered an electrical short, which caused the race bike to stop working. The mechanical would cost Despres 40 minutes in time, and drop him down to sixth overall, 41 minutes behind Dakar leader Joan Barreda.

Barreda too though would have a tough outing, crashing and losing time to a very fast Marc Coma, who finished third for the day. Coma and his KTM now sit only three minutes and ten seconds behind Barreda and his Honda for the outright lead.

Winning the stage was Spain’s Juan Pedrero, with Chaleco Lopez finishing second, only 29 seconds back.

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Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Honda Makes It a Hat Trick

01/07/2014 @ 10:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Day three of the 2014 Dakar Rally sees the beginning of the first marathon stage, where only riders will be allowed to work tonight on their racing machines. Making it three stages in a row for HRC, Joan Barreda won his second stage of this year’s Dakar, and extended his overall lead to over 13 minutes.

Stage Three saw the return of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma to their riding pace, as the pair finished second and third for the day, respectively. The day also moved them into the same positions overall, behind Joan Barreda of course.

A tough and technical stage, the Honda CRF 450 Rally is proving itself to be a capable machine, and Barreda is showing himself to be less of an underdog, and now the man to beat on the race course.

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Are You Ready for the 2014 Dakar Rally?

12/30/2013 @ 9:46 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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In just a week’s time, the 2014 Dakar Rally will be underway in South America. Featuring a course through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, this year’s Dakar is longer and harder than years past, and will feature three OEMs vying for the top motorcycle honors: Honda, KTM, and Yamaha.

The biggest news going into the iconic rally race is Cyril Despres’ move from KTM to Yamaha, as the five-time Dakar winner is looking for his sixth race win on the new marque. The biggest man in his way is rival Marc Coma, who remains with the Austrian brand, and will be riding the all-new KTM 450 Rally race bike. HRC will be racing in The Dakar this year again, with five riders and a revised racing machine — we can expect good things from the combination.

Of course missing from the lineup is American racer Kurt Caselli, who lost his life in 2013 while competing in the SCORE Baja 1000. The popular American will surely be on the mind of every competitor as they begin the rally on Sunday, and he certainly will be in the hearts of every fan come race day.

Stay tuned for the 35th edition — it starts January 5th, in Rosario, Argentina. We’ll be updating Asphalt & Rubber with pertinent racing news, as it unfolds.

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Photos: Cyril Despres & His Yamaha YZ450F Rally Race Bike

12/19/2013 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Racing has officially debuted its 2014 Rally race team, which is being spearheaded by Cyril Despres, the five-time Dakar Rally winner who was formerly of KTM fame. Despres hopes to defend his latest Dakar Rally win, despite swapping orange for blue, and today is our first formal viewing of the 2014 Yamaha YZ450F Rally bike with his livery.

This year’s Dakar Rally goes through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile and will be a longer and tougher route than in past years. With KTM debuting a now purpose-built racing machine, the KTM 450 Rally, and HRC also fielding its refined Honda CRF450 Rally, Yamaha and Despres will have their work cutout for them in defending the Frenchman’s number one plate.

Team Blue has prepared itself though, taking many inputs from Despres and incorporating them into the 2014 bike’s design. We won’t know how it will go at the Dakar Rally course until January 5th, but from the pictures we have now, it sure looks the business.

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Cyril Despres Talks About Yamaha & The Dakar Rally

11/25/2013 @ 10:47 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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While the off-road community continues to morn the loss of American Kurt Caselli, preparations are underway for each year’s big event, the Dakar Rally. At the center of that attention is Cyril Despres, who made the shock move from KTM to Yamaha’s rally team.

Riding alongside Olivier Pain, Frans Verhoeven, and Michael Metge in the 2014 Dakar Rally, all eyes will be on the Frenchman Despres, and whether he can continue his rivalry with Spaniard Marc Coma, despite now being on different machinery (and contending with KTM’s all-new rally bike).

Taking a break from filming duties for Yamaha Racing, Despres had a moment to talk about his switch to Yamaha, his first impressions of the Yamaha 450 Rally race bike, and the upcoming Dakar Rally.

Despres’ comments, as usual, are fairly candid, and the five-time Dakar winner tells a good story about how Stéphane Peterhansel (a six-time Dakar winner himself) persuaded him to try the race on a different machine — a Yamaha, the same make Peterhansel campaigned his victories upon not so long ago.

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Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally

05/30/2013 @ 1:59 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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When it happened, we were shocked to learn that Cyril Despres was left out of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s 2013 team announcement, though we American have a silver lining in the news as the five-time Dakar Rally winner was replaced by our own Kurt Caselli. However, with that upheaval, we were left to speculate as to the fate of the Dakar master.

Would Despres retire from rally racing, finishing his career at its peak? Or, would the Frenchman defect from KTM to another team, like say Honda’s upstart rally effort? Well, now we have the answer, as Cyril Despres has been outed as having joined the Yamaha Motor France rally team for the 2014 & 2015 Dakar Rallies.

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2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia

03/21/2013 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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For the sixth year in a row, the Dakar Rally will race in South America, though the iconic rally race is mixing things up, and is dropping its route through Peru for one that includes Bolivia instead. The Dakar will keep Argentina and Chile on its 2014 course schedule, and the two countries will comprise the majority of the race’s torturous test of its competitors.

The 2014 Dakar Rally will have longer special stages, as well as several marathon stages (stages where only the competitor can do mechanical work on his/her machine, not the mechanics). Taking riders  and drivers though Argentina’s northwest canyons and sandy valleys, it should be an especially grueling edition of the historic race.

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KTM’s 2013 Factory Rally Team: Despres Out, Caselli In

03/12/2013 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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After a last-minute appointment to replace the injured Marc Coma in KTM’s factory rally team for the 2013 Dakar Rally, American Kurt Caselli impressed many with his stellar rookie performance on the South American course. Taking two stage wins, Caselli will join Marc Coma and Ruben Faria on KTM’s factory-backed rally team, which will go by the “Red Bull KTM Factory Racing” name.

With Chilean rider Francesco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez also getting full-factory equipment, noticeably absent from KTM’s announcement is five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres, who is leaving the KTM squad “to move on and face new challenges.”

Winning the most recent edition of The Dakar in a comfortable fashion with his support rider, Faria, finishing second, Despres’s probable move to another team is a huge shock to the sport, and could make KTM’s dominance in motorcycle rally racing questionable for the future.

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Cyril Despres Claims Fifth Dakar Rally Win

01/21/2013 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Wrapping up two weeks of racing, the 2013 Dakar Rally concluded this weekend in Santiago, Chile. His fifth Dakar win, Cyril Despres once again claimed victory in the iconic rally race, and though he was tipped heavily to win after Marc Coma announced that he would be sidelined due to injury, Despres’s win was anything but a sure-thing as the stages progressed. Seeing strong rides from factory-backed Yamaha and Husqvarna teams, Despres even got pressure from his fellow KTM riders over the 14 racing stages.

Despite finishing the Dakar Rally with a 10 minute 43 second overall lead, Despres found himself on the wrong-side of the time sheets during several stages, and even had to replace his motor during the “marathon” weekend, where riders are not allowed any mechanical help from their support crew (Despres got more than a little help from his fellow KTM teammates though). His second Dakar Rally win in a row, and his fifth career-win, Despres now sports two-more Dakar victories than rival Coma — deficit that surely will be contested next year.

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Dakar Rally — Stage 11: American Kurt Caselli Wins Again

01/16/2013 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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It is a special thing to win a stage at the Dakar Rally, and multiple stage victories are a true accomplishment in a racer’s career. We could leave the accolades there for Kurt Caselli, but taking two stage wins, during his rookie debut at the famous rally race, now that is something truly noteworthy. Filling the very big shoes left behind by the injured Marc Coma, Caselli has proven to be a diamond in the rough for the factory KTM team, which can only bode well for the California natives return to The Dakar in the coming years.

Winning the Baja-like terrain of Stage 11 with a 4:45 margin, Caselli helped lead the way for fellow bannerman Cyril Despres to regain the outright lead of The Dakar, while Despres’ teammate Ruben Faria also consolidated KTM’s 1-2 standings in the overall time slots, 13:16 behind Despres.

Still ranked well below the other factory KTM riders, Caselli’s position moves to 29th, a figure weighed heavily by his navigational errors in Stage 8, which saw him miss several waypoint and checkpoints.

With eleven stages now completed, the 2013 Dakar Rally will head back into Chile tomorrow with the 12th stage, meaning only three stages of racing remain. A Top 10 finish may be a large challenge for Caselli, but it is undeniable that the American has made a strong first impression at his debut Dakar.

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