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.

Opinion: On Motorcycle Racing, Danger, & Death

06/03/2016 @ 7:21 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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“MOTORSPORTS CAN BE DANGEROUS” it says on the back of my media pass, the hard card I wear around my neck and which gives me access to the paddock and the media center.

It says the same thing everywhere around the circuit: on rider passes, on the back of tickets, on signs which hang on fences around the circuit.

You see it so much that it becomes a cliché, and like all clichés it quickly loses its meaning. Until reality intervenes, and reminds us that behind every cliché lies a deep truth.

Friday brought a stark reminder. During the afternoon session of free practice for the Moto2 class, Luis Salom exited Turn 11 and got on the gas towards Turn 12.

Just before the turn, traveling at around 170 km/h, the rider caress the front brake to help the bike turn through the fast right hander of Turn 12, an engineer told me.

At that point, Salom lost control of his bike, fell off, and he and his bike headed towards the air fence which protects the wall there.

They slid across a patch of tarmac put in to help the cars if they run straight on at that corner, and Salom’s bike hit the air fence and wall, careened off the wall and into Salom, fatally injuring him.

Salom received treatment in the corner, and was then taken to a local hospital where doctors did all they could to save his life. Sadly, they could not. Luis Salom died at 4:55pm on 3rd June 2016, at the age of 24.

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The 2015 Dakar Rally Claims Its First Fatality

01/07/2015 @ 12:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Isle of Man TT and the Dakar Rally are two events we cover here at Asphalt & Rubber where we know statistically we will have to report a racer’s death each year.

Unfortunately, those numbers hold true for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as Polish competitor Michal Hernik died while racing Stage 3 of the course, between San Juan and Chilecito.

Hernik’s body was found at kilometer 206, roughly 300 meters off the course’s path. Tests performed later by doctors suggest that Hernik succumbed to dehydration and hypothermia.

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Bobby Goodin Has Died While Racing at Pikes Peak

06/29/2014 @ 10:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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It is with great regret that we have to report the passing of Bobby Goodin, a motorcycle racer at the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Finishing fourth in the Pikes Peak Middleweight motorcycle class, spectators say Goodin lost control of his Triumph Daytona 675R after crossing the finish line at the mountain’s summit.

According to our sources and others that witnessed the crash, Goodin’s motorcycle crash occurred where the road transitions from pavement of the race course to the dirt of the parking lot.

A very short transition from our last viewing, Goodin’s accident occurred after the 54-year-old raised him arm to celebrate finishing the 92nd running of the Race to the Clouds, and was then flung into a group of boulders down the mountain’s side.

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Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racing’s Pound of Flesh

06/03/2014 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle racing is a dangerous endeavor, something we have been reminded of heavily in the past few weeks. Losing Simon Andrews in the North West 200, as well as Bob Price and Karl Harris at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the usual debates have once again surfaced, namely that motorcycle road racing should be abolished because of the toll of dangers, injuries, and fatalities it demands.

Despite death’s inevitability, the Isle of Man TT is a spectacular event, just ask anyone who has sat on a Manx hedgerow and watched these two-wheeled gladiators race past. The speeds on city streets are astounding, the atmosphere in the paddock is warm and friendly, and the Isle of Man itself is a picturesque locale that could come from some child’s storybook.

Modern media does a great job of translating the first-hand experience of the Isle of Man TT into an approachable hour-long TV format, but it still falls short of the genuine article.

Through a television set, you can’t breathe the fumes of unbridled horsepower from the racing machines, you can’t see past the riders’ determination through their helmet visors, and you don’t witness the hours of determined work, sweat, and sacrifce that occur in the paddock to get a racer to the starting line.

I would challenge any person, motorcycle enthusiast or not, to lay witness to a TT fortnight, and still walk away unimpressed with the spectacle that they have laid witness to — there is simply nothing else like it on Earth. It’s almost spiritual.

But why is it though? Scratch the surface a little deeper on the idea why the TT is so special, and you arrive at the notion that the Manx road race holds our wonderment in captivity because of how far outside the standard deviation of safety it operates — even under the skewed perspective of risk management that occurs in motorsport — and that forces us to take some major stock in our own mortality.

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Cycle News Editor Henny Ray Abrams Has Died

02/28/2013 @ 7:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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More sad news in the motorcycle-journalism world today, as we learn that Cycle News Contributing Editor Henny Ray Abrams was found dead at his computer in his Brooklyn apartment, passing from apparent natural causes.

At 57 years of age, Abrams was the longest-serving journalist at Cycle News, and though he worked in virtually every paddock at one time or another, we here at Asphalt & Rubber knew him best for his time in AMA and MotoGP paddocks.

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WSBK: Superpole at Phillip Island Cancelled After Tragedy

02/25/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It is our displeasure to report that Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Phillip Island was cancelled after a fatality occurred during the Australian Superstock 600 support race. In an incident very similar to the one that took Marco Simoncelli’s life last year, 17-year-old Oscar McIntyre collided with fellow ASTK racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of Saturday’s support race. Though McIntyre received immediate medical attention, he succumbed to his injuries, and event organizers eventually cancelled the Superpole sessions. The last time a World Superbike sessions was cancelled was at Donington in 1998 and due to the snow.

Accordingly, this means that Sunday’s racing grid will be determined by the best lap times from the Qualifying Practice 2 session, which puts Tom Sykes at the pole position, followed by Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. Look for a strong showing from the Kawasaki contingency on Sunday, but the smart bets are still on the Aprilia of Biaggi and the Ducati of  Checa, which have been consistently fast all week. Get excited race fans, the first race of the 2012 World Superbike Championship is about to be underway.

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Some Closing Thoughts About Marco Simoncelli

10/30/2011 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

It has taken me a week to collect my thoughts and process the passing of Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider that lost his life during the MotoGP race in Malaysia. I’m not one of those journalists that can belt out some poignant thoughts on an event immediately after it happens, nor did I personally know Simoncelli well enough to offer a comprehensive anecdote on the man’s short but distinguished life. Having only met and talked to Marco briefly a few times, I cannot shed some deeper insight regarding who he was as a man, stripped away of all the pomp, prestige, and PR spin of the premier class.

I’ve heard the MotoGP paddock described as a family or village, so as one of its most recent members, this tragedy both cuts me deeply, but yet also seems like a distant and surreal event. Perhaps it will affect me more as I travel to Valencia this week, or perhaps I will continue to feel as if I am on the outside looking in at cataclysm of grief that has befallen friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Time will tell in that regard, and I’ll leave it to those masters of the pen who are better suited to the task to account for the young Italian’s life and racing career.

Instead my closing thoughts about Marco Simoncelli are a mixed commentary of life, tragedy, and where we go from here.

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Marco Simoncelli 1987 – 2011

10/23/2011 @ 2:48 am, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

Marco Simoncelli has tragically died today, after crashing in a horrific accident during the second lap of the Malaysian GP. Trading corners with Rizla Suzuki rider Álvaro Bautista and battling for fourth place, Simoncelli began the race in Sepang with his usual full-of-heart riding style. Certainly a podium contender for the day, the Italian lost control of his motorcycle in Turn 11 after losing the front. Propping the bike on his knee in order to save the slide, Simoncelli heroically but unfortunately stayed upright, cut back across the track, and collided with fellow racers Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.

While Rossi rode away unhurt, and Edwards injured only his shoulder, Simoncelli suffered the brunt of the impact, and lay helmetless on the track after the incident. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff at Sepang, Simoncelli could not be resuscitated and succumb to his injuries at 4:56pm local time. Accordingly the Malaysian GP has been cancelled. Asphalt & Rubber joins the MotoGP paddock in mourning the loss of one the most beloved riders in series, and send our thoughts and prayers to Marco’s family, friends, team, and loved ones.

Ciao Marco, SuperSic forever.

Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

Claudio Castiglioni Passes Away at the Age of 64

08/17/2011 @ 9:19 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Claudio Castiglioni, President of MV Agusta, passed away this morning in Varese, Italy at the age of 64. In a statement from MV Agusta, the company says that Castiglioni succumed from an unnamed illness while attending a clinic in Varese. Over the course of his career, Castiglioni touched such esteemed brands as Ducati, Cagiva, Husqvarna, and of course MV Agusta. His most recent accomplishment was bringing MV back into Italian ownership, in an act of business acumen that saw Harley-Davidson actually pay Castiglioni €20 million to take back the recent refurbished company.

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Tomizawa Death Being Investigated

09/06/2010 @ 10:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Paolo Giovagnoli, the prosecutor of Rimini, has opened a dossier of inquiry into the death of Shoya Tomizawa, the 19 year-old Moto2 rider who lost his life Sunday in a horrific crash during the San Marino GP. The inquest into Tomizawa’s death is investigating unknown persons, who may have contributed to Tomizawa’s injuries when he was hastily taken off the track via stretcher, which was subsequently dropped in the process. Tomizawa’s body will undergo a full autopsy, which could lead to manslaughter charges being drawn up against the track workers, and possibly track authorities as well.

Clinica Mobile and track officials have drawn heavy fire since the incident Sunday. At the center of the controversy was the decision not to red flag the race, and the brisk removal of the riders, bikes, and debris that occurred so the race could continue unhindered. Race officials have stood behind their decision saying that a red flag was not necessary to safely transport Tomizawa and the other riders, and in fact a red flag scenario would have delayed potentially lifesaving medical help to Tomizawa.

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