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.

Melandri And Kawasaki to Field Single Bike Campaign?

02/14/2009 @ 7:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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According to both Tuttosport and Sportmediaset (both members of the overly-excitable and sometime unreliable Italian press), Marco Melandri will be riding a privately run Kawasaki for 2009. In a deal brockered by Carmelo Ezpeleta, the team will be led by Michael Bartholemy. Details are somewhere between sketchy and nonexistent, but it seems that Kawasaki will make all of the 2009-spec bikes available to Bartholemy, who will field a single rider, Marco Melandri.

Shortly after the news broke that Kawasaki would be withdrawing from MotoGP, the factory said that it had enough bikes and parts to last approximately a quarter of a season, and so presumably, this would be enough to run a single rider for at least half the season, or perhaps a little longer if the practice restrictions are pushed through as expected.

Finance for the project will most likely come from Dorna who want to avoid breaching their own contract with the FIM to field at least 18 riders for a world championship, with Kawasaki possibly kicking in some seed money since they don’t want to breach their contract with Dorna. Melandri would presumably be riding the 2009-spec bikes tested by Olivier Jacque in Australia during January, despite reports of poor reliability. 

Source: MotoGP Matters

Bridgestone Signs 3 Year Agreement as Single MotoGP Tire Supplier

01/26/2009 @ 11:13 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bridgestone Signs 3 Year Agreement as Single MotoGP Tire Supplier

Bridgestone has finally signed the agreement with Dorna Sports making it the only tire supplier for MotoGP for the next three seasons. Last season saw for Michelin dwindle as Bridgestone became the favorite shoe in the paddock, so much so that Dani Pedrosa jumped ship mid-season, leaving teammate Nicky Hayden behind who was not given the same option to switch to Bridgestone. The agreement comes about as Dorna tries to further reduce cost and make closer wheel-to-wheel racing. Continue reading for more.

 

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Ezpeleta Holds Kawasaki to 2009, But Not 2010 and 2011

01/14/2009 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Ezpeleta Holds Kawasaki to 2009, But Not 2010 and 2011

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Really, we’re trying to think of a way that the 2009 MotoGP season could become less of a soap opera, but it continues to act like one. Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, has shed some more light on the back-and-forth between his organization and Kawasaki.

“I’ve already said that I would not accept the breakdown of Kawasaki’s contract signed with us until 2011. I have proposed that they run in 2009, and in exchange, to allow them to withdraw in 2010 and 2011. They told me that they had an engine for only four or five races of the season. So I looked for a company in France able to help develop the bike. The last obstacle for the Japanese is to meet these people and accept their program.” 

This meeting is scheduled for early next week, and Ezpeleta is pushing for Kawasaki to honor its contract with its riders as well as Dorna, “The team will be led by Michael Bartholemy, and I think it is important to keep the two pilots under contract, John Hopkins and Marco Melandri.” Ezpeleta finished by reiterating that he would take Kawasaki to court if it defaulted on their commitment with Dorna Sports.

How Much Does it Cost to Race in MotoGP?

01/13/2009 @ 2:30 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on How Much Does it Cost to Race in MotoGP?

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MotoGP is a special animal. Like how Formula 1 is for automobiles, MotoGP is supposed to embody what the cutting edge of technology can bring to the sport of motorcycling. The talent is the pinnacle of its field, and the bikes are rolling R&D platforms.

This also means of course that the costs are exuberant, and instead of an instant applicable payoffs, the value of racing instead comes down the road many years later as the technology trickles down to the production-level bikes.

This makes MotoGP unlike the racing other series, whereas in World Superbike for instance, teams are working with a bike that is actually sold en masse to the consumer, costs for product line development can be absorbed, and the fabled “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday” marketing buzz phrase has some bearing on reality.

Because of the intangible returns on investments, and escalating environment of prototype racing, it is not surprising to see the semi-departure of Kawasaki for 2009. So how much money are teams really losing by racing at the top of the sport?

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FIM Worries About MotoGP Grid for 2010 and Long-term Sustainability in the Racing Series

01/12/2009 @ 8:58 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on FIM Worries About MotoGP Grid for 2010 and Long-term Sustainability in the Racing Series

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The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) started MotoGP in 1949 with the idea to establish a premiere prototype racing series. In 1992, FIM transfered the commercial rights to Dorna Sports, who have since been the business end of the racing series. This however, does not mean that the FIM is content to standby idly while the economic brouhaha plays havoc with MotoGP’s championship status. Continue reading to see FIM President Vito Ippolito response, and outlook on the future of MotoGP.

 

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Honda Says No to Melandri, Dorna Holds Kawasaki to Contract

01/08/2009 @ 9:22 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Honda Says No to Melandri, Dorna Holds Kawasaki to Contract

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Avenues to ride in MotoGP for the 2009 season are becoming dead-ends for Marco Melandri. In case you haven’t read A&R the last few weeks, Kawasaki’s pull-out from MotoGP has sent the young Italian scrambling for a ride this coming season, with his latest stop being in the Honda camp.

Lucio Cecchinello, manager for LCR Honda, admits to having been approached by friends of Melandri to see if the team would be interested in sponsoring a second bike alongside Randy de Puniet.

Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.

Employing the classic “It’s not you, it’s me” line, the LCR boss issued the statement: “I was asked by the manager of Melandri to run in 2009, but this will not happen for the following reasons,” said Lucio. “First, we can not afford to include a second driver. The current economic situation does not allow us to consider an investor can pay Melandri, especially given his last season. ” 

“Secondly, even if I talked to Honda, I am almost certain they would be against the idea of providing a new motorcycle. This would HRC to new engines, to invest in new parts and another crew. We are in a period where Honda wants to save rather than spend even more money. Finally, it is too late to hire staff and new mechanics. There is therefore no chance to see Melandri join my team. ” 

There is still some speculation that a white knight might step in to take over the Factory Kawasaki effort, this possibility earned further credence today as Carmelo Ezpeleta from Dorna released the fact that Kawasaki has a signed contract to run in MotoGP until 2011. 

Ezpeleta stated that “Once they [Kawasaki] informed me of their desire to stop, I began negotiations with them, arguing the contract they had signed and I asked them to reconsider their best decision, or at worst of postponing…The possibility of two Kawasaki on the grid in 2009, in one form or another, can not be ruled out. They signed a contract and a contract can not be ignored in a day.”

Get the popcorn folks, its only going to get more interesting from here on out.

Source: Moto Caradisiac and Again

Rumor: Kawasaki Pulls Out of MotoGP

12/30/2008 @ 9:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Rumor: Kawasaki Pulls Out of MotoGP

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Rumors are shooting across the web that Kawasaki is retiring from MotoGP for the 2009 season. Allegedly, Kawasaki has notified Dorna Sports that it will be pulling out of the series, with a public announcement to come Monday next week. More on the announcement after the jump.

 

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Breaking Ground at the Balatonring for the Hungarian GP

11/13/2008 @ 11:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

 

As you may remember, we brought you the story that MotoGP will be hosted in Hungary for the 2009 season and on. Well, the symbolic first stone of Hungary’s new $64 million Balatonring circuit was laid into place at its new home near Savoly in Western Hungary today.

The full event consisted of laying the first stone for the track’s construction, and burying a “time capsule” containing mementos, as well as the Hungarian and Spanish flags. Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, was on hand for the ground breaking ceremony as well to mark the event.

The Balatonring will host MotoGP racing for the next five years starting from 2009.

We have no idea why the Spanish flag was put in the time capusle either. Take that Spain.

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