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.

Saturday Summary at Mugello: Signs of Marquez’s Weakness, The Importance of Equipment, & The Rocketship Ducati

05/31/2014 @ 10:51 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Mugello: Signs of Marquez’s Weakness, The Importance of Equipment, & The Rocketship Ducati

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Knowing that not everyone is in a position to watch qualifying and races when they are live, we try to operate a no-spoilers policy for at least a few hours after the event.

For us, this means no results in headlines, nor on the Twitter feed. But, as the mighty motorcycle racing Twitter personality SofaRacer put it today, “I know you don’t like to Tweet spoilers David. But ‘Márquez on pole’ and ‘Márquez wins’ technically, erm, aren’t.”

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Marc Marquez took his sixth pole of the season, and his seventh pole in a row on Sunday. Marquez remains invincible, even at what he regards as his worst track of the year.

His advantage is rather modest, though. With just 0.180 seconds over the man in second place – the surprising Andrea Iannone – it is Marquez’s smallest advantage of the season, if we discount Qatar, where he was basically riding with a broken leg.

You get the sense that Marquez is holding something back, almost being cautious, after being bitten several times by the track last year, including a massive crash in free practice and then sliding out of the race.

It makes him almost vulnerable for the first time. His race pace is still fast, but he has others – Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, even the Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso – all on roughly the same pace.

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MotoGP: MSMA Agrees To Freeze Electronics Ahead of 2016

04/14/2014 @ 8:11 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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With the MotoGP series due to switch over to standard software for the spec Magneti Marelli ECU in 2016, there comes a point at which it makes no sense for the factories to continue developing their own electronics.

There is, after all, little point in spending money on software which will be discarded all the way to the last race of 2015, especially as the factories will need to start work on the shared electronics package for 2016 and beyond.

GPOne.com is reporting that the factories have finally agreed to a date for an electronics freeze to commence.

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Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R?

03/28/2014 @ 12:25 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

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The news that Honda would be building a production racer to compete in MotoGP aroused much excitement among fans. There was much speculation over just how quick it would be, and whether it would be possible for a talented rider to beat the satellite bikes on some tracks.

Expectations received a boost when former world champion Casey Stoner tested the RCV1000R, praising its performance. Speculation reached fever pitch when HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto told the press at the launch of the bike that the RCV1000R was just 0.3 seconds a lap slower than the factory RC213V in the hands of a test rider.

Was that in the hands of Casey Stoner, the press asked? Nakamoto was deliberately vague. “Casey Stoner is a Honda test rider,” he said cryptically.

Once the bike hit the track in the hands of active MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden, Hiroshi Aoyama, and Scott Redding at the Valencia test, it became apparent that the bike was a long way off the pace. At Sepang in February, the situation was the same.

Nakamoto clarified his earlier statements: no, the times originally quoted were not set by Casey Stoner, who had only done a handful of laps in tricky conditions on the bike.

They had been set by one of Honda’s test riders. And yes, the biggest problem was the straights, as times at Sepang demonstrated. Test riders were losing around half a second along the two long straights at Sepang, Nakamoto said.

In the hands of active MotoGP riders, the gap was around 2 seconds at the Sepang tests. Nicky Hayden – of whom much had been expected, not least by himself – had made significant improvements, especially on corner entry.

Turning in and braking was much improved, something which did not come as a surprise after the American’s time on the Ducati. Once the bikes arrived at Qatar, the Honda made another step forward, Hayden cutting the deficit to 1.4 seconds from the fastest man Aleix Espargaro.

By the time the race rolled around, the Hondas had cut the deficit again. Comparing fastest laps of the race, Scott Redding set the quickest lap for production Honda rider, lapping just 0.841 slower than his teammate Alvaro Bautista, who set the quickest lap of the race.

But consistency proved to be the undoing of the Hondas, Scott Redding and Nicky Hayden crossing the line just 0.035 seconds apart, but over 32 seconds down on the winner, Marc Marquez. Where the difference between the fastest and slowest flying laps of Redding and Hayden was nearly 2.4 seconds, for the front runners, that difference was just over a second.

The difference in performance and the big gap to the front has been cause for much speculation. Where are the Honda production racers losing out to the Factory Option bikes? Is it purely top speed, or is it a combination of speed and acceleration? And where does that lack of speed and acceleration come from?

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MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 3 Summary: Marquez’s Consistency, Lorenzo’s Speed, & Ducati’s Open Dilemma

02/06/2014 @ 1:37 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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On Thursday, the riders opted almost unanimously to go out first thing in the morning. It was a wise choice, conditions proving ideal to see the fastest ever lap around the circuit set, beating Casey Stoner’s time from 2011.

The name of the rider that took Stoner’s record from him? Marc Marquez, the man brought in by Honda to replace the departing Australian.

Marquez’s time was impressive, but he was not the only man to get under the two minute mark. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and the continually surprising Aleix Espargaro also cracked the barrier, though none were quite capable of getting under Stoner’s old record.

The first 30 minutes of testing had produced a scintillating start to the day, whetting the appetite of all in the paddock for more.

While Marquez’s time is without doubt a fantastic lap, perhaps the most impressive time was set by Jorge Lorenzo. His fastest time, and the fastest time of the test up until that point, was set on his flying lap of the day.

It was, if you like, a simulation of the start of the race: firing off the line from pit lane exit, getting up to speed immediately, and then going on to set a lap record.

Normal fare for Lorenzo, whose flying starts have become something of a trademark. What made it truly incredible was the fact that this was done on new tires, on his very first laps of the day.

On race day, Lorenzo has the morning warm up to get up to speed, but not today. Fast straight out of the starting blocks, then following it up with another 1’59.9. If you ever needed proof of Lorenzo’s metronomic ability, this was surely it.

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MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 2 Summary: Fuel And Tires Favor Honda, Ducati Improves, & Hayden Suffers

02/05/2014 @ 10:13 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle racing championships are like a pendulum, flowing back and forth between one rider and another, between one manufacturer and another. One year, Yamaha is on top, the next, it’s Honda. One year, Yamaha manages to exploit the rules best, the next year it’s Honda.

On the evidence of the first two days of testing – scant evidence indeed, but all we have to go on at the moment – conditions appear to favor Honda. With a liter less fuel to play with, and the new tires being introduced by Bridgestone, it looks like the tide is flowing Honda’s way, while Yamaha is set to suffer.

For the Factory Option entries at least; in the Open category, the tide is flowing very firmly in the other direction, with Aleix Espargaro and the NGM Forward Yamaha blowing Honda’s production racer out of the water.

That the fuel reduction would favor the Honda was expected, but the advantage might be bigger than Yamaha would like to admit. After a tough first day of testing, Jorge Lorenzo spent all of Wednesday trying to recover his confidence in the bike, as his crew searched for a setup that would smooth power delivery and give him the precise throttle control his high-lean-angle – and high risk – strategy demands. They were successful, at least in renewing Lorenzo’s confidence in the bike, he told the press.

A change to the electronics gave him the feeling he had with last year’s machine, and he was able to ride more freely. With that change made, he went in search of a fast lap, setting it at around 3:30pm, in the hottest part of the day.

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MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 1 Summary: A Fast Rossi, A Fast Open Yamaha, & A Slow Black Honda

02/04/2014 @ 12:15 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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It has been a fascinating first day of testing at Sepang. And like all fascinating days, it has been long, tiring, and utterly inspiring. There were surprises, disappointments, and rumors confirmed and denied. It was, in short, a good day at the office.

Marc Marquez was fastest – it barely goes without saying – the 2013 World Champion picking up where he left off. He was quick from the off, and put in a final burst of speed at the end of the day to open the gap on the rest, finishing with half a second advantage.

Braking stability was the watchword for the Repsol Honda team, especially rear grip on braking and corner entry, with both Marquez and Dani Pedrosa working on a slightly revised version of the 2014 RC213V which both men had tested at Valencia last year.

Their main focus – like those of everyone on their first day back on a MotoGP – was just to get used to the speed again. The switchover had been toughest for Cal Crutchlow, the Englishman claimed. He had ridden a motocross bike for exactly one day, he said, spending the rest of his winter training on his bicycle. The speed differential between a 20-speed racing bicycle and a 6-speed Ducati Desmosedici is nothing if not cavernous.

The happiest faces were at Yamaha, though in different garages and on unexpected faces. Valentino Rossi took the second fastest time, had led for a large part of the test, and looked a much happier rider all round. The rapport with new crew chief Silvano Galbusera was good, the atmosphere in the team was good, but above all, a few small changes which Yamaha had made to the YZR-M1 had proven to be significant.

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Video: Suzuki MotoGP Development Report, Part 4

01/10/2014 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The fourth installment of Suzuki’s four-part video series (part 1, part 2, & part 3 here) on its MotoGP program is out, and this time around the Japanese OEM is talking about the relentless perils of testing, testing, and more testing (no surprises here). One of Suzuki’s biggest hurdles though, as it gets ready for the 2015 season, is switching from its Mitsubishi electronics system, to the spec-ecu being built by Magneti Marelli for Dorna.

The process is more difficult than it sounds. Not only does Suzuki have to do the general development necessary to get the most out of the Suzuki XRH-1 GP prototype (more photos here, too), but then once complete, Suzuki must port those settings to the Magneti Marelli unit. Meanwhile test riders Randy de Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki are constantly finding things to improve with the race bike, which can require further changes to the ECU software.

No one ever said it was easy to race in the premier class of motorcycle racing, and Suzuki’s efforts prove that point. With the MotoGP proving itself to be an ever-changing landscape for rules and regulations, Suzuki also faces a very slim window to use the bike that they are currently developing. Thus in our minds, their place as the 2015 underdogs has already been solidified well ahead of their debut. Good luck to all of them.

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Hero MotoCorp Forms Joint-Venture with Magneti Marelli

12/08/2013 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Once upon a time, Hero MotoCorp was Hero Honda, with the Indian brand relying on its Japanese counterpart to provide the technology that then went into the partnership’s emerging market motorcycles. The joint-venture was a stepping stone for Honda to launch into India, and for Hero it was a quick way to gain marketshare in its lucrative domestic market.

Fast-forward to present day, and Hero has not only become Hero MotoCorp, but it has also become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in India. Honda is a stand alone brand in India now, and trails only Hero MotoCorp with its motorcycle sales volume in India.

To maintain its position at the domestic leader, Hero MotoCorp has had to rely on replacing its technical partnership with Honda by forging alliances with various other brands around the world. Perhaps the most famous of these partnerships is the one with Erik Buell Racing, which includes the Indian brand sponsoring the American company’s racing efforts, and owning a sizable 49.2 % chunk of Erik Buell Racing’s private corporate stock.

Add a new brand to the list now though, as Hero MotoCorp has formed a joint-venture with the Italian electronics wizards at Magneti Marelli. There are bonus points for good timing as well, as the news comes just a few weeks before Hero MotoCorp is to be completely free of Honda’s technology.

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Video: Kazutoshi Seki, The Man Behind Rossi’s Electronics

10/29/2013 @ 11:42 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The role that electronics plays in MotoGP cannot be underestimated. Every aspect of bike performance depends on how well the the systems monitoring the bikes read the data, interpret it, and then modulate the power as it is applied to the road through the rear tire.

Despite their performance, the systems which provide that control are kept carefully hidden from the public, and the people behind those systems remain anonymous.

Yamaha has sought to change this, producing a video spotlighting the work of Kazutoshi Seki, the engine control engineer for Valentino Rossi. The two have worked together at Yamaha since 2004, when Rossi first joined the factory, and again since Rossi’s return after his two-year hiatus at Ducati.

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Video: Developing the KTM Super Duke 1290 R

10/10/2013 @ 6:02 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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In order to develop the KTM Super Duke 1290 R, KTM employed ex-GP racer Jeremy McWilliams to put The Beast through its paces, and make it the asphalt terrorizing machine that it is.

Helping go over those developments with us, McWilliams is aided by Toby Moody (his voice may sound familiar to MotoGP fans of a Eurosport persuasion), as the duo speaks from what looks like Kiska’s design studio.

The six-minute video is a PR piece of course, but it is interesting to hear McWilliams’ thoughts on the machine.

He and Moody spend quite a bit of time going over the Super Duke 1290 R’s electronic systems, with the clear intention of addressing the concerns of motorcycling’s Luddite contingency — we think they succeeded in this regard. KTM, just stop teasing us and take our money already!

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