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.

No Replacement for Doha Means 2014 EWC Ends at Le Mans

07/28/2014 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on No Replacement for Doha Means 2014 EWC Ends at Le Mans

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The FIM has announced that since no substitute round could be found to replace the Doha 8-Hour event this year, the 2014 Endurance World Championship will conclude with the Le Man 24 Hours.

This means that only two more rounds remain on the EWC calendar, Oschersleben & Le Mans, which will make the battle for the Championship that much more intense.

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2014 Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race Results

07/28/2014 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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With heavy rain delaying the start, the Suzuka 8-Hour was more like the Suzuka 6-Hour, as only six hours and thirty-five minutes could be fit into the race’s time slot. Still, FIM Endurance World Championship fans were treated to a good battle, which unfortunately saw F.C.C. TSR Honda out early while in the lead.

Kosuke Akiyoshi gave F.C.C. TSR Honda its early lead, and strong stint from Jonathan Rea seemed to solidify the team’s position. But on his next outing, Akiyoshi had a massive crash at the 130R corner. Riding his Honda CBR1000RR back into the pits with a broken femur, Akiyoshi was the hero of the race, but F.C.C. TSR would have to settle for 40th overall.

The crash left the lead for MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team, which laid claim to the top step at Suzuka for the second year in a row. The Japanese team, which was comprised of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael van der Mark put in an impressive performance at the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance race, though only had roughly a minute’s gap at the finish line to show for it.

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She’z Racing at Suzuka — When a Plan Comes Together

07/16/2014 @ 4:06 pm, by Shelina Moreda11 COMMENTS

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We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo are making the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and will be campaigning a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. Race day is July 25th. -JB

If you know me, you know I like new adventures in racing. I want to do as much racing, in as many awesome places as possible, and hopefully find out where my niche is and find a home racing somewhere eventually, but I still hope I get to continue traveling for racing always.

Racing in Japan is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s something that came up about a year and a half ago, and I made it known that I really wanted to do it. We had a strong lead last year, but it couldn’t happen for some valid reasons.

Nobody gave up on it though, we kept pushing for it, and this year, to my surprise and awe, the well known and respected Team Moriwaki expressed a strong interest in putting together a team for the four-hour endurance at Suzuka. Everyone put it in high-gear to get the team together and to figure out all the details that go along with such a high-level event like this, with such a high-level team.

It’s been somewhat top secret, and the excitement, at least for me, has been pretty hard to contain. We’ve all been working diligently behind the scenes, and it seems we were all holding out breaths at this twinkling far-off dream of ours, watching it become a reality, until our test this week, where everything came together, and we all pinched ourselves and realized it’s real. Midori Moriwaki, Melissa Paris and I have spent some time laughing about this this week.

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2014 Yamaha YZF-R1 Endurance Race Bike by YART

04/29/2014 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) might not have had a result at the 2014 Bol d’Or that was commensurate with the team’s ability, but ask anyone in the Endurance World Championship paddock who the top teams are, and YART is surely on their short-list.

Finishing 5th in the 2013 Championship, YART’s first goal is to best its French counterpart, the Yamaha Racing – GMT 94 – Michelin squad. Running similar equipment, the Austrians have been making a strong showing in the French-dominated endurance paddock.

So strong is EWC in France, that Honda Racing Europe finally had to give up its TT Legends team, which was comprised of road racing and TT stars, in favor of an all-French rider lineup of endurance specialists.

Featuring some of the most interesting racing equipment, the Endurance World Championship breeds a special kind of racing motorcycle. Bikes are rolling compromises, setup to provide the widest range of usability and riding style for the two, three, sometimes four riders that have to share the motorcycle during an endurance race.

Reliability is key, where a bulletproof bike with superior fuel economy, can be an advantage over the bike with the most horsepower on the grid. The human-factor is huge too, especially as races like the Bol d’Or carry-on into the night. Mistakes from rider and crew can mean time lost, or worse, the end of a race.

That all being said, here is the Yamaha Austria Racing Team’s 2014 workhorse, in all its go-fast glory.

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2014 Bol d’Or 24-Hour Race Results

04/27/2014 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The first round of the 2014 Endurance World Championship is in the bag, as the 24 hours of the Bol d’Or at Magny-Cours are now in the bag. Taking the top step on the podium was last year’s Bol d’Or winner, SRC Kawasaki, but the win didn’t come easily for the Kawasaki factory team.

“The week got off to a bad start. With Fabien Foret out and the crash for Matthieu, I wouldn’t have fancied us to win,” admitted SRC Kawasaki Team Manager Gilles Stafler. “The best win we ever had in a 24-hour race was our first in Le Mans in 2010. But this one was the toughest. There was also a luck factor in the choice of the tyres and we had the support of really top-notch technical staff.”

Because of Matthieu Lagrive’s crash during the free practice session, this meant that SRC Kawasaki teammate Gregory Leblanc and Nicolas Salchaud had to pretty much split the racing duties for the 24-hour race. At one point, SRC Kawasaki was in the 20th spot, after an early crash, but the team rallied together, and capitalized on the misfortunes of others to bring home another Bol d’Or win.

Finishing five laps down, in second, was the Yamaha France’s factory-supported team: Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin; and in third was the Superstock Class leader, Junior Team LMS Suzuki, which was 11 laps down at the finish.

Noticeably absent from the finishing board were the usual suspects of Honda Racing, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), all of whom had to retire mid-race because of mechanical troubles, but had strong showings prior to their retirements.

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How to Watch the 2014 Bol d’Or 24 Hour Endurance Race

04/26/2014 @ 12:26 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Endurance World Championship season is about to start, with the 2014 Bol d’Or 24-Hour race kicking off in just a few hours in Magny-Cours. But woe is you, you have no way of watching the race, right? Pssh…Asphalt & Rubber has you covered, my endurance loving friend.

Well actually, the FIM does…we are just making things putting-on-pants-easy for you in terms of watching the live stream and timing on your computer box. Sit back, relax, and watch 24-hours of motorcycle racing goodness from the comfort of your monitor’s warm glow. Go ahead, take your shoes off. We won’t mind. Racing starts 6am Pacific time, 9am Eastern.

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2014 SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 Debuts

04/25/2014 @ 1:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As usual, the team to beat in the Endurance World Championship is the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). Taking the 2013 title by a thin five-point margin though, SERT’s history of dominance in endruance racing is certainly being challenged. Biting at its heels are the factory teams from Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda — all of whom have strong teams for the 2014 season.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same — which applies equally well for the 2014 Suzuki GSX-R1000 which SERT will once again be campaigning in the EWC. The 2014 SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 looks like almost a carbon-copy of last year’s machine, and we will just assume that they don’t want to change a winning formula.

At the helm of the SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 are team regulars Vincent Philippe and Anthony Delhalle, who will be joined by Erwan Nigon and reserve rider Damian Cudlin. With 13 Endurance World Championship under its belt, SERT will look for its 14th title this year, and their title defense starts tomorrow with the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race at Magny-Cours, France.

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Video: Honda Racing Previews the Bol d’Or 24hr with Its New EWC “Specialist” Team

04/24/2014 @ 3:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Honda Racing is back for another season in the Endurance World Championship, replacing the OEM’s lineup of “TT Legends” is a group of French endurance specialists — tipping Honda’s hand to make a serious bid for the Championship title.

Gearing up for the EWC’s first round this weekend, the Bol d’Or at Magny-Course, Julien Da Costa, Freddy Foray, and Sebastien Gimbert will be riding the 2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP.

The trio have a bevy of EWC experience under their belts, and HRC seems to finally have its logistics and team sorted out for EWC duty. Endurance fans, expect to see strong results from Honda this year.

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Harley-Davidson Powered Prius Found on eBay

04/04/2014 @ 11:28 am, by Bryan Delohery6 COMMENTS

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The guys and gals over at Autoblog never cease to disappoint when it comes to finding some of the most outrageous automotive concoctions on the internet, and today is no exception.

Someone had the audacity/genius, to completely rip out the guts of a 2008 Toyota Prius, and stuff in a Harley Davidson motor from 1986.

While some will be cringing in terror and anger after seeing the Captain Planet mobile so horribly butchered, remember that the “Toyohog”, as the team calls it, was built to compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons, and maybe win the “Albert Gore Jr. Carbon Neutral Cup”, one of the many LeMons season prizes.

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TT Legends — Episode 7: The Oschersleben 8hr

02/26/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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We don’t know about you, but the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary is really giving us a reason to look forward to Wednesday. In fact it might even be the most popular event at the A&R office since No-Pants Fridays. Sadly, Episode Seven is the penultimate installment, but all good things must come to an end, right?

Today’s video takes us to Germany, for the Oschersleben 8hr. Perhaps not the biggest event on the FIM Endurance World Championship, it was a decisive round for the Honda TT Legends squad for the 2012 EWC title. As usually, it’s a great look into this top-level team, and your favorite TT heroes have more than enough personality to keep you entertained.

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