Some Thoughts Regarding MV Agusta, From 30,000 Feet

I’m on my second-to-last airplane ride on this two-week travel stint, and while I might be headed to San Diego, CA for the Ducati XDiavel launch, my thoughts are still back in Spain, on another Italian motorcycle manufacturer: MV Agusta. I have always found MV Agusta to be a fairly open company, bordering on the territory of over-sharing sometimes. That perhaps is something that is endemic to MV Agusta’s family-styled atmosphere, as the brand comes across more as a close-knit group of motorcycle enthusiasts, rather than a bunch of corporate suits. That is an observation that cuts both ways of course, with MV Agusta perhaps needing some more business structure in order to ensure its long term success.

Ducati North America Has Record Sales Year in 2015

Ducati North America is reporting a record year for sales, selling 12,132 motorcycles in 2015 – this number includes all Ducati sales in the USA (9,674 units, +10%), Canada (1,458 units, +12%), and Mexico (1,003 units, +85%). The news is perhaps not surprising, since Ducati sales grew globally by 22% last year, for a total of 54,800 motorcycle sold in 2015. Ducati North America’s numbers continue a six-year trend of solid sales growth, with last year’s sales being fueled primarily by the Ducati Scrambler. Ducati North America isn’t breaking down sales by machine, though it does say that behind the Scrambler, the 899 Panigale and Monster 821 were top-sellers in the region. In the USA, it says that the 1299 Panigale and Multistrada 1200 were “sales standouts” for the country.

Secret KTM Moto2 Race Bike Breaks Cover

KTM has surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partner WP Suspension. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday. KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.

XXX: The 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP Race Bike

These are the first images of the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike from the Japanese manufacturer, the same machine that is currently lapping around the Sepang International Circuit this week for MotoGP’s first official test of 2016. As you can see, not much has changed visually, though obviously a lot of the development has occurred beneath the fairings of the Suzuki GSX-RR. What we can see though are subtle changes to the twin-spar aluminum frame, which has now been completely filled in on both sides. Also, there is a new and modified air ducts on the side fairings, likely for extra cooling – on the left side, it’s near the top of the bike, while on the right side, the lower ducts has been enlarged to expose the exhaust header more. The shape of the exhaust has also changed, making for a more sweeping design.

Casey Stoner’s First Day Back at Ducati Was A Success

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Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self. He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.

Six New MV Agusta Models Will Debut in 2016

Another more tidbit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale press launch (read the review here), is word from CEO Giovanni Castiglioni that MV Agusta will unveil six new models this year, ahead of the 2016 EICMA show. Castiglioni wouldn’t say which three models it would be, though he made hint with the above slide that three of them would be naked sport bikes, while the other three new models would be fully faired sport bikes. With these hints, it makes the guessing game fairly straight forward. We already broke the news to you that an updated Brutale 675 would debut in Q2 2016, with new Dragster 800 and Brutale 800 RR models soon to follow, with MV Agusta’s updated 798cc three-cylinder engine that now meets Euro4 emission standards.

Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case. The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines. Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

Opinion: Why the Rossi vs. Marquez Controversy Isn’t Going Away in MotoGP, Any Time Soon

If the Movistar Yamaha launch at Barcelona made one thing clear, it is that the feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez will be just as bitter in 2016 as it was in 2015. In Barcelona, Rossi once again repeated the litany of charges he leveled against Marc Márquez at the end of last season. Márquez had decided early in the season he would try to stop Rossi from winning the title, had played with Rossi at Phillip Island, done far worse at Sepang, then stayed behind Lorenzo at Valencia to hand him the title. For Valentino Rossi, nothing has changed since Valencia 2015.

Ducati draXter Concept Debuts in Verona

Ducati is at this year’s Motor Bike Expo in Verona, and it has a bevy of concepts and customs it wants to show the world. The Italian brand’s trio of Sixty2 Scrambler concepts didn’t really spark our engine, but the Ducati draXter Concept is certainly of note and worthy of further scrutiny. The Ducati XDiavel was Bologna’s big reveal at EICMA this year, and while the cruiser model wasn’t our cup of tea, we might have to change our tune with this decked-out version of the machine. Ducati says that the draXter model interprets the XDiavel from a “sports” point-of-view, and the modifications made to the machine certainly do a good job of connoting a bike that leaps from the line.

KTM Made Over €1 Billion in Revenue in 2015

To put it succinctly, KTM is crushing it. In 2015, the Austrian company posted another banner year, which is nothing terribly new from a European motorcycle brand; but in just a few five short years, KTM has addd over 100,000 motorcycles to its volume of production. As such, the Austrian sold 180,801 KTM and Husqvarna motorcycles in 2015, making €1.02 billion in the process. This is a 14% increase over KTM’s sales in 2014, a 18% increase in revenue, and a 26% in income (€95 million, EBIT). This also makes 2015 the first time that KTM has exceeded a billion euros in revenue, and the fifth year in a row that KTM sales have increased. According to KTM, this makes them the fastest growing motorcycle company in the world.

2016 Sepang MotoGP Test Preview: The Future Starts Here

01/31/2016 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The hour of truth is at hand. On Monday morning, MotoGP fans will get their very first look at how the 2016 season is really going to look like. We got a glimpse at Valencia, but it was not a uniform picture.

Though the 2016 electronics and Michelin tires made their debut at the two-day test after the final race of 2015, there were still too many variables.

Everyone was on the Michelins, but some riders were on the spec-electronics, others were on the old proprietary software they had been using for the 2015 season, and the factory teams were using a mixture of both.

It was also the first time the teams had to focus solely on the new tires and electronics, without the pressure of an ongoing championship. Though for both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, the intensity of the season finale had left them drained, making it difficult to generate the necessary enthusiasm for testing.

There was a lot of work to do, for everyone concerned, and nobody did anything but scratch the surface.

Thursday Summary at the Jerez MotoGP Test: Honda’s Overpowered Engine vs. Ducati’s Friendly Delivery

11/26/2015 @ 11:02 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Have HRC made the same mistake again? In 2015, the Honda RC213V was a nasty beast to tame, suffering with an excessively aggressive engine.

The engine was probably the single most important reason Marc Márquez could not mount a realistic defense of his second title, forcing him to try to make up in braking what he was losing in acceleration, and crashing out as a result.

At the Valencia test, all eyes were on Honda’s new engine, to see if they had finally fixed the problem.

Valencia turned out to be a little too complex to make a real judgment. The switch to spec-electronics and Michelin tires introduced way too many variables to be able to filter out a single factor, Honda engineers taking a long time to extract some kind of consistency from the new unified software all MotoGP bikes must now use.

The 2016 RC213V engine seemed a little less aggressive, but the new software made it hard to tell. The current test at Jerez was supposed to give a clearer indication, with HRC’s engineers having a better handle on the unified software.

Though the verdict is not yet in, it is not looking good for the 2016 engine Honda brought for the tests in Spain. Both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez have reported the engine as still being too aggressive, and difficult to manage, though the engine character has changed.

MotoGP, Moto2, & Moto3 Silly Season Loose Ends

10/01/2015 @ 10:37 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Aragon was a busy time for the riders and managers in all three Grand Prix classes. Wrapping up contract negotiations before the circus heads east for the Pacific Ocean flyaways was high on the list of priorities, though not everything ended up getting sorted before the teams packed up at Aragon. Plenty of agreements were reached, however, as we shall see below.

Though most of the loose ends have been tied up in MotoGP, a few question marks remain. The Aspar team was one of those question marks, which came much closer to a conclusion at Aragon.

The original plan was to have Jack Miller join the team, bringing his crew with him, and covering most of the cost of riding, but various obstacles prevented that from happening.

Money was a major factor, in part the amount Aspar were willing to pay to have Miller in their team, but perhaps a bigger factor was being left with Hondas.

The Open class Hondas have both been a huge disappointment for all of the teams that have run them. The 2014 RCV1000R was massively underpowered, and was getting blown away by the factory bikes along the straight.

To remedy that situation, Honda offered the RC213V-RS, a cheaper version of the factory RC213V, but without the seamless transmission and using the spec electronics.

That bike has also not been competitive, perhaps in part because it is a stripped down version of the original. “This bike was designed to use a seamless gearbox,” Nicky Hayden explained last weekend. “You can’t get the best out of it without one.”

MotoGP: An Update to the 2016 Silly Season Happenings

09/22/2015 @ 8:48 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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With the flyaways fast approaching, MotoGP’s silly season for 2016 is reaching its climax. All of the factory seats are taken – including the seat at Aprilia vacated by Marco Melandri – and the top satellite rides are filled as well, either officially or unofficially.

A few pieces of the puzzle remain, but fitting those together is more or less complex, depending on the team and the rider involved. Here’s a look at where we stand so far.

Friday Summary at Misano: Disappointingly Fast Times, & Tweaking the Nut Between the Handlebars

09/12/2015 @ 8:45 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday Summary at Misano: Disappointingly Fast Times, & Tweaking the Nut Between the Handlebars

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The trouble with raised expectations is that they are so often trumped by reality. After all the hype about Misano’s new surface, there was much puzzlement among the MotoGP riders, and among the teams.

Danny Kent’s reaction after Moto3 practice was typical. “Having heard so many people say that it’s two seconds a lap quicker than last year… I’d love to know where I can find two seconds!” So much had been expected that it could only ever end in disappointment.

That’s not to say the surface was poor. Praise for the new track was universal, and the times were definitely quick. In Moto3, Danny Kent beat the race lap record.

In Moto2, Tito Rabat was over a tenth quicker than the existing pole record. And Jorge Lorenzo managed the same feat in MotoGP, breaking the existing pole record by a few hundredths.

To do so on a Friday, when the track is still relatively dusty, and fairly green (new and not yet worn in), means the track really is a lot quicker, and times will probably drop quickly on Saturday, once the riders start to turn up the wick.

Thursday Summary at Misano: New Asphalt, Hidden Benefits, & A Tough Dilemma for Laverty

09/10/2015 @ 9:01 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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There was a sense of eager anticipation at Misano on Thursday. For the past five years, the riders have complained more and more of the poor surface, of bumps, of a lack of grip, and of asphalt polished as smooth as pebbles on a beach.

The new surface is a vast improvement, incredibly grippy, most of the bumps ironed out and fresh dark asphalt ready to welcome sticky rubber. Racing at Misano will be a much more rewarding experience than it has been in the past.

Just how much better is the new surface? Aleix Espargaro said that the Suzukis had lapped a second under the lap record, while Marc Márquez had been untouchable, lapping “nearly three seconds under the record.”

That seemed almost improbably fast, and a quick survey among the rest of the paddock suggested Márquez’s time was not quite that quick, but at 1’31.9 impressive nonetheless.

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

08/29/2015 @ 10:59 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

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Predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is hard. Scratch that, predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is downright impossible. We scour the sector and lap times, talk to as many riders as possible, try to make sense of what they tell us, and take our best guess based on all we have learned.

And inevitably, we get it wrong. Because there was something we missed, or because some random factor intervened, or because we didn’t pay enough attention to what the riders were telling us, or perhaps paid too much attention to it. Which is why you should probably take the following with a pinch of salt.

After qualifying and practice at Brno, we confidently predicted one of the best races of the year, with Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez setting almost identical pace during free practice.

The chase lasted for five laps, before Lorenzo picked up his heels and disappeared, riding a perfect race to an unstoppable win, and killing any burgeoning excitement stone dead.

Silverstone looks like being very similar. There are two riders who are clearly a step ahead of the rest, and on the basis of practice times on Saturday, their pace is very similar indeed.

Though you wouldn’t say that just based on the headline numbers: in FP3, Jorge Lorenzo destroyed the rest of the field, beating Márquez by nearly half a second.

In the afternoon, during FP4, Márquez returned the favor, laying down a withering pace to put over eight tenths on everyone else, and posting a string of ten laps, the slowest of which was faster than fastest lap set by any other rider on the field.

The difference between Lorenzo’s FP3 lap and Márquez’ FP4 lap? Just 0.062 seconds, in Lorenzo’s favor.

Tires are what made the difference. Lorenzo put a brand new tire on for the last two laps of FP3, and obliterated the rest of the field. Márquez put a brand new medium tire in FP4, and blew the field away, then slapped in a new hard tire, and was fast with that too.

In FP3, Márquez was working on getting the best out of old tires, in FP4, Lorenzo was doing the same, as well as trying out a setup change that simply did not work.

Two riders, similar pace on new tires, both much faster than the rest. Who will come out on top? At this point in time, it is impossible to say. What it will come down to is who manages tires the best.

The Massive MotoGP Silly Season Update

08/20/2015 @ 11:51 pm, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

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Brno was a busy time for teams, managers and riders. Apart from dealing with jet lag and the sweltering heat, silly season kicked off in force at the Czech round of MotoGP.

The summer break and the chaos which ensued from the situation around the Forward Racing team put everything on hold over the summer, with tentative talks starting at Indianapolis.

Those talks, and events outside the paddock, helped clarify the situation, and at Brno talks began in earnest. The empty spaces on the MotoGP grid are starting to be filled.

Deciphering the MotoGP Silly Season, Part 2

07/30/2015 @ 10:45 am, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

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If Jack Miller is parachuted into Aspar, the second seat in the team is up for grabs. Though Dorna are keen to have an American in MotoGP, it is widely believed that Nicky Hayden’s days are numbered.

Despite his denials, there are question marks over Hayden’s wrist, and he has not been as competitive on the Open Honda as he had hoped. Hayden was at the last round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca a couple of weeks ago, where he was seen talking to a lot of teams.

There is a lot of speculation Hayden could end up on an Aprilia in World Superbikes next season, the American already having visited the factory’s Noale HQ in 2013, before he left Ducati to sign for Aspar.

Could Hayden take the second Aprilia seat in MotoGP? This seems extremely unlikely. The factory already has an experienced development rider in Alvaro Bautista, and is really looking for someone faster and younger to lead the challenge.

Spending a Morning with Eugene Laverty

07/13/2015 @ 11:26 am, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

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Shortly after qualifying for the recent German Grand Prix at Sachsenring, Asphalt & Rubber photographer Tony Goldsmith sat down with Aspar MotoGP Team rider and class rookie Eugene Laverty, to get some insight into how a MotoGP rider prepares for a race.

On race day I also had the opportunity to photograph Eugene in the build up to the race, talk to him about his routine, and discuss the special tribute helmet he was wearing for the late Dr. John Hinds.