Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Rossi Ready to Race at Sachsenring – Needs Chief Medical Officer’s “Ok” in Order to Race

07/14/2010 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi announced today that he is fit enough to race at the German GP this weekend. Crashing only six weeks ago, Rossi has undergone a miraculous recuperation process, which saw the Italian rider utilizing a hyperbaric chamber to expedite his body’s recovery process. After a painful testing session at Misano, Rossi looked to be in far better physical shape a couple days ago at Brno.

Riding a WSBK spec Yamaha R1 at near Superpole pace (and faster than James Toseland), Rossi looked ready for Sachsenring this weekend, but postponed his scheduled annoucement on Monday to today. Seeing now that he has the fitness to race again, Rossi hopes to ride the Fiat-Yamaha M1 once again. Howver, Rossi will first have to get the green light from the MotoGP Chief Medical Officer before he can race, but that’s more of a formality than a material concern.

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Fiat-Yamaha: Rossi Announcement Wednesday

07/12/2010 @ 9:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

After first sending a press release that Rossi would make an announcement after his testing session today, Fiat-Yamaha has issued another statement saying that Rossi won’t make a decision on this weekend’s race until he arrives at Sachsenring on Wednesday. Heightening the anticipation of his return, Rossi has seemingly delayed making a decision to race, and wants to wait another two days before making it public what his intentions are for the weekend.

We assume this also means that we won’t hear an announcement from Rossi or Ducati about the 2011 season until the German GP as well. As such, Sachsenring will be an interesting round as both Rossi and Wataru Yoshikawa will have to prepare to race on Sunday, but also there will be the added fervor of the impending Rossi/Ducati announcement.

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Photo: Rossi at Brno [UPDATED]

07/12/2010 @ 7:51 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

UPDATE: According to Brivio, Rossi just finished 46 laps with a best time of 1’59.135. He reports Rossi as being tired, but his leg and shoulder are feeling better.

Fiat-Yamaha Team Manager Davide Brivio snapped this photo of Valentino Rossi as he left the team box at Brno this afternoon in the Czech Republic. So far Rossi has completed 18 laps around Brno, and will hold a press conference after this last session.

According to GPone.com, Rossi’s best lap on his first run was in 2′01.200, while on the second run his best lap was 2′00.600 with the same track temperatures as yesterday’s WSBK races. Compare that to Cal Crutchlow’s Superpole time of 1′58.018 just a few days ago in similar conditions.

Source: Twitter

Rossi to Test at Brno on Monday

07/11/2010 @ 6:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Fiat-Yamaha has confirmed that Rossi will test at Brno on Monday, with a press conference following the day’s testing sessions.

TwoWheelsBlog has gotten word that Rossi will be testing yet again, this time on James Toseland’s YZF-R1 at Brno tomorrow (Monday), as the Italian continues to gauge his progress to physical recovery. Keen to get back to racing,and save MotoGP from its plummeting ratings since his departure, Rossi has called for a press conference immediately following that day’s testing session. At the press conference Rossi is expected to announce his thoughts on racing next weekend at the German GP. A&R also expects Rossi to make the biggest announcement in MotoGP history on Monday as well.

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Valentino Rossi Signs Two-Year Contract with Ducati

07/09/2010 @ 3:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

UPDATE 3: Ducati has officially announced signing Valentino Rossi.

UPDATE 2: Ducati Motor Holdings CEO Gabriele del Torchio has confirmed that Valentino Rossi will race with Ducati in 2011.

UPDATE: Ducati & Yamaha have made a gentlemen’s agreement to delay the announcement of Rossi’s move until after Laguna Seca, in exchange for letting the Italian test the Desmosedici GP10 at the Valencian Round.

Let’s avoid the the “scoops”, “exclusives”, and “OMG’s”, and just say that Asphalt & Rubber has received word from a trusted source that Valentino Rossi has signed a two-year agreement with Ducati, that’s set to be announced on Monday…and boom goes the dynamite (sorry, we couldn’t resist). The Rossi/Ducati fantasy has been put forth for years, with the fervor on the subject reaching its pinnacle this season, as Ducati reportedly wafted a €15 million salary (almost double Yamaha’s offer) in front of the nine-time World Champion.

Likely less to do with money, and more about prestige and priority, the announcement comes on the heels of Casey Stoner’s exodus from the Ducati team, as the Australian has jumped ship back to HRC, in what is to be some sort of multinational threesome with energy drinks involved. Ok Italy, it’s almost time to change the sheets, this wet dream is nearly a reality. Stay tuned for Monday.

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More Photos of Valentino Rossi at Misano

07/08/2010 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Videos: Rossi Lapping at Misano Test

07/08/2010 @ 7:15 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Italy was abuzz yesterday as Valentino Rossi took to the track, testing at Misano, after nearly a month long hiatus. Breaking his shin during a highside at Mugello, Rossi was able to get back in the saddle this week partly because of his extensive use of a hyperbaric chamber, which super-saturated his body with oxygen and increased his body’s healing power, but it is also because the Italian World Champion is just that dedicated to racing.

One lucky spectator at Misano was able to catch a number of Rossi’s laps on video, as the Italian completed 26 laps, over two sessions, on the 2010 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Superbike. Rumors peg the carbon-clad WSBK R1 as being one of Cal Crutchlow’s bikes. Crutchlow is a favorite candidate to move into MotoGP (with Monster Tech3 Yamaha) next season, if Yamaha loses Rossi to Ducati in 2011. Check the videos out after the jump.

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Rossi Completes Testing at Misano

07/07/2010 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi completed 26 laps of testing today at Misano, while on-board a World Superbike spec 2010 Yamaha YZF-R1. After being off a motorcycle for nearly a month, Rossi and Fiat-Yamaha hoped to assess today how the Italian rider’s broken right leg has progressed since its injury on June 5th at Mugello. Rossi did an initial run of 11 laps on the R1 late in the afternoon, with a best time of 1’41.00. An hour later, the Champion did a second session of 15 laps, improving on his time by 3 seconds, with a best time of 1’38.200. Although pleased with the test, there’s still some debated on when Rossi will return to MotoGP racing.

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Rossi Decision Expected at Catalunya

06/30/2010 @ 6:25 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

News regarding Valentino Rossi is at a fever pitch, as it is expected the Italian rider will announce at the Catalan GP his intentions on where he will race in next season. For weeks, if not months now, Rossi has been linked to a very lucrative €15 million deal with Ducati Corse, while Fiat-Yamaha have reportedly scaled back their offer on the GP Champions from his current €14 million salary to €9 million.

Paddock gossip has said that Rossi has been considering both offers; however, at Barcelona we should finally know the answer to what team Rossi has picked, but some sources are already claiming they know the answer.

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Our Test Rider is Faster than Your Test Rider

06/28/2010 @ 11:08 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

After the collective groan that emanated from MotoGP fans around the world when Wataru Yoshikawa was announced as Valentino Rossi’s replacement, Interwetten Honda is feeling a bit frisky about MotoGP’s next stop at Barcelona for the Catalan GP.

As such the team has challenged the Fiat-Yamaha substitute rider to battle with their own replacement for Hiroshi Aoyama: Kousuke Akiyoshi. With neither rider likely to make much of a showing against the MotoGP usuals, Interwetten Honda boss Daniel Epp sees a battle of the backmarkers as a way to spice up the race.

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