Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Video: Kawasaki at the Isle of Man TT

07/24/2014 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Video: Kawasaki at the Isle of Man TT 2014 Isle of Man TT Ballaugh Bridge Richard Mushet 23 635x423

Kawasaki had a good outing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, scoring a win in the Sidecar class (Dave Molyneux), a podium in the Superstock class (Dean Harrison), and a clean sweep of the Lightweight TT (Dean Harrison, James Hillier, and James Cowton).

Team Green’s results may not displace the dominance by Honda at the Isle of Man, though Big Red’s TT reign is certainly under fire, as BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are all looking for a piece of the Manx pie.

Recapping its fortnight at the Isle of Man TT, Kawasaki has put together a nice video about its riders. We have roughly a year to wait until the next TT, so we will have to rely on videos like these to manage our appetite until then.

ACU Announces Changes to Isle of Man TT Sidecar Regs – Supersport Rules, Three-Cylidner Engines Now Allowed

06/25/2014 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

ACU Announces Changes to Isle of Man TT Sidecar Regs   Supersport Rules, Three Cylidner Engines Now Allowed 2014 Isle of Man TT Union Mills Tony Goldsmith 02 635x422

The sidecar class at the Isle of Man TT is about to get a pretty big change, as the ACU has announced a shift in the sporting regulations for sidecars. Already opening up the engine spec for the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the governing body has once again modified what the three-wheelers can use for their engines.

Applying the solo-class Supersport engine specs to the sidecar class, teams will have more strict guidelines on what they can and cannot modify for their machines, but they will also have greater flexibility in what engines they base their racing operation upon.

Since the Isle of Man TT Supersport class allows for 675cc three-cylinder sport bikes to compete, Sidecar class entrants can now make use of power plants from the Triumph Daytona 675 and MV Agusta F3 sport bikes.

Trackside Tuesday: Out with the Old?

06/17/2014 @ 3:18 pm, by Richard Mushet2 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Out with the Old? dean harrison ballaugh bridge photo merge Richard Mushet 635x423

With Michael Dunlop’s second successive year taking the lion’s share of silverware at the TT, a changing of the guard appears to be taking place as a new generation of riders lay claim to the podium places on the famous Mountain Course.

Debut victories by James Hillier and Dean Harrison, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and John McGuinness’ pair of solitary trips to the top step of the podium in the same years appear to confirm this.

Before any cries of ageism are thrown in my direction, the age of a rider bears no relation to whether they belong in the old or new guard. Experience around the course is what separates the old from the new.

With over 200 apexes to learn and countless lumps, bumps and cambers to memorise, it’s believed by many who have raced it, that the Mountain course takes years to truly learn, even with the advent of HD-quality on-board videos to study.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Mugello

06/12/2014 @ 3:49 pm, by Tony Goldsmith3 COMMENTS

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Mugello living the dream mugello tony goldsmith 18 635x476

When the calendar for the 2014 MotoGP season was announced one race immediately jumped out, Mugello.

This would probably not be for the reason that everyone would assume, after all Mugello is one of the most popular races on the calendar. It stood out as it was bang in the middle of the Isle of Man TT races.

While I really enjoy photographing MotoGP, my passion is, and always will be, the Isle of Man TT. In fact had it been any race other than Mugello, I may have decided to stay at home. But it wasn’t, so the decision was made, after all, how could I shoot a MotoGP season and not go to Mugello?

Trackside Tuesday: Anstey Ups the Ante

06/10/2014 @ 2:52 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

Trackside Tuesday: Anstey Ups the Ante trackside tuesday bruce anstey lap record tires 635x952

Now the dust has begun to settle on this year’s Tourist Trophy, the obvious headlines are taking up most of the page space in the motorcycle press. Michael Dunlop’s quadruple wins, John McGuinness’ hand injury issues, Dave Molyneux’s 17th victory, and any potential speculation and hearsay that they believe print-worthy dominates the news.

After an interrupted week of practice, due to weather and on-course incidents, Michael Dunlop laid his intentions down for all to see by breaking McGuinness’ long-standing lap record on the first two laps of the race at 131.730mph and 131.810mph.

Riding the Superbike-spec BMW S1000RR that was deemed to be the unknown element in Dunlop’s fortnight-long campaign at the TT, Michael broke his rivals and silenced the doubters before he had even completed his first pit stop. These laps bettered the lap record that had stood since John McGuinness set the marker of 131.671 mph during the 2013 Senior race.

While much of the focus was on Michael’s cruise to victory over Guy Martin and Connor Cummins, Bruce Anstey was wrestling his way to the fastest-ever lap of the Mountain Course by bettering Dunlop’s freshly-set lap record by over three seconds.

Teaser: Baron von Grumble Goes to the Isle of Man TT

06/09/2014 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Teaser: Baron von Grumble Goes to the Isle of Man TT Baron von Grumble isle of man tt teaser 635x423

My sleep schedule is almost back to normal, so that must mean that Asphalt & Rubber has just about wrapped up our 2014 Isle of Man TT coverage. After a great fortnight of TT racing, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our favorite YouTube personality, Baron von Grumble, was able to witness the Isle of Man TT in person as well, him with his video cameras in tow.

You might remember The Baron from his misadventures off-roading on a Suzuki GXR-1000 a couple years ago. Since then, His Lordship has become one of motorcycling’s most popular video bloggers — I wonder how many marketing executives in the motorcycles business could name the industry’s top five blogs and YouTube channels? Clearly Dainese and AGV can, since they helped bring Von Grumble to the Rock. Good on them.

The plan is for more videos from the Isle of Man TT trip to come forth from Von Grumble. If they are anything like this teaser (after the jump), then we are in for a real treat. I’ve played this probably 10 times so far. Nice work fella!

Michael Dunlop Wins Joey Dunlop TT Championship, Again

06/09/2014 @ 12:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Michael Dunlop Wins Joey Dunlop TT Championship, Again 2014 Isle of Man TT Grandstand Tony Goldsmith 09 635x954

Winning four of the five major solo races, Michael Dunlop easily took the Joey Dunlop TT Championship this year, and further solidified his supremacy at the Isle of Man TT. Last year’s winner as well, many regard Michael Dunlop as having taken over John McGuinness’ place as King of the Mountain.

McPint lovers might take issue with that statement, seeing how McGuinness came to the 2014 IOMTT with a wrist injury, and thus was not at the top of his game. Whoever you pick though, there can be no denying that Michael Dunlop is on a tear, especially when paired with the BMW S1000RR.

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge with Richard Mushet

06/08/2014 @ 5:13 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge with Richard Mushet 2014 Isle of Man TT Ballaugh Bridge Richard Mushet 09 635x423

For what was to be the final day of this year’s TT races, I decided to stick to habit/tradition and shoot the Lightweight and Senior races from Ballaugh bridge, around 17 miles into the Mountain Course.

After passing through Kirk Michael and the famous Rhencullen jump, the riders quickly find themselves approaching the famous humpback bridge. With a variety of lines and methods of taking this unique obstacle, there are plenty of thrills for the gathered spectators.

From the measured approach of Bruce Anstey, who takes very little air and lands the front wheel down before the rear, to the balls out air time of Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes and newcomer Phil Crowe, there is such a difference in styles between the field.

For a photographer at Ballaugh, there are a couple of main challenges. The shadows created by the trees at the side of the bridge make it quite tricky to expose the bikes and background correctly because it can leave the dark tarmac looking washed-out and far too bright when the sun is stronger. This leaves you constantly altering the settings on your camera to keep the images as evenly lit as possible.

The second issue to deal with is keeping track of approaching riders – like most places on the course you can hear the screaming engines begin to ease off and shift through the gearbox, but when multiple riders approach it always helps to spot the order they are in to shoot the leaders or other specific riders. By following the top of approaching helmets through the hedges, you have a fighting chance to capture the right rider.

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge & Ballacrye with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2014 @ 4:52 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge & Ballacrye with Tony Goldsmith 2014 Isle of Man TT Grandstand Tony Goldsmith 05 635x422

The day dawned bright and sunny for the final day of racing at TT 2014. The choice of location for the Lightweight TT was the legendary jump at Ballaugh Bridge, where I found fellow Asphalt & Rubber photographer Richard Mushet enjoying the early morning sunshine.

Once the Lightweight race was finished I jumped into the car and headed a mile or so down the road to the Ballacrye jump for the Senior TT.

I am told that on a superbike the riders take the jump flat out in 5th gear which would be in the region of 160mph. To see a superbike leap through the air at that speed only a few feet away is mind blowing.

After witnessing that, and 3 of the 6 laps Senior TT laps, I packed up and drove back to Douglas to make it just in time for the final podium celebrations of TT 2014.

IOMTT: Union Mills & Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2014 @ 3:12 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off

IOMTT: Union Mills & Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith 2014 Isle of Man TT Union Mills Tony Goldsmith 02 635x422

I decided prior to the start of the second sidecar race that I wanted to get to the grandstand for the podium. Photographing a TT podium does place some restrictions on where to shoot the race, while still enabling you to get away.

After a bit of deliberation I decided on the bridge at Union Mills. This is a popular spot, particularly for the solos, as you can catch them leaned over with the back wheel popping off the ground as they go over the bridge.

It can also be good for the sidecars, as the front runners just take off as they hit the bridge. If you time it right you can catch them with all 3 wheels off the ground.

Once the leaders had gone through on the final lap, it was time to jump in the car and head to the grandstand to get the podium shots.