Michael Dunlop is all smiles after his record breaking win in the Superbike TT.
John McGuinness at Union Mills.
Ian Hutchinson couldn’t match the blistering pace of Michael Dunlop and had to settle for second place.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of two competitors who died in separate incidents while at the Isle of Man TT. Dwight Beare died during today’s Sidecar TT Race 1, and Paul Shoesmith who died during this evening’s solo-class practice sessions.
Dwight Beare was a 27-year-old from Melbourne, Australia who moved to Onchan on the Isle of Man. While competing in the Sure Sidecar 1 TT, Beare unfortuantely did not survive a crash near Rhencullen, the race was red-flagged immediately after the crash.
Beare’s sidecar passenger, Benjamin Binns, was airlifted from the crash site to Nobles Hospital, and thankfully is reported to have only a fractured ankle.
Later that day, 50-years-old Paul Shoesmith from Poynton, Lancashire died during Saturday’s evening practice session. His incident occurred on the Sulby Straight. The practice session was red-flagged immediately following the incident.
Ian Hutchinson was the first rider to break the outright lap record, which was set by John McGuinness during last year’s Senior TT race, with a 132.892 mph lap.
The record would be short-lived though, as Michael Dunlop was hot on Hutchy’s heels, with a 133.369 mph lap performance on his Hawk Racing BMW S1000RR.
The first ever TT lap under 17 minutes, and the first ever lap that averaged over 133 mph, Dunlop’s performance during the Superbike TT was nothing short of dominant…and he wouldn’t stop there.
Upping the ante on the second lap, Dunlop benefited from less fuel and put down another scorcher – a 133.393 mph lap.
It’s been seven perfect days of weather at the Isle of Man TT, which is a rarity for the island nation, which sits in the turbulent Irish Sea. That has boded well for Saturday’s opening race, the RST Superbike TT, as riders have been putting in scorching laps so far this practice week.
All expectations were for a record lap to be set, especially after Ian Hutchinson set an “unofficial” outright lap record the day before during practice, but the question was from whom would the record be broken by officially, as a number of riders were showing good race pace.
It’s Saturday morning on the Isle of Man, and the Superbike TT is only 50 minutes away as I write this final practice update. What a week! The weather has been amazing on the Isle of Man. The track is in perfect condition and the riders are ready to go.
I commented to my friend Steve English yesterday evening that we would probably see the riders take it easy in Friday evening’s practice session. They’d had so much practice that surely they didn’t need to push. How wrong I was.
Ian Hutchinson went out on his Superstock BMW and unofficially broke the outright lap record at 132.8mph. An incredible time!
Anyway, enough talking, on with the photos, which were taken during Thursday and Friday’s practice sessions at a mixture of the paddock, St. Ninian’s Crossroads, and Lambfell/Cronk-y-Voddy.
The weather gods have been smiling on the Isle of Man TT this fortnight, with six consecutive days of sunshine and warm temperatures thus far. That bodes well for the TT riders, as it means that they will push faster and faster with each session.
Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising to hear that Ian Hutchinson is now “unofficially” the fastest man ever to lap around the Isle of Man TT course, setting a scorching 132.803 mph lap on his Tyco BMW Superstock. That’s right, on his Superstock machine.
Since my last update from the Isle of Man TT, the sun has continued to shine and the speeds have continued to rise. After spending Tuesday evening in and around the paddock, I headed out to the K-Tree, just outside Ramsey, for Wednesday’s practice.
Also known as Lezayre Church or the Conkerfields, the K-Tree has become very popular in recent years. Some of the most spectacular slow motion footage from the last few years has been filmed there.
For your viewing pleasure, I’ve also included in this post a selection from Tuesday evening’s session in the paddock. Above: James Hillier on the back wheel at the K-Tree.
Practice for the 2016 Isle of Man TT got underway on Saturday evening and continued on Monday. Both sessions ran under beautiful conditions on the Isle of Sun, at least it’s the Isle of Sun for now.
I spent Saturday evening around 7 miles from the start at the Greeba Castle section. I’m lucky to still be here after being eaten alive by midges.
Monday evening was spent in the sun on the mountain at Guthrie’s and the 27th Milestone. Thankfully the midges weren’t a problem, but I did have to chase away a pheasant that had popped along for a look.
Above, you will find Dean Harrison on his Superstock Kawasaki at Guthrie’s Memorial.
This year marks the 97th running of the Isle of Man TT, and the two weeks of practice and racing sessions should be considered a “must attend” item on any motorcyclist’s bucket list.
The TT is a special event to attend, and I can tell you as a journalist that it is one of the more surreal motorcycle races to cover. First, there is the serenity in watching machines race on public roads, just inches sometimes from where you are sitting. There is no where else that gets you that close to the action.
And then, there is the pound of flesh that comes with the spectacle: the knowledge that statistically speaking, two racers will lose their lives over the course of the fortnight. It is sobering to know going into an event that you will likely report the death of an athlete.
Whether you are a fan of road racing or one of its detractors, I still feel that it should be compulsory to attend an Isle of Man TT before one can make comment one way or another on its continuance.
This isn’t just another motorcycle race, and this isn’t just another extreme sport; this isn’t life in the sand of the coliseum, but it’s also not going through life in the passenger seat.
There is something truly special about the Isle of Man TT, and until you experience it from beyond these words, they will just continue to seem hyperbolic.
It is easy to wax poetic about the TT – you will just have to attend one yourself to understand that. Until you do though, we aim to bring you the best Isle of Man TT coverage available over the next two weeks. So, here’s a primer of information, before we start cluttering your A&R news feed with TT postings.
Victory Motorcycles will return to the Isle of Man TT this year, competing again with its electric superbike platform, the Victory RR.
Evolving from the ashes of the Brammo Empulse RR project, the Victory RR continues the work on electric drivetrains for Brammo, which now develops the electric drivetrains that power the Victory Empulse TT electric street bike.
With an all-new machine for the 2016 racing season, the Victory RR is the top-pick to upset the recent domination we have seen from Team Mugen, though that will be a tall order, with Mugen updating its Shinden race bike this year as well.