John McGuinness claimed his 46th TT podium, with a 3rd place in the Senior TT.
Ben & Tom Birchall at Signpost Corner, on their way to victory in the Sidecar TT Race 2.
Bruce Anstey at Braddan Bridge.
As we predicted, the BMW HP4 Race carbon fiber superbike debuted today in China, at the Auto Shanghai 2017 expo. This is the production version of the prototype that BMW Motorrad teased at last year’s EIMCA show in Milan. Details were scarce in Italy, but now BMW is ready to tell us all about its halo bike. The numbers? Only 750 units of the BMW HP4 Race will be produced. Each one will make 212hp, and weigh 377 lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride – which is lighter than BMW’s WorldSBK-spec S1000RR racing machine. Of course the main feature of the BMW HP4 Race is that it drips in carbon fiber. The bodywork, main frame, and wheels are made of this composite material, with the tail section being a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.
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.
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.
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.
Last to go on Wednesday for the Isle of Man TT, the Bennetts Lightweight TT features “super twin” four-stroke machines, of up to 650cc in displacement.
The weapon of choice in the class has been the Kawasaki Ninja 650, but that is slowly changing. Gary Johnson, for instance, has made a good show of things with the Chinese CF Moto.
Though any rider can compete in the Lightweight TT category, the class is seen by many as a stepping stone onto a supersport or bigger bike. As such, many of the TT’s upcoming stars feature in the Lightweight TT.
A four-lap race this year, the Lightweight TT in the past has been a three-lap contest, which brought a bit of strategy into play on when to take a pit stop. Now four laps, that intrigue has been removed, but given riders a more difficult contest on machines not designed for racing.
The weather is mercurial at the Isle of Man, and it often throws a spanner into the plans for the TT. This year, the weather has been perfect – hot and sunny throughout the practice week, and into the race week. That is of course, until Wednesday, when the fog and ocean mist delayed proceedings by several hours.
This meant that the Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 2 got off to an afternoon start, rather than its planned morning get-off. Thankfully, the modest delay still allowed for a full-day’s racing, and good racing it was.
Ian Hutchinson at the bottom of Barregarrow on his way to winning the Supersport TT race 1.
Monday was not a good day for Michael Dunlop. He was excluded from the Supersport results due to a technical infringement, and failed to finish the Superstock race.
Dean Harrison finished on the podium in both races.
The RL360º Quantum Superstock TT race features liter-class bikes that are supposed to be closer to what rolls out of a motorcycle dealership, as such, few modifications are allowed to these machines at the Isle of Man TT.
That being said, the Superstock TT bikes have been putting down impressive lap times, nearing the speeds that the Superbike TT machines produce. This is due partially to the plateauing of speeds at the Isle of Man, and also because modern-day superbikes are very stout, even right out of the box.
A good example of this is the “unofficial” outright lap record that Ian Hutchinson set on his superstock BMW S1000RR, but perhaps a better example was during this year’s Superstock TT race, where a new record was not only set, but the 133 mph barrier was broken yet again.
With the big bikes getting the 2016 Isle of Man TT off to a wonderful start, Monday saw the Supersport and Superstock bikes on the Mountain Course for the racing action. Though the machines were different, the same names were the talk of the paddock.
The weather was once again stellar for Race 1 of the Supersport TT, the first match of the 600cc class of machines, and all eyes on the TT course were getting record to see another race record drop. They would not be disappointed.
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.
What is it like to ride a supercharged 300hp hyperbike around the Isle of Man TT? Somewhat terrifying, and that’s coming from a guy who does it for a living: James Hillier.
As you might know, Hillier rode a Kawasaki Ninja H2R around the Isle of Man TT road course as part of an exhibition lap during this last TT fortnight, much to the delight of fans lining the Manx hedgerows.
Now we can relive that experience, since Kawasaki put together a short video on James’ impressions riding the supercharged carbon fiber beast, complete with on-board footage. Enjoy!
If there is one event everyone gets excited about at the Isle of Man TT, it’s the Senior TT. Often called “the blue-ribbon event” at the Isle of Man, the Senior TT is not a race for the elderly, like the name suggests, but instead it features the biggest, meanest, machines on the road course.
Most of the PokerStars Senior TT grid is filled with bikes from the Superbike TT, as the classes have a great deal of overlap, but the Senior TT usually has one or two special machines, who fall outside of the Superbike rules — the Norton SG4 is one of those machines.
All the TT riders want to win the Senior TT, and it fittingly is the final race of the Isle of Man TT, which only adds to excitement.
With Friday being drama-filled at the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT was no different.