The Class of 2015.
Steady start for the 2014 Moto3 world champion Alex Marquez on his Moto2 debut.
Andrea Dovizioso could be a good outside bet for a podium this weekend.
The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically. Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course. That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).
In addition to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale, Ducati is set to update the Hypermotard line, according to documents filed with the California Air Resources Board. The filing shows three new Hypers: the base model Hypermotard, the up-spec Hypermotard SP, and the touring-oriented Hyperstrada. Unfortunately the CARB filings don’t tell us too much about the machines, other than their emissions are lower (thanks to Euro 4 compliance), and that all three street bikes will use a 937cc engine and a six-speed gearbox. These Hypers surely represent three of Ducati’s upcoming nine models set to be released at the 2016 EICMA show, and we have to say that we are looking forward to seeing what the Italian marque has done with what is surely our favorite motorcycle on the market.
It appears one of our predictions for the 2016 model year has been confirmed, as Ducati is set to update its “supersport” model, the Ducati 899 Panigale, with a replacement. Outed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), we know that the new model will come with a two-cylinder engine, with a 955cc displacement, and officially be called the Ducati 959 Panigale. This move continues Ducati’s push away from race legal sport bikes, instead choosing to showcase the fact that the company can make larger displacement machines that still rival supersport’s in weight. The 899 Panigale was exactly this, and we expect the 959 Panigale to be the same. We also expect the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale to officially debut at the upcoming EICMA show, as one of Ducati’s nine new models to be released.
It seems our hopes have been answered, as the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto has been confirmed for the US market, for the 2016 model year. We already knew that the 701 would be available in Europe, starting in November 2015, but word for other markets was non-existent. Now clarifying things, Husqvarna has confirmed that the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto will be at dealerships in the USA, as well as other markets, start in February 2016. Yes, that means you too can now own a KTM 690 SMC R, dressed in blue and white. A machine we’ve known about since last year’s EICMA show, the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto features 690cc engine that makes 67hp along with a 320 lbs ready-to-go sans fuel.
When you hear the name Bimota, you likely picture in your head bespoke and beautiful Italian motorcycles that borrow some of the most potent engines from motorcycle manufacturers and then build motorcycling exotica around them. Just about every Bimota is a highly coveted collectible…just about. For some reason the Bimota Mantra is more infamous than famous, it’s design was ahead of its time, to say it politely. I know a few collectors who love the Mantra, and have a few in their collections, but the bulk of the two-wheeled public would rather forget the Mantra was ever penned, and that the V Due was ever built. Asked what he would build if he had to recreate the Bimota Mantra, designer Sacha Lakic (the artist who was behind the original Mantra, and more currently, the Voxan Wattman) inked the above sketch.
Do you want a MotoGP bike in your garage (or living room, as the case will likely be)? Do you have $184,000 and then some, burning a hole in your pocket? Do you like not living in a house, but think carbon fiber fairings will keep you warm at night? If you said yes to any of those questions, you should buy a Honda RC213V-S. In seriousness, if owning a Honda RC213V-S is a notion that does strike you, then you better hurry up with your order. This is because we asked Honda how orders were coming with the RC213V-S, and the Japanese brand responded that reservations for the MotoGP-bike-for-the-street are quite abundant, indeed. Building one bike a day, Honda’s Hamamatsu factory could deliver roughly 250 units of the Honda RC213V-S in the coming year, at the maximum.
Well, the fun is over. Talking to MCN, Claudio Domenicali has laid to rest any rumors about the Ducati building a four-cylinder superbike to replace the Panigale. The news confirms what everyone already expected to be the case, as it is hard to imagine a Ducati superbike model being anything other than a v-twin, World Superbike rules be damned. “I can confirm there is no officially confirmed project at Ducati for a four-cylinder engine to replace the Panigale V-twin,” Domenicali confirmed to MCN. “There is no Ducati four-cylinder superbike planned.” Domenicali would go on to speak about knowing every approved project that is currently underway at Ducati, and that no such four-cylinder project is in the works, though the company certain explores every idea before going forward.
The big news this week might be about how Volkswagen falsified emissions reports on its diesel-powered automobiles – a move that today lead to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepping down from his position in the company, and VW stock dropping nearly 30%, at the time of this writing. Less well-known though is that Volkswagen has also lost its long-fought battle with Suzuki over the Japanese company’s stock ownership. VW and Suzuki were supposed to untie the knot back in 2011, but Volkswagen did not go quietly into that good night. Taking the case to arbitration, the London Court of International Arbitration has finally handed the two parties its verdict. As such, Volkswagen will have to sell its 19.9% stake back to Suzuki.
An announcement that has been expected for quite a while now, Yamaha is officially returning to the World Superbike Championship for the 2016 season. The news comes after nearly a season of competition for the Yamaha YZF-R1 in other classes, which has seemingly given Yamaha Motor Europe the confidence to support a factory team in the premier production racing series. Helping Yamaha in that endeavor will be the experience WSBK outfit of Crescent Racing, who will run the day-to-day operations of the team, while Yamaha Racing develops the racing platform and strategy. Yamaha’s return is already well-formed, as both Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes will be riding for the factory team. Additionally, Yamaha Racing has already secured PATA as the team’s title sponsor.
We all know the new model season is upon us, and Ducati has wasted no time in already letting slip two new models for the 2016 model year: the Ducati Monster 1200 R and the Ducati Diavel Carbon. The Bologna Brand has a few more tricks up its sleeve, as it plans to debut nine new models at the upcoming EICMA show in Milan. In addition to that, Ducati says we can expect machines the will push the company into two market segments that the Italian brand is not in with its current lineup. We have obviously already seen the Monster R and the Diavel Carbon, and we can likely expect to see Ducati update its 899 line, and add more models to the Scrambler line. There are even rumors of a new Streetfighter, though the release of the Monster R seems to make that unlikely.
The Class of 2015.
Steady start for the 2014 Moto3 world champion Alex Marquez on his Moto2 debut.
Andrea Dovizioso could be a good outside bet for a podium this weekend.
Who starts the 2015 MotoGP season as favorite for the championship? The final test at Qatar will give us a much clearer picture of where the factories and riders stand than the last two tests in Sepang.
That is in part due to the fact that the factories have had time between the Sepang tests and now to work on further refining their bikes ready for the start of 2015.
But the Qatar test is also a little more representative for the rest of the season than Sepang is. The Malaysian circuit may have a good mix of fast and slow corners, but the tropical heat makes it tough on riders, tough on tires, and the track can lose a lot of grip as the temperatures rise.
In a few hours time, we will know who will be the 2014 World Superbike champion. Tom Sykes leads Sylvain Guintoli by 12 points going into the final two races at Qatar. With 50 points up for grabs, the title race is still completely open, and in a series as close as World Superbikes has been this year, anything could happen.
What both Sykes and Guintoli need are help from their teammates. Guintoli most of all: if the Frenchman is to be champion, he will need someone, such as his Aprilia teammate Marco Melandri, to get in between him and the Kawasaki of Sykes.
Sykes, on the other hand, can wrap up the title by winning both races, or at least finishing ahead of Guintoli. If he can’t finish ahead of the Frenchman, then he will hope that his teammate Loris Baz can assist.
As loyal teammates, surely Melandri and Baz will be happy to help? That was only partially the case at the last round in Magny-Cours. In race one, Melandri theatrically waved Guintoli past and into the lead, making it patently obvious that victory was Melandri’s to dispense as he saw fit, and he was prepared to allow his teammate to win this time.
Further back, Baz did the same same for Sykes, though without making quite as much of a song and dance about it as Melandri did.
Race two was a different affair. Once again, Melandri led, and could grant victory to Guintoli if he wanted to. He chose not to, taking the win – despite his pit board making the feelings of his team very clear indeed, for the second race in a row – and taking 5 precious points from Guintoli.
If Melandri had obeyed team orders and moved over, then Guintoli would have trailed Sykes by 7 points instead of 12. That would put Guintoli’s destiny in his own hands: win both races, and it would not matter what Sykes did.
Now, Guintoli needs help, he needs someone between him and the Englishman. Will his teammate come to his rescue this time? Will the Aprilia WSBK team issue team orders again, commanding Melandri to serve the cause of Guintoli’s championship challenge? At the core of this is a much bigger question: Is motorcycle racing a team sport?
The 2014 World Superbike calendar has been updated once again. The South African round of WSBK has been canceled, after the Phakisa Freeway track failed homologation. Work was being carried out on the circuit to allow it to meet requirements, but the work will not be finished on time.
Dorna and the FIM are looking at finding a replacement for the dropped South African round, but at such short notice, and with attendance at WSBK events being disappointing, that will be difficult.
While the South African round was canceled, the Qatar race was confirmed. The racing at Qatar is to be held at night under the floodlights, just as MotoGP is.
Sometimes one or two photographs can rescue what would otherwise be a wasted session. That was exactly the situation recently when shooting the Moto2 warm up in Qatar.
Unlike the rest of the weekend the Moto2 warm up started in daylight. After a bit of deliberation I left the Media Center with the intention of taking a shuttle to the inside of Turn 2 as the low evening sun would be behind me.
Chatting with a couple of NASCAR fans recently, I was reminded that any competition is boring if you don’t care who wins. But if you do care, then even cars driving around in circles can be very compelling entertainment.
Those NASCAR fans really cared about how their favorite drivers finished, and not only how they finished in the latest race, but what and how those drivers were doing off the track as well.
Those fans had been captured by the personalities of those drivers. One of the things NASCAR does well is sell personalities. All major sports-related businesses do this to some extent, but some organizations do it better than others.
The NASCAR fans loved their drivers and loathed the others, so each race becomes a contest of great emotional importance. Will Good triumph over Evil? Will Justice prevail? This drama is acted out lap after lap, and then continued post-race with interviews, public appearances, blogs, and so on.
Our friend Tony Goldsmith, you have enjoyed his work from last year’s Isle of Man TT, is back with a new column for Asphalt & Rubber.
Finding himself made redundant at his regular job, Tony is currently on an adventure of a lifetime: picking up a camera and becoming a full-time photographer in the MotoGP Championship.
Tony will be sharing with us his journeys, thoughts, and of course his pictures from the 2014 MotoGP season, which we hope will serve to be an inspiration for others hoping to achieve a lifetime goal, as well as providing some insight into what goes on behind the lens in the premier class of motorcycle racing. Enjoy! – Jensen
Imagine if just for once you didn’t have to stick to your usual nine-to-five job. Instead you were able to do the one job you’ve always wanted to do, but any number of things (it’s usually money) have stood in the way.
This is exactly the situation I found myself in six months ago when the company I had worked at, for the last 14 years, decided to close, making everyone redundant.
This decision did not come as a surprise; in fact, I had been hanging around for the last few years hoping that it would happen, as I had a plan. Fast-forward six months and I have just finished photographing the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. The plan is starting to unfold.
The news that Honda would be building a production racer to compete in MotoGP aroused much excitement among fans. There was much speculation over just how quick it would be, and whether it would be possible for a talented rider to beat the satellite bikes on some tracks.
Expectations received a boost when former world champion Casey Stoner tested the RCV1000R, praising its performance. Speculation reached fever pitch when HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto told the press at the launch of the bike that the RCV1000R was just 0.3 seconds a lap slower than the factory RC213V in the hands of a test rider.
Was that in the hands of Casey Stoner, the press asked? Nakamoto was deliberately vague. “Casey Stoner is a Honda test rider,” he said cryptically.
Once the bike hit the track in the hands of active MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden, Hiroshi Aoyama, and Scott Redding at the Valencia test, it became apparent that the bike was a long way off the pace. At Sepang in February, the situation was the same.
Nakamoto clarified his earlier statements: no, the times originally quoted were not set by Casey Stoner, who had only done a handful of laps in tricky conditions on the bike.
They had been set by one of Honda’s test riders. And yes, the biggest problem was the straights, as times at Sepang demonstrated. Test riders were losing around half a second along the two long straights at Sepang, Nakamoto said.
In the hands of active MotoGP riders, the gap was around 2 seconds at the Sepang tests. Nicky Hayden – of whom much had been expected, not least by himself – had made significant improvements, especially on corner entry.
Turning in and braking was much improved, something which did not come as a surprise after the American’s time on the Ducati. Once the bikes arrived at Qatar, the Honda made another step forward, Hayden cutting the deficit to 1.4 seconds from the fastest man Aleix Espargaro.
By the time the race rolled around, the Hondas had cut the deficit again. Comparing fastest laps of the race, Scott Redding set the quickest lap for production Honda rider, lapping just 0.841 slower than his teammate Alvaro Bautista, who set the quickest lap of the race.
But consistency proved to be the undoing of the Hondas, Scott Redding and Nicky Hayden crossing the line just 0.035 seconds apart, but over 32 seconds down on the winner, Marc Marquez. Where the difference between the fastest and slowest flying laps of Redding and Hayden was nearly 2.4 seconds, for the front runners, that difference was just over a second.
The difference in performance and the big gap to the front has been cause for much speculation. Where are the Honda production racers losing out to the Factory Option bikes? Is it purely top speed, or is it a combination of speed and acceleration? And where does that lack of speed and acceleration come from?
There’s an old racing adage: when the flag drops, the talking stops, though the word ‘talking’ is rarely used. It’s a cliche, but like all cliches, it is a cliche because it reflects such a basic truth.
Without bikes circulating on track in anger, fans and press have nothing to do but engage in idle speculation, and pick over the minutiae of rules, rumors and races long past. As soon as the racing starts again, all is forgotten, and we all lose ourselves in the now. It is the zen which all racing fans aspire to.
So after spending months going round in circles over the 2014 regulations, speculating about who they favor, and expressing outrage at either the perceived injustice of the rules, or the supposed incompetence of those involved in drawing them up at the last minute, the talk stopped at Qatar on Sunday night.
The fans filled their bellies on three outstanding races, all of which went down to the wire. With something once again at stake, all talk of rules was forgotten.
And to be honest, the 2014 rules had none of the negative effects which so many people had feared. The best riders on the day still ended up on the podium, while the gap between the winner and the rest of the pack was much reduced. The gap from the winner to the first Ducati was cut from 22 seconds in 2013 to 12 seconds this year.
The gap from the winner to Aleix Espargaro – first CRT in 2013, first Open class rider in 2014 – was cut from 49 seconds to just 11 seconds. And even ignoring Espargaro’s Yamaha M1, the gap to the first Honda production racer – an outstanding performance by Scott Redding on the Gresini RCV1000R – was slashed to 32 seconds.
Even the cut in fuel did not affect the races as badly as many feared. It appeared that there had been some dissembling going on in both the Yamaha and Honda garages. HRC had been brushing off any suggestions that fuel may be an issue for them, while at Yamaha, there were a number of worried faces.
There was a clue that things were not as serious as feared when Jorge Lorenzo stopped worrying about fuel and focused his ire on the new Bridgestone rubber, but Valentino Rossi kept banging the fuel drum.
On race day, there was no sign of fuel issues for the Italian, Rossi telling the press conference that his engineers had done a great job to fix the fuel issues, and had given him a properly fast bike. “I think Yamaha worked well on the fuel consumption,” he said.