Report: Apple Looking at Acquiring Lit Motors

I had to check the A&R archives to see if we have even mentioned Lit Motors before, mostly because the the San Francisco startup has been slow to develop its self-balancing motorcycle, and I’m not terribly bullish on the project. That doesn’t mean the concept is without merit though, and its apparently caught the interest of Apple. If that sounds strange to you, then you need to understand that Apple, along with a bevy of other tech giants, is working on an autonomous car for the masses. This “Project Titan” as it’s called, has already seen Apple poach a couple of Lit Motors’ personnel, and now the most valuable company in the world is looking at acquiring Lit Motors, and/or other automotive entities, according to the New York Times.

WSBK: Milwaukee SMR Switching to Aprilia for 2017+

Aprilia have finally confirmed that they will be providing factory backing for the Milwaukee SMR squad in WorldSBK for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. It had been an open secret for months that the Milwaukee team were looking to make a switch to Aprilia, and they had signed Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori to contest the championship for them. But, it took a long time for the official confirmation to come through. One of the key factors in the choice, for both Laverty and Milwaukee SMR, was to have strong factory support from Aprilia for the 2017 season. The Aprilia RSV4 RF is still widely viewed as the best package on the WorldSBK grid inside the paddock, subject to the condition that the team running the bike has support from the Noale factory.

Is This the Year of the Monkey, The Honda Monkey?

If you read as many motorcycle news sites as I do, then you surely know that Honda is almost definitely probably maybe debuting a new “monkey bike” in the near future. The source of this news is Honda’s recent application for design patents in the European and Japanese markets. Intellectual property filings are a great way of seeing what a motorcycle OEM is up to, but as our colleagues at Motorcycle.com correctly pointed out, they can also be a great source of red herrings. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when one sees a filing that exactly mimics a show bike or concept, as we’ve seen this week with the Grom-powered Honda Monkey.

A Baby Version of the Ducati Multistrada Cometh?

The above photo was sent to the Italian website Moto.it by one of its readers, and it is supposedly a photo of an upcoming new version of the Ducati Multistrada, which is physically smaller than the current 1200cc model. Presumably, this would make the machine in question then the Ducati Multistrada 939, thus adding to the Euro4 compliant engine’s call to action for the 2017 model year. We say this all hypothetically however, because it is hard to verify anything from this photo…beyond the very obvious double-sided swingarm setup. What we do know is that the photographed motorcycle shares a chassis with the current Multistrada models, with both the cast and trellis pieces of the frame matching the Multistrada 1200 models, and not the Hypermotard 939.

Two New Ducati Scramblers Spotted in CARB Docs?

More new model news, as filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that we will see two new Scrambler models debuting, later this year. We come to this conclusion because emissions papers from CARB state that “Scrambler CR” and “Scrambler DS” models are coming from Ducati for 2017, in addition to the models we already have from the Italian manufacturer. The two-letter designations imply that we are likely to see a café racer (CR) version of the Ducati Scrambler, as well as a dual-sport (DS) version of the machine, which we have already seen in spy photos. This news isn’t surprising, since Ducati has made no secret about its desire to expand the Scrambler lineup.

New Four-Cylinder MV Agusta Brutale Debuting at EICMA

You know the new-bike season is just around the corner, because we’re starting to get glimpses of what the motorcycle OEMs will debut at shows like INTERMOT and EICMA. We’ve already had a glimpse of the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR, as well as the 2017 BMW S1000R, and if the folks at Italian motorcycle magazine Motociclismo are correct, the following is a concept sketch of the four-cylinder 2017 MV Agusta Brutale. The new Brutale is one of two new bikes that MV Agusta will launch at the EICMA show, with the other machine pegged as a special edition three-cylinder model. To be up front, we don’t expect anything too crazy from MV Agusta for the 2017 model year, with the Italian company still limited in options by its financial situation.

Spotted: The Subtly Changed 2017 BMW S1000R

Thanks to our loyal readers, we were pointed in the direction of some photos of what looks like a pre-production version of the upcoming 2017 BMW S1000R streetfighter (one of the machines we tipped for an update this coming model year). It appears that the new BMW S1000R is going to get a bevy of changes already found on the current BMW S1000RR superbike, both visually and mechanically. Caught at the Oschersleben track in Germany, we can’t imagine how many people walked by this parked motorcycle, without realizing what it was. We can’t blame them though, because the updates coming to the 2017 BMW S1000R are subtle, and you’d really have to know what you’re looking at, in order to see the changes.

More of the Sexiness That Is the KTM Moto2 Race Bike

KTM’s Moto2 project officially debuted today, with Aki Ajo managing the team that will consist of riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira. Like KTM’s MotoGP project, with the KTM RC16 race bike, the Moto2 project uses some intriguing elements. Namely, the frame is of a steel trellis design, the suspension is provided for by WP, and of course the engine is a lightly tuned Honda CBR600RR lump. If looks could win races, the WP KTM Moto2 machine would already be a contender. That being said, we have high expectations for the racing program in next year’s Moto2 Championship. Until then tough, we’ll let you drool over the high-resolution images we have waiting for you, after the jump.

Hi, Are You the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR?

If you were hoping that the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR would be a completely new machine for sport bike enthusiasts, the following might disappoint you. This is because photos published on Twitter seem to suggest that the 2017 Honda Fireblade will get mostly cosmetic changes for the upcoming model year. As you can see after the jump, what looks like the new CBR1000RR was caught lapping for what appears to be a PR video spot for the Japanese OEM. While it is clear from these shots that the pictured Honda CBR1000RR has a radically new fairing design, a closer comparison to the chassis (see above) suggests that the machine is simply the current generation machine, with new clothing.

Official: KTM Enters Moto2 with Binder and Oliveira

KTM is to enter the Moto2 class. The Ajo team is to expand its current Moto2 operation to two riders, with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira (not Tom Lüthi, as we had previously reported) taking the place of the departing Johann Zarco. The team is also to switch from Kalex to KTM, as part of KTM’s project to provide a career path for young riders from the FIM CEV Moto3 championship through all three Grand Prix classes to MotoGP. The names of the riders involved should come as no surprise. Brad Binder is a race or two away at most from becoming the 2016 Moto3 world champion, and Miguel Oliveira came very close to winning the Moto3 title in 2015, as Binder’s teammate in the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team. Both riders are highly rated both by KTM and by team boss Aki Ajo.

Trackside Tuesday: The Setting Sun

04/29/2014 @ 12:24 pm, by Tony Goldsmith4 COMMENTS

MotoGP-Sunset-Qatar-GP-Tony-Goldsmith

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.

Trackside Tuesday: The Winning Personality of Jack Miller

04/01/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Scott Jones18 COMMENTS

2014-MotoGP-01-Qatar-Sunday-0288

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.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Qatar

03/29/2014 @ 4:47 pm, by Tony Goldsmith20 COMMENTS

Living-the-Dream-Tony-Goldsmith-MotoGP-Qatar-11

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.

Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R?

03/28/2014 @ 12:25 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

2014-MotoGP-Qatar-GP-Sunday-Scott-Jones-16

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?

Sunday at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/23/2014 @ 11:41 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Qatar: Of Deserving Winners, Old Champions, & The Correct Way to Celebrate Victory

03/23/2014 @ 11:20 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS

2014-MotoGP-Qatar-GP-Sunday-Scott-Jones-03

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.

MotoGP: Race Results from Qatar

03/23/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

Saturday at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/23/2014 @ 2:48 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Qatar: Marquez’s Miracle, Espargaro Under Pressure, & Honda Back in Moto3 Business

03/23/2014 @ 2:34 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

2014-Qatar-GP-MotoGP-Saturday-Scott-Jones-15

On Thursday night, it looked like a revolution had been unleashed in MotoGP. After qualifying on Saturday, that revolution has been postponed. Three Spaniards on pole, two Spaniards on the front row for both MotoGP and Moto3. No prizes for guessing the names of any of the polesitters, all three were hotly tipped favorites at the beginning of the year.

So what has changed to restore order to the proceedings? In a word, track time. When the riders took to the track on Thursday, the factory riders had a lot of catching up to do. They had been down at Phillip Island, a track which has lots of grip and puts plenty of load into the tires.

The heat resistant layer added to the 2013 tires really comes into its own, the track imbuing the riders with confidence. Qatar is a low grip track, thanks in part to the cooler temperatures at night, but the sand which continuously blows onto the track also makes it extremely abrasive, posing a double challenge to tire makers.

Use rubber which is too soft, and the tire is gone in a couple of laps. Make it hard enough to withstand the abrasion, and it’s hard to get the tire up to temperature.

Coming to Qatar is always tricky, riders needing time to build confidence and learn to trust the tires. Coming to Qatar from Phillip Island is a culture shock, and takes a while to get your head around. Riders need to throw away everything they have just learned, and start again.

Photos of Valentino Rossi’s LED Helmet from Qatar

03/22/2014 @ 5:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Valentino-Rossi-LED-Helmet-Qatar-Scott-Jones-06

If you have been watching the practice and qualifying sessions from the Qatar GP, you may have noticed that Valentino Rossi is once again wearing one of his special helmet designs. This one is a bit different though — instead of a crazy or clever paint scheme, Rossi and his crew have subtle lit the AGV Pista helmet’s clear rear spoiler.

Under the night lights of the Losail International Circuit, the effect is pretty astounding. Usually a spectacle of glowing brake discs and flaming exhausts, the night time atmosphere of the Qatar proves itself once again to be an interesting canvas for the light, which Rossi has masterfully tapped into.

A favorite event for our main man Scott Jones, we’ve got a few shots of Rossi and his LED light show. It’s interesting how the LEDs change some of the more classic Rossi photos, and of course it makes Rossi really pop on the TV feed. Enjoy!