At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

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.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

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.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

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).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

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.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

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.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

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 Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

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.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

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.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

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.

FIM President Vito Ippolito Writes an Open Letter About Incidents Surrounding the Sepang Clash

10/29/2015 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen Beeler96 COMMENTS

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The Sepang Clash, as Dorna would like for us to refer to it, continues to send shockwaves down the sport; as videos emerge of altercations between entourages at the track, photos and messages of hate circulate around social media, and the latest entry with Repsol releasing a strongly worded press release that calls into question the future of the Spanish company’s involvement in MotoGP.

David has already written exhaustively about the events at the track, and we have little interest here at Asphalt & Rubber in fueling the fire that was started in Sepang. Needless to say, no one is winning in all of this, and the sport is clearly getting a black eye because of all these actions.

While hopefully cooler heads prevail, it’s clear that things are still hot and heavy in the MotoGP Championship. Addressing some of the more unsavory acts that have come as a result of the on-track action at the Malaysian GP, FIM President Vito Ippolito has penned an open letter to the various stakeholders in the world championship.

While he doesn’t speak to anyone by name, it is very clear who are the different parties that Ippolito is reprimanding. You can read his letter after the jump.

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Sunday Summary at Sepang: Heroes Who Have Feet of Clay

10/26/2015 @ 6:41 pm, by David Emmett151 COMMENTS

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Seven days ago, we were talking about how the 2015 MotoGP season will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, with the Australian Grand Prix as its glittering highlight. A week later, we saw its low point.

There were some truly remarkable and admirable performances in all three classes. Dani Pedrosa confirmed his return to form with a formidable victory, his second of the season. The arm pump surgery has been a huge success, and if Honda can resist the temptation to build an unrideably powerful engine, Pedrosa will be back in title contention again next year.

Johann Zarco proved once again he is the class of the Moto2 field, stalking Tom Luthi all race and riding to the very limit of physical endurance to snatch victory from what seemed like a foregone conclusion.

And Miguel Oliveira demonstrated that he is capable of dominating the second half of the Moto3 season the way that Danny Kent dominated the first half, denying the Englishman the title and taking the championship to Valencia.

The trouble is, those stunning performances were overshadowed by one of the ugliest weekends of racing we have seen in a very long time. The tragedy may not have been physical this time, but it was tragic nonetheless.

Three great champions let their masks slip at Sepang, revealing the egotism, spitefulness and petty rivalries that underly their success. And the fans added insult to injury, booing at a result they did not like.

So we shall skip past the victory by Dani Pedrosa, failing to shower him with the praise which he deserves. We shall overlook the stunning ride by Jorge Lorenzo, passing riders at will and subduing everyone but Dani Pedrosa.

Instead, we must focus on the battle for third, the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez. On the breathtaking battle that went sour, after Rossi finally lost his cool at Márquez’s provocation and unwillingness to surrender, and precipitated Márquez’s crash.

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Sunday at Sepang with Tony Goldsmith

10/25/2015 @ 11:57 am, by Tony Goldsmith55 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa rode a great race to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

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Jorge Lorenzo finished 2nd and reduced Valentino’s lead in the championship to just 7 points.

The talking point of the race and of the season happened with 14 laps remaining. Having been locked in battle with Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi appeared to lose his cool at Turn 14.  He looked over twice at the Honda rider before the two came together, which caused Marquez to crash. I’ll let David Emmett pick the bones out of that.

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Valentino Rossi Gets Three Penalty Points for Sepang Clash

10/25/2015 @ 11:41 am, by David Emmett183 COMMENTS

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Valentino Rossi has been given three penalty points for the “Sepang Clash” with Marc Marquez during the MotoGP race at Sepang. The pair tussled after Jorge Lorenzo passed Marquez for second place early in the race, but Marquez put up a much stiffer battle against Rossi.

The pair swapped places starting on lap three, the battle getting tougher as the race went on. Marquez did everything in his power to stay ahead of Rossi and slow him up – well outside the spirit of the rules, but still inside the letter of the rules – treating the spectators to fifteen passes in just a couple of laps, culminating in nine passes in just a single lap.

Rossi grew increasingly frustrated, and in his frustration, tried to push Marquez out wide, slowing all the time. As Marquez turned in, the two made contact, and Marquez crashed.

After the race, Race Direction held a meeting with both Rossi and Marquez, which lasted nearly an hour. Video of the incident was reviewed and shown to the riders, and they were asked for their side of the story.

After reviewing the evidence, Race Direction concluded that Rossi had deliberately pushed Marquez wide, and that this action had caused the contact, and therefore caused Marquez to crash.

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MotoGP: Race Results from Sepang

10/25/2015 @ 3:44 am, by Jensen Beeler130 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Sepang: What Things May Come

10/24/2015 @ 6:28 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The atmosphere hangs heavy over the Sepang International Circuit, both literally and figuratively. The thick gray haze casts a pall over the circuit, dulling the light, restricting vision, cloying at the throats of everyone at the track, and in the region.

There is another oppressive weight over the proceedings, this time of expectation. There is the pressure of a MotoGP title battle going down to the wire, and a Moto3 championship that should have been wrapped up two races ago, before a new rival emerged on the scene.

Then there is the electric tension created by Valentino Rossi, when he decided to use the pre-event press conference to accuse Marc Márquez of helping Jorge Lorenzo at Phillip Island.

Since then, it has been impossible to view any action by either Rossi or Márquez with an objective eye. Rossi’s accusations, Márquez’ defense, and Lorenzo’s entry into the arena color everything that happens, on and off the track.

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Saturday at Sepang with Tony Goldsmith

10/24/2015 @ 3:31 pm, by Tony Goldsmith1 COMMENT

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Dani Pedrosa claimed pole position for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Marc Marquez returns to his pit box during during Q2. He will start from 2nd place for tomorrow’s race.

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Valentino Rossi completes the front row. Much to the delight of the members of the Valentino Rossi fan club in the main grandstand.

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MotoGP: Qualifying Results from Sepang

10/24/2015 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Sepang: Marquez & Lorenzo’s Right to Reply, And There Was Practice Too

10/24/2015 @ 12:50 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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After the raft of accusations he had made on Thursday, Valentino Rossi decided to keep his council on Friday. When asked by the English speaking press about the responses of Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo to his charges, Rossi cut them short.

“I said everything yesterday, and I don’t have anything else to say.” To the Italian press, he was a little more expansive, but still insisted that he had had his say.

When told that Márquez had said he had been surprised by the accusations Rossi had laid against him, Rossi rejected the suggestion. “Marc said he was surprised? I don’t think that’s true. And now, I have said everything, I have nothing left to say.”

As it turned out, he did have a little more to say, but it was short. When told that Márquez has said that all Rossi needs to do is finish ahead of or directly behind Lorenzo at the next two races, Rossi had a cutting response. “Tell him I already know that.”

Did he think that he would be safer on track with Márquez, now that he had had his say? “I don’t know. I took a risk, but I could not remain quiet. Maybe my words will have a positive effect, maybe negative, but at least I can sleep well at night now.”

The accusations made by Rossi on Thursday had left the paddock mystified, struggling to work out exactly what he had hoped to achieve. “After some hours, I’m still surprised, like everybody,” Marc Márquez said.

“I respect Valentino and I will always respect him, but I understand also his situation. That he is fighting for the title, he is really close to getting his tenth title, but he knows Jorge is really strong.” Márquez said he had no desire to be involved. “In the end, he needs to beat Jorge on the racetrack. I prefer to be out of this battle.”

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Friday at Sepang with Tony Goldsmith

10/23/2015 @ 11:58 am, by Tony Goldsmith4 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa was 2nd fastest today at Sepang.

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Jorge Lorenzo ended Day 1 with the fastest time, but he was only 0.047 secondss faster than Dani Pedrosa in 2nd place.

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Marc Marquez completed the provisional front row.

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