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.

WSBK: Hopkins Breaks Foot – Will Miss Donington Park

05/09/2012 @ 5:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

If John Hopkins didn’t have his bad luck, the Anglo-American would have no luck at all. Crashing in the questionable conditions at Monza, the Crescent Fixi Suzuki rider injured himself at the Italian World Superbike round. Highsiding during the race, Hopper has broken his right foot and torn muscles in his left hip. Though the team hoped he would be able to ride at the British WSBK round at Donington Park, further tests and scans have shown his injuries to be far worse than originally thought.

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Pirelli Responds to Tire Troubles for WSBK at Monza

05/07/2012 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With World Superbike’s stop at Monza being massively disrupted by the combination of the track’s demanding layout and Pirelli’s melting rain tires, the Italian tire company has taken the brunt of criticism from fans, teams, and riders for its handling of the two races at the historic circuit. With the long straights and high speeds of Monza proving to be a challenge in even normal conditions, the issue of tires became increasingly important as it was discovered that the compound used in Pirelli’s rain tires could not handle the center-line heat caused by the Italian track, even in full-wet conditions.

WSBK fans watched as riders blew through rain tires in just a matter of two or three laps during the wet Superpole qualifying session on Saturday, and when the rain showed up again on Sunday, the riders had said they had enough of the nonsense. Though not encountering fully-wet conditions, Pirelli’s intermediate tire was ruled out of the equation, as it uses the same compound as the rain tire, albeit with fewer groves. So, Pirelli’s solution to the problem was to take racing slicks of different compound, presumably one that could handle the heat of the track, and cut them to into makeshift intermediate tires. Expecting riders to go two races on a pair, the WSBK paddock was less-than-enthusiastic with this remedy.

With the riders essentially causing a mutiny on the starting grid, Race 1 at Monza was cancelled, while Race 2 was delayed for dryer conditions. Once the rain returned halfway through the race though, riders again raised their arms to signal the stoppage of the competition. Since they completed half of the race, only half points were awarded, but that left for some interesting comments in the paddock. Responding to the criticism of how it handled the Monza weekend, Pirelli has released a press statement that shifts the blame back to the World Superbike teams. Read the company’s statement in its entirety after the jump.

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WSBK: Race 2 Continues the Bizzaro at Monza

05/06/2012 @ 11:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

After seeing Race 1 cancelled for safety concerns, i.e. not having a rain tire that could run in the wet conditions at Monza, World Superbike tried again to put on a show for the Italian fans. Giving riders two warm-up laps to sight the fabled Italian circuit, the race distance was also reduced by a lap to 17 laps total.

With the riders coming in from their two sighting laps, the hands from a majority of the racers went up on the grid, signaling that they did not want to start the race. Race Direction obliged, and delayed the start because of the conditions. Regrouping and going out on another warm-up lap, Monza continued to be problematic and claimed two victims, as BMW Italia rider Michel Fabrizio and pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli both suffered from malfunctions on the lap, and had to scratch their starts.

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WSBK: Race 1 at Monza Cancelled for Safety Concerns

05/06/2012 @ 11:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on WSBK: Race 1 at Monza Cancelled for Safety Concerns

Race 1 for World Superbike at Monza proved to be an interesting affair this Sunday, as the race was ultimately cancelled for safety reasons. Starting normally under dry conditions, riders took to the track on slicks, only to have the race red-flagged two laps after its start.

While the WSBK paddock scrambled for a restart under wet conditions, riders lead by Carlos Checa had a meeting on the starting grid after the sighting lap. Realizing that parts of the track were damp, while others were dry, concerns returned whether the Pirelli rain tires would be able to go the race distance, as they had lasted for only several laps during Saturday’s Superpole.

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Video: What Does 210 MPH at Monza Look Like?

05/06/2012 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Video: What Does 210 MPH at Monza Look Like?

Hitting over 210 mph down the front straight at Monza, Tom Sykes became the fast two-wheeled man in World Superbike history. Setting the speed on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, Sykes got a bit of help from Aprilia-man Max Biaggi, as the Brit slip-streamed behind the Italian part of the way down the track. Making the effort on rain tires, Sykes will have to start tomorrow’s races from the second grid position, unable to take advantage of the drying track on slicks, as pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli did.

“When I hit the new record top speed I could feel that the rpm was higher and I knew from the note of the engine that it was more than on previous laps,” said Sykes. “I could not have timed my run to get into Biaggi’s slipstream any better. I had a fantastic run out of Parabolica and I used Max’s draft all the way down the straight. If we had more time we could have come back in and gone with a slick rear or intermediate rear and made the difference, but it wasn’t to be.”

“We did a great last lap on wet tyres and starting from second on the grid is not too bad. It is a front row start and that is the main thing,” the Brit continued. “The competitive side of me for sure is disappointed not to keep the run of Superpole wins going but tomorrow is the one that counts. It’s great for Kawasaki and myself to be on the front row and it is a lot better starting slot for tomorrow. We have good pace in the dry and I do not think the wet will be an issue either. A dry race would be better for everybody.”

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Video: Monza vs. Pirelli

05/04/2012 @ 1:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

World Superbike is in Italy this weekend, getting ready to race one of the fastest circuits on the WSBK calendar. Already hitting 205+ mph down the main straight at the first practice session (208.03 mph for Mr. Fabrizio), the Pirelli racing slicks also have to contend with sweeping fast corners at Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

Highlighting the heat, speeds, and stresses that its tires have to go through while racing at this beloved Italian circuit, Pirelli has put together a short video that outlines what the Italian tire company has to contend with at this special World Superbike round. Interesting stuff.

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Ride Review: Riding the BMW S1000RR Superstock, Satellite Superbike, and Factory World Superbikes

08/01/2011 @ 6:56 pm, by Lorenzo Gargiulo2 COMMENTS

Our good friends over at OmniMoto.it have shared with us today their experience riding BMW’s World Supersport and World Superbike S1000RR machinery. Getting a chance to flog the bikes of Sylvain Barrier, Lorenza Zanetti, Ayrton Badovini, James Toseland, Leon Haslam, and Troy Corser around the famous Monza circuit in Italy, OmniMoto’s Lorenzo Gargiulo certainly had a tough day in the office. Even translated into English, this Italian bike tester is well…very Italian in his assessments, but we think the subtle differences between the Superstock, satellite Superbike, and factory Superbike shine through in his writing. Enjoy. — Ed.

There are opportunities in the moto-journalism profession that are to be jumped on, and this is one of them. I could tell you the story about how today, in order to reach Monza to try the three motorcycles I’m about to write about, I slept only 3 hours, or how I had to work on a Saturday, and how I had to somehow fit in 1,000 other obligations and make up a lot of excuses in order to free my schedule, but the basic fact is the following: the opportunity to ride on a track, three SWBK motorcycles is so overwhelming that everything else became of secondary relevance.

So, when I received the invite from BMW to go ride around Monza with the very best of its motorcycles, my response was simply the most obvious one… I’m COMING!

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Gresini Says No to Marco Simoncelli in WSBK, for 2011

05/12/2011 @ 10:45 am, by Victoria Reid7 COMMENTS

In an effort to get out ahead of rumors suggesting Marco Simoncelli would be participating in World Superbike racing in 2011, his Gresini Honda MotoGP team has definitively stated that he will not be doing so. Though he appeared at the WSBK Monza round just this past weekend, Simoncelli will not be repeating his 2009 wild card performance at Imola or any other rounds this season. There, he placed third in the second race on an Aprilia, after not finishing the first race.

Simply put, there will be no extra racing for Simoncelli in a MotoGP field already marred by riders suffering health problems from extracurricular racing. However, Gresini Honda will be providing their star rider with a Honda CBR1000RR that he may test at his and the FIM’s discretion.

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WSBK Director Takes Stand on Biaggi Penalty at Monza

05/10/2011 @ 11:29 am, by Victoria Reid11 COMMENTS

Despite public outcry, World Superbike Director Paolo Ciabatti is standing firm on the decision to penalize Max Biaggi out of the lead of Race 2 at Monza on Sunday. With fast entry speeds and collisions likely through the first chicane, new rules were put into place for this weekend’s round. In essence, a straight chute was made available as a run-off for riders who had nowhere to go or had missed their braking point, with a special set of lines painted on the surface that riders were required to use for re-entry to the racing line. It was these rules that forced Biaggi out of a five second lead and a likely sure win Sunday.

Ciabatti explained, “We had to disqualify 320 lap times in Friday practice alone because of riders breaking this rule.  We also told the riders they could only cut through the runoff area three times during each race, otherwise they would be penalized with a ride through.” Riders were informed about the new rules at a riders’ briefing held Thursday, which Biaggi did not attend. Within the sporting regulations, those meetings are mandatory for either the rider or team to attend, and so a representative from the Aprilia team attended in Biaggi’s stead.

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WSBK: Penalties & Last Lap Pass Decide Race 2 at Monza

05/08/2011 @ 10:47 am, by Victoria Reid6 COMMENTS

Reigning World Champion Max Biaggi started his home round of the 2011 World Superbike season at Monza on pole after publicly declaring that this was a weekend to make up points after mistakes at earlier rounds. He started his quest to do so with aplomb, breaking the WSBK speed record and spending extra time on track while doing so. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Tory Corser joined Biaggi on the front row for the start of the second race, leaving Carlos Checa surprisingly down in eleventh after a poor set of Superole sessions on Saturday for the points leader. Most riders had multiple, possibly crucial, laps deleted after running across the chicane.

Meanwhile, injuries continued to plague men already suffering from them. Chris Vermeulen added to his set of scars by tearing the skin on his elbow during a practice crash. That injury, only able to be partially closed, left him unable to race on Sunday. Meanwhile James Toseland also sat out Sunday’s races, despite some vigorous autograph signing, on his predicted return to the WSBK paddock after a testing crash left him with wires in his wrist. Later, Haslam returned to the top of the timesheets in the morning sunshine at Monza, with Biaggi, Laverty, Corser, and Camier the fastest five in Sunday morning’s warmup.

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