Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Mission Motorcycles Becomes Mission Electric, Boats & Cars to Come, Mission R/RS Motos Delayed Until Q2/Q3 2015

Interesting things are afoot in the electric realm. Mission Motorcycles is about to expand beyond the two-wheels, as the company becomes officially called Mission Electric. The change comes about as Mission plans to expand into the automotive and marine segments, though the San Francisco company isn’t saying yet who it is partnering with in those spaces. Mission says it will continue to offer consumer-side products, like its current crop of electric motorcycles, the Mission R and Mission RS. However, its business model will expand to offer business-side electric drivetrain components, which was previously the realm of Mission Motors.

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM. It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

Sunday Summary at Argentina: Of New Tracks, Doohanesque Domination, & The Merits of a Rossi Revival

04/27/2014 @ 11:12 pm, by David Emmett33 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Argentina: Of New Tracks, Doohanesque Domination, & The Merits of a Rossi Revival marc marquez termas de rio hondo hrc 635x421

There is much to be said in praise of the first running of the Argentinian round of MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. First and foremost, praise should be heaped upon the circuit itself. Designer Jarno Zafelli took a formerly pedestrian layout and added just enough kinks and twists to make for an exhilarating and difficult racetrack.

There are plenty of places to pass, and sections different enough that teams and riders can concentrate on their strengths, though that makes them vulnerable at other parts of the track. Add in a final section which lends itself to last-gasp attacks – at the risk of penalty points, as Romano Fenati found out – and you have an utterly superb track for motorcycle racing.

If Jarno Zafelli of Dromo was hired more often, instead of Hermann Tilke, there would be a lot more fantastic circuits to race at.

The only negative was the fact that the track was still so dirty, a result of it not yet having seen enough action. Once the riders got off line, they found themselves struggling for grip, losing a lot of ground.

Fortunately for the races, almost everyone got off line at some point or other, putting them all on an even footing. Once the surface cleans up properly, the track should offer even more places to attack, and alternate lines through sections. The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is a fine addition to the calendar.

Saturday Summary at Argentina: Marquez, Miller, & Rabat Dominate, But for How Long?

04/26/2014 @ 11:36 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Argentina: Marquez, Miller, & Rabat Dominate, But for How Long? marc marquez argentina hrc repsol honda 635x421

Two races and three qualifying sessions in, and all three classes in MotoGP are providing an object lesson in the importance of consistency. Marc Marquez has taken pole for all three MotoGP races, Tito Rabat has done the same in Moto2, and Jack Miller has been on pole for two out of three Moto3 races.

There’s a similar pattern in the races as well, with Jack Miller having cleaned up in Moto3, and Marc Marquez winning both MotoGP races so far. The only interlopers are Alex Rins, who nabbed a Moto3 pole at Qatar, and Maverick Viñales, who gatecrashed the Moto2 party at Austin. Then again, if you were hoping to have your party gatecrashed, you’d definitely want it done by a man called Maverick.

Friday Summary at Argentina: Of Dirty Tracks, Confusing Lap Times, & MotoGP-Hungry Argentinians

04/26/2014 @ 12:54 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Argentina: Of Dirty Tracks, Confusing Lap Times, & MotoGP Hungry Argentinians marc marquez argentina HRC

What did we learn from the first day of practice at the brand new Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina? We learned that Marc Marquez and Jack Miller learn tracks very quickly indeed. We learned that Moto2 is tight as ever. We learned that South America has been crying out for a round of MotoGP almost since the moment the series left Argentina for the last time in 1999.

And we learned that a brand new track always faces teething problems the first time it appears on the calendar. In Argentina, the biggest problem is a dirty track, covered in sand, wreaking havoc on the tires. That, though, is a relatively easy problem to solve: a few more sessions and a grand total of 90 different bikes circulating will clean the track up very quickly.

If anyone was in any doubt as to whether building a circuit in a small town in the middle of the Argentine pampas was a good idea, the crowds lining up to get into the circuit on Friday morning should have dispelled their fears. Reports were that the fans were queuing to get into the track at 7am on Friday.

That is quite unheard of in Europe, where the first day of practice is always a good day to spend at the track if you want to explore it and see the action from various points around the circuit. The Argentina round is reportedly already a sell out, with 70,000 tickets sold and only VIP passes left on the open market.

This bodes well for the future of the event, and justifies the investment made by government in the facility. If the aim is to attract tourists to Termas de Rio Hondo, and put the town on the map, they have clearly already succeeded.

Saturday Summary at Austin: Marquez’s Confidence, Lorenzo’s Engine, and Miller’s Charisma

04/13/2014 @ 5:55 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Austin: Marquezs Confidence, Lorenzos Engine, and Millers Charisma 2014 Saturday COTA Austin MotoGP Scott Jones 11 635x423

Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed.

Marquez’s gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez’s dominance at Austin in sight?

But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez’s four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid.

Second place man Dani Pedrosa’s fastest lap was still slower than Marquez’s slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2’03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2’04s.

During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2’03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2’03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2’04.

Where the others took eight or nine tenths off their best time during qualifying, Marquez only improved on his previous best by a quarter of a second.

“It looks like Marc always rides at qualifying pace,” Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg quipped. Given the string of 2’03s Marquez hammered out on hard tires in race trim during FP4, that bodes ill for the rest of the riders.

A measure of just how confident and comfortable Marquez is at Austin – a local journalist finally got the Spaniard to admit that the circuit favors the Honda, a small triumph in itself – came during FP4, and then again during qualifying.

In Q2, Marquez lost the front in the tight left-hander, saved it, nearly lost it again, then got on the gas again as if nothing had happened. In FP4, while testing a change to the weight distribution, Marquez found himself running straight on at the end of the back straight three laps in a row.

On one lap, the rear came up as he hit one of the few bumps on the circuit, and instead of struggling to regain control, Marquez tried to control it and carry it on as far as possible. He grinned as he recounted the experience to the press conference. This young man is in his element, which bodes ill for the competition.

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

Sunday Summary at Qatar: Of Deserving Winners, Old Champions, & The Correct Way to Celebrate Victory 2014 MotoGP Qatar GP Sunday Scott Jones 03 635x423

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.

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

Saturday Summary at Qatar: Marquezs Miracle, Espargaro Under Pressure, & Honda Back in Moto3 Business 2014 Qatar GP MotoGP Saturday Scott Jones 15 635x423

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.

Friday Summary at Qatar: The Myth of Fairness & Aleix Espargaro’s One-Man Revolution

03/21/2014 @ 11:08 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Qatar: The Myth of Fairness & Aleix Espargaros One Man Revolution 2014 Qatar GP MotoGP Friday Scott Jones 16 635x423

When was the last time a non-factory rider won a MotoGP race? Any MotoGP fan worth their salt will be able to give you year, track and rider: 2006, Estoril, Toni Elias.

Ask them why he won and they will give you all sorts of answers – Dani Pedrosa taking out Nicky Hayden in the early laps, Colin Edwards not being able to maintain his pace to the end of the race, Kenny Roberts Jr. misjudging the number of laps left in the race, or, as Valentino Rossi put it, because “Toni ride like the devil” – but none they can be sure of.

There is a less well-known explanation for Elias’ performance, though. Ahead of the Estoril race, Elias was given a set of the overnight special tires shipped in especially for Michelin factory riders.

In this case, Elias was handed a set of ‘Saturday night specials’ destined for Dani Pedrosa, but which Pedrosa had elected not to use, and so were going spare. Elias liked the same kind of soft carcass tire that Pedrosa was being offered, and went on to exploit the advantage it offered.

What does that have to do with Friday at Qatar? Two things. Firstly, it highlights exactly how important tires are in motorcycle racing. Tires dictate a huge amount of the performance of a motorcycle. They are the connection between the bike and the track, but that is a very full and complex function.

Tires determine how far a bike can be leaned, how much drive the bikes can get out of a corner, how well the power delivery of an engine transfers to the tarmac, how hard the bike can brake, they provide a certain amount of suspension, and they pass information about track surface, grip conditions and where the limits of braking and turning are for a motorcycle.

And that’s just the beginning. Tires are (quite literally) a black art. Their complexity cannot be underestimated.

Thursday Summary at Qatar: The Open Revolution, Bridgestone’s 2014 Tires, & Moto3′s Mixed Bag

03/20/2014 @ 8:59 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Qatar: The Open Revolution, Bridgestones 2014 Tires, & Moto3s Mixed Bag 2014 MotoGP Thursday Qatar Scott Jones 14 635x423

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover seems particularly apt after the first day at Qatar. Fans and followers were hoping the changes made over the winter might shake things up a little, but they weren’t expecting a revolution.

At the top of the timesheets in MotoGP sits Aleix Espargaro on the Open class Forward Yamaha, nearly half a second ahead of the rest. In second place was Alvaro Bautista, not on an Open bike, but on a satellite Honda. Bautista, in turn, was ahead of three other satellite machines, Tech 3′s Bradley Smith leading Pramac Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, with the other Tech 3 bike of Pol Espargaro behind.

The first factory rider (that’s factory rider, not Factory Option) was Dani Pedrosa in 6th, over a second behind the Open class bike of Aleix. Valentino Rossi in 7th, on the factory Movistar Yamaha, could only just hold off former teammate Colin Edwards on the other Forward Yamaha. Even Nicky Hayden was just a tenth off the pace of Rossi, despite the Drive M7 Aspar rider being on the production RCV1000R Honda, a bike which was giving away over 12 km/h to the M1 of Rossi.

Has the revolution finally arrived? Has the Open class turned MotoGP on its head? Not really, though that didn’t stop the bookmakers from shortening the odds of an Aleix Espargaro win from 51/1 down to 11/1. The first page of MotoGP’s 2014 chapter is deceptive, as the Open and satellite bikes all have a head start.

At the notoriously dusty and low-grip track, it takes time to get the bikes dialed in, and the factory riders, fresh from testing at the ultra-high-grip Phillip Island circuit are suffering a Qatari culture shock. The satellite and Open bikes have already spent three days testing here, and have both the setup and the feeling of the track under control.

Preview of Qatar: Looking Ahead to the Most Intriguing MotoGP Season in Years

03/19/2014 @ 7:58 pm, by David Emmett29 COMMENTS

Preview of Qatar: Looking Ahead to the Most Intriguing MotoGP Season in Years losail international circuit aerial 635x423

It has been a long and confusing wait for the 2014 MotoGP season to begin. An awful lot has happened since the MotoGP bikes were rolled into their packing crates after the Valencia test and shipped back to the factories and workshops from whence they came. There have been shock announcements, shock testing results, and shock training crashes.

There have been last-minute rule changes, made in an attempt to keep all of the different factions in the paddock from rebelling. The final rules for the premier class were only announced on Monday, and even then, they still contain sufficient ambiguity to confuse.

But this confusion and chaos cannot disguise the fact that 2014 looks set to be the most intriguing championship in years. Gone are the reviled CRT machines – unjustly reviled; though slow, they were still jewels of engineering prowess – and in their place is a new class of machinery, the Open entries.

A simpler demarcation has been made, between factories running their own software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU, and the Open teams using the championship software supplied and controlled by Dorna.

The latest rule change adds a twist, allowing underperforming Ducati all the benefits of the Open class – 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, 12 engines per season instead of 5, unlimited testing and a softer tire – until they start winning races. But the 2014 grid looks much more like a single coherent class than the pack of racing motorcycles that lined up last year.

FTR Denies Financial Problems with Forward Racing

02/14/2014 @ 1:59 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

FTR Denies Financial Problems with Forward Racing Tuesday Valencia MotoGP Test Scott Jones 07 635x423

Following reports of financial problems and unpaid bills between Forward Racing and FTR, FTR today issued a press statement clarifying the situation. In the press release, FTR praises the progress of the Yamaha FTR project at Sepang, and restates its support for Forward’s Moto2 program as well.

FTR’s Managing Director Jon Jones states that “there is [sic] no technical or financial issues between FTR and Forward Racing.” The statement goes on to clarify that the Forward Moto2 program has been temporarily put on hold to allow FTR to focus on the MotoGP project, and that the Moto2 project will be resumed at an unspecified later date.