Ride Review: Aprilia RSV4 RF

After a great many success in World Superbike, Aprilia claims to have improved the venerable 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR street bike once more. Aprilia’s halo motorcycle has lost a couple of pounds and its power output has risen to a punchy 201hp. To celebrate this milestone Aprilia not only unleashes the standard RR version, but also a limited run of 500 units for the “RF” (Racing Factory) bikes.The RSV4 RF hosts obvious upgrades such as forged wheels, Öhlins suspension and steering damper, and a WSBK-inspired color scheme. To see how the updated RSV4 goes, we were invited to review RF #77 out of 500, on the newly resurfaced Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”.

Team Hero EBR Withdraws from World Superbike

After first saying it would be business as usual, Team Hero EBR has regrouped and found that it will not be continuing in the 2015 World Superbike Championship. Though a change in announcements, the news is perhaps unsurprising considering the state of EBR and the economic troubles reportedly faced by Hero MotoCorp. The team quotes the “recent bankruptcy of EBR and the re-prioritizing of efforts by title sponsor Hero” as the cause of its withdrawal, with Pegram Racing hoping to announce its future racing plans soon. “This is a really hard pill for us all at Pegram Racing to swallow, as we always live by the philosophy of Never Give Up,” said team owner Larry Pegram.

MV Agusta USA Expands Dealer Network

One of the main issues MV Agusta USA’s new management is addressing right off the bat is the company’s dealer network in the United States. It was an issue that considerable time was spent on during our media meeting with them late last year, and clearly the American subsidiary has heard the pleas of journalists and consumers alike. As such, MV Agusta USA is announcing the addition of nine new dealers to its list, which is roughly a 25% increase in MV Agusta dealers in the USA. Of course, simply adding more dealers doesn’t solve MV Agusta’s problem in the US, finding the right dealers is key. “We have a continual strategy to make changes in selected open areas where rider demand is high and the prospective MV rider community is underserved,” said Helen Vasilevski, CEO of MV Agusta USA.

Recycled Dainese Leathers for Your Two-Wheeled Lifestyle

What are you to do with a set of leathers, once they’ve been retired from protecting your motorcycling hide? The answer to that question is why Dainese has teamed up with Regenesi, an Italian firm known for recycling old products and turning them into new ones. Taking the crashed leathers of Dainese’s sponsored riders, Regenesi turns the leather pieces into various lifestyle items, like wallets ($139), smartphone sleeves ($79), key fobs ($54), etc. Each piece is obviously unique, comes straight from the race track, and is hand-made in Italy. Helping things too is the fact that Dainese is selling (re-selling?) the pieces at a reasonable prices, so buying a wallet doesn’t also hurt you in the wallet.

Troy Bayliss Riding a Ducati Scrambler Inspired Race Bike

We already know that Troy Bayliss will be making another return to racing this year, taking on five one-mile events on the AMA Pro Grand National Series. We also knew that Bayliss would be on a Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati race bike, continuing the Australian’s link to the Italian brand. Ducati has given us a glimpse of that flat-tracking machine, and to our surprise, it seems the folks in Bologna are looking to get some more marketing mileage out of the partnership, as Troy’s race bike is a spitting image of the Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle. Of course, Bayliss will compete with an 1,100cc air-cooled machine, in lieu of the Scrambler’s 803cc v-twin engine. The race bike will feature a custom-built chassis, and of course 19″ flat track wheels.

Oregon Just Got Closer to Legalizing Lane-Filtering*

Motorcyclists living in the fine State of Oregon (this author included) have something to celebrate today, as the Oregon State Senate passed SB 694 (18 to 10, with two abstentions): proposal that would make lane-filtering or lane-sharing legal under certain conditions. The bill now goes before the Oregon House of Representatives, where it will be first heard on April 27th. If voted on successfully in the House, Oregon will become only the second state to permit lane-filtering of some kind on public roads. While today’s news is a boon for motorcyclists in Oregon, there are some serious caveats to the bill that has passed through the Senate, namely that it only permits lane-sharing during specific instances.

The End of Marzocchi Suspension is Nigh?

Reports out of Italy suggest that the Marzocchi brand may soon be no more, after parent company Tenneco made the decision to close the Italian firm’s Bologna factory in Zola Predosa. The Italain outlets go on to say that motorcycle manufacturers that use Marzocchi as an OEM part have been notified that they will no longer be supplied with the suspension pieces, once the co Marzocchi’s stock of forks has been exhausted from supply. This news would affect a bevy of brands, including BMW, Ducati, MV Agusta, TM, GasGas, Beta, and AJP. The writing on the wall has been coming for some time for Marzocchi, as Tenneco initially wanted to close the plant in 2011, but instead through labor negotiations, laid off 50 of the company’s 170 employees.

Is This Really the End of EBR? Receivership Explained

It didn’t surprise me last week that the headlines regard Erik Buell Racing ranged in their proclamations from the more accurate “ceased operations” to “gone bankrupt” – with the even more presumptive publications proclaiming the ultimate demise of the American brand. This comes from a lack of understanding about how the receivership process works, which my European colleagues should have a stronger grasp of, as the concept is more prevalent across the pond. As such, I would like to explain the issue further, and how it applies to the situation facing Erik Buell Racing. To entice you on what will surely be a boring subject to many, this doesn’t spell the end of Erik Buell Racing…not even close.

Troy Bayliss Racing in the 2015 Grand National Series

He may have retired from World Superbike racing, but that isn’t stopping Troy Bayliss from continuing his pursuit of checkered flags, as the Australian has confirmed his long-rumored move to the AMA Pro Grand National Series. Bayliss will be racing on an 1,100, air-cooled, two-valve Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati (no surprise there), as a teammate to Johnny Lewis. The former World Champion plans to contest all five mile-long racing events, with his first race being the Springfield Mile in Illinois on May 24th. Bayliss may be an old salt, at the ripe age of 46, but the Aussie has been keeping his game sharp on local flat track courses. Every year as well he hosts the invitation-only Troy Bayliss Classic, where many AMA Pro Flat Track racers have competed.

A BMW Scrambler Cometh?

It appears that BMW Motorrad wants in on the retro-styled scrambler game that Ducati and Triumph are playing, and is looking to use its R nineT platform to do the job. The scrambler model, which has already been previewed to BMW’s European dealers, would be just the first of several budget-oriented models to come from BMW, all of which would be based off the BMW R nineT. The scrambler is expected to debut later this year with its 100hp air-cooled engine, while the other models, namely a café racer model, will come in 2016. Fueled on by the sales success of its customization projects, Roland Sands is said to be attached to the BMW project, which is logical since the American designer was part of the initial BMW R nineT design team.

Sunday Summary from Valencia: Of Dodgy MotoGP Weather, Fuel Issues in Moto2, and Miller vs. Marquez in Moto3

11/10/2014 @ 9:02 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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It was a fitting finale to one of the best season in years. The arrival of Marc Marquez in MotoGP has given the series in a boost in the arm. Not just in the premier class, the influence of Marquez reaches into Moto2 and Moto3 as well.

Tito Rabat’s move to the Marc VDS team completed his transformation from a fast rider to a champion, but the schooling and support he received from the Marquez brothers at their dirt track oval in Rufea made him even stronger. And Marc’s younger brother Alex brought both talent and Maturity to Moto3.

It made for great racing at Valencia. The Moto3 race featured the typical mayhem, but with extra edge because there was a title on the line. Tito Rabat tried to win the Moto2 race from the front, as he has done all year, but found himself up against an unrelenting Thomas Luthi.

And in MotoGP, Marc Marquez set a new record of thirteen race wins in a single season, despite being throw a curve ball by the weather.

Marquez was the first to downplay his taking the record of most wins in a season from Mick Doohan. “Doohan won more than me,” Marquez said. “He won twelve from fifteen races. Thirteen is a new record, but not so important.”

Though it is admirable that Marquez can put his own achievement into perspective when comparing it to Doohan’s, that is not the full context. Doohan actually twelve of the first thirteen races in 1997, making his win rate even bigger. Then again, Doohan had to beat Tady Okada, Nobu Aoki and Alex Criville, while Marquez has had to fend off Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

Even Doohan’s win rate pales in comparison with those of John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini, who both had perfect seasons in 1959 and 1968 respectively. But the 1959 season had only seven races, and the 1968 ten races, a good deal less than the current total of eighteen.

What this really highlights is the futility of comparing records: different eras saw very different riders facing very different competitors on very different bikes. Trying to compare one with another requires the use of so many correcting factors as to render such comparison meaningless.

Saturday Summary from Valencia: Rossi vs. Lorenzo, Miller vs. Alex, & Marquez vs. Himself

11/09/2014 @ 7:16 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary from Valencia: Rossi vs. Lorenzo, Miller vs. Alex, & Marquez vs. Himself

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It has been four-and-a-half years, or 87 races between Valentino Rossi’s 49th pole position and his 50th. The last time Rossi started a race from the first spot on the grid was at Le Mans in 2010, where he just pipped his teammate Jorge Lorenzo into second by 0.054 seconds.

At Valencia on Saturday, he was two tenths faster than Lorenzo, but this time, he had Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa between him and his teammate.

There were plenty of parallels to the 2010 season visible at Valencia. Just as five seasons ago, Rossi is engaged in a struggle with Lorenzo for supremacy in the championship. Back in 2010, it was just the third race of the season, and a fierce battle was emerging as Jorge Lorenzo started to gain the upper hand in the team, and in the championship.

Now, the fight is over second in the championship, rather than first, but it has grown increasingly intense over the past few weeks. Signs of tension have been starting to emerge in the last couple of races, but they became a little more public after qualifying at Valencia.

The reason for the dispute is simple. On his second and final run in qualifying, Valentino Rossi made a slight mistake, and was forced to slow down to restart a final run at the pole. At that moment, Jorge Lorenzo flew past on his fast last lap, and Rossi slotted in just behind him, not so much benefiting from Lorenzo’s slipstream, but using Lorenzo as a target to aim for.

Thursday Summary from Valencia: Miller vs. Marquez, Team Orders, & New Bike Debuts

11/06/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The last race of the season is always a little bit special. They are even more special when riders are still scrapping over the spoils, battling for titles, for positions, for honor.

There is much at stake at Valencia: a Moto3 title, second place in the MotoGP and Moto2 championships, and the team championship in MotoGP. Above all, though, there is victory, the glory of joining the elite band of Grand Prix winners. At the end of the day, that is what motivates motorcycle racers most on any given Sunday.

Top billing at Valencia is the race which is first, but with the most at stake. On Sunday, Jack Miller and Alex Marquez will slug it out for the 2014 Moto3 World Championship. The race at Sepang set up a fantastic season finale, with Miller riding an intimidating race to cut Marquez’s championship lead. Just 11 points separate the two men, putting Marquez easily within reach of the Australian.

Destination Malaysia – Day Six: Race Day

10/28/2014 @ 11:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Time of day is no escape from the heat and humidity of Malaysia, and it’s no different here at Sepang on race day. I could wax-poetic about how the extreme temperatures here at the track change the smell of the four-stroke exhaust fumes.

Or, how the humidity, which leaves you with a constant layer of sweat on your skin, changes the thunderous sounds of the 1,000cc MotoGP engines, but it would be a lie. It’s just hot here, and your body braves its exposures to the outside world only if you make it the future promise of air conditioning.

I have no idea how the fans pack the stands here at Sepang International Raceway on race day, but they do. They come in droves, and many ride here. Large convoys of bikers make the trek from nearby countries even.

Southeast Asia is rampant for GP racing, and it shows. Attendance on Friday is non-existent, Saturday is modest, at best, but the come Sunday, 80,000+ Malay, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Burmese, and countless other ethnicities line the track. It’s a spectactle, to be certain.

Sunday Summary from Sepang: Beating Doohan, Rabat’s Hard Work, & Miller Mastering Marquez in Moto3

10/26/2014 @ 11:45 pm, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

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How big a deal is MotoGP in Asia, and especially in Malaysia? There were officially 81,896 spectators at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday for the races. That is a lot. To put it in perspective, it is the seventh highest attendance of the year, more than either of the US rounds of MotoGP, more than Silverstone, more than either of the Italian rounds.

There were 4,400 more spectators at Sepang than at Mugello. That is quite a turnaround: in 2000, the second year MotoGP was held at the circuit, only 32,375 people attended the race, spread over all three days. The three-day total is now close to 131,000.

It is testament to both the growing wealth of the region and the growing popularity of the sport. In the podium press conference, Valentino Rossi reflected on the change. “For a long period, we have no people on Sunday,” he said. Little by little attendance had grown, until now, it is a race with an atmosphere all of its own.

“Now it is full, the atmosphere on the main straight is like Barcelona or Mugello. The guys are crazy for MotoGP.” It was a great victory for the sport, he said. Given that those 82,000 people are mostly sitting outside, in tropical temperatures of 36°C and humidity of over 50%, those guys (and gals) must indeed be ‘crazy for MotoGP’.

Their efforts were amply rewarded on Sunday, with three superb races. They saw records equaled in MotoGP, a richly-deserved title tied up in Moto2, and an exhilarating and incident-packed battle in Moto3, which sets up a grand finale for the Moto3 title at Valencia. Reason enough to come back again in force in 2015, with the added benefit of seeing the circuit fielding its own team in Moto3 next year.

Sunday at Sepang with Tony Goldsmith

10/26/2014 @ 7:28 am, by Tony Goldsmith5 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary from Sepang: Pole Records, The Secret of Marquez’s Speed, & Ridiculous Scenes in Moto3

10/25/2014 @ 5:09 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary from Sepang: Pole Records, The Secret of Marquez’s Speed, & Ridiculous Scenes in Moto3

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Fancy a challenge? Try finding a MotoGP fan who is surprised that Marc Marquez claimed pole position at Sepang on Saturday. It was the Repsol Honda man’s thirteenth pole of the season, setting a new record for the most poles in a season. It was a blistering lap, making him the first rider to set an officially timed lap under the two-minute mark, the clock finally stopping at 1’59.791.

That time has been bettered only a couple of times during the winter tests at Sepang, when cooler temperatures make for a faster track. But to do it now, when ground temperatures got close to 60°C, making the already slippery surface of Sepang even more greasy, is astonishing. Those kinds of track temperatures are almost, but not quite, enough to cook an egg.

Marquez’s record thirteenth pole also offers an insight into exactly what the secret of his success is. He not only holds the record for the most poles in a season, he is also the current leader in pole position frequency. Marquez has secured 50 poles from 113 qualifying session, giving him a strike rate of just over 44%.

The only rider to get near to his domination of qualifying was Mick Doohan, who started from pole from 42.3% of his Grand Prix races. The nearest of Marquez’ current rivals is Jorge Lorenzo, who has been on pole for 26.4% of his career in Grand Prix.

Friday Summary from Sepang: The Weather’s Starring Role

10/25/2014 @ 1:04 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday Summary from Sepang: The Weather’s Starring Role

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If you wanted a demonstration of just why the weather at Sepang can play such a decisive factor, you need look no further than MotoGP FP2. Fifteen minutes before the MotoGP bikes were set to take to the track, the Moto3 machines were finishing their second free practice session in sunshine and sweltering heat.

But a couple of minutes before MotoGP FP2 was meant to start, the heavens opened, producing a deluge that had first-time visitors to Malaysia hunting around for gopher wood with which to build a boat.

The downpour covered the track in several centimeters of standing water, making it impossible to ride. The session was delayed for twenty five minutes, starting after the rain had nearly eased up completely. Once the session got underway, the weather cleared up completely, the last ten minutes taking place in glorious sunshine once again.

The changes in the weather had a dramatic effect on the state of the track. It went from being fully wet, with water everywhere, to having just a thin layer of rainwater on it at the halfway mark, to being dry at most of the corners around the track once the session ended. Full wets were essential at the start of the session, but forty five minutes later, slicks were starting to become a viable option.

Thursday Summary from Sepang: The End of MotoGP’s Asian Peregrinations Beckon in the Sweltering Sepang Heat

10/23/2014 @ 11:22 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday Summary from Sepang: The End of MotoGP’s Asian Peregrinations Beckon in the Sweltering Sepang Heat

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Another week, another eight-hour flight, another race track. Sepang comes as the last of three grueling weekends chasing around the Pacific Ocean to race in Japan, Australia, and now Malaysia.

Even from the comfort of my European home (I lack the funds and, to a lesser extent, the inclination to pursue the paddock halfway around the world), it has been a tough schedule, and the riders and team members I have spoken to about it are all just about ready to come home.

Nearly a month away from home, sharing flights, hire cars and hotel rooms can be grating even for the best of friends. Add in the stresses and tensions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and a lot of people are gritting their teeth and doing their best not to punch the people they work with. Some will even make it home without doing so.

The final leg of MotoGP’s odyssey sees the circus travel from Phillip Island, nearly halfway to the South Pole, to Sepang, not far north of the equator. Yet though they are a quarter of a world away, the two have one thing in common: weather.

The actual conditions may be different, the cold, changeable climate of Phillip Island a far cry from the sweltering heat of Malaysia, but at both tracks, the weather plays a much greater role in the proceedings than at other tracks. Judging conditions, and preparing for them, is crucial.

Sunday Summary from Phillip Island: Why the MotoGP Race Was Not a Tire Fiasco, & Rossi Reaps Rewards

10/19/2014 @ 8:17 pm, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

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Once again, a MotoGP race at Phillip Island is decided by tires. The tires Bridgestone brought to the Australian circuit were not up to the task, with riders crashing out all throughout the race. The front tires Bridgestone brought to the track were unable to cope with the conditions. The result was determined by tires, not by talent.

That, at least, is the narrative being heard around the internet after the bizarre yet fascinating MotoGP race at Phillip Island. It is an attractive narrative – a nice, simple explanation for what happened in Australia – but it is fundamentally flawed.

The tire situation was complicated, certainly. Jorge Lorenzo’s front tire showed very severe degradation, more than would normally be explained by the expect wear. Several riders crashed out on the asymmetric front tire Bridgestone brought. But to lay the blame entirely on Bridgestone is quite wrong.