XXX: Team Kawasaki SRC Ninja ZX-10R World Race Bike

I know we have mentioned before our love for endurance racing machines. The FIM Endurance World Championship just doesn’t get nearly enough play to soothe our appetite. It is the last international motorcycle racing series that has a proper tire war; it has strong factory involvement that can see a number of brands winning on any given weekend; and it is also the only true “team sport” in motorcycle racing. What’s not to like, right? Leading the pack so far this season is Team Kawasaki SRC, which won the season-opener at Le Mans, with riders Greg Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive, and Fabian Foret at the helm. Team Kawasaki SRC has always been one of the stronger teams in the Endurance World Championship, and this year it looks like thing could finally come together for “Team Verte”.

The SnoPed is An Evil Villain’s Snowbike

Summer is right around the corner for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, so the obviously appropriate time to talk about a snowbike is now, right? What the SnoPed lacks in seasonal appropriateness, it absolutely makes up for in super-villain stature, as the modern-looking snowbike looks like it rolled (is that the right verb?) off the set of a Hollywood spy movie. The brainchild of American designer Joey Ruiter, SnoPed features a 90cc engine (out of a Chrysler Sno-runner) underneath its sculpted body, which isn’t exactly going to blow your socks off when knee-deep in the powpow, but is enough to scurry down a groomed cross-country trail. Ruiter’s project with the SnoPed is really a design exercise and a good excuse to play dress-up. We take it as such, at least.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Action Cameras

I know what you are already thinking, everyone and their mom already has an action camera. To make matters worse, GoPro (the leader in this realm) has seen its stock price drop in what can only be described as a complete free fall for the past month, thanks mostly to lagging sales. So, how can action cameras be the next, next big thing in the motorcycle industry? The answer is a simple one, if you will allow me to explain. The next, next big thing for motorcycles isn’t the cameras themselves – those are basically already at commodity status for consumers – but instead the future for action cameras resides in integrated camera platforms for motorcycles.

Yamaha R1M Café Racer by Holographic Hammer

Even if most of it is just manipulating pixels, we are big fans of the work being done by the guys at Holographic Hammer, as they are bringing something fresh and unique to the industry, which is always a good thing. That being said, we wanted to take a minute to talk about one of HH’s recent pieces: a café racer design based off of the Yamaha R1M superbike. The idea is sort of out there, but yet also makes a reasonable amount of sense. Let’s be frank, the idea of using an R1 for a café racer concept is our kind of crazy. But, the design also makes some sense when you look at Yamaha’s recent focus on its “sport heritage” lineup, which is an attempt to appeal to the post-authentic crowd.

BMW Brings Emergency SOS “eCall” System to Motorcycles

In an effort to improve safety for motorcyclists, BMW Motorrad has developed what it calls an “Intelligent Emergency Call” system, which allows motorcyclists to call for help with the touch of a button on their motorcycle. The system is part of a larger push in Europe for an “eCall” emergency SOS program that would alert emergency personnel to a vehicle crash with greater expediency and efficiency. According to the pan-European eCall trial, systems like BMW’s can bring emergency services to a crash scene 40% to 50% faster, and the European Commission estimates that an eCall system like BMW’s could save up to 2,500 lives each year (saving €26 billion in the process, as well).

More Electronic Rider Aids Comes to the Dirt – Husqvarna’s 2017 Motocross Line Features Traction Control

The rise of electronic rider aids has come to consumer-level dirt bikes, with Husqvarna now offering traction control on all of its four-stroke motocross motorcycles for the 2017 model year. Traction control on dirt bikes isn’t a new concept, with racing machines featuring the technology for almost a decade now (in some form or another, and depsite what the rules say), but Husqvarna’s foray into the use of electronics marks a new era for consumer dirt bikes. As we see already in the on-road segments, traction control and other electronics are proving themselves to be the new horsepower.

What the Honda Kumamoto Factory Closure Means for You

After devastating tremors in the region, Honda’s Kumamoto factory, as well as the facilities of their nearby suppliers, were closed for equipment and structural repairs. Making progress on those repairs, Honda partially re-opened its Kumamoto facility two weeks ago, though the factory’s production capabilities currently remain limited. Now, the latest word from Honda is that Kumamoto will be back to full capacity by mid-August of this year, though it goes without saying that the production time will affect the rollout of several Honda machines. For those who don’t know, the Kumamoto factory is Honda’s flagship installation, and it produces many of Honda’s top motorcycles (Gold Wing, CBR1000RR, VFR1200F, CRF250X, etc).

Ride in Peace, Michael Czysz

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Michael Czysz, who finally succumbed to his years-long battle with cancer today. Michael is known best in our two-wheeled circles for starting the MotoCzysz C1 MotoGP project, which eventually morphed into the Isle of Man TT winning electric motorcycle race team of the same name. However, Michael’s accomplishments outside of the motorcycle industry are perhaps even more impressive, as he was a prominent designer for the rich and famous through his Architropolis design firm. I think it is Michael’s vision for ingenuity in the design world that fueled his work with motorcycles, as Michael’s machines featured a number of innovations of his own creation, which surely flowed from his creative personality.

Tamburini T12 Massimo – The Maestro’s Last Work

It has been exactly two years since we lost Massimo Tamburini, the father of iconic motorcycles like the Ducati 916 Superbike and the MV Agusta F4. Despite his passing, the Italian designer’s influence can still be felt in the motorcycle industry today, and his creations continue to be highly coveted pieces for motorcycle collectors around the world. Many know that Tamburini was the “ta” in Bimota, which saw The Maestro team up with Valerio Bianchi and Giuseppe Morri, and together the three pillars of the industry would create countless exotic two-wheeled examples. In essence, Tamburini’s name can be linked to the most lust-worthy motorcycles in the modern era, and we are about to add one more machine to that list.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States. For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer. As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network. This is the third year a row that Pied Piper has ranked Ducati as its top brand (its Ducati’s 10th year in the Top 3), and its easy to see why.

2015 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Preview – What Can We Expect As MotoGP Returns To Action?

02/03/2015 @ 12:11 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Living-The-Dream-Sepang-Malaysian-Grand-Prix-Isle-of-Man-Road-Racing-Tony-Goldsmith-20

The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.

And yet the two most important and interesting developments won’t even be at the first Sepang test.

Ducati’s much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for primetime, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month.

Yamaha’s fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.

The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha’s gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders.

Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.

The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same.

Perhaps the factories have caught on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.

Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?

Trackside Tuesday: A Review of 2014 in Photographs

12/23/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

2015-Sunday-MotoGP-Valencia-Scott-Jones-15

Having just finished production on the 2015 MotoMatters Motorcycle Racing Calendar, the 2014 season has been on my mind quite a bit over the past several weeks. So I thought I’d take look back at the MotoGP images I contributed here at Asphalt & Rubber and add a bit of perspective to each one.

Q&A: Nicky Hayden — His Wrist & The Honda RC213V-RS

12/17/2014 @ 2:42 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Friday-MotoGP-Phillip-Island-Scott-Jones-08

To help fill the long void during the winter break, the Aspar team has been occasionally issuing press release interviews with its riders. Today’s press release contains an interview with Nicky Hayden, now back at home working on building strength in his wrist and preparing for the 2015 MotoGP season.

In the press release, Hayden briefly runs through subjects as diverse as his wrist recovery, the changes to his crew in 2015, and the potential of the Honda RC213V-RS, the replacement for the RCV1000R Hayden rode in 2014. The interview appears after the jump.

Marquez’s Oval vs. Rossi’s Ranch: Which Is Best for MotoGP?

12/08/2014 @ 1:30 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

valentino-rossi-marc-marquez-moto-ranch-dirt-track

Many years ago, when American riders first burst onto the roadracing scene, and immediately dominated Grand Prix racing, dirt track racing was seen as a key part of their success.

Training on the hardpacked dirt, where pushrod twins have far more power than they can ever transfer directly into drive, translated very well into racing 500cc two strokes, which had the same excess of power over grip.

As tire technology advanced, and as the number of racers coming out of the US to race on the world stage declined, dirt track fell out of favor. Styles changed back towards keeping the wheels in line and carrying as much corner speed as possible, a skill learned in 125s and 250s, and taken up to 500s and MotoGP.

The advent of the 800cc bikes, which caused a quantum leap forward in electronic control, emphasized this even further.

The dirt track mindset had not disappeared completely: both Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden cut their teeth racing on the dirt, and carried that style into MotoGP. Hayden suffered once the series switched to 800cc bikes, especially as Honda switched their development focus to corner speed, and the European 250cc style.

Stoner used his dirt track skills to control the fearsome Ducati Desmosedici, the bike which destroyed the careers of so many other riders. Stoner’s switch to Honda coincided with Shuhei Nakamoto’s changed approach at HRC, putting more emphasis on rider input, putting more control of the rear tire back in the hands of the rider.

Update on the Superprestigio: December 13th – Marquez (x2), Rabat, Baker, Mees, & Many Others – But No Hayden

11/24/2014 @ 10:02 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

superprestigio-dirt-track

After the resounding success of the Superprestigio indoor dirt track event back in January this year, the race is to return. On December 13th, the Sant Jordi stadium on Montjuic, the hill south of Barcelona, will host the second running of the Superprestigio, featuring the cream of motorcycle road racing taking on some of superstars of American flat track racing.

Reigning Superprestigio champion Brad Baker will be back in Barcelona once again, to defend the honor gained back in January. He will be joined by reigning AMA flat track Grand National champion Jared Mees, the two Americans defending the reputation of the home of dirt track, and the country the sport originated in its current form.

They will have their work cut out for them: they will face some the best circuit racers in the world, with reigning and former champions taking to the short indoor oval. All three Grand Prix champions – Marc Marquez, Tito Rabat, and Alex Marquez – will be lining up in Barcelona, the three avid practitioners of the art.

They will be joined by legendary former World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss, now spending his retirement racing dirt track and running his own invitational dirt track event, the Troy Bayliss Classic, which will run on January 17th next year. Another world champion will also be taking to the dirt, with Supermoto S1 world champ Thomas Chareyre also joining the fray.

Wednesday Summary from Valencia: Hard Hondas, Slick Suzukis, & Bridgestone Mythology

11/13/2014 @ 1:44 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

jack-miller-valencia-test-motogp

“This year’s machine is not easy to ride,” HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said of the 2014 Honda RC213V. “More difficult than last year.” Given the utter dominance of Marc Marquez in the first half of 2014, that seems hard to believe. It certainly left the journalists gathered for the special press conference convened by Honda to review the season befuddled.

“But Honda bikes are always easy to ride!” declared one surprised reporter. “Our bike is very easy, I can ride it, but I don’t get under two minutes,” Nakamoto said. “But to find the last one tenth, two tenths is very difficult,” he remarked.

A look at the timesheets from the test, or a chat with Marc Marquez or Dani Pedrosa about the 2015 Honda, and you understand the problem. On the last day of testing at Valencia, Marquez and Pedrosa finished first and second, but the satellite Hondas of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding were a little way off the pace.

Crutchlow was eight tenths slower than Marquez, while Redding was struggling 1.6 seconds behind Marquez. In the last race of the 2014 season, Stefan Bradl’s fastest lap was just under a second off the fastest race lap, and Alvaro Bautista a fraction slower. The Honda is obviously fast, but it is not easy to go fast on.

Too aggressive, too hard to master, a bike with a lot of potential, but extracting that potential takes insight, experience, and the willingness to push an aggressive bike to its limits. It really demands the kind of dirt track background of Casey Stoner or, well, Marc Marquez.

Thursday Summary at Phillip Island: Racing for Pride, The Battle for Moto2, & Crew Chief Changes

10/16/2014 @ 10:10 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

phillip-island-circuit-aerial-view

The Grand Prix Circus has barely had a chance to catch its breath after Motegi before the next round starts in Australia. With a few exceptions, perhaps, a number of teams being forced to either take a much longer route to Australia to avoid the landfall of typhoon Vongfong, or else severely delayed until the worst passed.

Still, to call spending even more hours on a plane or at an airport for what is already a very long flight can hardly be regarded as a spot of rest and relaxation.

Still, they have now all gathered at what is almost unanimously regarded as the best racetrack on the planet. Phillip Island is everything a motorsports circuit is suppose to be: fast, flowing, and deeply challenging. There are plenty of spots for a rider to attempt a pass, or try to make up time, but every single one of them requires either exceptional bravery, or the willingness to take a risk.

The many brutally fast corners which litter the track separate the men from the boys: Doohan Corner at turn 1, where you arrive at a staggering 340 km/h, turn 3, now dubbed Stoner corner for the way the retired Australian champion would slide both ends through it at over 250 km/h, the approach to Lukey Heights, which drops away to MG, or the final two turns culminating in Swan Corner, speed building throughout before being launched onto the Gardner Straight, and off towards Doohan again. At Phillip Island, there is no place to hide.

Thursday Summary at Motegi: The Race Nature Always Seems to Conspire Against

10/09/2014 @ 10:25 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

twin-ring-motegi

Part of the Japanese round of MotoGP always seems to involve learning a new name for a natural phenomenon. In 2010, we heard of Eyjafjallajökull for the first time, the volcano which awoke from under its ice cap and halted air travel in large parts of Europe and Asia.

We laughed as newsreaders and MotoGP commentators tried to pronounce the name of the Icelandic volcano and ice cap, and the race was moved from the start of the season to October.

A year later, in April 2011, it was Tōhoku that was the name on everyone’s lips. The massive earthquake which shook Japan and triggered an enormous tsunami, killing nearly 16,000 people and badly damaging the Fukushima nuclear power station.

Again the Motegi race was moved to October, by which time the incredible resilience and industriousness had the track ready to host the MotoGP circus. 2012 turned out to be a relatively quiet year, but 2013 saw the tail end of typhoon Francisco ravage the region, causing the first day and a half of practice to be lost to fog and rain.

So it comes as no surprise that the 2014 round of MotoGP at Motegi teaches us yet another new name. This time it is Vongfong, a category 5 super typhoon which threatens the race in Japan.

Friday Summary at Aragon – Honda vs. Yamaha Explained, The Slimmer GP14.2, & Hayden’s First Day Back

09/26/2014 @ 11:04 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Friday-Aragon-MotoGP-Aragon-Grand-Prix-Tony-Goldsmith-16

Is the Motorland Aragon circuit a Honda track or a Yamaha track? On the evidence of Friday, it is first and foremost a Marc Marquez track. The reigning world champion may not have topped the timesheets – the two de facto factory Ducati riders, Andreas Dovizioso and Iannone did that – but he set a scorching race pace that only his Repsol Honda teammate could get close to, though Dani Pedrosa was still a couple of tenths off the pace of Marquez.

“This is one of my favorite tracks,” Marquez said afterwards, adding that he was happy with his rhythm and he had really enjoyed his day. The Spaniard may have lost any chance of wrapping up the title at Aragon with a win, but that didn’t make him any less determined to take victory here. The crash at Misano made no difference to his attitude. Was he afraid of crashing? “No. You can’t race and be afraid of crashing.” Marquez was pushing to the limit once again, laying down a marker for others to follow.

If the mood in Marquez’s garage was elated, things were different in the Yamaha camp. Though the gap to Marquez in terms of pace was not huge, it was still significant. Jorge Lorenzo was concerned. “We are slower than last year,” he told the media, “we are slower than at the test [in June].”

They had started the weekend using the set up which had worked well enough over the last four races for Lorenzo to finish second, but it simply was not working at Aragon. The plan was to revert to the set up used before Indianapolis, he said.

The problem for the Yamahas is grip, especially at the rear. Valentino Rossi was suffering the most of the Yamaha riders. “I’m not very satisfied,” Rossi said, “it was a difficult day.” Aragon was always a hard track for the Yamahas, Rossi explained, as the rear grip made it hard for them to maintain their corner speed.

The track is a tricky one to master. The asphalt provides a lot of grip, but getting the tires to work was tough. For the first five or six laps, the tires work well, but after that, grip drops drastically. Finding the right balance between front and rear grip, between getting drive while the rear spins and losing it all when it spins needlessly was hard.

As so often, Bradley Smith provided an eloquent explanation. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider has an analytical mind, and the ability to explain himself clearly. Whether he is fast or slow at a track, he is capable of understanding the reasons, and putting it into words for us poor journalists.

When asked why the Hondas do so well at Aragon while the Yamahas struggle, Smith answered “I don’t really know what the answer is. But there certainly is a lot of grip, and the track seems to allow you the possibility to brake later here.” It was the type of grip that was key, he explained.

“There seems to be more rear grip here than at other tracks, especially in the brake areas. So where sometimes you see the Honda skating around on the brakes, here they’re able to brake late anyway. If you have a look at the race in Misano, Marc was able to take five bike lengths out of Valentino at some points. But that ability to do that is even more exaggerated here because the rear grip allows them to do it.”

Q&A: Nicky Hayden — Returning to MotoGP at Aragon

09/24/2014 @ 2:28 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

2014-Saturday-Le-Mans-MotoGP-Scott-Jones-14

After sitting out the last four races since Indianapolis, Nicky Hayden will ride a MotoGP bike again at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

To help clarify his situation, and talk about the operation he underwent and the difficult period of rehabilitation which followed, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release containing an interview with the American.

In it, he answers many of the questions he will inevitably face over the weekend. This is Nicky Hayden’s side of the story. Read it after the jump.