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.

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: Victory Goes to Sunderland

01/14/2017 @ 8:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

That’s it. The 2017 Dakar Rally is finally over, with Stage 12 concluding today in the capitol city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. With a short 64km timed special, the results were unlikely to change much, barring some sort of unexpected catastrophe.

Anything can happen in the Dakar Rally, and in what was billed as the toughest edition of this iconic race, we bet there were still some nervous hands during today’s session.

Two stages of the 2017 Dakar Rally had already been cancelled, and we had already seen top riders withdraw from this competition, namely KTM’s Toby Price, who dropped out while leading the Dakar, and Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla, who withdrew while in second place.

As such, there was much delight when KTM’s Sam Sunderland not only finally finished his first full Dakar Rally, but did so by standing on the top step. Finally bucking his bad luck, Sunderland does so by also being the first British Dakar Rally winner, in any category.

The victory is also KTM’s 16th-straight Dakar Rally win, marking the occasion with an all-orange podium, as Matthias Walkner and Gerard Farres finished second and third behind Sunderland overall, respectively.

In fourth place is surely a frustrated Adrien van Beveren, the Yamaha rider finished just 48 seconds behind Farres, which is extra disappointing considering the one-minute penalty he received during Stage 11.

That is a tough break for the factory Yamaha team, though it shows that the Japanese manufacturer is a true contender now in the Dakar Rally.

The same can be said of Honda Racing, with the Monster Energy Honda Rally team showing tremendous potential as well, throughout the 2017 Dakar Rally.

If it had not been for a one-hour time penalty for a refueling mistake during Stage 4, Honda would have had two riders, Joan Barreda and Pablo Gonçalves, in winner’s contention. They finished fifth (+43 minutes) and sixth (+52 minutes) behind Sunderland, respectively. 

We can expect Honda to be a strong contender in future editions of the Dakar Rally, and despite this year’s result, the racing through the rally raid showed that KTM’s dominance is no longer assured.

There are four manufacturers now capable of winning this iconic race, which bodes well for the future.

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2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 11: Another One for Honda

01/14/2017 @ 1:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The penultimate stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally, Stage 11 was the last true opportunity for riders to make a run at the leaderboard, as Saturday’s stage involved only a 64km timed special.

With 286km of sand and dunes to navigate, it was once again the Honda riders that headed the pack. Leading from start to finish, Joan Barreda took his fourth stage victory (don’t let the Dakar video fool you with its lies), followed by his teammate Paulo Gonçalves, for another Honda one-two stage victory.

The result moved both Honda riders to well under their one-hour time penalty from early in the race, showing the strong pace and program that HRC has put together for the Dakar Rally.

Yamaha Racing too showed it promise, with Adrien van Beveren taking the third spot in the day’s honors. That result moves him, and Yamaha, closer to a podium in Buenos Aires (though not into third place yet, as the Dakar Rally video says).

Meanwhile at the top of the overall leaderboard, we saw the KTM riders doing a more conservative race, managing the half-hour gap to their would-be usurpers.

Sam Sunderland extended his lead by several minutes, finishing fourth for the day. With teammate Matthias Walkner finishing the day 10th, Sunderland extended his overall lead by several minutes.

Going into Buenos Aires, we don’t expect the overall order to change much. Though, we should warn, the Dakar is notorious for its sudden challenges.

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2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Victory for USA’s Ricky Brabec

01/10/2017 @ 2:03 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After seeing Saturday’s stage cancelled, and with Sunday set on the schedule as a rest day, the 2017 Dakar Rally returned to racing-proper on Monday, with Stage 7.

Today’s special was originally conceived to be 322km long, but again the weather played a factor, and the timed section was cut down to just 160km. Sand dunes were the order of the day, which posed a challenge to some of the riders, both in navigation and time management.

For Honda, the day was very good, with American Ricky Brabec taking the day, followed closely his teammate Paulo Gonçalves. Sam Sunderland finished the day third, allowing him to maintain his overall lead in the standings. With three Hondas in the Top 5 though, the day truly goes to HRC.

Brabec’s win also continues the trend of a different rider winning each stage thus far of the 2017 Dakar Rally, an unusual circumstance in a race that usually sees a rider or two consistently rising above the rest of the field.

On that note, Xavier de Soultrait continues to impress on his Yamaha, fifth for the day, sixth overall, and still in the hunt for the overall win. Yamaha also can rely on Adrien van Beveren, who sits third overall, just behind Husqvarna’s Pablo Qunitanilla.

With three manufacturers in the Top 3, there will be a great deal of intrigue for the Dakar trophy, as we head into Argentina.

Monday night starts the marathon stage, meaning that only competitors can work on their machines in order to prep for Tuesday’s Stage 8. Without the help of their mechanics, we can expect some shake-up in Tuesday’s results from bike failures.

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Dakar Rally: Honda Riders Handed Massive Time Penalties

01/06/2017 @ 1:57 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Quite some time after Stage 4 of the 2017 Dakar Rally concluded, the ASO handed down massive penalties to a bevy of Honda riders, including the HRC factory team, to the tune of roughly an hour each.

The crime? The ASO says that Joan Barreda, Michael Metge, Paulo Gonçalves, Ricky Brabec, Franco Caimi, and Pedro Bianchi Prata all refueled in an prohibited zone during Thursday’s Stage 4.

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2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 11: A Tough Day at the Office

01/15/2016 @ 12:57 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Stage 11 of the 2016 Dakar Rally proved to have more drama, despite KTM’s Toby Price extending his overall lead. The big news though was Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves crashing out, 118km into the timed section of the stage.

Trying to make up time to the front-runners, Gonçalves’s crash was pretty severe, and he had to be airlifted to a hospital in San Juan for his concussion. Thankfully though, doctors in San Juan determined that beyond the concussion, Gonçalves had no other major injuries.

“Today my participation in the Dakar 2016 came to an end in the worst way. It appears that I had a heavy fall, but I can’t remember what happened. I was told that I arrived on the bike to an area where there were spectators and ambulances,” said Gonçalves.

“It’s a Dakar that finishes for me in the worst way. It is a shame because the team really deserved much more. The competition is that hard and the last few days hadn’t been going that well. But we have to keep going and think that soon we will be back in competition.”

Honda’s hopes for the 2016 Dakar Rally now rest on the shoulders of American and Dakar rookie, Ricky Brabec – who is almost an hour back from overall leader Toby Price.

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2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: HRC Overcomes Adversity

01/13/2016 @ 10:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Stage 10 of the 2016 Dakar Rally didn’t have much movement on the leaderboard, but it still was an eventful day, especially for the Honda factory riders.

With Paulo Gonçalves suffering a punctured radiator on Stage 9, and as a result a damaged engine, right before the start of the second marathon stage, things seemed dire for Honda.

Luckily, the HRC factory riders were able to replace the radiator, and inspect the engine. With the piston showing less damage from the heat than previously thought, only the compression needed to be adjusted on the Honda CRF450 Rally, in order for Gonçalves to continue onto Stage 10.

“The day was a positive one. I started behind the trucks and the tracks weren’t good. The sand was very unstable and I had to ride very smoothly. The good thing is that I arrived without problems,” said Gonçalves. “I’m still in the fight for the top positions and now we will set the bike up for an attack tomorrow because in the marathon stage I repaired the bike as best I could.”

“After what happened on Tuesday it will be very difficult to fight for the victory because the difference is very big. But it isn’t over yet. After the problems that I’ve had, to be here is very positive. I have to keep up a good pace every day, starting tomorrow.”

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2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 9: This Is What Hell Looks Like

01/12/2016 @ 11:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Stage 9 of the 2016 Dakar Rally proved to be a hellish one, which ultimately saw race officials shortening the day’s route, even though some riders had completed the full-stage distance. The course shortening came about because temperatures reached 113°F (45°C), leaving the ASO no choice but to end Stage 9 at the second checkpoint.

From CP2, riders were sent straight to their bivouac, where they began their second marathon stage. As such, they will not have the benefit of their team mechanics to make adjustments and repairs to their machines for Stage 10.

This fact could be very significant for HRC, since their day was especially difficult, as Paulo Gonçalves suffered a punctured radiator, and lost significant time to KTM’s Toby Price.

The good news for HRC is that Paolo Ceci was able to tow Gonçalves’s bike to CP2, which meant he finished the stage because of the shortened course. The bad news though is that Gonçalves’s engine seized from a lack of cooling, and will require significant work before tomorrow’s start.

With the marathon stage, Gonçalves will have to rely on his teammates to help him repair the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike. Honda says it is far from throwing in the towel on the situation, though they have a difficult road ahead of them.

Despite this attitude, the 2016 Dakar Rally is essentially now Price’s to lose, with only a couple more days of solid racing remaining.

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2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 8: KTM Takes Over from HRC

01/12/2016 @ 1:00 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

30 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier (fra) YAMAHA action during the Dakar 2016 Argentina, Bolivia, Etape 8 / Stage 8, Salta - Belen, from January 11, 2016 - Photo Frederic Le Floc'h / DPPI

With a full day’s rest under the belts, after Sunday’s day off, the competitors of the 2016 Dakar Rally once again had to go back to work. Tackling the difficult and taxing route ahead of them in Argentina, Stage 8 showed that the true Dakar Rally starts now.

With two special stages divided by a neutralization zone, there were plenty of opportunities to make time and to lose it. For Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves, it was the latter. The overall race leader crashed hard, and lost time in the process.

For KTM’s Toby Price though, it was the prior. Price will start tomorrow’s stage knowing that he has two-minute advantage over Gonçalves. As is the often the case with the iconic race, the 2016 Dakar Rally is far from over.

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2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Halfway Point

01/10/2016 @ 12:29 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Stage 7 of the 2016 Dakar Rally was another long one, with 793km in total on the route and 353km on the special. With more trecherous weather, not all of the motorbike competitors crossed the finish line, with some turning back at their discretion, with the blessing of Race Control. The special stage was also trimmed, leaving out the second checkpoint.

The day’s results mark the halfway point of the Dakar Rally thus far, with Sunday serving as a much needed day off for the riders.

Despite the long and technical route, not much has changed overall in the standings. With Antoine Meo winning the stage, and Kevin Benavides finishing second, Paulo Gonçalves got some breathing room on his overall lead position, with his third place finish on Stage 7.

His closest competitor, KTM’s Toby Price, finished the day 5th quickest, and is now over three minutes behind Gonçalves.

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2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 6: A Battle of Attrition

01/09/2016 @ 3:10 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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With the marathon stage behind them, the riders took to the long loop around Uyuni today. Stage 6 of the 2016 Dakar Rally brought in more navigational challenges, not to mention a staggering 540km time special.

With over 700km on the day, and a peak altitude of 15,000 feet, this is where the Dakar Rally starts earning its reputation as being the most grueling motorsport on the planet.

The first to show weakness on the day was Joan Barreda, whose Honda CRF450 Rally suffered some sort of mechanical problem, and had to be towed to the finish line by HRC teammate Paolo Ceci. Barreda lost four hours because of the technical setback, which effectively ends his Dakar.

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