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.

Photo of the Week: A Championship Down to the Wire

11/07/2011 @ 6:01 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: A Championship Down to the Wire photo of the week stefan bradl scott jones

Few championships are won without at least a bit of good fortune, and with at least his fair share of that maxim, Stefan Bradl is the new Moto2 World Champion. After reversing Bradl’s fantastic beginning of the 2011 season, Marc Marquez had the momentum and the points lead, until his run inevitable collision with Ratthapark Wilairot at the Australian GP. The mistake cost Marquez, and forced the Spaniard to start from the back of the grid, which in turn lead to a third place behind Bradl’s second at Phillip Island.

With another crash leaving Marquez unfit to compete in the final two races, Bradl clinched the title at Valencia when Marquez did not participate in Saturday’s Qualifying session. The Sepang crash robbed Marquez of his opportunity to fight for the title, and robbed the fans of seeing the competitive Moto2 class come down to an on-track battle. In spite of the story behind the last two races, Bradl is a worthy champion for hanging in there and fighting back as Marquez attacked, even if he may not have been the best rider at the end of the season. His strong results early in 2011 made the difference at the end, and congratulations are in order to the new Moto2 Champion.

Photo of the Week: You Gave Everything

10/31/2011 @ 12:15 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: You Gave Everything photo of the week you gave everything Scott Jones

At the inaugural GP of India for Formula One, a moment of silence was observed for Marco Simoncelli and Dan Wheldon, and while I wondered how many among the F1 audience had ever heard of Marco, it was a fine gesture and certainly appreciated by the MotoGP community.

This week has been largely about trying to move on after the accident at Sepang, but that has proved very difficult to do for me and my colleagues, friends, and as yet unmet fellow MotoGP fans. I continue to receive requests for Simoncelli photos from increasingly obscure connections, in addition to those from close friends who want something with which to remember Marco.

I ran across this image from Catalunya, which helps put the loss in a proper context. The translation, provided at the time by a linguistically gifted friend on the Dorna staff, was something like: You gave everything because you loved. Certainly a 58 will appear beside the numbers of Shoya Tomizawa and Daijiro Kato if this fellow redoes his banner next season. And in all three cases, we are left to wonder what excitements and triumphs we might have witnessed had fate allowed 74, 48, & 58 to contest more Grand Prix races.

Photo of the Week: SuperSic Forever

10/24/2011 @ 12:50 pm, by Scott Jones31 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: SuperSic Forever photo of the week Marco Simoncelli gloves Scott Jones

As a 250cc rider, Marco Simoncelli struck me as being very talented, but also a grave danger to his fellow riders. In the 250GP races in which Simoncelli participated, he was always the wild card, and one never knew what he might do in his spirited attempts to win. As the list of other riders who’d narrowly escaped serious injury in on-track incidents with Marco grew, I developed a profound dislike for how he behaved on track, and I thought that this behavior indicated what type of person he was.

But as I gained access to the MotoGP paddock, and found opportunities to glimpse the riders’ personalities, Marco Simoncelli was one of the first for whom I recognized that I could not draw such conclusions based solely on what I saw on TV.

On a motorcycle, Simoncelli was ferocious, as the cat on the back of his helmet indicated. In person he was soft spoken, gentle, quick to smile and generous. Always a gracious participant with Riders for Health fundraising events, he courageously faced crowds who spoke no Italian and charmed them in his accented and limited English. He signed whatever people asked of him, and posed for photos with patience and grace.

Photo of the Week: Hail to the King

10/17/2011 @ 6:11 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Hail to the King Casey Stoner 2011 MotoGP World Champion Scott Jones

It seems to have been inevitable now, and what other words could there be to say? Casey Stoner has been head & shoulders above the rest of the MotoGP class, a trait that is not too dissimilar from how Jorge Lorenzo, his rival all season long, won the Championship in 2010. The bike to beat this season, being on the Repsol Honda certainly didn’t hurt Stoner’s chances, but he did more on his factory Honda RC212V than the three other very talented riders who had similar equipment. Congratulations to Casey and his HRC team for a well-deserved 2011 World Championship title.

Photo of the Week: Home Grown

10/10/2011 @ 11:15 am, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Home Grown Photo of the Week privateer Scott Jones

Here’s to the privateer, who travels to the race without sponsorship from tobacco or energy drinks, who sleeps in the truck that carried the bike, who wakes up smelling of solvent and spilled gas, and who wonders how many more laps he can get from his current set of tires. If the love of racing sometimes gets lost among big budgets, umbrella girls, and TV rights, it is alive and well in the hearts of those who bring whatever they can afford to the track, and race it as fast as they can. Here’s to Linda and her checkbook.

Photo of the Week: Olé!

10/03/2011 @ 4:51 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Olé! photo of the week Carlos Checa WSBK Champion Scott Jones

Congratulations to Carlos Checa, who is finally a World Champion, having clinched the World Superbike title at Magny Cours with three races to go. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Photo of the Week: Mastermind

09/26/2011 @ 12:12 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Mastermind Livio Suppo HRC MotoGP Scott Jones

In August, I sat across the aisle from Livio Suppo on a connecting flight to Indianapolis, and found the HRC Communications & Marketing Director weary at the end of his journey from Italy. Though cordial as ever, he was not in the mood to chat as he yawned, stretched and endured the last leg of a transcontinental flight.

So I kept to myself, and thought back to when Casey Stoner joined Ducati in 2007, the year he’d go on to win the world title on the new 800cc formula. As Ducati’s MotoGP Project Leader, Suppo was often asked what Ducati had done to make the GP7 so dominant? What had they gotten so right that Stoner was running away with the title?

Again and again Suppo told the media that it was really Casey who was performing the miracles, not the bike. Again and again that statement was dismissed as an attempt to deflect attention from whatever secret mojo Ducati had come up with. And once again in 2011, hindsight has shed an interesting light on Ducati’s past. It turns out Suppo was right when he said it was Casey, not the bike.

Photo of the Week: Unmet Expectations

09/19/2011 @ 12:22 pm, by Scott Jones14 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Unmet Expectations Photo of the week Valentino Rossi Qatar brake discs Scott Jones

At the MotoGP test in Qatar, the week before the 2011 season opener, all eyes were on Rossi and the GP11. Naively we wondered if he would be able to recreate his magic at Welkom in 2004, and comparisons to Rossi’s move to Yamaha were inevitable. Some in the paddock thought he was in better shape going to Ducati than he had been when he left Honda, after all Casey Stoner had managed to win several times at the end of 2010 on the bike Rossi was taking over, while the pre-Rossi Yamaha was widely considered a mess on two wheels. Burgess’ remarks that he and Rossi would sort the Ducati straight away gave us the impression that the dream team could see what was wrong, and knew at least in theory what to do when they took over Stoner’s ride.

In spite of the problems that had been apparent since the first GP11 test in Valencia the previous November, our faith in the Rossi, Burgess, & Co.’s expertise still had many of us prepared for a strong finish at Losail — expecting Rossi to do at least as well on the GP11 as Stoner had managed on the GP10. “He’ll at least win a few races once he gets the Ducati sorted,” was a common attitude in Qatar.

Photo of the Week: Unsung Hero

09/12/2011 @ 2:45 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Unsung Hero photo of the week Alvaro Bautista hero Scott Jones

With only rare exceptions, you don’t get to the top level of motorbike racing without being fast and having proven your raciness in the lower classes. Former 125cc World Champion and 250cc runner-up Álvaro Bautista is an example of a great rider on a bike that simply doesn’t allow him to show all of his talents.

After fantastic seasons in 125s and 250s, Bautista joined MotoGP in 2010 on the struggling Rizla Suzuki team aboard a bike that was flat out uncompetitive, managing a pair of 5th places for his best results of the year. He began 2011 as the team’s sole rider by breaking his leg in Qatar and missing the first two races, returning at Estoril while still mending. Since then he has managed a variety of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place finished as the 800cc Suzuki shows signs of life just at it reaches the end of its duty.

Photo of the Week: Do or Die

09/05/2011 @ 1:44 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off

Photo of the Week: Do or Die Photo of the week Jorge Lorenzo Scott Jones

Some say that defending a World Championship is harder than winning it in the first place. Though much of the MotoGP world may already have assigned the 2011 title to Casey Stoner, reigning champ Jorge Lorenzo is not going down without a fight. After starting the year respectfully deferring to the doomsday combination of Stoner on a factory Honda, and downplaying his chances of successfully defending his title, Lorenzo has quietly notched up eight podium finishes, including three wins, with only a single retirement. His sixth place at Assen he owes to nemesis Marco Simoncelli, but Lorenzo still managed to remount and score valuable points.

With all the attention on HRC’s final bid to win an 800cc title, after being the main proponent in the switch from 990s, Lorenzo’s moments in the spotlight have often focused on his new role: that of man without a prayer. But at Misano (spoiler alert!) he showed a lot of heart, grabbing the win and asserting his position as the one Stoner still has to beat. With help from Dani Pedrosa, who passed Stoner to take second place, Lorenzo now trails by 35 points, with five races to go, and has perhaps more momentum than he’s enjoyed all season.

Of course with the Aragon GP up next, Lorenzo will have to try and forget last year, when Nicky Hayden passed him to take a rare podium, and the race was won by, who else, Casey Stoner. If Stoner could beat the field by 5 seconds on a Ducati, he should be even tougher to beat on the Honda, and Lorenzo will have to dig deep to keep his defense hopes alive.