Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Trackside Tuesday: Hang Loose

08/14/2012 @ 6:09 pm, by Daniel Lo16 COMMENTS

The corkscrew is widely considered to be the masterpiece of Laguna Seca, and few would argue that there is a more iconic turn in all of motorsports. For race fans from around the world, a pilgrimage to the world-famous California track doesn’t truly end until they have reached the corkscrew.

However, Turn Five is what holds a special place in my heart, as that is where I first stumbled off a bus five years ago as a starry-eyed first-time race attendee. Having only experienced motorcycle racing on various television and computer screens up to that point, I will forever remember my jaw dropping to the ground as I finally witnessed firsthand the awesome and terrifying presence of MotoGP machines.

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Trackside Tuesday: Scisma

08/07/2012 @ 11:20 pm, by Daniel Lo11 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi had just come off a relative high from Mugello having finished fifth at the Italian GP and less than twelve seconds behind race winner Jorge Lorenzo. Toss in the [admittedly somewhat cryptic] “let’s stick together” theme of his helmet and the seemingly positive talks with Audi, it appeared that the Italian legend just might be happy with where he was at Ducati Corse.

Fast-forward to the Thursday at Laguna Seca, where the pre-race press conference had just ended, the riders had all scattered about the room to answer additional questions. The small band of journalists crowded around Valentino were mostly speaking in Italian so I wasn’t able to understand much of what was being talked about but the number 46 was indeed mostly smiles, which I attempted to capture in my press room photos.

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Trackside Tuesday: Third Time’s the Charm?

07/31/2012 @ 6:33 pm, by Daniel Lo5 COMMENTS

Only a select few men in the world can say they have defeated Valentino Rossi in a last lap duel in a MotoGP race. On that very short list is one Toni Elias, who bested the Italian legend to the checkered flag for his first and only premier class victory at Estoril in 2006, on a satellite machine no less. Championship-deciding repercussions aside, the win granted Elias a contract extension at a time when his GP career was in doubt.

However, the onset of the 800cc era, coupled with the introduction of control tires the following year, would prove to be the start of a rough roller coaster ride for Tiger Toni. Five seasons, a Moto2 World Championship title, and two MotoGP exits later, Elias was given an extremely rare third shot at a premier class ride this past weekend as a replacement rider for the Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera. True to the up and down nature of his career in recent years, this opportunity came just a week after he parted ways with the Mapfre Apspar Moto2 team at the previous round in Mugello, after being unable to replicate his title-winning form back in the GP middleweight class.

Unfortunately, his latest attempt at challenging the fastest motorcycle racers in the world came to an abrupt and disappointing end after crashing out of the US GP on only his second lap. With no further confirmed top class appearances on the horizon, Toni’s tenure at the pinnacle of the sport appears to have ended in the gravel trap at Laguna Seca. However, a MotoGP race win will always be on his curriculum vitae, and that’s no small feat.

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Hitchhiker.

07/30/2012 @ 5:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Photo: © 2012 Rick Grayston – All Rights Reserved

Trackside Tuesday: The Summer of Our Discontent

07/24/2012 @ 3:42 pm, by Scott Jones36 COMMENTS

The view from pit lane into Ben Spies’ garage has been fairly grim in 2012, and today’s announcement that Ben is leaving the factory Yamaha team at the end of the season sheds some new light on this gloomy situation. If you have watched Ben since his AMA days, where he learned from, and then triumphed over, the formidable Mat Mladin, you may not have been surprised by Spies’ rookie season WSBK Championship, or his success at Tech 3 when he entered MotoGP, or his being the first non-alien to win a dry race since the Rossi-Lorenzo-Pedrosa-Stoner lockout. His move to Rossi’s spot alongside Lorenzo made perfect sense, as did Ben’s good results last season.

Surely after a season of adjustment, in 2012 he would repeat his success at Assen, by adding more wins and taking his rightful place among the elite riders. His difficulties in 2012 could be chalked up to the pressure of being at the very top for the first time in his career. Or could they?

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Trackside Tuesday: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

07/17/2012 @ 3:43 pm, by Jules Cisek13 COMMENTS

The somewhat thin crowds at Mugello this past weekend were in a way reflective of the lack of Italian domination in Grand Prix racing over the last few seasons. With Spaniards taking all 3 GP Championships in 2010, three non-italian nations doing the same in 2011, Valentino Rossi unlikely to win a race for the second season in a row, and inconsistent results for Italians in the lower classes, things look bleak for Italia in 2012 as well.

And while this didn’t stop those present from showing the energy and passion that this racing mecca is so well known for, it shouldn’t be too surprising that despite the incredible Moto2 win by Andrea Ianonne and the endearing swagger and impassioned ride to 2nd of Romano Fenati in Moto3, I pick a non-Italian rider to spotlight after attending the Gran Premio D’Italia TIM.

That rider is the reigning Moto2 World Champion, and MotoGP rookie sensation Stefan Bradl.

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Trackside Tuesday: A Requiem for Better Days

07/03/2012 @ 3:28 pm, by Scott Jones49 COMMENTS

We could write a long list of what those involved in the Valentino Rossi-Ducati partnership have lost. Money, reputation, time, all have been lost in large quantities and on behalf of some of the most important people in motorbike racing. Smaller losses of various kinds have been incurred by many more people whose livelihoods are tied to Rossi’s success. But a huge number of people have lost something intangible but nonetheless important because of the inability of Rossi and Ducati to produce a winning package.

As fans of motorsport, we have been fortunate to be present to watch and participate in, even if only as spectators, the career of a truly remarkable sportsman. World Champions gain entry into an elite club, but multiple World Champions whose careers span many years, formulas, and sets of rules, are rare indeed. And among those few individuals, the even rarer sort who not only win and win and win on the track but also inspire millions of fans across boundaries of nationality, gender, brand loyalty, and so on are even more remarkable.

Rossi is one of those supremely rare people, and he holds that distinction regardless of having his detractors. Whatever a minority chooses to feel about him, he has accomplished more as a motorcycle racer than anyone since Agostini, and in some ways he has accomplished much more. One of those ways is in his ability to charm millions of people via his skills in the media.

Agostini raced before the internet, before today’s massive TV audiences, and simply didn’t have the opportunity to reach as many people as Rossi has. Those many people who were attracted to motorcycle racing because first they felt an attraction to Valentino Rossi have lost something since his switch to Ducati. They have not felt much of the joy that his style and success thrived on during the Honda and Yamaha years.

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Trackside Tuesday: Patience is a Virtue

06/27/2012 @ 10:44 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

One of the great things about the support classes in Grand Prix motorbike racing is the depth of the competition. While there are a handful of favorites in each class, we generally don’t have the Three Alien situation of MotoGP. Once a rider leaves that broader talent and equipment pool for the premier class however, his potential results are limited by the bike he lands on.

Alvaro Bautista paid his dues for two years on an 800cc Suzuki, finishing in lucky thirteenth spot for both the 2010 and 2011 championships. If Suzuki hadn’t folded up and gone home for 2012, Bautista might still have been on an uncompetitive bike with a crowd of fans who could only think fondly back to what an exciting 125cc and 250cc rider he had been.

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Trackside Tuesday: Seeing is Not Always Believing

06/19/2012 @ 2:13 pm, by Scott Jones17 COMMENTS

For the first quarter of the British Grand Prix, there was a Ducati racing at the front  in a dry race, something we’ve not seen for some time. Almost as soon as Nicky Hayden crossed the line with 15 of 20 laps to go, his GP12 changed from something that could match the pace of the leaders into something else entirely.

Hayden lost fourth place to Lorenzo, then fifth to Dovizioso, both times going wide as his bike suddenly wouldn’t turn like it had been doing for the previous four laps. Hayden said in his post-race media scrum that the bike had been great until it destroyed the soft rear tire.

Earlier, when I’d walked onto pit lane and headed for the grid, we felt sprinkles in the air and wondered if the volatile weather was about to change from cool-but-dry to wet-and-even-colder, as it had several times over the weekend.

It seemed unlikely that it would start raining hard enough to begin the race on wet tires, but up and down pit lane crew chiefs appeared from their boxes, looking up at the skies, wondering what to do. Soft or hard tires? Dry, cool, warm, damp, what would the track be like over the course of twenty laps?

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Trackside Tuesday: Good Man

06/12/2012 @ 12:14 pm, by Daniel Lo6 COMMENTS

The stage was set for Guy Martin to take his first ever TT win in 2012, with the popular fan favorite returning with the same team with which he scored four podium finishes in the previous year’s contest. Top-level crew, competitive machinery, and one of the fastest men to ever lap the Mountain Course teaming up again for another assault. Reaching the top step of the podium should be all but a forgone conclusion — or at least in theory.

What resulted instead was truly a week to forget, starting with Guy getting nudged off the podium in the opening Superbike race when his crew was unable to change his rear tire for the final two laps. The first Supersport race ended prematurely after his engine gave out, forcing a retirement into the pits, after just a single lap. The Superstock race that followed was barely an improvement, with Guy taking an anonymous eighth place finish, after being off the pace from the start. Further engine problems in the second Supersport race again saw him off the podium, finishing down in fifth. To cap it off, a final shot at a good result was thwarted by the first ever cancellation of the Senior TT race. Things did not go according to plan, to say the least.

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