MotoGP: Aspar Loses “Drive M7″ Sponsorship Before Qatar

It has been a tough day for sponsorship news in the MotoGP paddock. After news earlier of LCR Honda’s title sponsor CWM being subject of a fraud investigation, the Aspar Honda team have lost their title sponsor, Drive M7. The Malaysian energy drink firm have withdrawn their sponsorship of the team on the day before the 2015 season was due to start. According to German language publication Speedweek, the Drive M7 management told team owner Jorge Martinez about the decision on Tuesday night. The decision was a surprise, as it had been expected that the deal would continue in 2015, with both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty riding in Drive M7 testing colors during preseason testing.

Racer Dane Westby Has Died

It’s with a heavy heart that we regretfully inform you of the passing of AMA Pro Road Racing and MotoAmerica racer Dane Westby, who died on Monday night while riding his street bike to his parents’ house in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Early reports say Dane struck a utility pole with his Honda Hawk street bike, and according to a report on RoadRacing World that quoted Westby’s friend and former-mechanic Dustin Meador, the 28-year-old may have been trying to avoid a collision with another vehicle at the time of the crash. After six-seasons in AMA Pro Road Racing’s Daytona SportBike class, where he finished second in the 2012 Championship, Dane was set to start in MotoAmerica’s Superstock 1000 class on-board a Yamahalube-backed Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R1.

Troy Bayliss Announces Permanent Retirement from WSBK

To paraphrase a little bit, Troy Bayliss is absolutely, positively, for reals this time, never going to race in World Superbikes again, or so said the 45-year-old Australian after he completed the second WSBK race in Thailand on Sunday. Bayliss has been filling in for the injured Davide Giugliano on the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike factory squad, but it seems the three-time WSBK champion will call it quits here in Thailand. The announcement also effectively squashes rumors that Bayliss would do a couple more races with Ducati, as Giugliano is pegged to be absent for two more rounds. “I’ve had a great time. I didn’t expect to win, it was great to experience it all again but I’ve had my time so I am happy to go home and enjoy my family, and leave it to the young guys,” said Bayliss talking to WorldSBK.com.

China Set to Buy Pirelli for €7.1 Billion

China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) is set to buy into tire-maker Pirelli, with what is currently a €7.1 billion deal. The move would put the 143-year-old Italian company in Chinese ownership, with ChemChina being the majority and controlling shareholder. ChemChina had planned to offer €15/share to existing Pirelli stock owners, but that number may have to be lifted after a recent rally in the stock’s price. Once the deal concludes though, it is expected that ChemChina will take Pirelli private once the buyout is complete. The impetus for the buyout is that Pirelli’s knowledge making tires would be a huge asset to ChemChina’s current tire production, not to mention that Pirelli’s free production inventory could be used to make other ChemChina products.

The New R1 Would Look Hot in Kenny Roberts Livery

The 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1 LE livery, which was a yellow, black, and white homage to Kenny Roberts Sr., is perhaps the greatest livery ever to adorn an R1, straight from the Yamaha factory. Whether you are a loyal subject of King Kenny, or you just enjoy the fetching, yet simple, racing design, the Roberts livery is a treasure to see in any form — but especially so at speed. Giving us a glimpse as to what the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 would look like with such a limited edition paint scheme, Oberdan Bezzi has once again whet our appetite ahead of a weekend full of riding. And for you Giacomo Agostini fans, there is something special waiting for you after the jump as well. Enjoy!

Honda Bulldog Concept Lets the Dogs Out in Osaka

After first showing us the Honda SFA and Honda CRF250 Rally concepts, Big Red made good on its promise for another motorcycle concept premiere at the Osaka Motorcycle Show, debuting the Honda Bulldog concept. With the face of a Ruckus, and built to “leisurely” take-on the great outdoors in an unassuming manor, the Honda Bulldog is a stout off-roader that adds a new slant to the term adventure-bike. With wide 15″ knobby tires, a 28″ seat height, and 400cc parallel-twin engine mated to a six-speed gearbox, the Bulldog certainly isn’t what you expect to see bombing down the trails, yet it sorta makes sense.

A Naked Yamaha YZF-R25 Is Coming Soon?

If you believe the reports coming out of India and Southeast Asia, Yamaha is working on a naked version of its YZF-R25 sport bike. Presumably to be call the Yamaha MT-25, the naked bike would continue Yamaha’s trend of making naked version of its fully faired sport bikes, similar to the recently released Yamaha MT-125 that is available for the European market. With images of the machine testing on public roads abounding, the MT-25 seems likely to see production, so the real intrigue will be in what markets Yamaha makes the machine available. With Honda already offering faired (Honda CBR300R) and unfaired versions (Honda CB300F) of its small-displacement motorcycle in the US, Yamaha could easily go head-to-head with Big Red with the YZF-R3 and an FZ-03 variant, based off the R3 design.

Kawasaki Applies for Electric Motorcycle Patent

Need further proof that the future of motorcycling will include electrics? Take this recently published patent application from Kawasaki, that the Japanese OEM filed for back in 2011. The claims are fairly rudimentary, though they do include a transmission, with Kawasaki’s lawyers mostly outlining the basics of a motorcycle powered by an electric motor, of course the news is less about the contents of the patent application, and more about the fact that it was applied for, in the first place. When will we see an electric motorcycle concept from Kawasaki is anyone’s guess, though there are two big motorcycle shows coming up in Japan in a couple weeks’ time. In reality, we doubt we’ll see something so soon from Kawasaki, but if the Kawasaki H2 has shown us anything, it is that anything is possible from Kawasaki right now.

Is KTM Planning a V4-Powered Sport Bike?

Why would KTM be riding around on a camouflaged Aprilia Tuono V4? That is the question of the day, after a spy photographer caught the Austrian company testing in Spain with such a machine. The answer of course points to KTM working on a V4 street bike platform, which shouldn’t be too surprising since KTM CEO Stefan Pierer already tipped the media off to the fact that it is working on a MotoGP entry that would be based around a beastly V4 engine called the RC16. While Pierer confirmed the MotoGP, as well as a track-only consumer version of the GP bike, zie Austrians have been mum about other motorcycles in KTM’s lineup sharing the new V4 powerplant.

Honda CRF250 Rally Concept Breaks Cover in Japan

Adventure riders, you prayers have been answered. Honda is set to debut a new off-road model at the Osaka Motorcycle Show, the Honda CRF250 Rally. Based off the Honda CRF250L platform, the Rally concept is basically the CRF250L with rally-styled bodywork. The Honda CRF250 Rally concept will get its worldwide debut alongside the Honda True Adventure concept, which we first saw at last year’s EICMA show. This makes for an interesting dichotomy, as the CRF250 Rally is set to look like the CRF450 Rally race bike, while the True Adventure (cough, Africa Twin, cough) borrows heavily from the race bike’s technology package. With Honda showing a 250cc ADV model and a 1,000cc model at the same show, one has to wonder when a consumer-level version of the CRF450 Rally race bike will be ready as well.

Tuesday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/24/2014 @ 5:35 pm, by Jamey Price4 COMMENTS

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The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a grueling event to cover, and nothing is worse than walking off a plane, from more or less sea level, and heading to the highest part of the mountain for Practice 1.

Pikes Peak is unique. The organizers split the mountain into three sections — cars run two-thirds of the course , while bikes, ATVs and sidecars run the other third.

The bikes started at Devil’s Playground for our first practice, which puts us immediately at high altitude. It tests the bikes and our bodies to the limit. But thankfully, first practice is just about getting the bikes dialed in, and less about making fast times.

To finish first, first you have to finish. Reliability on this mountain will put cracks in even the most well laid out plans. Some riders were already pushing hard, and it was evident. Others were just getting the lay of the land.

Tomorrow we run the middle sector of the mountain. As a photographer, it is my personal favorite spot to shoot. But I’m not looking forward to another 2:15am alarm.

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

05/06/2014 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Normally our “Trackside Tuesday” series features something from the MotoGP paddock, since that is where the A&R photographers spend most of their time swinging lenses. But, I thought we would change it up a bit today, especially since the marketing machine for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway for next month’s race.

I have a love-hate relationship with Pikes Peak. The racing is unlike anything else you will see in America, and it survives by what seems like tradition alone. Set on one of Colorado’s famous 14er peaks, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet of undulating road, which starts fast and sweeping, tightens to slow and technical, and then finally relents to some degree near the summit.

It is not a race for the timid, as many of the turns feature an extreme of terrain: granite walls or sheer drops. At one turn, called The Bottomless Pit, the joke is that if you crash there (and don’t break every bone in your body on the two foot tall wall at the tarmac’s end), you will starve to death before you reach terra firma. It’s a bit of hyperbole for sure, but it still isn’t a turn where I would want to go down, if I was a racer.

It amazes me then that the hill climb is in its 92nd season, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is really just one good lawsuit away from being sacked; and to be frank, it’s not like the race has done much in the past to mitigate its exposure. So, it is refreshing to see some professionalism being brought to this iconic race, and 2014 will see some spectator guidelines being imposed on the PPIHC.

There will of course be a few misinformed people that will call this the death of Pikes Peak, but the honest truth is that the race, if left unchanged, would have been the death of itself — and it’s not like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb isn’t still without its dangers.

That might be the reason that Guy Martin has finally decided to make the journey over from across the pond, and give the local teams and riders a run for their money. The Isle of Man TT star will be riding on a custom turbocharged cafe racer, which with the added boost of nitrous, is said to put down near 500hp.

The whole thing is a ridiculous entry, which has its sights squarely on the outright motorcycle record at Pikes Peak, much like Sebastien Loeb’s run last year was an assault on the four-wheeled record.

Guy Martin to Race the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

05/05/2014 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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It seems Guy Martin, the barely understandable, though immediately lovable road racer of Isle of Man TT fame will compete in the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. One of the stars of the Isle of Man TT, and perhaps the fastest man on the Mountain Course who has never won an IOMTT race, Martin’s involvement with “The Race to the Clouds” has been a long time coming.

The organizers at the PPIHC have long been trying to get riders and teams from the Isle of Man TT onto the Pikes Peak road course, in an effort to bolster the race’s international appeal and reputation, as well as breathe new life and interest into the historic American race.

Our sources say a special effort was made to lure Guy Martin, who was the centerpiece personality in the Isle of Man’s Closer to the Edge film, and it seems those efforts have finally paid off with this latest news.

This is the Reason Why Pikes Peak Needs Spectator Zones

04/25/2014 @ 2:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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I got a bit fired up yesterday while I was talking about the spectator zones that will be put into place for the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and I got a bit of flak for calling it “the world’s most unprofessionally run international motorsport event.It is, full stop.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is about to host its 92nd running, and in the almost hundred years of competition, the Race to Clouds has failed to move beyond its folksy roots.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this race. It’s a great historic event, which actually gets more coverage abroad than it does in the United States. But, it has some serious growing to do from a safety, media, coverage, and promotional point-of-view.

Implementing new rules for the 2014, as to where spectators can view the race, is a huge step forward for Pikes Peak, and the following video is a great example why some modicum of professional organization needs to be brought to this race.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Will Have Major Spectator Restrictions in 2014 and Onward, For Safety

04/24/2014 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The world’s most unprofessionally run international motorsport event is growing up a little bit for 2014, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will finally have spectator restrictions on its mountain-side race course starting with this year’s event.

Instead of having spectators sitting right on the tarmac, in a sort of 12.42 mile free-for-all, event organizers for “The Race to the Clouds” will have severe spectating restrictions, with six designated spectating zones located throughout the race course.

In total, the six spectating zones will account for roughly 1.5 miles of course length, so roughly 1/10 the original area available to PPIHC fans. As such for 2014, a general admission ticket will give a spectator access to the starting line, Halfway Picnic Grounds, Ski Area, Glen Cove, Cove Creek, and the Devil’s Playground.

However, once the race begins, fans will be stuck at whichever location they choose, and law enforcement officers will issue trespassing tickets to those fans found outside those areas, i.e. hiking the interconnecting trails along the race course.

“Taking Performance to New Heights” – The Story of SBK Factory Racing at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

12/16/2013 @ 11:13 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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I have been patiently waiting for this video from OnTheThrottle.tv to show up in my inbox, ever since I saw Chris Matye filming the project at the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, as there is a great story to be told about the pair of Kawasaki ZRX1224RR superbikes that SBK Factory campaigned at the latest Race to the Clouds.

Riding the two Kawasakis were Jake Holden and James Compton, and both riders put down impressive times up the 12.42 mile Pikes Peak course — Holden was the third quickest motorcycle up the mountain overall, and Compton sixth. The pair were second and third fastest in their Exhibition Powersports class, behind only the current record holder, Carlin Dunne.

With now four installments to the series, “Taking Performance to New Heights” features two men who found themselves the victims of the new economy that is currently at play in AMA Pro Road Racing, and follows their quest to race then at Pikes Peak.

The videos also tells the story behind the development, building, and racing of a very special and unique pair of race bikes, and I can tell you from examining these ZRX’s up-close in person, and watching them race at Pikes Peak, SBK Factory’s Kawasaki ZRX1224RR looks as good as it goes (Holden’s bike is for sale, by the way).

If you planned on getting any work done today, you should probably not continue reading this post. We have all four installments of SBK Factory’s Pikes Peak story on video for you here.

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak Race Bike

07/12/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Another year, and another Pikes Peak race bike from the Falkner Livingston Racing crew to frustrate current Ducati Multistrada 1200 S owners. This gorgeous machine was quick all throughout practice week in the hands of Micky Dymond, but being the first runner out of the gate on race day, with a very green track that had endured two heavy rainstorms, Micky hit the tarmac on several occasions during his Race to the Clouds — a herculean effort in its own right.

Certainly not the result the team deserved, but as Nicky Hayden is found to remind us, that’s why we line-up on the grid on Sunday. Taking the “official” fastest time up the mountain on a motorcycle was Bruno Langlois, with the Frenchman riding a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S as well. Of course, we all know Carlin Dunne was the fastest up the course on his electric superbike from Lightning Motorcycles, but the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb doesn’t count the exhibition class in those results.

Each year I wax on about how gorgeous these Multistradas are, and this year is no different. In the pictures after the jump you will find yet another mouth-watering Ducati, with a new race livery, a custom-built exhaust from Akrapovič (only six were made), carbon brakes, a dry slipper-clutch conversion, and a bevy of other interesting modifications to the Italian adventure sport-tourer. Enjoy!

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles Beat All Gas Bikes at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

06/30/2013 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

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It wasn’t the outright course record that we had hoped for, but Carlin Dunne set a superb 10’00.694 time up the mountain on his Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike, besting the top gas-bike time of the day, a 10’21.323 that was set by Bruno Langlois on his 1205cc class Ducati Multistrada 1200 S.

Setting the fastest time ever for an electric motorcycle up Pikes Peak, Dunne likely would have broken his own outright record had the PPIHC race course not been extremely green after two days of intermittent downpours.

Describing the course as having very little traction, compared to the earlier practice days, Dunne cited at least a dozen spots where he could have improved upon his time, but also acknowledged that one of those twelve areas likely would have been his stopping point for the day, as was the case for a bevy of other competitors.

The first major motorsport event to see an electric motorcycle out perform its gas counterparts, the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will surely be remembered as a turning-point for the historic race, and also for motorsport in general.

2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Motorcycle Results

06/30/2013 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Set Fastest Qualifying Time Ever for a Motorcycle at Pikes Peak

06/28/2013 @ 10:38 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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In its second year of having a fully paved road course to the summit, it should come as no surprise then that qualifying for the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb saw the quickest time ever set by a motorcycle.

It should also come as no surprise that the man setting the record was Carlin Dunne, the 2011 race winner and rookie of the year, and 2012 race winner and outright motorcycle record holder.

Qualifying on the lower section of the Pikes Peak course, Dunne put down an astounding 4’13 lap time — putting him five seconds clear of his nearest two-wheeled competition.

While it is impressive that Dunne was able to beat out the Ducati Multistrada 1200’s in the 1205cc class, what is perhaps the most intriguing piece of news is that Dunne set the qualifying record while riding the Lightning Motorcycles Flying Banana*.