California Formalizes Lane-Splitting Law

It finally happened, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 51 into law, making California the first state to put lane-splitting on its books. Lane-splitting has always been legal of course (despite what other headlines might suggest), though was legal only by a technical loophole in the California Vehicle Code (CVC). The passage of AB 51 now formally adds lane-splitting as a condoned practice by the CVC; and more importantly, it expressly allows government agencies, like the California Highway Patrol, to create and teach best-practice guidelines. AB 51 still creates some basic jurisprudence issues, like granting legislative powers to the executive branch, but many in the pro-lane-splitting movement seem to look past that issue, instead focusing on what it brings to motorcyclists.

EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

The EPA DOJ have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices. Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Moto3: Sky VR46 Fires Romano Fenati

As expected, Romano Fenati has been formally released from his contract with the Sky VR46 team. The Italian was suspended from the team after an incident at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That was a temporary measure, but it has now been made permanent. Fenati was released for behavioral issues. The Italian had been abusive towards members of the team, and had not behaved in a professional manner. The incident in Austria was just the latest in a long line of breaches of behavioral conduct, which included confirmed reports of verbal abuse and unconfirmed and unsubstantiated reports of physical conflict. The Sky VR46 team have announced that they will be bringing Lorenzo Dalla Porta in to join Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega in the Moto3 team.

Two New BMW R nineT Models Coming

Filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that BMW Motorrad has two more variations of its retro-styled motorcycle line coming to the USA: the BMW R nineT Pure and the BMW R nineT Racer. These two bikes would join the other two air-cooled models we have already seen from the Germans, the base model BMW R nineT and the recently released BMW R nineT Scrambler, which debuted at EICMA last year. Our friends at Motorcycle.com spotted the CARB filings, and believe one of the machines will be based off the BMW Lac Rose concept – an ADV throw-back to when the Dakar Rally actually raced to Dakar. The other model though, could be anyone’s guess, as BMW hasn’t dropped any other concepts or hints in the past months.

Q&A: KTM On-Road Technical Director Sebastian Risse – The Development of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Bike

Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008. He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class. Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike. After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.

Here’s a Custom Ducati XDiavel by Roland Sands Design

In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel. Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches. This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog. There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel.

2017 KTM RC16 Officially Debuts

The Austrian GP might be tomorrow, but today the news is all about MotoGP’s newest entrant, KTM Racing. The Austrian team used its home to debut officially its MotoGP program, showing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike in its officially Red Bull livery for next year. The livery itself is what you would expect between at KTM/Red Bull collaboration, with the same blue and orange paint scheme as can be found on the Red Bull KTM Moto3 squad. The big difference of course is the rumored fire-breathing, 270hp, V4, engine, which Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will attempt to tame. The bike’s next outing will be at Valencia, where Thomas Lüthi and Mika Kallio will ride with the MotoGP-regulars once again, competing as wild card entries.

MotoGP Considering Team Communication via Dashboards

Dorna is considering allowing communication between teams and riders via the dashboard. At a meeting today between Dorna and the teams, initial discussions took place over a system to allow teams to pass very brief messages to the dashboard of the bikes. The ability to pass messages between team and bike has been made possible thanks to the transponders currently being used in MotoGP. Those allow for a very limited and very short burst of communication as the bikes pass the timing loops at the track. Race Direction is currently using the system to pass signals to the dash in the case of a red flag, black flag or ride through penalty, but the system would also allow teams a limited ability to pass messages to the riders.

Norton Announces V4 Superbike, Again

A year ago, to the day, Norton announced that it was working on a street-going superbike that featured a 200hp, 1,200cc, V4 engine. Now, Norton confirms that news, saying that we will see the limited-production (200 units) machine later this fall. Yay. On the bright side, Norton posted a concept drawing of the new bike to its Facebook page, giving us at least something new to whet our appetites on the new motorcycle. The concept looks very similar to the sketch we saw last year, making today’s new a little bit about nothing. But, our friends at MotoFire report that Norton is still working on a 650cc project, which will debut later this year as well.

Is This the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6?…Nope

Someone is trying to pass off the above photo as the eagerly awaited 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 – unfortunately, it’s a fake. I’m actually surprised this piece of photoshop has some legs, and is making its way around the internet, considering how obvious the forgery. To verify its authenticity, all one would have to do is to compare the above photo with photos of the current generation Yamaha YZF-R1. Contrasting the two, it’s clear that the chassis and exposed parts of the engine are right off the Yamaha YZF-R1 (it’s easiest to see on the swingarm). The real smoking gun though is that the forger used a Yamaha press photo as their base. I was able to find the base photo, which clearly shows that the five-spoke wheels on the alleged R6 are in the exact same ones from a R1 press photo.

Preview of the Dutch TT: To the Great Natural Tracks

06/24/2015 @ 5:10 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Assen is a funny old track. And when I say old, I mean old, the event has been on the calendar since 1925, though back then there was no such thing as world championship, and the race took place between Rolde, Borger and Schoonloo, some ten kilometers east of Assen.

From 1926, it moved to a route between the villages of De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen and Laaghalerveen. The roads, forced into short straights with fast sweeping kinks and bends by the complex drainage patterns of the creeks and ditches which keep the region from reverting back to peat bogs, gave shape to the track which was to follow.

They still leave their mark on the circuit today, despite being a closed-circuit since 1955, though the track has been much shortened since then.

What remains is a track with nary a straight piece of asphalt on it. The back straight meanders between the Strubben hairpin and the fast right and long left of the Ruskenhoek, living up to its name of Veenslang, or Peat Snake.

The short stretches between the fast combinations of corners weave and flow, and the only thing keeping the front straight straight is the pit wall. As a piece of geometric design, it is a disaster.

As a race track, it is glorious, proving that the best tracks are not designed on paper, but laid out in a landscape. Mugello, Phillip Island, Assen: all great riders track, each owing a debt of gratitude to the landscape which forms them.

Notes from the Catalunya Post-Race Test: Honda’s 2014/2015 Hybrid, & The Frustration of Weather

06/16/2015 @ 12:03 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Frustration and resignation. Those were the two most prominent emotions at the post-race MotoGP test at Barcelona.

Two sides of the same coin, in reality, as the weather robbed teams in desperate need of track time of any chance of doing the hard work which will make them all a bit more competitive.

After an hour and a half of a dry track, a massive thunderstorm washed over the circuit, drenching the track and leaving it wet for the rest of the day.

Monday Summary at Catalunya: Rain Hits Post-Race Test

06/15/2015 @ 12:36 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Monday Summary at Catalunya: Rain Hits Post-Race Test

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Bradley Smith leaves Barcelona as the fastest of the MotoGP riders, after heavy rain disrupted testing shortly before midday, and left the track wet for the rest of the day.

The weather meant that some teams were forced to change their plans. Yamaha’s original plan to go riding in the afternoon was scrapped, the factory heading straight to Aragon for two more days of testing. There, they will be joined by Suzuki, as well as a number of Moto2 teams.

Preview of the Catalan GP: The Showdown in Catalunya

06/10/2015 @ 7:09 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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From Mugello to Barcelona, or from the heart of Italian motorcycle racing to the heart of Spanish motorcycling. Or rather, Catalan motorcycling, as any of the many Catalans which fill the paddock will happily point out. Then again, Catalunya is – ironically – at the heart of Spanish motorcycling itself.

If MotoGP had a home race, it would be here. Series organizer Dorna has its offices just south of Barcelona, and the working language of the organization is Catalan. Just east of the circuit lies the old factory of Derbi, once a mainstay of the 125cc class.

Check the birthplaces of any one of the riders racing on a Spanish license, and most of them hail from one of the towns and villages within an hour or two’s drive of the Montmeló circuit.

Most riders still have a house in the area, though many elect to live in the tiny mountainous tax haven of Andorra, because of the opportunities it affords for training, so they tell us.

With so much support, can the Spaniards – or Catalans, or Mallorcans – lock out the podium at home? It would be a crowd pleaser for sure, but getting three Spanish riders to fill out the MotoGP podium at Barcelona will be far from easy.

That there will be one, perhaps two Spaniards on the box is a given. But filling all three places? That is going to be tough.

Sunday Summary from Mugello: False Starts, Italian Pride, & Honda’s Predicament…Again

06/01/2015 @ 7:19 am, by David Emmett51 COMMENTS

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Mugello is always a little magical, but packed to the rafters with delirious fans, it becomes something greater than just a race track. Over 90,000 fans turned up in Tuscany on Sunday, up 20% from last year on the back of the renaissance of Valentino Rossi and of Ducati, complete with two Italian riders. Something special was always going to happen here.

It certainly did, but perhaps not in the way the fans had hoped. Valentino Rossi did not score the dream victory in front of the ecstatic yellow hordes that packed the hillsides, nor did Ducati finally get the elusive win they have been chasing since 2010.

But the MotoGP race was packed with excitement and incident, the Moto3 race was a typical Mugello classic, and even Moto2 had some tension down to the final lap. Those who came got their money’s worth.

Preview of the Italian GP: Italian Hearts Dare to Dream

05/28/2015 @ 1:00 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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I shall spare you the “rolling Tuscan hills” patter. That cliché will be trotted out in most of the press releases and previews you will read. Indeed, it is one I have done to death in many of my own previews of the race.

Like all clichés, it is based on an underlying truth: the Mugello circuit is a breathaking track, set in a stunning location, and scene of some of the greatest racing over the thirty Grand Prix which have been held here since 1976.

So good is the track that it has remained virtually unchanged, with only minor tweaks to improve safety. There are still a few spots which could use some improvement. The wall at the end of the main straight could use being moved further to the left, and the gravel trap on the exit of Poggio Secco is terrifyingly small, but fixing these would require moving some serious quantities of earth.

But this is Mugello, and so we look away and carry on. At least the astroturf has been removed, removing one possible source of danger.

The setting and the racetrack mean that this is always one of the highlights of the year, but 2015 could be even better than usual. It might even live up to the hype, of which there is justifiably plenty. But where to begin?

Bradley Smith & Pol Espargaro to Race at the Suzuka 8-Hour

05/25/2015 @ 11:25 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The line up for the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race looks to be the strongest for years. Today, Yamaha confirmed that Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro are to race for the factory entry at Suzuka, alongside Yamaha test rider and Japanese Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

Smith and Espargaro will face Casey Stoner and Michael van der Mark, who will be racing for the Honda factory team.

Rumors that Yamaha were taking their entry for the race very seriously first emerged at Jerez, where paddock gossip had Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo entering the race in the factory team.

MotoGP: Pol Espargaro Undergoes Surgery for Arm Pump

05/19/2015 @ 1:21 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Pol Espargaro has had surgery on his right arm to fix a problem with arm pump, the rider’s management team announced in a press release.

The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was operated on in Madrid by Dr. Angel Villamor, widely regarded as one of the top authorities on treating compartment syndrome, and the surgeon who treated Dani Pedrosa.

The surgery is judged to have gone well, and Espargaro is due to be examined again at the end of the week.

Preview of the French GP: A Schizophrenic Track in France

05/14/2015 @ 10:13 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The Le Mans round of MotoGP is a truly schizophrenic event. The track sits just south of the charming old city of Le Mans, a combination of medieval center and 19th Century industrial outskirts. The surrounding area is lush, rolling hills, woods alternating with open green fields.

It is very much a provincial idyll…until you reach the Le Mans circuit, and its campsites, where visions of Dante unfold before your eyes, and disinterested guards look on as large drunken hordes set about recreating some of the more gruesome scenes from Lord of the Flies.

Some people love it, others hate it. Veteran journalist Dennis Noyes always says it reminds of going to Hockenheim in the 1990s, when the police would not enter the woods at the heart of the track until the Monday after the race.

Then they would go in “to pull the bodies out,” as he so colorfully put it. Outside the track, the atmosphere is one of quiet provincial charm. Inside, all is wild, free, and out of control. It is an event that should be experienced at least once, though to be honest, once was enough for me.

Sunday Summary at Jerez: Lorenzo’s Unappreciated Excellence & Pushing Ducati’s Buttons

05/03/2015 @ 6:29 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

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One of the greatest privileges of my job is to stand at trackside and watch the riders up close. It is the ideal antidote to the malaise that can affect journalists like myself, who tend to spend too much time indoors, in the press room, in the back of garages, and in team trucks and hospitality units, endlessly talking to people in pursuit of information.

Walking out to Nieto, Peluqui, and Crivillé, Turns 9, 10 and 11 at Jerez, savoring the passion of the fans cheering as their favorite riders pass by, observing each rider closely as they pass, trying to see if I can see anything, learn anything, understand anything about the way the best motorcycle racers in the world handle their machines.

There is plenty to see, if you take the trouble to look. This morning, during warm up, I watched the riders brake and pitch their machines into Turn 9, give a touch of gas to Turn 10, before getting hard on the gas out of Turn 10 and onto the fast right-handers of 11 and 12.

In the transition from the left of Turn 8 to the right of Turn 9, you see the fast riders move slowly across the bike, while the slow riders move fast. You see them run on rails through Turns 9 and 10, before forcing the bike up onto the fatter part of the tire while still hanging off the side out of 10 and heading off to 11.

You see the extreme body position on the bike, almost at the limit of physics. It is hard to see how a rider can hang off the bike further, outside hands barely touching the handlebars, outside feet almost off the footpegs.

Photos and video barely start to do the riders justice. To experience it you need to see it from the track, and from the stands and hillsides that surround it.