Nicky Hayden Revels in First World Superbike Win

“That’s why we line up on Sunday.” This was a throwaway comment from Nicky Hayden made during his MotoGP title winning campaign of 2006. The American was referring to the fact that anything could happen over the course of a race, but on Sunday he showed again that the true reason why racers line up on Sunday is to win. Hayden claimed a stunning maiden WorldSBK victory in difficult conditions at the Sepang International Circuit this passed weekend. For Hayden, having waited ten years for a vicotry, it was clear in the aftermath just how much it meant for The Kentucky Kid to finally win again. “I only felt confident of winning once I’d crossed the finish line. I learned a long time ago — and if you see me or my brothers, or my Dad — we never celebrate until the bike crosses the finish line…”

MotoGP: Maverick Viñales Jumps Ship to Yamaha

There has been a great deal of smoke around this fire, but Maverick Viñales has finally inked a deal with the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. Though there has been chatter on the subject since Friday, the news was confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber today. Together with the news of Dani Pedrosa staying at Repsol Honda, all of these reports should end one of the largest focal points of speculation in the GP paddock. The move will see Viñales racing alongside his childhood hero, Valentino Rossi, for the next two seasons; and it also means things are back to square-one for the Ecstar Suzuki MotoGP team, as it looks for a new rider to lead the project on the track.

Ride in Peace, Rob Harris – Founder of Canada Moto Guide

It is again with a heavy heart that we have to report the passing not only of a colleague, but also a friend, as Rob Harris passed away yesterday, while riding dirt bikes in Ontario, Canada. A Brit who found his way into Canada, “Editor ‘arris” was very much the engine that drove the Canadian motorcycle news website Canada Moto Guide, serving as its Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief. His departure will mean the creation of a huge hole in the Canada’s motorcycling landscape. The intersection of old-school journalism values, with new-school media savvy, Rob was one of the good ones. Our hearts are with Rob’s wife Courtney, and their two girls, Cate and Chloe. Along with the whole CMG team, we will be mourning the loss of our friend and colleague. Ride in peace, brother.

XXX: Team Kawasaki SRC Ninja ZX-10R World Race Bike

I know we have mentioned before our love for endurance racing machines. The FIM Endurance World Championship just doesn’t get nearly enough play to soothe our appetite. It is the last international motorcycle racing series that has a proper tire war; it has strong factory involvement that can see a number of brands winning on any given weekend; and it is also the only true “team sport” in motorcycle racing. What’s not to like, right? Leading the pack so far this season is Team Kawasaki SRC, which won the season-opener at Le Mans, with riders Greg Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive, and Fabian Foret at the helm. Team Kawasaki SRC has always been one of the stronger teams in the Endurance World Championship, and this year it looks like thing could finally come together for “Team Verte”.

The SnoPed is An Evil Villain’s Snowbike

Summer is right around the corner for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, so the obviously appropriate time to talk about a snowbike is now, right? What the SnoPed lacks in seasonal appropriateness, it absolutely makes up for in super-villain stature, as the modern-looking snowbike looks like it rolled (is that the right verb?) off the set of a Hollywood spy movie. The brainchild of American designer Joey Ruiter, SnoPed features a 90cc engine (out of a Chrysler Sno-runner) underneath its sculpted body, which isn’t exactly going to blow your socks off when knee-deep in the powpow, but is enough to scurry down a groomed cross-country trail. Ruiter’s project with the SnoPed is really a design exercise and a good excuse to play dress-up. We take it as such, at least.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Action Cameras

I know what you are already thinking, everyone and their mom already has an action camera. To make matters worse, GoPro (the leader in this realm) has seen its stock price drop in what can only be described as a complete free fall for the past month, thanks mostly to lagging sales. So, how can action cameras be the next, next big thing in the motorcycle industry? The answer is a simple one, if you will allow me to explain. The next, next big thing for motorcycles isn’t the cameras themselves – those are basically already at commodity status for consumers – but instead the future for action cameras resides in integrated camera platforms for motorcycles.

Yamaha R1M Café Racer by Holographic Hammer

Even if most of it is just manipulating pixels, we are big fans of the work being done by the guys at Holographic Hammer, as they are bringing something fresh and unique to the industry, which is always a good thing. That being said, we wanted to take a minute to talk about one of HH’s recent pieces: a café racer design based off of the Yamaha R1M superbike. The idea is sort of out there, but yet also makes a reasonable amount of sense. Let’s be frank, the idea of using an R1 for a café racer concept is our kind of crazy. But, the design also makes some sense when you look at Yamaha’s recent focus on its “sport heritage” lineup, which is an attempt to appeal to the post-authentic crowd.

BMW Brings Emergency SOS “eCall” System to Motorcycles

In an effort to improve safety for motorcyclists, BMW Motorrad has developed what it calls an “Intelligent Emergency Call” system, which allows motorcyclists to call for help with the touch of a button on their motorcycle. The system is part of a larger push in Europe for an “eCall” emergency SOS program that would alert emergency personnel to a vehicle crash with greater expediency and efficiency. According to the pan-European eCall trial, systems like BMW’s can bring emergency services to a crash scene 40% to 50% faster, and the European Commission estimates that an eCall system like BMW’s could save up to 2,500 lives each year (saving €26 billion in the process, as well).

More Electronic Rider Aids Comes to the Dirt – Husqvarna’s 2017 Motocross Line Features Traction Control

The rise of electronic rider aids has come to consumer-level dirt bikes, with Husqvarna now offering traction control on all of its four-stroke motocross motorcycles for the 2017 model year. Traction control on dirt bikes isn’t a new concept, with racing machines featuring the technology for almost a decade now (in some form or another, and depsite what the rules say), but Husqvarna’s foray into the use of electronics marks a new era for consumer dirt bikes. As we see already in the on-road segments, traction control and other electronics are proving themselves to be the new horsepower.

What the Honda Kumamoto Factory Closure Means for You

After devastating tremors in the region, Honda’s Kumamoto factory, as well as the facilities of their nearby suppliers, were closed for equipment and structural repairs. Making progress on those repairs, Honda partially re-opened its Kumamoto facility two weeks ago, though the factory’s production capabilities currently remain limited. Now, the latest word from Honda is that Kumamoto will be back to full capacity by mid-August of this year, though it goes without saying that the production time will affect the rollout of several Honda machines. For those who don’t know, the Kumamoto factory is Honda’s flagship installation, and it produces many of Honda’s top motorcycles (Gold Wing, CBR1000RR, VFR1200F, CRF250X, etc).

2015 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Preview – What Can We Expect As MotoGP Returns To Action?

02/03/2015 @ 12:11 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.

And yet the two most important and interesting developments won’t even be at the first Sepang test.

Ducati’s much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for primetime, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month.

Yamaha’s fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.

The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha’s gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders.

Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.

The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same.

Perhaps the factories have caught on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.

Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Pol Espargaro – 6th

01/05/2015 @ 5:12 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc MarquezValentino RossiJorge LorenzoDani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso.

6th – 136 points – Pol Espargaro

Being a MotoGP rookie got a lot tougher after 2013. Marc Márquez raised the bar to an almost unattainable level by winning his second ever MotoGP race, the title in his debut season, and smash a metric cartload of records. Anyone entering the class after Márquez inevitably ends up standing in his shadow.

Which is a shame, as it means that Pol Espargaro’s rookie season has not received the acclaim it deserves. The 2013 Moto2 champion started off the season on the back foot, breaking his collarbone at the final test, just a couple of weeks before the first race at Qatar.

He crashed again during that opening race, but quickly found his feet. He came up just short of his first podium at Le Mans, nudged back to fourth place by Alvaro Bautista.

It would be his best result of the season, but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was to be consistently found in and around the top six. Espargaro would go on to bag a couple of fifth places and six sixth spots.

Trackside Tuesday: A Review of 2014 in Photographs

12/23/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

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Having just finished production on the 2015 MotoMatters Motorcycle Racing Calendar, the 2014 season has been on my mind quite a bit over the past several weeks. So I thought I’d take look back at the MotoGP images I contributed here at Asphalt & Rubber and add a bit of perspective to each one.

Wednesday Summary from Valencia: Hard Hondas, Slick Suzukis, & Bridgestone Mythology

11/13/2014 @ 1:44 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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“This year’s machine is not easy to ride,” HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said of the 2014 Honda RC213V. “More difficult than last year.” Given the utter dominance of Marc Marquez in the first half of 2014, that seems hard to believe. It certainly left the journalists gathered for the special press conference convened by Honda to review the season befuddled.

“But Honda bikes are always easy to ride!” declared one surprised reporter. “Our bike is very easy, I can ride it, but I don’t get under two minutes,” Nakamoto said. “But to find the last one tenth, two tenths is very difficult,” he remarked.

A look at the timesheets from the test, or a chat with Marc Marquez or Dani Pedrosa about the 2015 Honda, and you understand the problem. On the last day of testing at Valencia, Marquez and Pedrosa finished first and second, but the satellite Hondas of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding were a little way off the pace.

Crutchlow was eight tenths slower than Marquez, while Redding was struggling 1.6 seconds behind Marquez. In the last race of the 2014 season, Stefan Bradl’s fastest lap was just under a second off the fastest race lap, and Alvaro Bautista a fraction slower. The Honda is obviously fast, but it is not easy to go fast on.

Too aggressive, too hard to master, a bike with a lot of potential, but extracting that potential takes insight, experience, and the willingness to push an aggressive bike to its limits. It really demands the kind of dirt track background of Casey Stoner or, well, Marc Marquez.

Friday Summary from Valencia: New Bikes, New Collaborations, & A Well-Structured Talent Pipeline

11/07/2014 @ 10:20 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Valencia is always an incredibly busy weekend. The last race of the year means a chance to look back at the season which is almost past, and the last chance before the winter break to present projects for next season in front of a large audience, or at least, a large press group.

As a journalist, you can end up running around the paddock like a headless chicken, sprinting from event to event with no clear idea of what you are doing, as each new event wipes the memory of the last from your mind.

A selection of the events this weekend: A press conference organized by Dorna featuring the principals from the three factories in MotoGP, to look back over the season and review the future of the sport and how it is promoted (interesting, but long-winded).

The presentation of Tech 3’s new Tech 3 Classics project, which will see Tech 3 engineers restoring classic racing motorcycles for the general public (mercifully brief, but with some stunning old machinery on display). The presentation of the CIP Moto3 team for next year, with Remy Gardner, son of former 500cc world champion Wayne, to contest his first full Grand Prix season.

A farewell to Colin Edwards, organized by the Forward Racing team. The introduction of the collaboration project between Monlau, Marc VDS Racing, and Estrella Galicia which will see them racing in all three Grand Prix categories, the Spanish CEV championship and the Pre-GP class in Spain (revolutionary, poetic, and in three languages).

It is enough to make you forget about the fact that there are bikes out on track preparing for the last races of the season on Sunday. That is, after all, the actual raison d’etre of the Grand Prix paddock, and the reason we are gathered here in the first place. Even there, new projects were on track distracting the focus from Sunday, offering a glimpse of the bikes which will feature next year.

Sunday Summary at Aragon: Smart Heads vs. Risky Maneuvers for the Win

09/28/2014 @ 9:13 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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What a difference a day makes. “There is no way to fight with the factory Hondas,” Valentino Rossi had said on Saturday. Within a few laps of the start, it turned out that it was not just possible to fight with the Hondas, but to get them in over their heads, and struggling to hold off the Yamaha onslaught.

By the time the checkered flag dropped, the factory Hondas were gone, the first RC213V across the line the LCR of Stefan Bradl, nearly twelve seconds behind the winner, Jorge Lorenzo on the factory M1.

What changed? The weather. Cooler temperatures at the start of the race meant the Hondas struggled to get the hard rear tire to work. The hard rear was never an option for the Yamahas, but the softer rear was still working just fine. From the start, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and the surprising Pol Espargaro were pushing the factory Hondas hard.

All of a sudden we had a race on our hands. When the rain came, the excitement stepped up another notch. In the end, strategy and the ability to keep a cool head prevailed. The factory Hondas came up short on both accounts at Aragon.

Trackside Tuesday: Factory Futures

09/16/2014 @ 2:11 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

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Marc Marquez is only 21-years-old. Likely to win his second premier class title in as many tries, his is a future of on-track tyranny. Assuming he continues to improve and mature with experience, he has the potential to be the Michael Schumacher of motorcycle racing.

That’s good for Honda, assuming Marquez is content to keep on winning with Honda equipment. HRC has probably learned “The Rossi Lesson” well enough to make sure Marquez is happy, and will do everything required to keep him from exploring other manufacturers’ offerings.

As Marquez romps through season after season, Honda has Dani Pedrosa as wingman for another two years, and next year Scott Redding can show what he’s truly got on a leased RCV213 with MarcVDS. Pedrosa’s spot is Redding’s for the taking should his results in the next two seasons earn him an orange and red Alpinstars outfit.

Honda has the youngest and brightest rising stars already wrapped in its warm (and Repsol-funded) embrace. Alex Marquez, Alex Rins, and now Fabio Quartararo are being groomed to take over for Marc when his time at the top comes to an end.

But at 21, Marquez could continue to be, if not a title favorite, at the very least a title contender for another nine or more years! So where does that leave other factories?

Q&A: Nicolas Goyon – Pol Espargaro’s Crew Chief

08/26/2014 @ 12:14 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Many MotoGP followers, both inside and outside the paddock, were sceptical when news leaked that Yamaha had signed Pol Espargaro to a factory contract early in 2013.

A year later, and halfway through his first MotoGP season, that scepticism has been replaced with admiration. The younger of the two Espargaro brothers is the best satellite rider in the championship standings, and has been competitive from the start of the season.

Yamaha clearly had a plan with Pol Espargaro. The riding style which young racers develop in Moto2 is very different from the style which came from the 250cc class. Where Moto2 racers use a sliding rear tire to help turn the bike into the corners, the 250 two-strokes rewarded riders who could brake early and carry as much corner speed as possible.

The Yamaha YZR-M1 has been primarily developed around the 250cc style, but as riders schooled in the Moto2 class enter MotoGP, Yamaha realized they will have to adapt their bike to this new generation of young riders. By signing the reigning Moto2 champion, Yamaha have started to seriously examine how the new intermediate class is affecting MotoGP bike development.

Leading this development has been Pol Espargaro’s crew chief, Nicolas Goyon. The Frenchman has been a data and electronics engineer in MotoGP since 2003, the first year in which the class switched over fully to four strokes. With the departure of Daniele Romagnoli, who followed Cal Crutchlow to Ducati, Goyon was given the role of crew chief to MotoGP rookie Espargaro.

Since then, Goyon has been working with the Moto2 champion and Yamaha to explore how the Moto2 style can be made to fit to the Yamaha M1. We spoke to Goyon after the Brno test, to ask him about how he had adapted the bike and the feedback Pol Espargaro was providing.

Monday Summary at Brno: Honda & Yamaha Test 2015 Bikes, Others Test Themselves

08/18/2014 @ 6:39 pm, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

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Marc Marquez did not take kindly to finishing fourth on Sunday, that much was obvious from the test. He lined up at pit lane exit at precisely 10am, waiting for the track to open.

As soon as it opened, he was away, the first rider to take to the track in a long way. When Jorge Lorenzo went fastest, Marquez seemed determined to catch him, finally leaving the test at the end of a long day at the top of the timesheets.

Testing is not really about who is fastest, though riders cannot avoid turning it into a competitive sport. It is more about carefully running through options and testing parts, selecting what works and what doesn’t, trying new bikes and parts, and testing out set up changes which are too experimental or time-consuming to try on a normal race weekend.

Riders are still trying to go fast, but they and the teams are more interested in comparing their own times, rather than the times of others.

MotoGP Silly Season, Post-Crutchlow – Who Is Going Where

08/04/2014 @ 11:37 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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With the announcement that Cal Crutchlow is to move to the LCR Honda team for 2015, making space for Andrea Iannone to move up to the Factory Ducati team, the beginnings of a MotoGP grid are starting to emerge for 2015.

Both Repsol Honda seats are confirmed, as are both Factory Ducati riders and Valentino Rossi at Movistar Yamaha, with Jorge Lorenzo expected to announce a deal with Yamaha very soon. In the satellite teams, only Pol Espargaro is confirmed at Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, as is Crutchlow at CWM-LCR Honda.

With those names in place, we can start to draw up a list of who will be where, and who could be where for 2015. We have broken that list into three separate tables, based on the certainty of their deals: riders with confirmed contracts; riders and teams with deals that are expected to be confirmed very soon; and deals which are likely to happen, but are still not certain.