Motorcyclist Fatalities to Drop for Second Straight Year

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s (GHSA) projections, motorcycle fatalities are set to fall for the second year in a row. The GHSA report projections come from data set in 2014, and it suggests that once tallied, we will know that 4,584 fatalities occurred in 2014. That figure is 1.8% less than 2013’s fatality count of 4,668. This is the second year in a row that motorcycle fatalities have dropped, and only the third decrease in fatalities since 1997. While this trend is good news, the GHSA is quick to point out that motorcycle fatalities are still 26% higher than they were 10 years ago, a staggering figure since other motor vehicle fatalities are 28% lower.

BMW Getting Closer to a Single-Cylinder 300cc Bike

Continued reports suggest that BMW is getting closer and closer to releasing a small-displacement motorcycle single-cylinder motorcycle (codenamed the K03), which is being co-developed with Indian brand TVS. The machine is expected to be in the 250cc to 300cc range, be engineered by BMW Motorrad in Germany, but built by TVS in India. Pictures of the test mule have been on the internet (see above), but the final design is said to be similar to the TVS Draken concept that we saw this time last year. Loyal A&R readers will remember that BMW partnered with TVS in early 2013, in a collaboration that saw no investments or joint-ventures produced, thus making their business a pure co-development deal.

At the Seventh Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering

What happens when you combine a ritzy golf course, an amazing collection of motorcycles, and an eclectic crowd? You get the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club. Not your typical venue for a motorcycle gathering, the Quail brings together vintage, classic, and racing motorcycles in a setting that can only be described as “chic”. This is definitely not your standard motorcycle show. The event pays tribute, not only to the significant motorcycles from our past, but also to the heroic racers who risked their lives on some of these machines. The tickets aren’t cheap at $75, but admission includes a gourmet catered lunch, an opportunity to see a very diverse collection of motorcycles, and a chance to mix and mingle with a group of very proud and dedicated motorcycle owners.

2015 Ducati Panigale R Mega Gallery

I was recently corrected by Ducati as to the proper naming of its pinnacle Superbike model, now that it does not share the 1,299cc displacement with the other models of that name. Officially the 2015 Ducati Panigale R, the 1,199cc v-twin superbike is the top of the line model from Bologna, and it has some major differences from its “S” and base model siblings to fit that special designation. The 2015 Ducati Panigale R is equipped with an IMU, cornering ABS, and Ducati’s GPS-using data acquisition system — making it a very tech-savvy package. While we were fairly unmoved by the 2013 Ducati Panigale R, mostly because it didn’t seem to offer enough exotica to justify its added price, the 2015 model certainly fits the bill. We have 92 high-resolution photos of it, after the jump. Enjoy!

Even More Photos of the Honda Africa Twin

After a few grayscale photos of the new Africa Twin hit the internet from Honda’s Australian patent filing, now even more photos have emerged, which show the adventure-tourer from every angle…literally. The Honda CRF1000L, as it is designated, will features a 1,000cc parallel-twin engine, an option dual-clutch transmission that has been tuned for road use, and a setup very similar to Honda’s Dakar stage-winning bike. If the hype is to be believed, the Africa Twin is going to be a very capable off-road ADV bike, something that the machine’s 21-inch front wheel hints at with a purpose.

A KTM 1290 Super Duke Tourer?

We have already seen “spy photos” of the KTM 1290 Super Duke based tourer. Some more photos are making the rounds again, you’ve probably seen them on other sites. We stumbled upon this render of the new model, and think it looks pretty spot-on to what the general public can expect to see later this year, when undoubtedly the new model debuts. Whether you call it an SMT or a Grand Tourer, this new model looks simply to be a Super Duke with a windscreen and luggage options — an interesting choice from the Austrian brand. On the plus side, using the 1290 Super Duke platform allows KTM to rapidly produce a sporty touring model, which should help KTM keep a horse in the sport-touring category.

Honda Africa Twin Revealed in Photos

After Honda first released heavily cropped and vignetted photos of the 2016 Honda Africa Twin, we have been wanting to know more about the 1,000cc ADV bike. It helps that a video leaked of the Africa Twin out playing in the dirt, but of course we know that the CRF1000L (as Honda designates it) will be very similar to the True Adventure prototype that Honda brought to EICMA. But like the spoiled children we the media are, we want to open all our Christmas presents right now, so we go digging through the interwebs for every little clue. Luckily, patent applications for the Honda Africa Twin’s design show the new off-roader in all its glory, sans color unfortunately. Still, this is our first glimpse at the final design of the Africa Twin, which will be in US dealers early next year.

Victory Entering an Electric Race Bike at Isle of Man TT

It looks like we were only partially correct in our news that Brammo would be returning to the Isle of Man TT, as the brand’s sister company, Victory Motorcycles, will in fact be racing an electric entry — one that looks like a rebadged Brammo Empulse RR — in the TT Zero event at the historic road race. According to its press release, Victory Motorcycles will field a two-rider team, comprised of William Dunlop and Lee Johnston (a photo of “General Lee” testing a Brammo superbike is what initially sparked this news). While Victory is calling its racing platform a “Victory electric race prototype motorcycle” the chassis and fairings give way to a shape we recognize as the Brammo Empulse RR electric superbike.

Honda Africa Twin Confirmed – CRF1000L Coming for 2016

American Honda dropped a bombshell today, confirming that the teased “True Adventure” ADV model will enter production, and be named the “Africa Twin”, as expected. Officially designated at the Honda CRF1000L, the Africa Twin will be a 2016 model (in dealerships early next year), and best of all, it will be coming to the USA. The 2016 Honda Africa Twin draws upon a legacy of rugged off-road race-proven machines that also wore its name, a sign that Honda intends the CRF1000L to be very capable off-road, and thus not follow the road-going adventure-sport trend.

As Expected, The Scrambler is Killing It for Ducati

April 2015 was the best sales month ever for Ducati Motor Holding, with the Italian firm delivering 7,309 units to customers. This figure is up 29% compared to last year, and tops Ducati’s previous best month ever by 800 units (April 2014 with 6,500 motorcycles). Why the sudden spurt in sales for the Bologna Brand? We have two words for you: Ducati Scrambler. Unsurprisingly, the budget-priced Scrambler range is seeing a strong market response, and of course its getting some help from the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200 and the Ducati 1299 Panigale line. For the first four months of the year, Ducati is reporting that sales in 2015 are up 10% over last year’s models, with 17,881 motorcycles sold between the start of January and the end of April.

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?

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.

Preview of the Spanish GP: The Season Starts Here

04/30/2015 @ 6:26 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Jerez is always a very special weekend. When Valentino Rossi described the first race back in Europe using those words, he spoke for everyone in the MotoGP paddock.

Everyone loves being back in Europe, because the atmosphere changes, the hospitality units fill the paddock, the catering staff, hospitality managers, runners, cleaners, general dogsbodies – in other words, the people who actually do any real work – return to fill the paddock, and old friends are reunited after a long winter away, often doing something else to subsidize the meager pay they take for the privilege of working in Grand Prix during the summer.

The paddock becomes a village once again, awaking from the long winter slumber. The setting helps.

The charming old city of Jerez is showing the first shoots of economic recovery, not yet enough to match the full bloom of spring happening on the surrounding hillsides, the slopes covered with wild flowers, but there is a much more positive vibe than there has been for some years.

There is a sense of optimism. That sense of optimism flows into the paddock, already buzzing after a sizzling and surprising start to the 2015 MotoGP season.

With over 100,000 people expected to pack the stands on Sunday, Jerez feels like the right way to kick off the long European leg of the championship.

Saturday Summary at Argentina: The Ducati Disadvantage, Tire Choices, & How Great Tracks Create Surprises

04/19/2015 @ 12:21 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Fast tracks are good for racing. Phillip Island demonstrates this every year, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is confirming it in 2015.

The mixture of fast sweepers and tricky braking sections places an emphasis on bike handling and rider ability, over and above sheer engine power. This gives enterprising riders opportunities to excel, and overcome any horsepower disadvantages they may have.

Today was a case in point. The Suzukis had shown yesterday that they were extremely fast around the Argentinian track, and Aleix Espargaro came into qualifying as a favorite to take pole.

The medium tire (the softest compound available, which the Hondas and Yamahas do not have in their allocation) gave Espargaro plenty of speed, but would it be enough to stay with Márquez? Perhaps some sleight of hand would be needed.

With the hard tire his only race option, Espargaro had some mediums to play with. Taking a leaf out of Marc Márquez’ Big Book Of Strategy, he and crew chief Tom O’Kane decided that his best hope of getting pole would be a two-stop strategy: coming in twice to change bikes, using three new tires to chase a top time.

The trouble with stealing from Marc Márquez’s Big Book Of Strategy is that you find yourself going up against the man who wrote it. It was at Argentina last year that Márquez and crew chief Santi Hernandez saw that a two-stop strategy might be possible, putting it into practice at the next race at Jerez.

“Already last year, when I finished the qualifying practice here, we spoke with the team and saw that it was possible to use three tires, because the good lap was on the first lap,” Márquez explained at the front row press conference in Argentina.

Friday Summary at Argentina: Real-Deal Suzukis, Hard Tire Dilemmas, & Ducati’s Fuel Issue Explained

04/18/2015 @ 12:24 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Eight years. That’s how long it has been since a Suzuki last led two consecutive sessions in the dry. It was 2007, at Shanghai, when John Hopkins topped both FP2 and FP3 on the Suzuki GSV-R. Suzuki had a great year in 2007, spending the previous year developing the GSV-R ready for the start of the 800cc class.

John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen amassed one win (in the wet), seven podiums and a pole position that season, including a double podium at Misano. That Suzuki was a great bike, but sadly, it was the last time a Suzuki was truly competitive. It was pretty much all downhill from there. Until today.

Preview of the Argentinian GP: Of Price Gouging, Ducati’s Tire Disadvantage, & A Tough Moto3 Battle

04/17/2015 @ 1:11 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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From Austin, MotoGP heads south, to the most expensive GP of the season. The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit lies in one of the poorest regions of Argentina, but the economic reality is not reflected in the prices around the Grand Prix weekend.

The cost of renting a compact car from one of the nearby airports would get you a luxury vehicle at any other place. Room rate cards for even the most modest hotel look like they have been borrowed from Claridges for the week. Local businesses appear bent on extracting as much revenue as possible from the poor souls who have no choice but to attend, such as journalists, team staff, and riders.

Those (such as your humble correspondent) without a wealthy employer to cover the costs for them stay away. Many teams stay up to a couple of hours away, where accommodation prices drop from the truly extortionate to the merely pricey.

For much of the paddock, the Termas de Rio Hondo GP is a black hole, capable of swallowing money at an exponential rate.

Yet fans from around the region flock to the circuit. They are much smarter indeed, many bringing tents, vans, RVs, or even just sleeping bags in the back of their trucks.

The money saved on accommodation is well spent: the party around the circuit is stupendous, massive amounts of meat and drink being shared around all weekend. That adds real local flavor to the event, the passion of the fans being evident at every turn.

Preview of the Americas GP: Yamaha & Ducati vs. Honda, And The Effect of Rain on All Three Classes

04/09/2015 @ 8:33 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Ever since he first entered the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has owned the Circuit of the Americas at Austin. In 2013, in just his second ever MotoGP event, he was fastest in all but two practice sessions, then went on to win the race, becoming the youngest ever MotoGP winner in the process.

A year later, he was fastest in every session, and extended his advantage over his teammate in the race, winning by over four seconds. The gap to third that year was demoralizing: Andrea Dovizioso crossed the line nearly 21 seconds after Márquez had taking victory.

With two one-two victories for Honda in two years at Austin, does anyone else really stand a chance? Surprisingly, it seems there might be.

Much has changed over the past year: the renaissance at Ducati, the improvements at Yamaha, both of the bike and, more significantly, of the riders. And with Dani Pedrosa out with injury, Márquez faces the challenge from Movistar Yamaha and factory Ducati alone.

2015 MotoGP World Championship Preview

03/25/2015 @ 10:34 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on 2015 MotoGP World Championship Preview

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The prospect of a new MotoGP season always leaves fans giddy with anticipation. Their appetites keenly whetted by winter testing, and speculation over the times set at those tests, they boldly predict that this season is going to be the best MotoGP season ever. Though the racing is often good, all too often, it never quite lives up to the preseason hype.

There is every reason to believe that this year, it will be different. The bikes, the riders, the teams, the motivation, it all points to 2015 being an exceptionally exciting season in MotoGP.

At the last day of winter testing at Qatar just over a week ago, less than a second covered the top fourteen riders, and two seconds covered all but four of the MotoGP field.

A similar pattern emerged at Sepang: with the exception of the occasional hot lap by Marc Márquez, there were ten or more riders within a second of each other. Things haven’t been this close for a while.

2015 MotoGP Sepang 2 Test Preview – Seamless Gearboxes, Brand New Ducatis, & Fast French Rubber

02/22/2015 @ 6:46 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The engineers have had two weeks to pore over the data from the first MotoGP test at Sepang, identify problems, analyze strengths, and find more ways to go faster. Their analyses have been translated into designs, into new parts, into yet more software, ready to put their theories into practice.

On Monday morning, at 10am Malaysian time, the MotoGP riders get to try out all of the new parts and ideas thought up by their factories and teams in search of a few more fractions of a second.

The eyes of the world will not be on what the engineers did between Sepang 1 and Sepang 2, however. Attention will be focused on Yamaha and Ducati, who will be testing hardware which has been a long time coming.

Yamaha is bringing its fully seamless gearbox to the Sepang 2 test, and Ducati will roll out its Desmosedici GP15 for the first time. Both could make a significant impact.

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?