Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Preview of Silverstone: Of Home Winners, Historic Domination, & Stopping a Rookie

08/28/2013 @ 11:16 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Preview of Silverstone: Of Home Winners, Historic Domination, & Stopping a Rookie silverstone circuit track map 635x401

MotoGP bikes have a tendency to make a race track feel very, very small. Where Jerez on a road bike can feel spacious and unhurried, ride it on a MotoGP bike and it’s like everything happens at warp speed. No sooner have you finished changing up a couple of gears than it’s time to get back hard on the brakes and start tipping the bike into the next corner. But then, 260 horsepower, 160 kg and carbon brakes will do that to a track.

Silverstone is different. The fast, flowing circuit around the former World War II airbase – one of the unintended legacies of that vast and bloody war was to leave a string of deserted military installations which were perfect for racing, and which formed the basis for the British domination of motor sport for three decades after the war – is so wide on a road bike it feels like a motorway. Doing a track day there, it feels like you have time to sit up and have a look around between corners.

That scale of circuit really does justice to a MotoGP machine. The breathtaking acceleration and speeds of a MotoGP bike bring the corners close enough to feel natural, while having enough space to feel like the bike can be really opened up. It is not quite the death-defying speeds of Phillip Island or Mugello, but Silverstone at least gives you a chance to put some wear on the cogs of fifth and sixth gear.

It is not just the speed that makes it popular among the riders. Though almost completely flat, Silverstone is notoriously difficult to master because of the number of blind corners. Being situated on top of a flat, windy plain means there are no trees, no hills, no buildings, no visual references to use when turning into some of the corners.

The complex of turns through Maggots and Becketts is almost entirely blind, and the consequences of getting it wrong mildly disastrous. As at Assen – a track just as flat, and just as fast – the lack of elevation proves to be just as challenging for a rider as massive drops or steep climbs.

While the speed and intrigue of the Silverstone circuit makes for a great experience as a rider, it is less rewarding for spectators. The sheer spacious scale of the place leaves spectators with a lot of walking to do to get from place to place.

Its flatness makes viewing difficult; lacking the earth banks of Assen or the natural hillsides of Mugello, spectators are left with windswept grandstands, with a limited view of the circuit. It is a bitter irony that Silverstone should offer such a diametrically opposed MotoGP experience to riders and fans. If the fans could get a taste of the track the riders see, their passion for the place might be greater.

At least the British fans will have something to cheer for on Sunday. The days of British domination – once far, far greater than the Spanish supremacy of the present day – may be long gone, consigned to history once Barry Sheene hung up his helmet, but MotoGP finds itself in the midst of a UK resurgence.

Preview of Brno: Looking Forward & Looking Back

08/22/2013 @ 7:13 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Preview of Brno: Looking Forward & Looking Back marc marquez awesome mugello motogp scott jones 635x423

One race down, two more to go in the first of MotoGP’s two triple-headers in 2013, and this is the most brutal transition. After a draining race in the humidity of the Midwest, the teams and riders pack up, head east and face a wall of jet lag before getting ready to race at Brno, one of the most physically demanding circuits on the calendar.

After that, they get to pack up again and head back west, just a short hop this time to the UK, its one-hour time difference from Brno small enough not to cause jet lag, but just enough to throw your body clock just out of kilter.

Whether Brno will produce the same flashes of excitement, which Indianapolis did, remains to be seen. At Indy, the riders encountered what they described as the best surface they’d ever seen at the track – relative, of course, to previous visits – and that helped in some small way to spice the racing up a little.

Preview of Indianapolis: In the Heart of American Racing

08/16/2013 @ 10:20 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Preview of Indianapolis: In the Heart of American Racing ben spies motogp indianapolis gp jensen beeler 635x423

It’s been a long summer break. Three consecutive weekends without racing – four, for the returning Moto2 and Moto3 classes – means that the MotoGP riders return well-rested and raring to get back on to a bike again.

Some, of course, have already spent some time on a bike over the summer, with both Yamaha and Ducati testing (more of which later), but for the most part, they have had an all too brief vacation cut short by a return to training. Training never stops for a motorcycle racer.

The location they make their return is a spectacular one. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the true home of American motor sports. It is a vast arena, a sprawling complex set inside a two-and-a-half mile oval (though it is more of a rectangle with rounded corners than an oval), housing an eighteen hole golf course, a magnificent museum, and acres and acres of space to roam around in.

It can seat up to 400,000, which it regularly does for the Indy 500. It oozes history; like Monza, everywhere you go, the ghosts of racing legends are at your side. In the shadows, you can hear them whisper.

The problem of having MotoGP at the heart of American racing is that to most Americans, motorsport involves four-wheeled vehicles. Americans love motorcycles, but the motorcycles they love are mostly American.

The real American motorcycle racing fans can be found on Saturday night a few miles away, at the Indiana State Fairground, where American motorcycles turn laps on an oval made of dirt. Those American motorcycle racing fans – hard working men and women come to watch the most blue collar of sports – are joined there by a large part of the MotoGP paddock, entranced by this most quintessential piece of Americana. The Indy Mile is just one of the things that make this weekend so very special.

Sadly, the road course inside IMS’s spectacular facility is not one of them. Originally designed to be run in the opposite direction for Formula One, the track which MotoGP uses is tight, with most of the corners closing up instead of opening out, as they were intended to be run the other way. The asphalt – though resurfaced – is a bit of a patchwork, with four different types of tarmac as the track runs onto and then off the oval, and through the center of the massive facility.

Last year, there were a lot of complaints that the new tarmac had no rubber on it, which led to a large number of serious crashes. The worst of those hit Casey Stoner, who effectively ended his season and his title defense there when he broke the bones in his foot and ankle. This year, the track should be a little better, now that it has had cars lay down a little rubber on the surface, but it remains a finicky and difficult track to ride.

You have to wonder if the memory of last year’s crashes will linger with the two men tipped to win the title this season. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa return to action at Indianapolis still not fully recovered from their broken collarbones, and at the start of a triple header of three races on three consecutive weekends.

Preview of Assen: Does a Flowing Track & A Final Chicane Make for a Recipe of Thrills?

06/25/2013 @ 7:07 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Preview of Assen: Does a Flowing Track & A Final Chicane Make for a Recipe of Thrills?  TT Circuit Assen plattegrond 635x647

Ask anyone what makes a great circuit, and they will tell you that it takes three things: fast corners, great scenery, and lots of elevation changes. So what makes the TT Circuit at Assen so great? It only really has one of the three factors that makes it a great circuit.

If the track has elevation changes, they can be measured in centimeters. The scenery is mostly absent, though that does allow more of a view of the expansive skies the Dutch masters of the 17th Century were so famed for. The only factor which the track still possesses is a collection of really fast corners, testing the mettle of anyone with ambition to take on the circuit.

Preview of Catalunya: Could This Be The Weekend Where Everything Changes?

06/14/2013 @ 12:08 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Preview of Catalunya: Could This Be The Weekend Where Everything Changes? catalunya race track 635x423

This is going to be a big weekend in MotoGP, perhaps one of the most significant in a long while. The outcome of Sunday’s race is unlikely to be earth-shattering – the chance of the top three being entirely Spanish, and composed of two Repsol Hondas and a Factory Yamaha is pretty large – and the championship will look much the same on Sunday night as it does now. Yet this weekend will be key.

Much of the interest – and intrigue – revolves around the test on Monday. The most visible piece of the MotoGP puzzle will be in the Suzuki garage, where their brand new MotoGP machine is due to make its first real public debut.

The bike has had a number of private tests, some more secretive than others, the latest being last week at Motegi with Randy de Puniet. The times that were leaked from that test were respectable, though with only test riders for competition, it is hard to put them into context.

At Barcelona, a public test, with official timing, and up against the full MotoGP field, there will be nowhere to hide. Will the Suzuki be able to match the times of the Hondas and Yamahas? Unlikely, the bike is still at an early stage of development.

But it should be faster than the CRT machines, and close to the Ducati satellite bikes. De Puniet’s first target will be himself, and the time he sets during practice and the race on the Aprilia CRT he rides for Aspar.

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamaha’s Travails, Rossi’s Hopes, Ducati’s Dreams, & Honda’s Domination

05/29/2013 @ 4:32 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamahas Travails, Rossis Hopes, Ducatis Dreams, & Hondas Domination Cal Crutchlow Mugello MotoGP Jules Cisek

Mugello is arguably MotoGP’s crowning glory. The location is stunning, in the verdant hills of Tuscany, a few miles north of Florence, one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. The track itself is gorgeous and beautifully laid out, rolling round the valley in which the circuit is set.

It is one of the few tracks left at which a MotoGP bike can fully stretch its legs, even a 260+ horsepower fire-breathing 1000cc Honda RC213V. At the end of the front straight, as riders drift right then left for the slight kink of the pit lane exit just before the track drops off for the spectacular first corner at San Donato, the bikes approach the magical barrier of 350 km/h. An obstacle that has not yet been cleared, but one which must surely fall in the near future.

A lap of the circuit passes in under 1’48, an average of 175 km/h, or nearly 110 mph. It is verily a temple of speed.

It may seem odd, then, that the fastest bike does not necessarily win at the circuit. Of the past ten editions of the race, seven have been won by Yamahas, a bike which has never been the fastest in a straight line.

While speed is not the secret to the circuit, a glance at the list of winners over the years reveals exactly what is: Valentino Rossi has won seven times at the circuit in the premier class (as well as twice more in the support classes), Mick Doohan won here six times, Jorge Lorenzo won twice, and the list of one-time winners includes Dani Pedrosa, Kevin Schwantz, Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner.

To win at Mugello is simple: it is merely a matter of being one of the very best riders in the world.

Preview of Le Mans: Can Lorenzo Get Back the Momentum?

05/16/2013 @ 3:56 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

Preview of Le Mans: Can Lorenzo Get Back the Momentum? Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Racing Austin Jensen Beeler 635x423

Three races into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the Yamaha Factory Racing team have been forced to tear up the script they had written for themselves after pre-season testing. Their original goals were for Jorge Lorenzo to win as often as possible in the early part of the season, building a lead at the tracks at which Yamaha is supposed to be strong, then defend that lead in the second half of the year. Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, was to finish adapting to the Yamaha once again, and get on the podium ahead of the Hondas as much as possible, to help build out Lorenzo’s lead in the championship.

The plan worked perfectly at Qatar. Lorenzo was untouchable in the race, and won easily. Rossi showed he still had it by getting on the podium and taking second, while the first Honda was Marc Marquez in third. This worked out even better than expected, as although Marquez is clearly an exceptional talent, the real title threat, Yamaha believed, would come from Dani Pedrosa.

Preview of Jerez: The Season Starts in Earnest in Andalucia

05/01/2013 @ 1:01 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Preview of Jerez: The Season Starts in Earnest in Andalucia 2012 Spanish GP Jerez Saturday Scott Jones 15

So we’re back in Europe. Despite the eerie beauty of the night race at Qatar, despite the magnificent splendor of the Circuit of the America’s facilities, Jerez still feels like the first proper race of the MotoGP season. The paddock is set up in its full regalia, and all of the hospitality trucks are present.

The fans will be out in full force – or at least much fuller force than in the previous two races, despite the entirely respectable attendance figures at Austin – and everyone knows the score: where the track entrance is, where the truck park is, where the media center is, what the schedule is. Things have now returned to normal, and we are about to embark on the meat and potatoes section of the Championship.

And here we highlight precisely where the weakness of MotoGP lies: Jerez feels like home, and everyone in the paddock immediately feels much more comfortable here than at the previous two races. It is symptomatic of the Eurocentric (and Iberocentric) nature of MotoGP and world championship racing in general that the paddock is so very far inside its comfort zone here. If MotoGP is to expand to the world, this is one thing which urgently needs addressing.

Moar MotoGP Movie Magic Please!

04/03/2013 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Moar MotoGP Movie Magic Please! stefan bradl cota motogp 635x404

Oh HRC, how we begin to love thee. I think I am belaboring the point now, but someone at Honda’s MotoGP team has really latched onto this whole online marketing thing, and I like it. With a plethora of videos and interviews building up to this weekend’s season-opening round at Qatar, HRC is really promoting its factory-backed riders: Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, and Stefan Bradl.

Though pitched as a season preview video, the short clip after the jump is really more like four minutes of MotoGP porn, set on location at the Circuit of the Americas race course outside Austin, Texas. Complete with slow-motion cameras and what looks like a helicopter drone camera (I wonder where they got that idea), if you don’t come away pumped for this weekend’s race, then you should consult your physician.

Just remember though, the only reason this video exists is because HRC paid for a private test week at COTA, and was thus free of Dorna’s media restrictions. Had this been an official MotoGP test, video like this would have never been produced (or worse, thrown behind the MotoGP.com paywall). Makes you wonder, huh?

Moto2 & Moto3 2013 Jerez Test Preview

03/18/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Moto2 & Moto3 2013 Jerez Test Preview Pol Espargaro Moto2 Valencia Scott Jones

In three weeks’ time, the 2013 season gets underway for all three Grand Prix classes, and motorcycle racing’s winter will finally be over. Before that, there is a week of testing at Jerez, where first the Moto2 and Moto3 classes get their final run out on the track from Monday through Thursday, before MotoGP takes to the track on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Testing at Jerez may be affordable for GP’s junior classes, but it does not come without risk. Moto2 and Moto3 tested at both Valencia and Jerez in February, and while conditions were sunny and dry, if a little cool at Valencia, the test at Jerez was very mixed indeed, with rain disrupting two of the three days of testing. This test looks just as likely to be disrupted by rain: while good weather is forecast for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, Tuesday looks like being a total washout.

That will leave the riders with two full days of dry testing – for some arcane reason, IRTA has decided to spread the three days of Moto2 and Moto3 testing over four days, with the test starting on Monday afternoon, and concluding on Thursday lunchtime.

There is surely method to this madness, but unfortunately, IRTA does not have a press office, and so nobody to explain it. In the absence of an IRTA – the International Roadracing Teams Association, the official body representing the teams – press officer, the media are left to scratch their heads, speculate, and all too often, concoct explanations for themselves.