2017 Husqvarna FS 450 Puts the “Super” in Supermoto

The 2017 Husqvarna FS 450 is the most advanced factory-built supermoto on the market, full stop. That’s not exactly saying much, considering there are few factory-built supermotos on the market these days, but that doesn’t make the Husqvarna FS 450 any less impressive…nor does it make our desire to have one, any less. A refinement to the machine we saw debut last year, the 2017 Husqvarna FS 450 sees the Swedish supermoto upgraded with air forks, proper traction control, and a list of other enhancements that will help you demolish your local kart track. While not officially listed on Husqvarna North America’s website, American riders looking for some supermoto in their garage should be able to make arrangements at their local Husqvarna dealership.

Tasty Bits, Courtesy of the GMT94 Yamaha EWC Team

I was reminded by a recent post on Racing Café about the FIM Endurance World Championship, which despite being headed to its third round of the season (at Suzuka), is fairly wide open Championship for its top teams. The Suzuka 8-Hour is sure to disrupt the field even more though, as the track’s specialty outfits often out-class the EWC regulars. This means fewer points will be taken home for the factory teams, which only adds more credence to the FIM Endurance World Championship going to down to the season-closer, at the Oschersleben 8-Hour in Germany. To help fuel the fire of interest in endurance racing, today we bring you some high-resolution photos of the French-based factory-backed Yamaha, the GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team.

Millions of Motorcyclists Hacked in VerticalScope Breach

If you have ever joined a motorcycle forum, you should probably change all your passwords – right now. This is because VerticalScope, a Canadian company that owns the vast majority of motorcycle web forums (among other types of sites), is reporting that its servers were breached back in February, resulting in data the of 45 million users being compromised. As our friends at Canada Moto Guide pointed out, VerticalScope isn’t the most recognized name in the motorcycle industry, but they are a major player in the space with their holdings in forum communities. Asphalt & Rubber readers will surely recognize their top web property for motorcycles though, the aptly named Motorcycle.com.

Audi Says “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”

After much buzz and fanfare regarding the future of Volkswagen, which in-turn called into question the future of Ducati, today we finally get a glimpse into how VW is going to soldier forth from the fallout of its “Dieselgate” scandal. Instead of announcing how the company was going to restructure itself, and review its current business holdings and ventures, as was reportedly widely in financial circles, instead today saw Volkswagen strongly staking its future in electric and autonomous cars. For Ducatisti, some good news does emerge, as Ducati certainly won’t be leaving its home in the Volkswagen Group. To drive that point further, a Ducati representative confirmed to A&R the words of Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who said emphatically that “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”.

California Lane-Splitting Bill Moves Forward

California just moved closer to codifying lane-splitting in its vehicle code, as California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) just passed the California State Senate Transportation Committee, with a 11-0 vote. This means that AB 51 now will go before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, before it can be presented to the Senate floor. For those who don’t recall AB 51, the bill aims to codify lane-splitting into the California Vehicle Code, and the bill expressly permits state actors, like the California Highway Patrol (CHP), in developing and teaching educational guidelines for safe lane-splitting. California is America’s playground for motorcyclists, namely in that The Golden State permits motorcycles to split lanes between cars.

Ducati Debuting Two New Bikes at World Ducati Week

If you’re attending this year’s World Ducati Week, then you’re in for a treat, as Ducati is set to debut two new bikes at the gathering in Misano. Details are thin at the moment, but we do know that one of the machines will be a limited-edition motorcycle that celebrates Ducati’s 90th anniversary. Meanwhile the other bike is a new model to the Ducati range, which will be shown in a “closed room” setting as a sort of sneak peak before its official launch. The latter model is rumored heavily to be a large-displacement Scrambler model, with engine sizes of 1,000cc to 1,200cc being banded about. Loyal Ducatisti will remember that the first modern Ducati Scrambler debuted at World Ducati Week in a similar fashion, so there’s some precedent for the line to continue the trend of special “preview” events.

Suzuki’s Electric “Grom Killer” Coming to Market?

When the Honda Grom debuted in 2013, the other Japanese manufacturers took note. The first copycat was Kawasaki, which earlier this year debuted the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, but we shouldn’t forget the fact that Suzuki brought out its EXTRIGGER concept at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, as well. Listening to our calls, the Suzuki EXTRIGGER coming to market seems to be getting more likely now, as Suzuki has filed for patents in the China, Europe, and the United States for the plucky electric machine. Just in time, to battle with the freshly updated Honda Grom. With the Honda Grom showing great sales success and the Kawasaki Z125 Pro debuting to favorable reviews, there appears to be a demand for small unassuming motorcycles in markets that are normally dominated by big-displacement machines.

Indian Motorcycle Returns to Flat Track Racing

AMA Pro Flat Track is heating up. First, it was Harley-Davidson announcing its first flat track race bike in 44 years, the Harley-Davidson XG750R. And now, we get word that Indian Motorcycle is set to compete as well, debuting today a purpose-built v-twin engine for the job. The Indian Scout FTR v-twin engine is a 750cc liquid-cooled four-valve lump that is specifically designed for flat track racing. Using a specially built chassis, Indian aims to compete in AMA Pro Flat Track, with Jared Mees serving for now as the company’s test rider. Indian says it will compete at a single 2016 event, which is still to be announced, before going after the 2017 AMA Pro Flat Track title in full. Presumably Mees will headline that effort as well, which if the case, should make Indian’s entry a very potent one.

BMW Lac Rose Concept – A Vintage-Styled ADV Bike

What you see here is an homage back to a day when men were men, and the Dakar Rally actually went to Dakar, the capital of Senegal and the western-most point of Africa. Called the BMW Lac Rose Concept, this retooled BMW R nineT is named after Lac Rose (Lake Retba to some), which is just outside of Dakar – a picturesque locale, for a photogenic motorcycle. BMW Motorrad styled the Lac Rose concept after the Dakar Rally bikes of the 1980s, which adds to the retro flare that the German brand has been channeling though its R nineT platform. If you believe the rumors, the Lac Rose could very well go into production, as a 2017 model year machine, thus adding a trifecta of throwback machines to BMW’s R nineT lineup, with the R nineT roadster and scrambler models already strong sellers.

Updates Coming for the 2017 KTM 390 Duke

One of the hottest bikes on the market since its 2013 debut, the KTM 390 Duke is seemingly set for a model refresh, with cosmetic updates and other minor technical changes coming our way. This photo above shows the 2017 KTM 390 Duke with its new headlight, and in it you can also see some of the styling changes to the fairings and fuel tank, along with the updated switchgear and dash design. Designed in Austria, but built in India, it doesn’t surprise us to see this photo leak coming from the Bajaj factory near Pune, India – where production has surely already started in anticipation for the next model year. Analyzing this photo, it is interesting to see KTM adopt a very unique split headlight setup for the 390 Duke.

Preview of the British GP: The Ryanair Round, Silverstone’s Peculiar Challenges, & The Silly Season Latest

08/28/2015 @ 7:34 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The Irish budget airline Ryanair gained something of a reputation for being, shall we say, creative with the names of the airports it flies to.

Fancy a trip to Sweden? They will fly you to Stockholm Skavsta, a mere 100 km from the city of Stockholm. The same trick is played out time and time again: Paris Beauvais? Beauvais is a charming French city, and well worth a visit, but it is very long way from the French capital. Munich West (Memmingen)? 112 km west of the Bavarian capital.

So perhaps we should call this British GP the Ryanair MotoGP round. Officially, it is being run by the Circuit of Wales, located in Ebbw Vale, South Wales.

Yet the race is to be run around the Silverstone circuit, nearly 200 km further East. Close, it is not. How did it end up at Silverstone? Thereby hangs a long and convoluted tail.

Preview of the Czech GP: Yamaha vs. ???

08/13/2015 @ 9:05 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Preview of the Czech GP: Yamaha vs. ???

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From one endangered race to another. The MotoGP paddock leaves Indianapolis, possibly for the last time, and heads to Brno, a race which has been on the endangered list for the past ten years.

Not all of the paddock got out on time: overbooked flights and thunderstorms caused massive delays, and left riders, teams and media stuck hanging around in airports for many hours.

Hardly the ideal way to adapt to a shift of time zones by six hours, but they have little choice. There will more than a few bewildered faces in the paddock at Brno, trying to figure out where they are and what day it is.

A quick glance around should be enough to remind them. Brno is a glorious circuit, set atop a hill in the middle of a forest. To reach the track, you drive up the narrow, winding, tree-lined roads that once formed the basis of the old street circuit.

The closed circuit that replaced those roads still retains most of that character: fast, flowing, rolling up-hill and down-dale through the trees. Where the track really differs from the public roads is in how wide it is.

The space that creates is seized upon eagerly by the riders, using it to take a number of lines through each of its corners, giving plenty of opportunities for passing.

The fact that the corners are all combinations helps: riders flick right-left, left-right, right-left again and again. Make a pass into one corner, and your rival has a chance to strike back immediately at the next.

It is a track which is made for great racing, and great motorcycle racing at that. Riders, fans and media alike all hope fervently that the financial and political problems which have dogged the Czech Grand Prix can be resolved, and we can keep this spectacular circuit.

Preview of the Indy GP: One Last Time at the Brickyard?

08/04/2015 @ 7:45 pm, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

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Depending on who you ask, MotoGP’s summer break is either too short, or too long. For the fans, three full weekends without MotoGP is a painfully long time, though both World Superbikes and BSB have done a pretty good job of making MotoGP’s absence much more bearable.

For the teams, riders and staff, the four weeks between the Sachsenring and Indianapolis pass in an instant, seeming way too short to qualify as a break.

In between PR appearances and negotiations for 2016, riders are lucky to grab five days R&R before getting back to training for the remainder of the season.

Team staff, on the other hand, spend their time catching up with all of the stuff they didn’t get done in the first half of the season, and try to get a head start on the second half.

What were supposed to be 23 days away from it all get eaten up by a myriad of minor tasks that had been neglected, and before they know it, they are on a plane again and heading for the next race.

Not that they mind: for 99% of the people involved in MotoGP, they are driven by a passion for racing, and being at a race track is their idea of heaven. That is why they are paid so poorly, and what makes the paddock such an inspirational place to be.

Indianapolis is a pretty good place to get back to racing, too. Downtown has a real motorcycle buzz, with bike-related activities going on throughout the weekend. Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains one of the most special motorsports facilities in the world, drenched in legend and racing history.

Preview of the German GP: How Great Last Corners Create Epic Battles, & Silly Season Starting

07/09/2015 @ 7:01 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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What makes for great racing? Many things, but great last corners really help. A great last corner, or sequence of corners, allows riders to attack the bike ahead of them, and take one final shot at victory.

Even better is when the option to attack offered by the final corner comes with some risk attached: getting ahead is one thing, but staying ahead to the line is quite another.

MotoGP moves from one track with a last corner which guarantees spectacle to another. The final GT chicane at Assen produced fireworks with the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, and the last two corners at the Sachsenring offer similar opportunities.

At Assen, the hard-braking right corner is followed by a quick flick left, giving the defending rider the chance to counterattack if he is passed.

At the Sachsenring, the long drop down the steep, steep hill provides the ideal platform to launch an attack from, diving up the inside on the brakes on the way into the penultimate left hander.

That line comes at a price, though, as it forces the attacker to run wide on the exit. That opens allowing the defending rider to strike back up the inside on the approach to the final turn, the last left uphill towards the line.

Even entering that corner ahead is no guarantee of the win: like Turn 12, Turn 13 offers two lines, inside and outside, both of which can be used to pass.

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.

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.

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.