Ducati’s 2017 World Superbike Team Debuts

Race teams continue to debut their 2017 liveries and riders, and this time around we feature the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike squad that will race in the World Superbike Championship. Chaz Davies of course returns to the team, and this season he will be joined by Marco Melandri. The duo will be an interesting pair to watch this season, with Davies holding onto his impressive form from the last-half of the 2016 season, and Melandri making his return to motorcycle racing, after sitting out last season. With 2017 to be the penultimate season for the Ducati Panigale R in the World Superbike Championship, the v-twin superbike has shown itself to be an extremely mature machine on the race track.

Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 2: On Moto2

12/15/2016 @ 11:20 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 2: On Moto2

Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

Ajo explained how he goes about identifying talent in the first part of this two-part interview. In the second part, he gives more insight into the process of building a winning team.

Ajo talks about how he nearly ended up working with Romano Fenati in 2017, and some of the factors which prevented it. Ajo also explains why he believes Moto2 is the toughest category in motorcycle racing, and the daunting challenge stepping up to the intermediate category can be.

The Finnish team manager also dives more deeply into the importance of a team, and surrounding a rider with the right pieces to help him get the best out of himself. 

The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 1: On Identifying Talent

12/15/2016 @ 10:19 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

The list of champions and great riders he has produced is almost endless: Marc Marquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Sandro Cortese, Luis Salom, Danny Kent to name just a few. 

To find out how he does it, I sat down with Aki Ajo at Valencia and spoke for nearly half an hour. The results of this interview were fascinating, and offer a great insight into the how to get the best out of a rider, to help them achieve success.

In the first part of this interview, he shares his philosophy of racing and team management, of motivation, and what keeps him going. He also talks about the difference it makes working with a rider the second time around, and why he is happy with his current crop of riders in Moto2 and Moto3.

Q&A: Dani Pedrosa – Media & Changes from 990/800/1000

11/09/2016 @ 10:17 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Dani Pedrosa is in his eleventh season in MotoGP. Throughout that period, he has seen many changes in the premier class. He raced in the last year of the 990s, then throughout the 800 era, and saw the return of the 1000cc machines.

Only Valentino Rossi has been in MotoGP for longer, or raced, and won on, a greater variety of machines.

Pedrosa arrived in MotoGP being heralded as the next big thing, the prime candidate to challenge Valentino Rossi for the title. He started strongly, winning races in his first season, and clearly being competitive.

But the focus would shift in his second year to his former 250cc rival Casey Stoner, who took the factory Ducati ride and blew the competition out of the water in 2007.

In 2008, Jorge Lorenzo came to strengthen the top of MotoGP, creating the narrative of the four MotoGP Aliens. When Stoner hung up his helmet at the end of 2012, Marc Márquez stepped into his boots and upped the level of competition even further.

The level of competition Pedrosa has faced has meant he has not received the recognition he deserves for his incredible record. In eleven seasons, Pedrosa has won 29 races in MotoGP, putting him in 8th place on the all time winners list.

His win at Misano, after a very difficult start to the season, laid any doubts to rest over his motivation, and his ability. Pedrosa remains capable of winning any race he lines up on the grid for.

I spoke to Pedrosa at Misano, intending to look back at his time in MotoGP, and to discuss how things had changed. But the conversation took a slightly different tack than I was expecting.

In our conversation, Pedrosa talked about his relationship with the press, and how that had colored his time in the class.

Pedrosa has not always been the most talkative of riders – questions are sometimes answered with a tiny nod or shake of the head, where another rider might explain in great detail – but when he does talk, it is always worth listening carefully.

Q&A: Michelin’s Nicolas Gouber – On MotoGP Tire Technology & Michelin’s Development Direction

10/10/2016 @ 2:27 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Three quarters of the way through their first season back in MotoGP, and their first as a spec tire supplier, Michelin took the unique decision to start holding regular debriefs for the media at each race.

Aragon was the first of such debriefs, and was therefore a lengthy affair. In it, Michelin’s Racing Technical Director, faced some very broad-ranging questions about the development of the French firm’s tires throughout the season.

But he also covered more general questions, such as the R&D and marketing benefits of going racing, the direction Michelin are following, and how they are trying to accommodate of so many different riders.

Goubert offered a fascinating insight into where Michelin stands at the moment, and how they intend to move forward.

Safe or Unsafe? Riders & Michelin Talk Tires at Brno

08/24/2016 @ 11:18 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The tire degradation during the MotoGP race at Brno was still a hot topic on the test on Monday, after so many riders suffered problems during the race on Sunday.

We asked most of the riders who tested on Monday what they felt about the tires, and whether they were safe. We also spoke to Nicolas Goubert, Michelin’s technical director, and he explained why he felt that some riders had suffered problems, while others had been able to finish the race.

The comments below are offered without any further commentary. I do not wish to cloud the judgment of those reading the comments by first setting out my own theory of what happened. The comments stand on their own, and should be read as such.

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

08/16/2016 @ 12:29 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008.

He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class.

Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike.

That machine has both interesting parallels and major differences with the other machines on the MotoGP grid: the bike uses a 1,000cc, 90°, V4 engine housed in a tubular steel trellis frame, and a fairing that looks like an oversize version of the Moto3 bike’s, and sits somewhere between the Honda RC213V and Kalex Moto2 designs.

The bike will also use WP suspension, though as WP is a wholly owned subsidiary of KTM, it will basically be a dedicated factory suspension effort.

After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.

Q&A: Jonathan Rea – The WSBK Season, So Far

07/25/2016 @ 12:45 pm, by Kent Brockman4 COMMENTS

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Our man Kent Brockman (possibly his real name), sat down with Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea, to ask him how his World Superbike season is going so far.

Rea gives an account of his season, what’s been going on inside the Kawasaki Racing Team. He talks not only about the development of the current model Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R race bike, but also about himself as a racer.

The interview is a frank and detailed insight to one of the fastest riders in the World Superbike Championship right now, and sheds a great deal about who Jonathan Rea actually is. We think you will find the interview extremely interesting. -JB

Interview: John McGuinness and the Isle of Man TT

06/10/2016 @ 12:58 am, by Tony Goldsmith7 COMMENTS

John McGuinness is the winningest active TT racer at the Isle of Man, and has been competing at the iconic race for the past 20 years. Once a teammate to Joey Dunlop, McGuinness is creeping up on the legend’s overall TT race wins, with just three more needed to tie Dunlop’s mark.

This makes him a formidable rider in any of the TT’s solo-class races, and it also makes him a walking encyclopedia of the Manx circuit.

At the end of the Isle of Man TT practice week, our man Tony Goldsmith managed to grab some time with 23-time TT winner John McGuinness, who gave us some insight into how he prepares for the challenges of riding the Snaefell Mountain Course, and what the TT is like from his eyes.

We think you’ll enjoy what McGuinness has to say about racing at the Isle of Man, and gain some insight into what it like to compete at this iconic event. Enjoy! -JB

Q&A: Maverick Viñales – MotoGP’s Next Top Gun

04/19/2016 @ 3:06 pm, by Andrew Kohn9 COMMENTS

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Maverick Viñales is only 21-years-old, but has been racing motorcycles for 18 of those years (he started in minimotos at 3 years of age). Those 18 years of experience have brought him to where he is today; a rider in the premier class of motorcycle road racing – MotoGP.

Viñales’ record is impressive. He’s the owner of four 125cc titles at various levels, was the Rookie of the Year in Moto3 in 2011, Moto2 in 2014, and MotoGP in 2015, and most notably, was the World Champion in Moto3 in 2013.

Simply put, this man was made to race. Asphalt & Rubber had a chance to sit down with Maverick at the last round of MotoGP in Austin and it was great opportunity to talk motorcycle racing with one of the top riders in the series.

Q&A: P.J. Jacobsen – America’s Next World Champion?

04/04/2016 @ 4:04 pm, by Kent Brockman11 COMMENTS

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As a motorcycle racing journalist, I think Americans sometimes forget about P.J. Jacobsen (Facebook & Twitter). That’s a shame, because the 22-year-old finished second in last year’s World Supersport Championship, and again is a top contender for the title in this year’s WSS Championship.

Despite successfully making the jump from the US national racing scene to the race tracks of Europe, it seems Americans have a hard time remembering that they have a fellow countryman rising up the ranks of motorcycle racing’s elite.

Americans are obsessed about asking who will be the next great American champion, and when they do so, they talk about riders still in the AMA/MotoAmerica paddock, or talk nostalgically of GP riders of old, like Colin Edwards, Ben Spies, or Nicky Hayden.

While there is certainly cause for excitement about Nicky Hayden’s entry into the World Superbike paddock, the reality is that P.J. Jacobsen has quietly been climbing the ranks of motorcycle racing at the international level without anyone noticing. He might be America’s next World Champion, yet only diehard race fans know his name.

In the hopes of changing this situation, we plan to bring you a few stories about P.J. over the course this season. Our first opportunity so far was to sit down with him at the Aragon World Supersport round this past weekend.