Ride Review: Aprilia RSV4 RF

After a great many success in World Superbike, Aprilia claims to have improved the venerable 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR street bike once more. Aprilia’s halo motorcycle has lost a couple of pounds and its power output has risen to a punchy 201hp. To celebrate this milestone Aprilia not only unleashes the standard RR version, but also a limited run of 500 units for the “RF” (Racing Factory) bikes.The RSV4 RF hosts obvious upgrades such as forged wheels, Öhlins suspension and steering damper, and a WSBK-inspired color scheme. To see how the updated RSV4 goes, we were invited to review RF #77 out of 500, on the newly resurfaced Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”.

Team Hero EBR Withdraws from World Superbike

After first saying it would be business as usual, Team Hero EBR has regrouped and found that it will not be continuing in the 2015 World Superbike Championship. Though a change in announcements, the news is perhaps unsurprising considering the state of EBR and the economic troubles reportedly faced by Hero MotoCorp. The team quotes the “recent bankruptcy of EBR and the re-prioritizing of efforts by title sponsor Hero” as the cause of its withdrawal, with Pegram Racing hoping to announce its future racing plans soon. “This is a really hard pill for us all at Pegram Racing to swallow, as we always live by the philosophy of Never Give Up,” said team owner Larry Pegram.

MV Agusta USA Expands Dealer Network

One of the main issues MV Agusta USA’s new management is addressing right off the bat is the company’s dealer network in the United States. It was an issue that considerable time was spent on during our media meeting with them late last year, and clearly the American subsidiary has heard the pleas of journalists and consumers alike. As such, MV Agusta USA is announcing the addition of nine new dealers to its list, which is roughly a 25% increase in MV Agusta dealers in the USA. Of course, simply adding more dealers doesn’t solve MV Agusta’s problem in the US, finding the right dealers is key. “We have a continual strategy to make changes in selected open areas where rider demand is high and the prospective MV rider community is underserved,” said Helen Vasilevski, CEO of MV Agusta USA.

Recycled Dainese Leathers for Your Two-Wheeled Lifestyle

What are you to do with a set of leathers, once they’ve been retired from protecting your motorcycling hide? The answer to that question is why Dainese has teamed up with Regenesi, an Italian firm known for recycling old products and turning them into new ones. Taking the crashed leathers of Dainese’s sponsored riders, Regenesi turns the leather pieces into various lifestyle items, like wallets ($139), smartphone sleeves ($79), key fobs ($54), etc. Each piece is obviously unique, comes straight from the race track, and is hand-made in Italy. Helping things too is the fact that Dainese is selling (re-selling?) the pieces at a reasonable prices, so buying a wallet doesn’t also hurt you in the wallet.

Troy Bayliss Riding a Ducati Scrambler Inspired Race Bike

We already know that Troy Bayliss will be making another return to racing this year, taking on five one-mile events on the AMA Pro Grand National Series. We also knew that Bayliss would be on a Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati race bike, continuing the Australian’s link to the Italian brand. Ducati has given us a glimpse of that flat-tracking machine, and to our surprise, it seems the folks in Bologna are looking to get some more marketing mileage out of the partnership, as Troy’s race bike is a spitting image of the Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle. Of course, Bayliss will compete with an 1,100cc air-cooled machine, in lieu of the Scrambler’s 803cc v-twin engine. The race bike will feature a custom-built chassis, and of course 19″ flat track wheels.

Oregon Just Got Closer to Legalizing Lane-Filtering*

Motorcyclists living in the fine State of Oregon (this author included) have something to celebrate today, as the Oregon State Senate passed SB 694 (18 to 10, with two abstentions): proposal that would make lane-filtering or lane-sharing legal under certain conditions. The bill now goes before the Oregon House of Representatives, where it will be first heard on April 27th. If voted on successfully in the House, Oregon will become only the second state to permit lane-filtering of some kind on public roads. While today’s news is a boon for motorcyclists in Oregon, there are some serious caveats to the bill that has passed through the Senate, namely that it only permits lane-sharing during specific instances.

The End of Marzocchi Suspension is Nigh?

Reports out of Italy suggest that the Marzocchi brand may soon be no more, after parent company Tenneco made the decision to close the Italian firm’s Bologna factory in Zola Predosa. The Italain outlets go on to say that motorcycle manufacturers that use Marzocchi as an OEM part have been notified that they will no longer be supplied with the suspension pieces, once the co Marzocchi’s stock of forks has been exhausted from supply. This news would affect a bevy of brands, including BMW, Ducati, MV Agusta, TM, GasGas, Beta, and AJP. The writing on the wall has been coming for some time for Marzocchi, as Tenneco initially wanted to close the plant in 2011, but instead through labor negotiations, laid off 50 of the company’s 170 employees.

Is This Really the End of EBR? Receivership Explained

It didn’t surprise me last week that the headlines regard Erik Buell Racing ranged in their proclamations from the more accurate “ceased operations” to “gone bankrupt” – with the even more presumptive publications proclaiming the ultimate demise of the American brand. This comes from a lack of understanding about how the receivership process works, which my European colleagues should have a stronger grasp of, as the concept is more prevalent across the pond. As such, I would like to explain the issue further, and how it applies to the situation facing Erik Buell Racing. To entice you on what will surely be a boring subject to many, this doesn’t spell the end of Erik Buell Racing…not even close.

Troy Bayliss Racing in the 2015 Grand National Series

He may have retired from World Superbike racing, but that isn’t stopping Troy Bayliss from continuing his pursuit of checkered flags, as the Australian has confirmed his long-rumored move to the AMA Pro Grand National Series. Bayliss will be racing on an 1,100, air-cooled, two-valve Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati (no surprise there), as a teammate to Johnny Lewis. The former World Champion plans to contest all five mile-long racing events, with his first race being the Springfield Mile in Illinois on May 24th. Bayliss may be an old salt, at the ripe age of 46, but the Aussie has been keeping his game sharp on local flat track courses. Every year as well he hosts the invitation-only Troy Bayliss Classic, where many AMA Pro Flat Track racers have competed.

A BMW Scrambler Cometh?

It appears that BMW Motorrad wants in on the retro-styled scrambler game that Ducati and Triumph are playing, and is looking to use its R nineT platform to do the job. The scrambler model, which has already been previewed to BMW’s European dealers, would be just the first of several budget-oriented models to come from BMW, all of which would be based off the BMW R nineT. The scrambler is expected to debut later this year with its 100hp air-cooled engine, while the other models, namely a café racer model, will come in 2016. Fueled on by the sales success of its customization projects, Roland Sands is said to be attached to the BMW project, which is logical since the American designer was part of the initial BMW R nineT design team.

Q&A: Corrado Cecchinelli – MotoGP’s Director of Technology

09/23/2014 @ 12:00 am, by David Emmett33 COMMENTS

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From 2016, the entire MotoGP class will switch to a single, spec software for the electronics on the bikes. Development of the software is to become a collaborative process, with the factories competing in MotoGP supplying code and requirements through a single website.

This much we know. But what we don’t know is much more interesting. Which technologies will be supported? Which functions will be available? How sophisticated will the software be? Who will lead the software process, the factories or Dorna?

To get answers to all of these questions and more I spoke to MotoGP’s Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli at Silverstone. He is the man in charge of the process of making the switch to the spec, or unified software, as it is now being called. Cecchinelli will manage the development process, and define the goal of the unified software, trying to create a level playing field for all of the competitors.

It was a long and interesting interview. We covered many subjects, from the logistics of the development process, to the technologies which will be allowed, to what Cecchinelli sees as the objective of the software, and the goals it should achieve.

Cecchinelli described in some detail how the development process for the unified software is to work, and how the process will be managed. It will be a collaborative process, but it will not, as some fans had hoped, be a fully open process, with fully public access to the code.

Cecchinelli then set out his vision for the unified software, both in terms of implementation at the track and its application in production bikes. The goal is that any MotoGP-level electronics engineer should be able to extract the maximum performance from the software, rather than requiring mastery of an arcane and excessively complex piece of software.

It should be fully usable by the engineers in the independent or non-factory teams, allowing them to use the software to its full potential. This is one of the complaints made by the Open teams at the Sepang test at the start of the year, when they were handed an extremely powerful, but extremely complex software update. The update was soon dropped, in favor of an evolution of the existing software.

Cecchinelli’s vision of how the unified software should be applicable to road-going machines makes for interesting reading. The aim is for technology developed at the track to be directly transferrable to production bikes. That does not mean restricting technology, but rather focusing it on making it usable for all riders.

The idea is not to remove traction control and engine braking, but to keep them relevant to production bikes, and improve rideability. Though the software will still allow turn-by-turn settings, Cecchinelli made a strong case for why it should be removed, and the focus switched to other technology areas.

The aim, Cecchinelli was keen to emphasize, was to prevent factories getting into a spending war over extreme performance, and make them focus instead on providing the rider with a more rideable package.

Cecchinelli admitted that the unified software would not stop factories from spending money, but his aim was to limit the return on throwing ever larger resources at the field of electronics which had no direct relevance to MotoGP. We started on the subject of the development process, and where it stands at the moment.

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

09/11/2014 @ 3:13 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

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Dani Pedrosa has been with his crew chief Mike Leitner for over ten years now, since Pedrosa’s first season in the 250cc class in 2004. Pedrosa and Leitner have been a strong partnership, with the Austrian helping Pedrosa win two world championships and 41 victories in the two classes they have been together.

The arrival of Marc Marquez into MotoGP has had a profound impact both inside and outside the Repsol Honda team. Marquez’s natural speed has forced Pedrosa and his crew to rethink their approach to the races, to try to match the pace of Pedrosa’s young teammate.

At the beginning of the season, Pedrosa complained a number of times that he felt the revised strategy taken by Leitner was not working as hoped, and that had left him unable to compete.

Though Pedrosa’s competitiveness has improved, the Spaniard being the first person to beat his teammate with victory at Brno, it has still left tension in Pedrosa’s garage. Rumors are circulating that Pedrosa would like to drop Leitner and change his crew chief.

Intrigued by the question of what exactly had changed in Pedrosa’s race strategy, we spoke to his crew chief Mike Leitner. The resulting conversation gave a fascinating insight into race strategy, and how teams approach each MotoGP race.

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.

Leitner also talks about how the extra soft tire the Ducatis have has complicated the first part of each MotoGP race. He went on to link this to the rubber left on the track by the Moto2 race, and how that changes during the race, and can affect strategy.

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.

Q&A: Alex Rins — On the Changes of Moto3

09/04/2014 @ 12:13 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Alex Rins is one of the rising stars of Moto3. Rins is part of the generation which, along with Alex Marquez and Jack Miller, the factory bosses in MotoGP are looking to shake up the premier class in the future.

After a strong season last year aboard the KTM in 2013, when he won six races, Rins has had a tougher season in 2014, now riding a Honda. On the podium just four times until Silverstone, a win had so far eluded him when we spoke to him on Thursday at Silverstone. That all changed on Sunday, when he finally won his first race of the season.

We covered quite a lot of ground with Rins, despite his protestations that he did not speak very good English. Rins spoke simply, but clearly of his year so far with the Honda, comparing it with the KTM he rode for the Estrella Galicia team last year.

He talked of the difficulty of winning in Moto3, because of how close the field is at the front, and how that caused him to cheer a lap too early at Brno. And we touched briefly on his future, and the interest Yamaha showed in him to go straight to MotoGP.

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.

Q&A: Paolo Ciabatti – On Crutchlow, Lorenzo, & Michelin

06/19/2014 @ 4:14 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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The situation at Ducati was the talk of the paddock in Barcelona. With Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, and Cal Crutchlow being linked to Suzuki. With Crutchlow having a contract for 2015, Ducati is keen to retain the services of both Dovizioso and Iannone.

Iannone is openly pushing for a seat in the factory Ducati team, and so the Bologna factory faces a series of complex contract negotiations. To check on the state of play with Ducati, we cornered Ducati Corse’s MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti.

What was meant to be just a brief chat turned into a much longer conversation, on a range of subjects. Ciabatti gave his view of the situation with Cal Crutchlow, as well as his hopes of retaining both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone.

He discussed the rumors concerning an approach to Jorge Lorenzo, and reflected on having had Valentino Rossi in the Ducati team. He gave us an update on Ducati’s plans to provide more Open bikes for 2015. And finally, he turned his attention to the return of Michelin, and Ducati’s hopes for the new tire manufacturer.

Q&A: PJ Jacobsen — America’s Next World Champion?

06/09/2014 @ 6:38 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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With Ben Spies already retired, Colin Edwards about to retire at the end of the 2014 season, Nicky Hayden struggling with a wrist injury, and Josh Herrin having a very tough rookie year in Moto2, there is growing concern among US fans about the future of American racing.

What is to become of the nation that once dominated world championship racing, with existing stars in decline and no fresh blood ready to replace them?

Perhaps the brightest point in the firmament for American racing is PJ Jacobsen, currently racing in the World Supersport championship for the Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress team.

The native of Montgomery, New York has been quietly building a reputation as a fast and promising young racer, stringing together a series of top ten results in the competitive WSS series in his debut year, and coming very close to scoring his first podium.

Jacobsen’s World Supersport debut comes after an impressive first year racing in the British BSB championship with Tyco Suzuki, which earned him a move to the world stage.

We caught up with Jacobsen a few weeks ago at Assen, ahead of the third round of the World Supersport championship. There, we spoke to him about the state of American racing, the difficulties faced by American riders trying to break into a world championship, and the path he took to the world stage.

Jacobsen covers BSB, living in Northern Ireland, and how his background in dirt track helped in road racing. PJ tells us about how BSB is a viable route into a world championship, and just what it takes to make the move. It was a fascinating perspective from an extremely talented young racer.

Q&A: Getting to Know Josh Herrin

01/07/2014 @ 12:53 pm, by Aakash Desai2 COMMENTS

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After going pro in 2006 at the age of 16, Josh Herrin impressed many by racking up wins in the AMA Supersport and AMA Daytona Sportbike series – with 2013 seeing Josh win the AMA Pro Superbike  Championship, America’s crown jewel of road racing.

Most recently, he has joined the Caterham Moto2 team, making him the first American athlete to make the jump from AMA to Moto2. I recently got to sit down with Josh Herrin to talk about his life and his racing career. The transcript from our conversation follows.

Marc Marquez: “It Was a Great Surprise”

11/17/2013 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Thanks to the good folks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Asphalt & Rubber recently got a chance to participate in a teleconference with an up-and-coming racer by the name of Marc Marquez. For those of you who haven’t heard about this talented Honda rider, he just won a little Spanish racing series called MotoGP — and apparently is the youngest rider ever to do so.

Taking questions from American journalists, the young Marquez shared with us his insights about winning the championship in his rookie season, riding on the factory-spec Honda RC213V, competing against riders like Jorge Lorenzo, and during the season when he thought he could actually be the MotoGP World Champion.

As always, Marc was his usual enthusiastic self, and we think it comes through in the transcript for the teleconference.

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 2 — The Phillip Island Tire Debacle

11/15/2013 @ 11:41 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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In part one of our interview with Mike Webb, the MotoGP Race Director talked about the penalty point system and how it had worked in 2013. In the second part, Webb talks about the tire debacle at Phillip Island.

Webb explains what the teams were told about the rules and the penalties they would incur, and he discusses the incident on the exit of pit lane between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. He explains how Race Direction felt the dry flag-to-flag race went, and whether the situation could be handled any differently.

He also explains why penalty points are only handed out at the front of the race, while the battle mid-pack can be much fiercer than anything happening for the lead. Finally, Mike Webb casts an eye on the future, and explains the next steps towards improving safety, and improving communication with the riders.

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1 — On Penalty Points, Precedent, & Contact Sports

11/14/2013 @ 11:23 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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It has been a busy year for MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb. Since taking on the job of ensuring that MotoGP events take place safely and efficiently, stepping into the shoes vacated by Paul Butler at the start of the 2012 season, Webb has faced some tough decisions and unusual situations, his second year in the job even more eventful than the first.

In response to criticism over the warning system in 2012, a new penalty points system was introduced to allow for harsher penalties for persistent offenders.

There were several high-profile incidents involving Marc Marquez in his rookie season, including a clash with Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez, a touch which severed the traction control sensor of teammate Dani Pedrosa’s Honda and caused Pedrosa to crash, and the situation at Phillip Island, where the new asphalt at the circuit caused the tires to degrade much more than the two spec tire manufacturers had expected, requiring last-minute adjustments to the race schedule on the fly.

We spoke with Mike Webb extensively at Valencia, on the Thursday evening before the race, covering the above subjects and more, and reviewing his second year as Race Director.

In the first part of the interview, Webb talks of whether motorcycle racing is a contact sport, how the penalty system has worked out, explains why Marc Marquez was not given points at Jerez, why Jorge Lorenzo wasn’t penalized for the touch at Sepang, and of changing perceptions.