Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

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.

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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.

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Answering Questions About Casey Stoner’s MotoGP Return

02/05/2016 @ 8:29 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The return of Casey Stoner to Ducati as a test rider has raised more questions than it answered. Fans and media alike are in a state of confusion about his intentions, especially given the times he was setting on the Ducati Desmosedici GP15.

What was he doing? Will he race again? When will he test again? To try to put this test and Stoner’s role into perspective, here is what we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t.

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Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 15 – Listener Questions

01/21/2016 @ 8:00 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Filling the lull of the motorcycle racing off-season, Episode 15 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David, Steve, and Neil answering listener questions that were submitted via Twitter.

The guys cover everything from what rider apparel they have bought (and what happens when you show up to a media scrum wearing them), to how World Superbike will handle a two-day race schedule, and much much more. We think you will find the show highly amusing. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions!

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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Q&A: Mika Kallio – On The KTM MotoGP RC16

12/17/2015 @ 1:37 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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There is a lot to look forward to in MotoGP during the next couple of seasons. New tires and new-spec electronics for 2016; and for 2017, the arrival of a new manufacturer, with KTM due to join the show.

The arrival of KTM has generated much excitement, the Austrian factory having succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations in every racing class they have entered, with the exception of MotoGP.

This time, they have taken the development of the bike completely in-house, a powerful V4 engine being housed in a trellis frame, the company’s trademark in racing.

The bike has already made its debut on track, with Alex Hofmann having given the bike a shakedown test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in October. A few weeks later, the bike got its first proper test in the hands of newly signed test rider Mika Kallio, the man who was Moto2 runner up in 2014.

Kallio was present in Barcelona for the Superprestigio event, where he had been scheduled to race. However, a crash on Friday morning saw the Finnish rider break his leg, which meant he could not actually participate in the event.

Kallio was present, however, and we got the chance to talk to him about the state of the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, his first impressions of the machine, and his hopes and expectations for testing in 2016 and racing in 2017.

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Why Michelin Returned to MotoGP & The Challenges Ahead

12/07/2015 @ 10:56 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin as the official tire supplier for MotoGP promises to be perhaps the most important change to the class for 2016, though the change to spec-ECU software runs it a close second.

Up until the Valencia tests, held after the final race of the year, the performance of the Michelins was still shrouded in mystery, the official riders contractually obliged to keep quiet about the French tires while Bridgestone was still the official tire supplier.

That all changed on the Tuesday after Valencia. With the handover to Michelin, the riders were free to speak, as were the principal players inside the French tire manufacturer.

The teams had a lot of work to do, their job not made any easier by the fact that so many riders crashed at Valencia. Riding styles needed to change, as did the weight distribution of the bikes.

But question marks remained over the performance of the Michelin front tire, especially, with so many riders lowsiding over the two days of the test.

On the Tuesday at Valencia, we got a chance to speak with Nicolas Goubert, the head of Michelin’s motorsports program, alongside Israeli TV5 commentator Tammy Gorali.

Goubert gave an update on the progress of their MotoGP program so far, and addressed several of the issues they had faced during testing. Of course, Michelin was delighted to be back in the premier class again.

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HRC Releases Q&A with Nakamoto on the “Sepang Clash”

11/02/2015 @ 12:32 am, by David Emmett40 COMMENTS

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The controversy surrounding the “Sepang Clash” continues onward this week, now with HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto weighing in on the events that happened in Phillip Island and Sepang.

The Q&A released by HRC comes after a series of important events: Repsol issued a strongly worded press release that casts doubt on their future in MotoGP, FIM President Vito Ippolito issued an open letter on the subject that urged parties to act in the best interest of MotoGP racing, Valentino Rossi appealed his penalty with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Marc Marquez was allegedly assaulted by Italian TV prank show.

Needless to say, there is no shortage of drama in the MotoGP world at the moment, and there’s no sign of it abating until the conclusion of the final round, in Valencia.

Find after the jump the full transcript of HRC’s Q&A with Shuhei Nakamoto, it is an interesting insight into how Honda views what happened in Australia and Malaysia. We will let you form your own opinions on its contents.

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Q&A: Piero Taramasso – Making Michelin’s MotoGP Tires

08/24/2015 @ 12:32 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Q&A: Piero Taramasso – Making Michelin’s MotoGP Tires

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The change of official tire suppliers for MotoGP, with Bridgestone departing and Michelin arriving, is arguably the most significant change to the class since the series went to a single tire in 2009.

Changing tire manufacturers has a massive impact on everything, from bike design to rider preference, and Michelin face a huge challenge to get everything ready in time.

Bridgestone helped by staying on for an extra year to allow Michelin to properly prepare, and the tires which the French manufacturer have been developing are looking very promising.

Their preparations have not been helped by conditions. Test days have been hit by rain, with testing severely hampered.

This was also the case at Brno, when the majority of the MotoGP field was due to get their first outing on the Michelins since Sepang, though the factory riders had a chance to test after Mugello.

The rain did give a group of journalists a chance to grill Piero Taramasso, Michelin’s manager of two wheel motorsports activities.

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Q&A: Silvano Galbusera – On Replacing Jeremy Burgess & Being Valentino Rossi’s Crew Chief, Part 2

07/23/2015 @ 10:10 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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At Valencia last year, working for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder, I interviewed Valentino Rossi’s crew chief Silvano Galbusera.

The interview lived up to expectations, providing a fascinating insight into working with the nine-time world champion, and the pressures of replacing legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess as Rossi’s right-hand man.

Yesterday, we published the first part of the interview, in which Galbusera spoke of his switch to MotoGP, and replacing Jerry Burgess. In the second part of the interview, Galbusera talks specifically about working with Valentino Rossi, and what makes him such a special rider.

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Q&A: Silvano Galbusera – On Replacing Jeremy Burgess & Being Valentino Rossi’s Crew Chief, Part 1

07/22/2015 @ 12:05 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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At Valencia last year, working for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder, I interviewed Valentino Rossi’s crew chief Silvano Galbusera.

The interview lived up to expectations, providing a fascinating insight into working with the nine-time world champion, and the pressures of replacing legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess as Rossi’s right-hand man.

Today, we publish the first part of the interview. The second part will be published on Thursday.

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