Report: Apple Looking at Acquiring Lit Motors

I had to check the A&R archives to see if we have even mentioned Lit Motors before, mostly because the the San Francisco startup has been slow to develop its self-balancing motorcycle, and I’m not terribly bullish on the project. That doesn’t mean the concept is without merit though, and its apparently caught the interest of Apple. If that sounds strange to you, then you need to understand that Apple, along with a bevy of other tech giants, is working on an autonomous car for the masses. This “Project Titan” as it’s called, has already seen Apple poach a couple of Lit Motors’ personnel, and now the most valuable company in the world is looking at acquiring Lit Motors, and/or other automotive entities, according to the New York Times.

WSBK: Milwaukee SMR Switching to Aprilia for 2017+

Aprilia have finally confirmed that they will be providing factory backing for the Milwaukee SMR squad in WorldSBK for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. It had been an open secret for months that the Milwaukee team were looking to make a switch to Aprilia, and they had signed Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori to contest the championship for them. But, it took a long time for the official confirmation to come through. One of the key factors in the choice, for both Laverty and Milwaukee SMR, was to have strong factory support from Aprilia for the 2017 season. The Aprilia RSV4 RF is still widely viewed as the best package on the WorldSBK grid inside the paddock, subject to the condition that the team running the bike has support from the Noale factory.

Is This the Year of the Monkey, The Honda Monkey?

If you read as many motorcycle news sites as I do, then you surely know that Honda is almost definitely probably maybe debuting a new “monkey bike” in the near future. The source of this news is Honda’s recent application for design patents in the European and Japanese markets. Intellectual property filings are a great way of seeing what a motorcycle OEM is up to, but as our colleagues at Motorcycle.com correctly pointed out, they can also be a great source of red herrings. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when one sees a filing that exactly mimics a show bike or concept, as we’ve seen this week with the Grom-powered Honda Monkey.

A Baby Version of the Ducati Multistrada Cometh?

The above photo was sent to the Italian website Moto.it by one of its readers, and it is supposedly a photo of an upcoming new version of the Ducati Multistrada, which is physically smaller than the current 1200cc model. Presumably, this would make the machine in question then the Ducati Multistrada 939, thus adding to the Euro4 compliant engine’s call to action for the 2017 model year. We say this all hypothetically however, because it is hard to verify anything from this photo…beyond the very obvious double-sided swingarm setup. What we do know is that the photographed motorcycle shares a chassis with the current Multistrada models, with both the cast and trellis pieces of the frame matching the Multistrada 1200 models, and not the Hypermotard 939.

Two New Ducati Scramblers Spotted in CARB Docs?

More new model news, as filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that we will see two new Scrambler models debuting, later this year. We come to this conclusion because emissions papers from CARB state that “Scrambler CR” and “Scrambler DS” models are coming from Ducati for 2017, in addition to the models we already have from the Italian manufacturer. The two-letter designations imply that we are likely to see a café racer (CR) version of the Ducati Scrambler, as well as a dual-sport (DS) version of the machine, which we have already seen in spy photos. This news isn’t surprising, since Ducati has made no secret about its desire to expand the Scrambler lineup.

New Four-Cylinder MV Agusta Brutale Debuting at EICMA

You know the new-bike season is just around the corner, because we’re starting to get glimpses of what the motorcycle OEMs will debut at shows like INTERMOT and EICMA. We’ve already had a glimpse of the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR, as well as the 2017 BMW S1000R, and if the folks at Italian motorcycle magazine Motociclismo are correct, the following is a concept sketch of the four-cylinder 2017 MV Agusta Brutale. The new Brutale is one of two new bikes that MV Agusta will launch at the EICMA show, with the other machine pegged as a special edition three-cylinder model. To be up front, we don’t expect anything too crazy from MV Agusta for the 2017 model year, with the Italian company still limited in options by its financial situation.

Spotted: The Subtly Changed 2017 BMW S1000R

Thanks to our loyal readers, we were pointed in the direction of some photos of what looks like a pre-production version of the upcoming 2017 BMW S1000R streetfighter (one of the machines we tipped for an update this coming model year). It appears that the new BMW S1000R is going to get a bevy of changes already found on the current BMW S1000RR superbike, both visually and mechanically. Caught at the Oschersleben track in Germany, we can’t imagine how many people walked by this parked motorcycle, without realizing what it was. We can’t blame them though, because the updates coming to the 2017 BMW S1000R are subtle, and you’d really have to know what you’re looking at, in order to see the changes.

More of the Sexiness That Is the KTM Moto2 Race Bike

KTM’s Moto2 project officially debuted today, with Aki Ajo managing the team that will consist of riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira. Like KTM’s MotoGP project, with the KTM RC16 race bike, the Moto2 project uses some intriguing elements. Namely, the frame is of a steel trellis design, the suspension is provided for by WP, and of course the engine is a lightly tuned Honda CBR600RR lump. If looks could win races, the WP KTM Moto2 machine would already be a contender. That being said, we have high expectations for the racing program in next year’s Moto2 Championship. Until then tough, we’ll let you drool over the high-resolution images we have waiting for you, after the jump.

Hi, Are You the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR?

If you were hoping that the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR would be a completely new machine for sport bike enthusiasts, the following might disappoint you. This is because photos published on Twitter seem to suggest that the 2017 Honda Fireblade will get mostly cosmetic changes for the upcoming model year. As you can see after the jump, what looks like the new CBR1000RR was caught lapping for what appears to be a PR video spot for the Japanese OEM. While it is clear from these shots that the pictured Honda CBR1000RR has a radically new fairing design, a closer comparison to the chassis (see above) suggests that the machine is simply the current generation machine, with new clothing.

Official: KTM Enters Moto2 with Binder and Oliveira

KTM is to enter the Moto2 class. The Ajo team is to expand its current Moto2 operation to two riders, with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira (not Tom Lüthi, as we had previously reported) taking the place of the departing Johann Zarco. The team is also to switch from Kalex to KTM, as part of KTM’s project to provide a career path for young riders from the FIM CEV Moto3 championship through all three Grand Prix classes to MotoGP. The names of the riders involved should come as no surprise. Brad Binder is a race or two away at most from becoming the 2016 Moto3 world champion, and Miguel Oliveira came very close to winning the Moto3 title in 2015, as Binder’s teammate in the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team. Both riders are highly rated both by KTM and by team boss Aki Ajo.

Analyzing Valentino Rossi’s Two-Year Deal with Yamaha

03/19/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

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So the first shoe has dropped. Valentino Rossi is to remain at Yamaha for two more seasons, signing on to compete for 2017 and 2018. The signing of Rossi will have major repercussions for the rest of the MotoGP rider market, and has made it all a little more unpredictable.

That Rossi would renew his contract with Yamaha is hardly a surprise. The Italian has a long and storied history with the Japanese manufacturer, from his triumphant and daring switch to Yamaha at the start of the 2004 season, in which he won both a memorable first race on the YZR-M1, going on to become champion, through a total of four world titles and a seemingly endless string of wins.

Rossi was welcomed back into the fold, suitably chastened, after his failed adventure with Ducati, and after a slow start, returned to being competitive in 2014, and especially in 2015.

Even the bitter aftermath of the 2015 season, when Rossi lost the title to his Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo could not sour the relationship.

When Yamaha awarded its MotoGP merchandise contract to Rossi’s VR46 Racing Apparel business, and then signed a long-term support deal with Rossi’s VR46 Riders Academy, it was obvious that Rossi would stay with Yamaha, though it was uncertain that he would still be racing.

Rossi repeated publicly that he wanted to take the first few races of 2016 before making a decision, but it was clear that the decision would be continuing with the Movistar Yamaha team and retirement.

No doubt Rossi could have ridden elsewhere if he had chosen to – though the doors at Honda were almost certainly closed to him, after his defection at the end of 2003 – but realistically, Rossi’s future was tied to Yamaha.

When he retires, Rossi will continue as a figurehead for Yamaha, in much the same mold as Giacomo Agostini. The press release from Yamaha states as much, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis saying “When Vale returned home in 2013 it was ‘a decision for life’.”

That is worth a lot more to both Yamaha and Rossi in the long run. Though financial details of the deal were not released – they never are, the world of MotoGP salaries being one which is shrouded in secrecy and myth – the money part of the equation was most certainly not an issue.

Rossi has been racing for glory and the chance to win another title for the past few years, rather than financial compensation. Ironically, the most financially valuable of the four MotoGP aliens is probably on the lowest salary.

What is a surprise is the timing of Rossi’s announcement. The general expectation was that Rossi would stay on at Yamaha for another two years, but that the announcement would come some time in May or June.

Instead, the deal has been announced ahead of the first race of the season. The question everyone is asking now is, why the hurry?

Friday Summary at Mugello: More on the Problem with the Honda RC213V, & Ducati vs. Yamaha

05/29/2015 @ 6:34 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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What did we learn from the first day of practice at Mugello? We learned that Jorge Lorenzo is still at the same steamroller pace he was at Jerez and Le Mans. That Valentino Rossi is following a plan, rather than chasing a lap time.

That the Ducatis are fast, almost obscenely so, and that’s before they put their special Mugello engine in. That Aleix Espargaro is one tough son of a gun. That the Hondas are still fast, when the conditions are right. And that Mugello might just be one of the places the conditions are likely to be right.

Why would the Honda be good at Mugello when it was so bad at Le Mans? Marc Márquez explained in a little more detail after practice on Friday. The biggest problem of the Honda RC213V is the aggressive nature of its engine, both in acceleration and braking.

In braking, the bike is sliding more than the riders want it to, and in acceleration, the riders are having to fight the bike’s willingness to wheelie and spin out of the corner.

Because Mugello is such a fast track (more of that later), the teams have to gear the bikes longer, both for the main straight and for the more flowing corners. Longer gearing means that the engine has to work harder to try to lift the front wheel, taming the power a little.

“It looks like here the character of the engine is smoother, also because the final sprocket is longer and then the gearbox is longer,” Márquez told us. “The bike is pushing less, the corners are faster and don’t have that big acceleration and that helps us.”

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Jorge Lorenzo – 3rd

12/31/2014 @ 12:56 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The third part of our review of the 2014 season, in which we take a look at the top 10 finishers in MotoGP, sees us turn to Jorge Lorenzo, the man who took the final spot on the 2014 MotoGP podium:

3rd – 263 points –  Jorge Lorenzo

If Marc Márquez’s season was one of two halves, then Jorge Lorenzo’s 2014 was doubly so. The 2010 and 2012 world champion ended the first half of the season in fifth place overall, 128 points down on the leader Marc Márquez. By season’s end, Lorenzo was third, having outscored Márquez by 29 points.

If Lorenzo hadn’t gambled on a tire change at the last race at Valencia, the difference would have been even greater: in the eight races before Valencia, Lorenzo had outscored Márquez by 54 points in total.

It all went wrong for Jorge Lorenzo during the winter. The Movistar Yamaha rider was under the surgeon’s knife three times during the winter break to fix some minor problems and remove old metalwork, most notably from the collarbone he broke in 2013.

That made putting together a training schedule more difficult than usual, and Lorenzo’s fitness, usually his strong point, took a nosedive.

Sunday Summary at Brno: Breaking The Streak

08/17/2014 @ 8:35 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS

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The hot-hand fallacy finally caught up with Marc Marquez. His amazing streak of consecutive wins stays at ten, the Spaniard being beaten for the first time this year.

In his twenty-ninth race in the MotoGP class, Marquez and his crew finally failed to find a good enough set up to win, or even make it onto the podium.

The Repsol Honda man has only missed out on the podium twice before, once at Mugello last year, when he crashed, and once at Phillip Island, when he was disqualified from the tire fiasco race.

Defeat had been waiting in the wings for Marquez for a while now. Look solely at the points table, and his dominance looks complete. But go back and look at his winning margin, and his advantage has not looked quite so large.

Of his ten wins, only two were by a considerable margin: one at Austin, where he has always been better than the rest; one at Assen, where rain created large gaps. His advantage at Argentina and Indianapolis was 1.8 seconds, at Jerez, Le Mans and the Sachsenring under a second and a half.

Marquez could only eke out victory at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, races he won by a half a second or less. At most races, Marquez was winning by a slender margin indeed, lapping on average just five or six hundredths of a second quicker than his rivals. It was enough, but it was really not very much at all.

Marquez’s slender advantage over his rivals was a sign of just how close they really were. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa had all come close to beating Marquez, and in the case of Pedrosa at Barcelona, Marquez had been forced to delve deep into his bag of tricks to beat his teammate.

Marquez’s talent may have loaded the dice he was rolling, but eventually they would fall another way. “People said winning was easy for me,” Marquez told the Spanish media, “but I know how hard it was.”

A Prelude to MotoGP’s Silly Season, Part 1

04/07/2014 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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It is going to be a busy – and lucrative – year for the managers of MotoGP riders. With almost everyone out of contract at the end of 2014, and with Suzuki coming back in 2015, top riders will be in high demand. The signs that competition will be intense for both riders and teams are already there, with the first shots already being fired.

Silly season for the 2015 championship kicked off very early. At the end of last year, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto made a few casual remarks expressing an interesting in persuading Jorge Lorenzo to come to Honda. He repeated those comments at the Sepang tests, making no secret of his desire to see Lorenzo signed to an HRC contract.

Lorenzo has so far been cautious, ruling nothing out while reiterating his commitment to Yamaha. He is aware of the role Yamaha have played in his career, signing the Spaniard up while he was still in 250’s, and bringing him straight into the factory team alongside Valentino Rossi in 2008, against some very vigorous protests from the multiple world champion.

Yamaha have stuck with Lorenzo since then, refusing to bow to pressure to the extent of letting Rossi leave for Ducati, and in turn, Lorenzo has repaid their support by bringing them two world titles, 31 victories, and 43 other podium finishes.

Interview: Jorge Lorenzo & Crew Chief Ramon Forcada

05/10/2012 @ 3:07 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

One of the most fascinating areas of MotoGP is the relationship between rider and crew chief. The way that those two individuals communcate and interact can be the difference between winning championships and riding around mid-pack. Riders need a massive amount of talent to go fast, but they also need to understand what the bike is doing underneath them and be able to communicate that to their chief engineer. Likewise, crew chiefs have to have a solid grounding in race bike physics and an understanding of how to make a machine that is capable of lapping very fast, but they also need to be able to listen to what their rider is really saying, and understand what he needs to allow him to go faster.

It is a subject that has fascinated me for a long time. At Estoril, I had the chance to interview Jorge Lorenzo together with his crew chief Ramon Forcada. 2010 World Champion Lorenzo came into MotoGP off the back of two 250cc World Championships in 2006 and 2007, and was joined by Forcada, a 20-year veteran of the Grand Prix paddock, in the factory Yamaha team. Both men were known for their ability, but they had to find a way to work together to get the best out of the relationship, and out of the Yamaha M1. Here is what they had to say about how that relationship works: