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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Video: Suzuki MotoGP Development Report, Part 4

01/10/2014 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The fourth installment of Suzuki’s four-part video series (part 1, part 2, & part 3 here) on its MotoGP program is out, and this time around the Japanese OEM is talking about the relentless perils of testing, testing, and more testing (no surprises here). One of Suzuki’s biggest hurdles though, as it gets ready for the 2015 season, is switching from its Mitsubishi electronics system, to the spec-ecu being built by Magneti Marelli for Dorna.

The process is more difficult than it sounds. Not only does Suzuki have to do the general development necessary to get the most out of the Suzuki XRH-1 GP prototype (more photos here, too), but then once complete, Suzuki must port those settings to the Magneti Marelli unit. Meanwhile test riders Randy de Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki are constantly finding things to improve with the race bike, which can require further changes to the ECU software.

No one ever said it was easy to race in the premier class of motorcycle racing, and Suzuki’s efforts prove that point. With the MotoGP proving itself to be an ever-changing landscape for rules and regulations, Suzuki also faces a very slim window to use the bike that they are currently developing. Thus in our minds, their place as the 2015 underdogs has already been solidified well ahead of their debut. Good luck to all of them.

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Video: Suzuki MotoGP Development Report, Part 3

01/07/2014 @ 9:23 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Suzuki have released the third video in their four-part series (part #1 & part #2 here), documenting the development of the Suzuki XRH-1 that they are preparing for their re-entry into the MotoGP class in 2015. This episode covers the tests at Barcelona and Aragon in June last year, including the public unveiling of the bike, and the impressive lap times set at Barcelona.

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Video: Suzuki MotoGP Development Report, Part 2

01/04/2014 @ 4:16 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Continuing its video series on the progress of its MotoGP project, Suzuki today released the second part of the series. Today’s video documents the first tests which Suzuki undertook at Motegi in April and May, after signing Randy de Puniet as test rider and Davide Brivio to manage the program.

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Video: Suzuki MotoGP 2013 Testing Goodness

12/02/2013 @ 7:26 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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For our American readers, it is time to get back in the swing of things from the long Thanksgiving weekend; and for our non-American readers, well…the last few days must have been pretty boring for you (especially for our Canadian readers, who are probably still baffled about why we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving over a month late).

Anyhoo, it is Monday here at Asphalt & Rubber HQ, and while we let the caffeine soak into our veins, we have some high-energy content to help you get going at the workplace job thing. First up is a little video from Suzuki, which has just concluded its 2013 MotoGP testing schedule.

It is mostly just motorcycle porn for racing fans, but to our knowledge the video is the first time that Suzuki has publicly acknowledged its inline-four cylinder engine design for its XRH-1 MotoGP test bike. Suzuki will be back testing in 2014, with Randy de Puniet now solely committed to test-riding the machine for the Japanese OEM.

High on the team’s list is getting its race program to work on only 20 liters of fuel, as well as switching from Suzuki’s current Mitsubishi-designed ECU to the spec-ECU supplied by Dorna and built by Magneti Marelli. Neither task is an easy one as Suzuki gears up for its 2015 return to Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

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MotoGP Silly Season Nearly Done – A Look at the Likely Rider Lineup for the 2014 Season

09/23/2013 @ 11:06 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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As the 2013 MotoGP season heads into its final five races, negotiations for 2014 are coming to a head. While the seats on the factory and satellite machines were filled some time ago, the next level of competitiveness, both in terms of riders and bikes, is now up for grabs. Two names and two teams were the focal point of the negotiations, and the log jam behind which many other riders were waiting.

It was up to Aleix Espargaro to make a decision on whether to stay at Aspar, or pay off his contract and head to the NGM Forward squad, and up to Nicky Hayden to decide whether his future lay in MotoGP with Aspar or Forward, or if it was time to head over to World Superbikes, and become the first rider to win a title in both series.

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Post-Race Misano MotoGP Test Times: Marquez Tops Timesheets While on 2014 Honda RC213V

09/16/2013 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Marc Marquez has ended the day at the top of the timesheets, taking the 2014 version of the RC213V out for a final run at the end of the day to post a time nearly a quarter of a second faster than Jorge Lorenzo, who had been fastest for most of the day.

Both Honda and Yamaha had brought versions of their 2014 machines, with all four factory riders switching between the two versions, though most were concentrating on improving set up for the remainder of the 2013 season.

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Espargaro’s €600,000 Decision, Hayden Closing on Aspar

09/14/2013 @ 5:06 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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Though the factory seats in MotoGP are all filled, the prime seats on the non-factory entries are still open. Top favorites among the riders are the NGM Forward team, with the leased and FTR-kitted Yamaha M1s, and the Aspar team, which will be running factory-backed Aprilias, though not as an official factory team.

These four are the most competitive of the non-factory bikes, and any rider dreaming at a shot of a return to a factory ride, with Suzuki in 2015 perhaps, will want to be on board one of these bikes. At the moment, there are two lynchpins around which all of the rest of the choices revolve.

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Photos: Suzuki MotoGP Team Testing at Motegi with RdP

08/12/2013 @ 5:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Getting on the track one out of the two planned days at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit last week (Day One was hampered by rain), Suzuki Racing got some more time on the track with its MotoGP race bike. With test rider Randy de Puniet on the track, the Frenchman posted a 1’48:60 as his best lap time of the day, about the same pace as his previous outings in Japan, though on par with the less grippy post-rain conditions.

Able to push the Suzuki to a GP race pace, De Puniet’s input has helped steer the Japanese manufacturer. As a result, Suzuki Racing has chosen to further develop one of the two chassis configurations it brought to Motegi, and will test that chassis again next month in Misano, as the company ramps up its efforts for a 2015 re-entry into the premier class.

MotoGP fans will be pleased to hear that Suzuki Racing has been getting pressure from Dorna to enter as many wild card races as possible in 2014, which will help bolster the grid at a select number of events. If you haven’t already seen the interview videos with Davide Brivio and Randy de Puniet, we suggest you check those out. Otherwise, there are 47 high-resolution photos waiting for you after the jump. Enjoy.

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MotoGP: Randy de Puniet & Davide Brivio Talk About Suzuki Racing Testing at Motegi

08/11/2013 @ 7:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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One of the great joys of private testing in the MotoGP class is the lack of media control and censorship placed upon the teams. We know that this seems like a backwards concept, but since Dorna can’t block teams from filming at the track, the private tests the MotoGP squads undertake are ever-becoming media and marketing opportunities, and our latest example comes from Motegi and the Suzuki Racing MotoGP effort.

Perhaps one of the most exciting projects in the MotoGP World Championship right now, Suzuki Racing’s bid to re-enter the premier class in 2015 has been eagerly awaited ever since the Japanese factory left Grand Prix racing at the end of the 2011 season.

Now publicly working its still unnamed race bike, with its inline-four engine and Randy de Puniet at the helm, Suzuki Racing has shown that the squad has the potential to run with the other factories, though still not within the restrictions of the upcoming MotoGP rules.

With a season and a half to go in that endeavor, fans are now getting the treat of watching Suzuki develop in real time. Queue the team videos from Motegi, where Davide Brivio talks about the results of the test, and hired gun Randy de Puniet explains the progress with Suzuki’s new chassis. 2015 can’t come soon enough.

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MotoGP Engine Usage at the Halfway Mark: Yamaha Struggling, Honda Dominating, & Ducati Managing

08/06/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.

In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.

For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.

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