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.

MotoGP: Seeing is Believing at the Valencian GP

11/11/2012 @ 4:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Another GP race weekend, and another weekend where the weather looms over the MotoGP paddock. Wasting Friday, and getting a reprieve on Saturday, the rain of Valencia was back for Sunday’s race, leaving a drying, but wet, course for the MotoGP riders to contend with on 200+ hp machines.

Casey Stoner’s last race, Dani Pedrosa’s last chance to have the most race wins, and Jorge Lorenzo’s final chapter to a flawless season, the script for the front-row starters was intriguing to say the least.

It all went out the window though, as we can confidently say that the following information contains no spoilers for those who have yet to see the race, since no human could possibly guess the outcome of the Valencian GP: a CRT bike lead the race for multiple laps, a Yamaha is on the podium, a world champion was lapped, and a satellite team finished both its bikes in the Top 5. Words can barely describe the race, but we will try after the jump.

Continue Reading

Wednesday Summary at Valencia: Of a Last Chance to See

11/08/2012 @ 12:29 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

In an ideal world, championships are settled in a straight fight between the main contenders in the final race of the season. Unfortunately, the world we live in is far from ideal – as the ever-dwindling stock of prototype machines on the grid testifies – and so the last race of the year can be a bit of a formality. In 2012, with the champions in all three classes securing their titles during the flyaways, there is not much more at stake at Valencia. Except pride.

Given that pride is what motivates a motorcycle racer above all else, that means that there is every reason to hope for a real treat at Valencia on Sunday. This is the last race of the season, the last chance to prove your worth, to silence your doubters, to settle those scores before the long winter begins.

No need to be conservative here, no need to calculate the odds. You can take that chance, take a risk and crash out trying. At the last race of the season, you go all in, as Nicky Hayden’s leathers proclaimed at Valencia in 2006, when it looked like he might miss out on his first ever MotoGP title. And there is a lot of pride at stake.

Continue Reading

Randy de Puniet & Aleix Espargaro Sign With Aspar for 2013

10/04/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

The Power Electronics Aspar Team confirmed today that it has extended the contracts of current riders Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro for the 2013 season. Both the Frenchman and the Spaniard are to remain with Aspar for another year, and will once again contest the season on Aprilia-built ART machines under the Claiming Rule Team regulations. The two teammates are currently battling it out to take the honors as top CRT rider for 2012.

The Aspar team has been the showcase for the CRT rules this season, with both De Puniet and Espargaro closing the gap on the prototype bikes. How the team will fare next year when most of the other CRT bikes will start to use the highly advanced Magneti Marelli ECU, while they stick with Aprilia’s electronics package developed in World Superbikes remains to be seen, and will provide a good yardstick by which to measure the spec ECU on offer.

With the prototype rides all filling up quickly, remaining with Aspar was the best option for both men. With a year of development on them, the Aprilia CRT bikes should be even closer to the prototypes next year, allowing De Puniet and Espargaro to put themselves in the shop window for the 2014 season, when Suzuki makes a return to MotoGP, and more factory rides should be available.

After the jump is the press release from the Aspar team announcing the re-signing of its current riders.

Continue Reading

XXX: Randy de Puniet’s 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR

08/24/2012 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Since we started Monday off with an ultra hi-res gallery of Valentino Rossi’s 2006 Yamaha YZR-M1, we thought it would be a good bookend to the work-week to conclude with some more hi-res shots of another MotoGP race bike: Randy de Puniet’s 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR. One of those bikes that never really shined in MotoGP, the ZX-RR scored only a modest number of podiums before Kawasaki finally bowed-out of MotoGP, mid-championship in 2008.

Leaving Marco Melandri holding the bag, the Kawasaki racing effort lived on in spirit as the Hayate Racing Team, where the team impressed many in the paddock with its results and limited resources. Absent completely from GP racing from 2009 to 2011, the closest we have to Team Green in the premier class now is the Avintia Blusens Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R powered CRT entry, which just took the honors of Top CRT in the Indianapolis GP.

Like Rossi’s 2006 Yamaha, RdP’s Kawasaki probably doesn’t hold the fondest memories for the Frenchman. His first ride in the premier-class, there is at least some irony in the very green rider (experience-wise) riding the Green Machine.

As Kawasaki has faded out of GP racing, and only exists in CRT form, De Puniet has come into his own as a rider, though through unfortunate circumstance has found his underrated riding skills relegated to Team Aspar’s Aprilia ART CRT — instead of factory-supported bike, like the ZX-RR seen here…which, if you haven’t already noticed, is actually a hyper-accurate scale model of the the real thing.

Continue Reading

Colin Edwards Breaks Collarbone in Freak Crash At Estoril

05/05/2012 @ 3:24 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Colin Edwards has broken his left collarbone in a crash during qualifying for the Portuguese MotoGP round at Estoril on Saturday. The NGM Forward rider was knocked off his bike in the latter part of qualifying practice, as he cruised around off the racing line. Randy de Puniet lost the front of his Power Electronics Aprilia machine, which slid along the track and hit Edwards’ Suter BMW. Edwards fell heavily, suffering a mild concussion and injuring his collarbone in the fall. De Puniet was taken to the medical center, where he was diagnosed with bruising to his finger, and general soreness.

Continue Reading

MotoGP: Mixed Weather for Qualifying at Jerez

04/28/2012 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With rain in all three of MotoGP’s Free Practice Sessions at Jerez, qualifying for the Spanish GP was unsurprisingly shaped by the weather. Getting a dry track with damp sections, riders were able to go out initially on slicks, though mid-way through it looked like rain could cut short the chance for lap-time improvements. The weather more or less cooperated though, only interrupting the qualifying briefly, though it did help make for some interesting results, with more than a few riders caught sliding along the asphalt.

Continue Reading

The ABC’s of MotoGP’s CRTs – A Spotter’s Guide

04/08/2012 @ 9:44 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on The ABC’s of MotoGP’s CRTs – A Spotter’s Guide

The claiming rule team (CRT) bikes are both figuratively and literally under the spotlight at Qatar this race weekend, with their production-based motors and prototype frames shaking up the norm of pure prototype racing. Both an effort to take power away from MotoGP’s MSMA, which is comprised of Ducati, Honda, & Yamaha, and as an effort to lower the cost of racing in MotoGP for its participating teams, the CRT experiment is getting its first real test this weekend.

Swelling MotoGP’s grid with an additional nine-racer entries, the CRTs have certainly helped fill MotoGP’s ranks, though mostly with riders we are not familiar with. Leading the CRT charge is American Colin Edwards, and he is joined by Randy de Puniet, who didn’t wish to be on a CRT for the 2012, but has still found himself at the top of the heap. These two veteran MotoGP riders have been accompanied by seven riders that hail from a range of world and national championships that span everything from Spanish Superbike (CEV) to British Superbike to the Moto2 Championship.

Since on Sunday morning, MotoGP fans are going to have learn the names of these new riders and the bikes they ride, we have put together a primer on the CRT entries for the 2012 MotoGP Championship. Bios, specs, and notes on all nine MotoGP CRT entries are after the jump.

Continue Reading

Aprilia ART – A Thinly Veiled World Superbike?

03/30/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.

Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.

If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.

Continue Reading

Aspar Racing’s Aprilia-Designed CRT MotoGP Bike

03/21/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

One of the biggest compliments ever made regarding the Aprilia RSV4 was actual meant to be a criticism, as when it came time to homologate the RSV4 for World Superbike racing, the competition cried afoul — saying the RSV4 Factory was really a MotoGP bike in a production bike’s clothing. Said to be the leftovers from Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP effort, the Aprilia RSV4 had a meteoric rise in WSBK, and won the Championship after only the company’s second season back in the series.

It should come then with little surprise that the Aprilia and its V4 motor has been the popular choice for teams in the MotoGP Championship looking for a claiming-rule team (CRT) solution. Dubbed the ART, the Aprilia-powered CRT bike also features an aluminum chassis that is designed by the Italian company. Thus with Aprilia offering essentially a turn-key GP solution for teams like Aspar Racing, it probably shouldn’t shock us that the similarities between the production WSBK-spec RSV4 and prototype ART being almost too close to distinguish between the two, even down to the bodywork.

Given the fact that Dorna desperately needs an alternative to prototype racing machines built by Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha for its CRT gamble to work — not to mention the need for CRT bikes and teams that are competitive on the track with the bikes from the OEMs — one can only imagine that Dorna is turning a blind eye to obvious “bending of the rules” that is occurring with the ART project. If the ends justify the means, then surely none of this matters to Ezpeleta et al, and right now Randy de Puniet and the Aspar Racing team’s CRT effort are the MotoGP rights holder’s best bet at recapturing control of MotoGP racing.

That all being said, the Power Electronics Aspar team debuted its ART race bike, and as is the custom, disclosed only some of the most basic technical specifications about the machine. At the helm of Aspar’s ARTs will be Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro, and while the CRTs as a whole have been off the pace of the prototype bikes, RdP’s pace on the Aprilia has been noticeably quicker, and could give some of the slower satellite riders a run for their money. Technical details and photos are after the jump.

Continue Reading

Photo of the Week: Fast By Any Other Name

03/05/2012 @ 4:04 pm, by Scott Jones21 COMMENTS

While a handful of MotoGP riders get the lion’s share of media attention, other riders can only wonder what might have been if they had landed in the premier class on more competitive machinery. With five 250cc wins, Randy de Puniet joined the Kawasaki MotoGP team in 2006, and switched to the LCR Honda team after two seasons. In 2011 he managed a season best 6th on the Pramac Ducati, another victim of the bike only Stoner could tame.

Most folks in the MotoGP paddock acknowledge de Puniet’s abilities and raw speed, and he is also as tough as they come, riding around injuries with impressive courage and determination. De Puniet has reunited with the Aspar Team for 2012, and will explore the future of the CRT formula. If the first-year Aprilia-powered Aspar CRT bike is not competitive, it won’t be for de Puniet’s lack of trying.

Continue Reading