MV Agusta Looking to Part Ways with Mercedes-AMG

The story of MV Agusta continues with even more interesting developments, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer seems intent on buying back its shares from Mercedes-AMG, and recapitalizing with new investors. Talking this week to Italy’s Il Giorno, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni said that he is “negotiating a buy-back of shares,” though that might be a task easier said than done for the Italian CEO. This is because MV Agusta’s current financial predicament is due primarily from the company’s massive debt accumulation, which now totals over €40 million. To complicate matters further, some of that debt was secured by the involvement of AMG, and its investment contract stipulates that if AMG doesn’t own 20% or more of MV Agusta then the loaned sum is due immediately.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity. Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so. But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well. Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs. To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine. We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda. How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine. The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

Could BMW Be Working on an XDiavel Killer?

Here’s some more BMW Motorrad speculation for your two-wheeled consumption, as Germany’s Motorrad Magazine says that BMW is looking to take on the Ducati XDiavel, with a power cruiser model of its own. This of course isn’t the first time that BMW has included a cruiser-styled motorcycle in its lineup, with the BMW R1200C being a unique, though slightly odd, offering to the cruiser demographic. Like Ducati, BMW seems to be learning from its mistakes in going after the cruiser crowd, and instead of offering a motorcycle that is BMW’s take on the cruiser concept, they are building a cruiser that has cues back to the BMW lineup. A subtle but potent distinction. Time will tell on how this rumor plays out, though there are number of interesting things to consider with a BMW power cruiser.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles. As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride. With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Is BMW Working on 300cc GS Model?

When the BMW G310R arrived, the German brand indicated that the small-displacement street bike would be the first of many model based on the 313cc platform. Now it seems that the first iteration is ready to drop, with news that BMW Motorrad is working on a G310R-based adventure-touer model. According to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, BMW Motorrad UK’s Director Phil Horton has confirmed that a BMW G310GS model will debut, perhaps in time for the 2017 model year, saying “new models aside, the line-up isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be. But there are plenty more bikes to come, including, hopefully in 2017, a G310R GS-style derivative.” The idea of small-displacement ADV machine does mimic what we have been seeing from other brands.

EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events. The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts. Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days. In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country. If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016). Honda says that its subsequent production plans will be determined according to facility restorations and component supply.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed. We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

Rating the Riders: Dani Pedrosa

12/30/2015 @ 8:41 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa, Honda, 4th, 206 points – Score: 8

If you wanted the very definition of a roller coaster career, look no further than Dani Pedrosa. Three world championships in the junior classes, and one of the most successful riders in the premier class.

He has never won a championship, but he has come within a whisker in 2012, winning more races than the eventual champion Jorge Lorenzo. Injury has dogged him, breaking most of the bones in his body, and fracturing his collarbone so often there is hardly a piece left intact.

His collarbone nearly ended his MotoGP career once, the plate fitted after his practice crash in Motegi in 2010 causing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, causing numbness and weakness in his left arm, making it almost impossible to last a race.

He suffered through 2011, until the removal of the plate on his collarbone fixed the problem. He was back with a vengeance in 2012, winning seven races and getting close to beating Jorge Lorenzo. That experience stood him in good stead in 2015.

Rating the Riders: Marc Marquez

12/29/2015 @ 11:55 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda, 3rd, 242 points – Score: 8

This was Marc Márquez’s worst season in Grand Prix racing since 2009. From 2010 onwards, in 125s, Moto2, or MotoGP, Márquez has finished as either champion or runner-up.

Not only did Márquez finish outside the top two for the first time since finishing eighth in 2009, but this was also his worst championship points total since that year. You could say this was a very bad year for the Repsol Honda rider.

Yet it was also undoubtedly the year in which Márquez learned the most in his Grand Prix career. This was the year in which Márquez changed his approach, and gained a deeper understanding of how to win a championship, rather than just races.

Márquez crashed out six times in 2015, fully one third of the races. Four of those crashes were entirely on his own, and completely his own fault.

Rating the Riders: Valentino Rossi

12/28/2015 @ 11:39 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, 2nd, 325 points – Score: 9.5

British MotoGP commentator Julian Ryder has one cliché he uses about Valentino Rossi all the time. “Never write Valentino Rossi off.” It may be a cliché, but in 2015, Rossi showed once again why clichés exist.

At the age of 36, he was past his physical prime, and not capable of keeping up at the front. Twenty seasons of top level racing had dulled his desire to compete.

Two seasons at Ducati and a poor return to Yamaha proved he was past his prime. With more money than he will ever need for the rest of his life and a fashion model girlfriend (who rides motorcycles), there was nothing to fire his motivation.

The VR46 racing team was proof Rossi was looking to his retirement, not another championship.

There was at least some truth in all of those statements, voiced by pundits and fans across the world. But they overlooked one crucial fact: you can never, ever, write Valentino Rossi off.

Rating the Riders: Jorge Lorenzo

12/28/2015 @ 11:49 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha, 1st, 330 points – Score: 9.5

All year long, everyone – engineers, journalists, pundits, other riders (with the possible exception of Valentino Rossi, for obvious reasons) – said the same thing over and over again: “Jorge is faster, but Valentino is more consistent.”

The statistics bear that out: Jorge Lorenzo led for 274 of the 448 laps raced this year, a fraction over 61%. He also had five poles and six fastest race laps, second only to Marc Márquez. Jorge Lorenzo was just plain fast in 2015.

This should be no surprise. After a difficult 2014, Jorge Lorenzo took this season deadly seriously. Last year taught Lorenzo that the cost of not being fit at the start of the season was defeat, and he has no taste for that.

Rating the Riders – The 2015 MotoGP Season in Review

12/28/2015 @ 11:16 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Rating the Riders – The 2015 MotoGP Season in Review

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As the year winds to a conclusion, now is a good time to look back at the 2015 MotoGP season, and assess how the riders have done this year. It has been a fantastic season for MotoGP.

The fans have been treated to some of the best and closest racing in years. Several races became instant classics, such as the tight battle at Assen decided in the final chicane, the bizarre rain-hit and incident-packed race at Misano, the scintillating four-way fight at Phillip Island.

The championship went all the way down to the final race, decided in the end by just five points.

Rating the Rookies – Jack Miller vs. Maverick Viñales

03/04/2015 @ 10:25 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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One of the more intriguing match-ups of the 2015 MotoGP season is the battle between the two newcomers from the support classes. Maverick Viñales and Jack Miller are both close friends and fierce rivals, sharing a motorhome off the track, doing battle on it.

Viñales has come to MotoGP early, after just a single year in Moto2, where he was very competitive within a short space of time. Miller has made an even bigger jump, skipping Moto2 altogether and heading straight to MotoGP from Moto3. It is a huge leap for the Australian, switching from a narrow, 55hp, 80kg razor of a bike to a 158kg, 250hp monster.

So how have they adapted? Though the two are only a few days apart in age, comparing their progress is fraught with difficulty. Viñales, riding the Suzuki GSX-RR for Suzuki, is on a factory prototype inside a factory team.

Miller, on the other hand, is riding an Open class Honda RC213V-RS with the LCR team. Viñales has a large team surrounding him, with sufficient backing to act on his input.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Aleix Espargaro – 7th

01/06/2015 @ 1:17 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc MarquezValentino RossiJorge LorenzoDani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, and Pol Espargaro.

7th – 126 points – Aleix Espargaro

After being the best CRT rider two years running, all Aleix Espargaro wanted was to get a chance to test himself against the best riders on the world on equal machinery.

In 2014, he came very close to doing just that. Riding the Forward Yamaha – basically a 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1 with bodywork, triple clamps, linkage, and other peripheral parts built by FTR – in the Open class put the elder Espargaro brother on a bike which was fast enough to scare factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo into demanding that Yamaha seriously consider switching to the Open class.

As the season progressed, it would become apparent that there were still serious performance differences between the Forward Yamaha and the factory bikes. Yet Aleix Espargaro still ended the year having impressed a lot of people, and earning himself a factory ride for 2015.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Espargaro generated a lot of excitement during preseason testing, consistently elbowing his way into the top five, and topping the Qatar test when the factory riders were absent.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Pol Espargaro – 6th

01/05/2015 @ 5:12 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc MarquezValentino RossiJorge LorenzoDani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso.

6th – 136 points – Pol Espargaro

Being a MotoGP rookie got a lot tougher after 2013. Marc Márquez raised the bar to an almost unattainable level by winning his second ever MotoGP race, the title in his debut season, and smash a metric cartload of records. Anyone entering the class after Márquez inevitably ends up standing in his shadow.

Which is a shame, as it means that Pol Espargaro’s rookie season has not received the acclaim it deserves. The 2013 Moto2 champion started off the season on the back foot, breaking his collarbone at the final test, just a couple of weeks before the first race at Qatar.

He crashed again during that opening race, but quickly found his feet. He came up just short of his first podium at Le Mans, nudged back to fourth place by Alvaro Bautista.

It would be his best result of the season, but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was to be consistently found in and around the top six. Espargaro would go on to bag a couple of fifth places and six sixth spots.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Andrea Dovizioso – 5th

01/03/2015 @ 1:45 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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After looking at the top three finishers in MotoGP, our review of 2014 turns to the riders who didn’t make it onto the podium. After Marc MarquezValentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, we turn our attention to the men who finished behind them. Today, we review the seasons of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

5th – 187 points – Andrea Dovizioso

If there was one adjective which summed Andrea Dovizioso up at the end of his first season at Ducati in 2013, it would have to be dismay. The Italian looked pained; not as shell-shocked as Marco Melandri when he first got on the Ducati in 2008, but still clearly finding it hard to come to terms with the bike.

“This is the reality,” he would say whenever he had rolled over the line thirty or more seconds after the winner. As the year progressed, the look on his face turned to one of resignation, accepting that eighth place was all the Ducati was capable of.

2014 saw only small changes to the Desmosedici, but it saw a major change to the fate of Andrea Dovizioso. If you asked the Italian what the weakness of the GP13 was, he would tell it was in braking, in corner entry, mid-corner, and corner exit. Or to put it another way, everywhere except in a straight line.

At the Sepang tests in February, Dovizioso was almost upbeat. The GP14 was already a step forward: the bike still struggled mid-corner, but braking was improved, as was the initial turn in for corner entry. Corner exit was improving as well, with less rear-wheel pump making the bike more stable, and quicker out of the turns.

The improvement was visible on the timesheets: at Qatar, Dovizioso slashed the difference to the leaders from 25 seconds in 2013 to just 12 in 2014.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Dani Pedrosa – 4th

01/02/2015 @ 8:07 pm, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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After looking at the top three finishers in MotoGP, our review of 2014 turns to the riders who didn’t make it onto the podium. After Marc MarquezValentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, we turn our attention to the men who finished behind them. Today, we review the seasons of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

4th – 246 points – Dani Pedrosa

Dani Pedrosa is easily the best rider never to win a MotoGP title, and if anything, 2014 merely reinforced that reputation.

By almost anyone’s standards, ten podiums, including a victory, and a total of 246 points – his fourth best since joining the premier class – is an outstanding year. But for a rider with aspirations of becoming world champion, it is simply not good enough.

Looked at another way, this was the worst season Pedrosa has had in MotoGP. The Repsol Honda rider has always managed to score multiple victories each year, even during his debut in 2006. This year, he never really looked a threat, except at Brno.

Throughout the year, Pedrosa was consistently behind the front runners, never capable of making a push to dominate.

What was Pedrosa’s biggest problem in 2014? Quite simply, the team’s approach to fixing the shortcomings of the preceding season.