Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Rating The Factories of MotoGP: Honda, Yamaha, & Ducati

01/24/2014 @ 10:27 am, by David Emmett33 COMMENTS

Rating The Factories of MotoGP: Honda, Yamaha, & Ducati honda rc213v carbon fairings scott jones 635x423

In the final part of our look back at 2013, we review the performance of the factories. How did Honda, Yamaha and Ducati stack up last season? What were their strong points, and how did they go about tackling their weaknesses? Above all, what does this mean for 2014? Here’s our rating of MotoGP’s manufacturers.

Honda – Championship Standing: 1st – Rating: 10/10

It seemed as if every technical rule change and tire decision swung against Honda in 2012. First, they found themselves outfoxed over the minimum weight by Ducati, after the MSMA first told the Grand Prix Commission that they had unanimously rejected a proposal to raise it from 153kg to 160kg.

It turned out that only Honda and Yamaha had rejected it, with Ducati voting in favor, which meant the rule should have been adopted and not rejected. As a concession to the manufacturers, the weight was raised in two stages, to 157kg in 2012, and 160kg in 2013.

Then, after being tested at Jerez, the riders voted to adopt the new, softer construction front tires, despite complaints from the Repsol Honda riders.

Honda struggled for much of 2012, first working out where to place an extra 4kg (a problem the other factories did not have, as they had struggled to get anywhere near the previous minimum of 153kg), and then running through chassis and suspension options in search of the braking stability they had lost with the introduction of the softer front tire.

After the test at the Mugello round, they had most of the problems solved, and Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa went on to win eight of the last nine rounds.

Come the 2013 season, and Honda was well-prepared. The factory already had its braking stability issues under control, and the only point left was the extra 3kg it had to carry. Having had all of 2012 to prepare for the extra weight, Honda arrived at the start of the season with few issues.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Ben Spies

01/14/2014 @ 11:12 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Ben Spies ben spies qatar motogp scott jones 635x422

In the last of our series looking back at the riders of 2013, we come to the unluckiest man on the grid. Ben Spies’ season was a thing of nightmares, ending with his decision to retire. Here’s a review of his year.

Ben Spies – Championship Position: 21st – Rating: Attitude 9/10, Luck 1/10

Up until Qatar 2012, Ben Spies’ career had been something of a fairytale. Talent spotted by his later crew chief Tom Houseworth, he took the fight to Mat Mladin in the AMA and beat him fair and square.

He won the World Superbike title at his first attempt, on tracks he hadn’t seen until Friday morning practice. He grabbed two podiums in his rookie MotoGP season, then a win in his second season after moving up to the factory Yamaha team. And then it all went horribly wrong.

After a series of bizarre mechanical mishaps throughout the 2012 season, Spies suffered major shoulder damage in a crash at Sepang. He had already decided to leave the factory Yamaha team, signing with Ducati to race at Pramac.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Edwards & Petrucci

01/13/2014 @ 5:11 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Edwards & Petrucci Saturday Silverstone British GP MotoGP Scott Jones 05 635x423

After rating the top ten finishers in the championship, it is time to turn our gaze to those outside the top ten worthy of note. Here is a view of Colin Edwards and Danilo Petrucci, two riders who both exceeded expectations in 2013.

Colin Edwards – Championship Position: 14th – Rating: 7/10

Colin Edwards was thirty-nine years of age when he lined up on the grid for the first race of 2013, and facing questions over his ability to keep competing.

His performance had been slipping since losing his spot in the factory Yamaha team, reaching a low point in his first year with the NGM Forward team on the Suter BMW. Was he perhaps too old? Did he really have the motivation to compete at this level?

The former question is still open, but the switch to the FTR Kawasaki gave Edwards the chance to show that he still cared enough to keep racing. Much better handling and above all, being freed from the shackles of the BMW’s electronics made the FTR Kawasaki a much easier package to ride.

Edwards looked much more at home on the bike, regularly making it into Q2 in the second half of the season. The Kawasaki CRT bike was still lacking too much power to take the fight to the factory prototypes, but Edwards was the only rider to challenge the outright dominance of Aleix Espargaro among the CRT riders.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Espargaro & Iannone

01/13/2014 @ 2:01 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Espargaro & Iannone Friday Indianapolis GP MotoGP Scott Jones 08 635x423

After rating the top ten finishers in the championship, it is time to turn our gaze to those outside the top ten worthy of note. Below is a look at the seasons of Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone, in the news in 2013 for very different reasons.

Aleix Espargaro – Championship Position: 11th – Rating: 8/10

Aleix Espargaro became the poster boy for the CRT class in 2012, beating out his teammate Randy De Puniet. The two Aspar riders showed that even with less than a year of development, a slightly modified Superbike could compete with the slower of the satellite prototypes. 2013 saw the Aprilia ART take another step forward, but it was a step only Espargaro could follow, De Puniet complaining of a lack of feeling all year, his performance plummeting.

Espargaro shone in 2013, regularly making it into Q2 under the new two-part qualification system, and even starting from the second row at the Sachsenring and Misano.

The race was always a different matter, the underpowered Aprilia no match for the prototypes, and even after the great start he got in German, running in the top three in the first few laps, Espargaro dropped back through the field as the race progressed.

Despite his disadvantages, he still bagged a bunch of top tens, consistently finishing ahead of the Ducatis. Espargaro demonstrated that the rider is still a key part of the equation in motorcycle racing.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Bradley Smith – 8/10

01/11/2014 @ 1:07 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Bradley Smith – 8/10 2014 Friday Valencia MotoGP Scott Jones 10 635x422

In the final chapter of our series running down the top ten finishers of the 2013 MotoGP season, we come to Bradley Smith. Here’s a look at how his first year in the premier class went. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlowpart 6, Alvaro Bautistapart 7, Stefan Bradlpart 8, Andrea Dovizioso; and part 9, Nicky Hayden.

Pity poor Bradley Smith. The young Englishman came in to MotoGP as a rookie, and did exactly what he was supposed to do: learn slowly, not crash too much, see his times and results improve gradually throughout the season. In any other year, Smith would have received quiet praise for the steady job he did.

But this was not any other year. This was the year that Marc Marquez moved up to MotoGP, destroying records and utterly redefining what is expected of a rookie. While Smith was steadily improving to go from finishing in the top ten to ending in the top six, Marquez was amassing podiums, wins, and well on his way to taking the title at the first attempt.

Smith found himself being compared to the phenomenon that was Marquez, rather than the more realistic comparison with the rookie seasons of other MotoGP riders.

Take Marquez out of the equation – an almost impossible exercise, admittedly – and Smith looks a lot better. Map Smith’s season against that of Stefan Bradl in 2012, and the Englishman’s performance looks much better. Smith finished his year with 116 points, while Bradl took 135 in his first year.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Nicky Hayden – 6/10

01/10/2014 @ 10:09 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Nicky Hayden – 6/10 david emmett nicky hayden sunglasses motogp scott jones 635x422

In the penultimate part of our restrospective on the season just past, we look back at Nicky Hayden. Here is our view of his final season with Ducati, and his move to Aspar for 2014. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlowpart 6, Alvaro Bautistapart 7, Stefan Bradl; and part 8, Andrea Dovizioso.

It’s been a tough few years for Nicky Hayden. Since joining Ducati in 2009, his results have been in steady decline, along with the performance of the Desmosedici. The 2013 season was the second season in a row where the American did not score a single podium, Hayden finishing in the same position as 2012, with four more points than last year.

This year was probably his toughest with the Italian manufacturer. Hayden found himself battling with teammate Andrea Dovizioso just about all year long, starting from the first race in Qatar. The Ducatis were a match only for each other, not for the other prototypes.

In twelve of the eighteen races, Dovizioso and Hayden finished behind each other, the only other rider they regularly tangled with being Bradley Smith, a MotoGP rookie. More times than not, Hayden emerged as loser of the intra-Ducati battles, finishing behind Dovizioso nine times, and ahead of him only seven times.

The fact that Hayden was not beating his teammate would end up costing him his job. The American was left waiting for a long time for word from Ducati, though by the time the circus rolled up in Assen, Hayden could see the writing on the wall. “I’m not feeling it,” he said, Ducati not even approaching him about a renewal.

At the Sachsenring, he was told there was no place in the factory team for him, though Ducati were keen to keep him in the family, trying to persuade him to switch to World Superbikes to race the Panigale, or else line up in the Pramac team with factory backing.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso – 5/10

01/09/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso – 5/10 2014 Saturday Valencia MotoGP Scott Jones 11 635x422

In the eighth instalment of our series looking at 2013, we come to Andrea Dovizioso. This is how the Italian got on in his first year at Ducati. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlowpart 6, Alvaro Bautista; and part 7, Stefan Bradl.

After losing his factory Honda ride at the end of 2011, Dovizioso made the switch to Yamaha, joining Cal Crutchlow in the Tech 3 team. A strong year with six podiums saw him win the slot in the factory Ducati team vacated by Valentino Rossi. Dovizioso felt he deserved a factory ride, and he had got what he wanted.

That proved to be something of a poisoned chalice. The year after Ducati was taken over by Audi proved to be a year of stagnation, with new head of Ducati Corse Bernhard Gobmeier never really able to impose his authority on the race department.

A lot of work was done with chassis stiffness, a new aerodynamics package was unveiled, the engine received a minor upgrade with improved throttle bodies. It all helped, a little, but the bike still had understeer — still wouldn’t turn.

Dovizioso started the season with some hope, racing with real determination and guts. Early in the season, he had some good results, getting close to the podium at Le Mans in the pouring rain, and then following on with strong race at Mugello, aided no doubt by the amount of testing Ducati does at the circuit.

But as promised upgrades failed to materialize, and the full seriousness of his situation started to sink in, Dovizioso’s mood took a dive. An air of despair hung around him, the Italian resigning himself to a lost season.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Stefan Bradl – 7/10

01/09/2014 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Stefan Bradl – 7/10 Stefan Bradl LCR Honda Qatar MotoGP Scott Jones 635x422

Continuing our look back at 2013, we come to seventh place man Stefan Bradl. Here’s how he fared in 2013. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlow; and part 6, Alvaro Bautista.

In his first season of MotoGP, Stefan Bradl did exactly what was expected of him, learning slowly, building speed, and getting better week after week. He impressed his team, crew chief Christophe ‘Beefy’ Bourguignon expressing admiration at his calm and intelligent approach after the first test on the bike.

He did not crash too often, finished inside the top six on a regular basis, and even got close to his first podium.

After such a strong start, he was expected to do even better in year two. The target was the occasional podium, and to be the best of the satellite riders.

Strong support from Honda meant that Bradl had the tools to do the job, though starting the season using Nissin brakes instead of Brembo put him at a slight disadvantage, the Nissins offering fractionally inferior brake release.

Though Bradl improved, consistently finishing inside the top six, it was not what he or Honda had hoped. The Aragon test in June gave Bradl a boost, trying the same forks which the factory riders had already been using, and switching to Brembo brakes, at least at the front.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Alvaro Bautista – 7/10

01/08/2014 @ 5:16 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Alvaro Bautista – 7/10 Sunday Laguna Seca US GP MotoGP Scott Jones 06 635x423

In part six of our series looking back at 2013, we reach Alvaro Bautista. Below is our view on Bautista’s season in MotoGP. You can catch up with the rest of this series here: part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossi; and part 5, Cal Crutchlow.

Alvaro Bautista is arguably MotoGP’s most under-appreciated rider. A former 250cc champion, the Spaniard has been on a downward trajectory since moving to MotoGP, through no real fault of his own. First, he signed with Suzuki, making him a factory rider with MotoGP’s weakest factory.

After Suzuki left, Bautista moved to Gresini, where he rides for a pittance, and is forced to earn his keep as a test rider for Showa and Nissin. Left to fight against the industry standard Ohlins and Brembo on his own, Bautista does not get the recognition he deserves even when he is punching above his weight.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Cal Crutchlow – 8/10

01/08/2014 @ 10:58 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Cal Crutchlow – 8/10 cal crutchlow monster yamaha tech 3 motogp scott jones 635x422

The fifth part of our series looking back at 2013 sees us turn to Cal Crutchlow. Here’s a perspective on his 2013 season. You can catch up with this series here: part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosa; and part 4, Valentino Rossi.

In 2011, Monster Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal cursed the day he signed Cal Crutchlow to a two-year contract. The 2010 World Supersport champion was struggling to get to grips with MotoGP, finding the tires harder to deal with and the level of competition higher than he expected.

In 2012, Poncharal’s took back most of what he said about the Englishman, and in 2013, Crutchlow rewarded Poncharal’s patience in spades.

This was the year of the great British motorcycle racing revival. Cal Crutchlow looked to be the first Brit to win a premier class race since Barry Sheene in 1981, and Scott Redding looked to be the first British Grand Prix champion since Sheene in 1977. Neither man would succeed in their objective, but they generated a surge of enthusiasm for the sport back in their home country.