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.

The Easiest Way to Follow the Isle of Man TT on Twitter

06/03/2014 @ 1:19 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The Easiest Way to Follow the Isle of Man TT on Twitter Cronk y Voddy Straight Isle of Man TT 2014 Tony Goldsmith 11 635x422

It’s better late than never, so we thought we would share one of the ways we are keeping up with all that’s going on with the 2014 Isle of Man TT, and that’s our custom Isle of Man TT Twitter list.

To save you the trouble of hunting down all the teams and riders on the interwebs though, we’ve made a public list of the Isle of Man TT personalities that you should follow to keep up-to-date on the TT’s happenings.

Riders, teams, photographers, and local Manx news — all in one stream. Click that link, and hit “Subscribe” on the left-hand side…it’s that easy. Enjoy!

IOMTT: Superstock TT Bumped – New Schedule for Tuesday

06/02/2014 @ 10:35 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: Superstock TT Bumped   New Schedule for Tuesday isle of man tt course map 635x423

UPDATE: After an incident on the course during the Superstock TT race, the remaining Tuesday’s sessions have been cancelled.

With rain on the course, Race 1 of the Supersport TT barely got off and finished its four-lap program, so needless to say that things didn’t bode well for the planned Superstock TT, in the eyes of Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson.

As such, the Superstock TT has been pushed into Tuesday’s schedule, making a change of plans for the day’s events. The revised Tuesday agenda is after the jump. As always, things are subject to change, so be sure to keep an ear to Twitter and Manx Radio TT.

IOMTT: Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 1 Results

06/02/2014 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 1 Results Gary Johnson Isle of Man TT Supersport TT Race 1 Richard Mushet 635x423

Monday brings us the first of the two Monster Energy Supersport TT races at the 2014 Isle of Man TT — though just barely, as isolated showers first delayed the start and nearly cut its ending short. Thankfully though, all four laps of the Supersport TT race were held, and great racing ensued for the fans who braved the weather.

IOMTT: Creg-ny-Baa with Richard Mushet

05/31/2014 @ 10:03 pm, by Richard MushetComments Off

IOMTT: Creg ny Baa with Richard Mushet 2014 Isle of Man TT Creg ny Baa Richard Mushet 02 635x423

For the first real racing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, I had to choose Creg-ny-Baa. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition for me now, as I’ve shot the Superbike TT race from there a few times now. As an added bonus, there aren’t any midges, which is a relief after Barregarrow’s flying bug population feasted on me last night!

One of the most recognisable and iconic sections of the course, the Creg (as it is usually mentioned) signals what is essentially the end of the descent from the top of the blindingly-quick mountain section.

It is fairly similar to a short circuit corner, which I usually try to avoid taking photos of at the TT, as corners like this, and those at the Gooseneck and Signpost, just don’t convey how spectacular the TT is to watch.

Despite my usual reasoning, the Creg has a few unique features, which include the backdrop of the Creg-ny-Baa pub when you’re on the inside of the corner, and Kate’s Cottage when shooting from the front of the pub.

Another great feature there are the rows of fans lining the grass at the side of the road who will wave, applaud, and cheer the riders as they pass, especially on the final lap when the leading rider has essentially wrapped-up victory.

IOMTT: Barregarrow with Richard Mushet

05/31/2014 @ 1:04 am, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

IOMTT: Barregarrow with Richard Mushet 2014 Isle of Man TT Barregarrow Richard Mushet 05 635x423

For this evening’s session, I decided to shoot from a place on the course I’ve seen pictures from numerous times before, and always had an itch to shoot there myself one day.

Following the famous Cronk-y-Voddy straight, Barregarrow (pronounced “Beh-garrow” by the locals) is an infamous dip where machinery is pushed to the limit. Accelerating from the top of the section, down a hill most people wouldn’t want to cycle up, the bikes hit a small rise that momentarily jumps them and the rider into the air.

Par for the course on the Mountain circuit, until the bike lands and its suspension is fully compressed as the riders hit the bottom of the hill, which is also a fairly severe dip in the tarmac, which can be felt at anything above 30 mph.

This ensures plenty of scraped belly pans, spectacular images, and sometimes a few sparks, but never the dropping of revs, as the riders hit their apex and continue on their way to Kirk Michael village. All the obvious challenges of shooting a spot like this are present – the immense speeds and the fading light as the sessions progress.

The sidecar session especially, was fairly tricky due to the lowering evening sun. But, tonight had a more evil enemy than the technical aspects of using a camera, as I was eaten alive by the bloody midges, which have left me with blotchy red bites all over my arms and legs.

IOMTT: Lezayre with Richard Mushet

05/30/2014 @ 3:51 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Lezayre with Richard Mushet Lezayre Isle of Man TT 2014 Richard Mushet 01 635x423

Returning to Lezayre for Thursday evening’s practice, with the promise of better weather than the previous night, there was still the threat of rain in the air when I arrived.

Lezayre is an eye-wateringly fast section of the circuit. It is on the run towards Ramsey, and is the most northernly section of the circuit.

Also known as the Conker Fields or “K” Tree, the riders wrestle with the bike as it rears it’s front end towards the heavens on a left-handed, fifth-gear kink. To give you an idea of the “K” Tree’s challenge, skip to 1:10 on this video to see Dan Kneen in full-flow through there.

Despite the rain holding off, tonight was another challenging session to shoot, as the ever-fading light under the trees made it increasingly difficult to track the riders with the autofocus on both of my camera bodies. Quite an issue when riders are travelling at speeds easily approaching 150 mph!

Video: Watch William Dunlop Chase Down Ian Hutchinson at Triple-Digit Speeds at the IOMTT

05/29/2014 @ 7:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Video: Watch William Dunlop Chase Down Ian Hutchinson at Triple Digit Speeds at the IOMTT william dunlop ian hutchinson iomtt mountain course 635x423

A typical practice day spent at the Isle of Man TT starts in the evening, as the roads close just around dinner time (the Isle of Man’s latitude means the sun sets near 10pm). One finds a good vantage point before the roads close though, which also means choosing a spot that will provide their specatating for the next fews hours, as getting around the Mountain Course is nigh impossible once the bikes get going.

Those few hours are spent watching racers scream by at triple-digit speeds, until the sessions end and the roads re-open. Grabbing a quick bite to eat, spectators typical congregate at the bars where they drink, or the home-stays they sleep, and share what they saw on the course with their mate, over drinks and food of course.

As the night comes to an end, the TV stations air their coverage of the day, which pieces together the day’s events, and adds a cohesive narrative to what was before just a single-corner vantage point. Rinse and repeat this for nearly a week, and you have an idea of why the Isle of Man TT is so special, and less of a race and more of an event.

IOMTT: Grandstand Paddock with Richard Mushet

05/28/2014 @ 9:41 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

IOMTT: Grandstand Paddock with Richard Mushet Paddock Isle of Man TT 2014 Richard Mushet 11 635x423

After a glorious Tuesday evening practice, the weather was looking decidedly gloomy before this evening’s session. Due to an abundance of cloud cover and impending showers, I can honestly say that my decision to shoot from Lezayre wasn’t the best idea I’ve had so far this TT.

Unfortunately the session was stopped, after most riders had only managed a solitary lap, due to an incident at the top of Barregarrow. Combined with the failing light and ever-heavier rain showers on the Northerly sections of the circuit (including myself at Lezayre) the Clerk of the Course cancelled all sessions this evening.

Due to a lack of racing action I will leave you all with a few sights from around the paddock today, and hopes for better weather (and light) for tomorrow’s practice.

IOMTT: Rain Cancels Wednesday Practice After Just One Lap

05/28/2014 @ 5:11 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: Rain Cancels Wednesday Practice After Just One Lap Paddock Isle of Man TT 2014 Richard Mushet 03 635x423

More rain has gotten in the way of the Isle of Man TT’s practice sessions, as Wednesday evening’s events came to a halt after only one lap around the Mountain Course. With rain hitting a few spots of the course, and an incident at the top of Barregarrow, Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson had no choice to but to call the night’s events to an end as the rain increased.

The incident at Barregarrow involved newcomer Laurent Hoffmann, who was airlifted to Nobles Hospital, and is reported to have leg injuries as a result of the crash. By the time that crash had been cleared, Mother Nature turned up the waterworks, and that was the end of things.

IOMTT: Greeba Castle with Tony Goldsmith

05/28/2014 @ 2:51 pm, by Tony Goldsmith3 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Greeba Castle with Tony Goldsmith Greeba Castle Isle of Man TT 2014 Tony Goldsmith 04 635x422

We were treated to perfect conditions for Tuesday evenings practice and after a bit of deliberation I decided to go to the Greeba Castle section of the course.

Greeba Castle is a tight S-bend lined with trees and Manx stone walls. The riders have been flat on the stop for two or three miles before breaking hard into this section. The first left-hander is taken quite slowly before they drive through the right-hander and out into a pocket of sunlight, before disappearing out of sight and onto the Alpine section.

I hadn’t photographed there before, in truth I had been put off a little as I’d heard it was tricky as you are perched on top of 5 1/2 foot wall. As the sun was shining I decided it was the perfect night to go and try it out.

The stories I’d been told of the wall were not exaggerated, and not being as mobile as I once was once took a few attempts to get up. You might be thinking that 5 1/2 feet doesn’t sound very much, but when you are sitting on it, planning an escape route, it looks like 10 feet.

Thankfully I didn’t have to throw myself from the wall, the only problem encountered where the dreaded Manx Midges. My head has started itching again as I begin to think about the little bastards.