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.

Fast Factories vs. Suffering Satellites – Hervé Poncharal on the Plight of Independent Teams in MotoGP

06/13/2016 @ 8:07 am, by David Emmett28 COMMENTS

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“I am not a very happy man,” Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told us on the Thursday before Barcelona. His problem? Attracting competitive riders to take the seats vacated by Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro.

Their destination was emblematic of Poncharal’s problem: at Barcelona, Espargaro announced he would be reunited with his Tech 3 teammate in the factory KTM team in 2017 and 2018.

So Poncharal found himself with the looming likelihood of fielding two rookies in 2017. The Tech 3 boss signed Jonas Folger back in Le Mans, while Johann Zarco is the prime candidate to fill the second Tech 3 seat.

Zarco is currently in Japan testing Suzuki’s GSX-RR MotoGP machine. He is expected to sign with Tech 3 once Suzuki have announced they are signing Alex Rins to partner Andrea Iannone.

The original hope was either to keep Pol Espargaro alongside Folger, to ensure consistency of results, or welcome Alex Rins into the fold on a factory Yamaha contract.

Either way, it would ensure the publicity which is vital to keeping sponsors happy. Two rookies and no factory connections is a lot less appealing to the people who help provide the €8-€9 million it costs to run the Tech 3 team.

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Trackside Tuesday: Rookie Rule Redux

07/29/2014 @ 11:23 pm, by Scott Jones39 COMMENTS

Jack Miller pit box losail Qatar 2014

For all the good that accompanied Marc Marquez’s arrival in the premier class, there was one casualty that we should consider reviving: The Rookie Rule.

A brief recap if you don’t recall the details: In 2010 the Grand Prix Commission approved a rule stating that no riders entering the premier class for the first time could ride for factory teams.

This was partly intended as a cost-saving measure and partly intended to placate satellite team owners who complained that without the rule, they would never have a chance to hire top rookie riders.

For several years The Rookie Rule worked nicely with one glaring exception, that of keeping Ben Spies out of the Factory Yamaha squad. Spies came to MotoGP as a multiple national series champion (AMA Superbike), as reigning WSBK champion, and most importantly, at 25-years-old.

Though he’d not ridden all of the GP tracks and didn’t know the Bridgestone tires, his experience with pressure and media attention made him the rookie perhaps most suited to going directly to a factory team. Cal Crutchlow could’ve also made a strong case based on his experience and maturity.

Jorge Lorenzo joined the Factory Yamaha team the year before the rule was adopted, but in my opinion became one of the best case studies to support the Rookie Rule.

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Official: MotoGP Drops Rookie Rule & Single-Bike Rule – But Restrictions On Factory Bikes Introduced

07/02/2012 @ 5:08 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

Much was expected of this Friday’s meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, but in the end, the decisions taken were relatively minor. Dorna, IRTA, the FIM, and the MSMA agreed on a number of proposals which had widely been expected, but made no real progress on the major rule changes expected for the 2014 or 2015 season.

The rule change with the biggest immediate impact was the dropping of the Rookie Rule, as we reported during the Silverstone round of MotoGP. The dropping of the Rookie Rule, which prevents new entries into the MotoGP class from going straight to a factory team, opens the way for Marc Marquez to join the factory Repsol Honda team next season. Contrary to popular opinion, however, the rule was not dropped at the request of HRC, but rather of the Honda satellite teams themselves, both Lucio Cecchinello and Fausto Gresini fearing the disruption that Marquez would bring for just a single year.

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Ben Spies Comments on MotoGP Dropping the Rookie Rule

06/20/2012 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

After winning the World Superbike Championship in 2009, Ben Spies continued his rise to motorcycling stardom, as Yamaha gave the Texan its blessing to move onto the MotoGP Championship. The move wasn’t made without resistance though, as the satellite teams within MotoGP were sick and tired of seeing top-talent riders like Spies go directly into factory-backed teams in their first season. Thus the Rookie Rule was born, seemingly with the direct detriment of Spies in mind.

Showing its mettle with the American Spies, the Rookie Rule was again tested when Italian Marco Simoncelli entered MotoGP, and was forced to join the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. Simoncelli, considered by many in the MotoGP paddock to have the future star-power of mentor Valentino Rossi, served his two-season sentence in the satellite squad, and before his untimely death at Sepang, he was expected to move up to the factory ranks in 2012.

Now with the shock news of Casey Stoner’s retirement, HRC has been put in a tremendously difficult position with its factory-backed Repsol Honda team. Though said to be eager to retain Dani Pedrosa, HRC realizes that its long-term future is in Marc Marquez. With the young Spanish Moto2 rider posing a number of problems in his expected ascension into MotoGP in 2013, Honda has found itself between a rock and a hard place for next season.

Similarly, Dorna is in a precarious spot with the state of the MotoGP Championship. Watching its golden goose Valentino Rossi struggle on the Ducati, and counting the nine-time World Champion’s future time in MotoGP on only several fingers, the MotoGP media rights holder is under tremendous pressure to find a new star to attract the masses, and as a Spanish company…the preference is seen as favoring a Spaniard to take that center-stage spotlight. Enter the repeal of the MotoGP Rookie Rule, which kills two birds with one stone.

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The Marquez Rule: MotoGP to Drop the Rookie Rule in 2013

06/17/2012 @ 4:35 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

The rookie rule is to be dropped for the 2013 season. The Spanish daily El Pais is reporting that Dorna and IRTA have decided that the rule preventing MotoGP rookies from being signed to a factory team had to be scrapped due to the difficulties presented by the limited number of bikes available to ride. As a consequence, it was felt it was better to drop the rookie rule altogether, rather than create more problems for existing satellite teams by maintaining it.

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MotoGP: Lucio Cecchinello Weighs in on the Rookie Rule

06/12/2012 @ 5:51 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

MotoGP’s 2013 Silly Season is one of the most complicated in many years. Though the retirement of Casey Stoner has opened up the market, the real complication lies with two factors, and the way those two interact. The issue can be summed up in a single question: what are we going to do with Marc Marquez?

It has been clear for some time that Marc Marquez is going to be one of the hottest properties in MotoGP in 2013, the Spaniard expected to graduate to the premier class at the end of this season. Under normal circumstances, this would not be an issue, but the situation that MotoGP finds itself currently in means that we are a very long way from normal circumstances.

The combination of the global financial crisis and the radically depleted field, a consequence of the cost hyperinflation the switch to 800cc caused back in 2007, has meant that the series finds itself in a period of transition, with the return to 1000cc machines just the first step in a major rules shakeup.

The scale of the proposed changes – a rev limit, a single ECU, one bike per rider, a cap on lease prices, and a limit to the number of bikes each factory can provide – means that discussions about the rules are ongoing, the situation changing at each Grand Prix as the haggling and horse-trading between the factories and Dorna continues.

Marquez was expected to fall victim to the Rookie Rule, the provision introduced when Ben Spies entered MotoGP in 2010, preventing a rider from going straight to a factory team in his first season in the class. Both HRC and Repsol, the Spanish oil giant who have backed Marquez throughout his career, have made no secret of their preference of putting Marquez directly into the factory Repsol Honda team.

The Rookie Rule prevents this happening, leaving Repsol and Monlau Competicion, who run Marquez’ Moto2 team (and the 125cc team he raced in before that) casting about for alternatives. Their preferred option, if Marquez cannot go straight to the factory team, is for Monlau to move up as an independent satellite team running Marquez as the sole rider. The team would be backed by Honda, and Marquez would have full factory-spec equipment at his disposal.

But that itself poses a problem. Under the current proposals, which look very close to being finalized, each manufacturer will only be allowed to supply a maximum of four riders with bikes in 2013, two riders in a factory team and two riders in satellite teams.

With the direct route into the factory team blocked, Marquez causes a dilemma, for Honda, and for the satellite teams involved: placing Marquez with either the San Carlo Gresini or the LCR satellite teams will cause problems with the teams’ existing sponsors, and if Marquez brings his own team of mechanics with him, then it would also mean satellite teams breaking long-standing relationships with mechanics already working for the teams.

Likewise for Honda, if HRC grants Repsol and Monlau’s wish of creating a separate team for Marquez, that could mean being forced to take away a bike from one of the two Honda satellite teams.

To hear the perspective of the satellite teams themselves, I spoke to Lucio Cecchinello at Barcelona, owner of the LCR Honda team currently fielding Stefan Bradl in MotoGP. Cecchinello and Gresini are the parties in the most difficult situation, and though Cecchinello pronounced himself a supporter of the Rookie Rule, he was clear that the current set of circumstances made the situation even more complicated than it would normally be.

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Saturday Summary at Catalunya: Of Tires, Weather, And Reasons To Win At Barcelona

06/03/2012 @ 7:42 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Catalunya: Of Tires, Weather, And Reasons To Win At Barcelona

It has been great to have some consistent weather, Casey Stoner said at the qualifying press conference at Barcelona, a sentiment that was shared by everyone at the Montmelo circuit, riders, teams, fans and media. Apart from the anomaly that is Qatar (a night race with practice in cooling temperatures) all of the MotoGP rounds held so far have featured massive changes in weather almost from session to session. With four session all with comparable temperatures – a little cooler in the mornings, a little warmer in the afternoons – the riders have been able to actually spend some time working on a consistent set up.

What they have learned is that the tires are going to be a huge part in Sunday’s race. The 2012 Bridgestones are built to a new specification and a new philosophy, softer to get up to temperature more quickly and to provide better feedback. This the Japanese tire company has succeeded in spectacularly well, the only downside (though that is debatable) is that the tires wear more quickly. This makes tire management critical for the race, with both hard and soft tires dropping off rapidly after 7 laps, and then needing managing to get them home.

In light of the tire management issues, Casey Stoner expressed his surprise that so many riders had spent time on the soft tire, but a quick survey of the paddock says that the soft tire is a viable race option. While Stoner is convinced that the hard tire will be the race compound, others are less certain. The Yamahas especially seem to prefer the soft tire, Andrea Dovizioso saying that the hard drops off more than the soft. Nicky Hayden found something similar: the hard spins too much, he told the press, and so the soft tire is easier to manage as the tires wear. Both are capable of lasting the distance, it will just be about which tire is in better shape at the end.

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MotoGP: The Mathematics of Marc Marquez

05/31/2012 @ 6:06 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Casey Stoner’s retirement announcement marked the – unhealthily early – opening of MotoGP’s silly season, and with just two weeks having passed, it is, in the words of Nicky Hayden, “too early to start thinking about that.” At the moment, factories, teams, and riders are still absorbing the news and pondering their strategy for the many talks and negotiations which will surely follow. Though the paddock, the media, and the internet are full of speculation, everything is so open that even the wildest guess may turn out to be true.

Even so, there are a few hard truths that we can be sure of, and most of them revolve around Marc Marquez. After Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, Marquez will play a key role in who goes where in 2013. Honda is a strong supporter of the Spaniard, in no small part due to the backing of oil giant Repsol. It seems almost certain (almost, but not completely) that Marquez will end up on a Honda in 2013, but that brings its own set of challenges. For the question is not so much what Marquez is to ride – money bet on it being a factory-spec and factory-supported Honda RC213V is probably the safest investment going given the troubled time the stock markets are going through – as which team he will be riding it in.

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The Ben Spies Rule, A Gift to World Superbike

04/02/2009 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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MotoGP’s new “rookie rule” in some circles might be more aptly called the “Ben Spies” rule, since it adds a barrier for the American rider in his plans to join a factory ride in MotoGP. The rule, which comes from the IRTA (the organization that represents the teams of MotoGP), outlines that any rider eligible for the Rookie of the Year award would not be allowed to go straight to a factory team, but instead would have to spend at least a year on a satellite or private team. This gives the satellite teams an opportunity to secure young talented riders for a season before they get swept up into the factory teams who have much larger budgets. It could also make the field more even, by diversifying talent across teams with and without competitive machines.

 

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