Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case. The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines. Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

Opinion: Why the Rossi vs. Marquez Controversy Isn’t Going Away in MotoGP, Any Time Soon

If the Movistar Yamaha launch at Barcelona made one thing clear, it is that the feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez will be just as bitter in 2016 as it was in 2015. In Barcelona, Rossi once again repeated the litany of charges he leveled against Marc Márquez at the end of last season. Márquez had decided early in the season he would try to stop Rossi from winning the title, had played with Rossi at Phillip Island, done far worse at Sepang, then stayed behind Lorenzo at Valencia to hand him the title. For Valentino Rossi, nothing has changed since Valencia 2015.

Ducati draXter Concept Debuts in Verona

Ducati is at this year’s Motor Bike Expo in Verona, and it has a bevy of concepts and customs it wants to show the world. The Italian brand’s trio of Sixty2 Scrambler concepts didn’t really spark our engine, but the Ducati draXter Concept is certainly of note and worthy of further scrutiny. The Ducati XDiavel was Bologna’s big reveal at EICMA this year, and while the cruiser model wasn’t our cup of tea, we might have to change our tune with this decked-out version of the machine. Ducati says that the draXter model interprets the XDiavel from a “sports” point-of-view, and the modifications made to the machine certainly do a good job of connoting a bike that leaps from the line.

KTM Made Over €1 Billion in Revenue in 2015

To put it succinctly, KTM is crushing it. In 2015, the Austrian company posted another banner year, which is nothing terribly new from a European motorcycle brand; but in just a few five short years, KTM has addd over 100,000 motorcycles to its volume of production. As such, the Austrian sold 180,801 KTM and Husqvarna motorcycles in 2015, making €1.02 billion in the process. This is a 14% increase over KTM’s sales in 2014, a 18% increase in revenue, and a 26% in income (€95 million, EBIT). This also makes 2015 the first time that KTM has exceeded a billion euros in revenue, and the fifth year in a row that KTM sales have increased. According to KTM, this makes them the fastest growing motorcycle company in the world.

The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 Is Ready for WSBK Duty

Yamaha is headed back to the World Superbike paddock, and it is not taking any half-measures in doing so. As such, the Japanese manufacturer has retained the talents of Sylvain Guintoli (World Superbike Champion, 2014) and Alex Lowes (British Superbike Champion, 2013), with the highly regarded Crescent Racing running the factory-backed team. Officially debuting the team today in Spain, along with Yamaha’s other racing programs, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team should be a potent package for the pinnacle of production motorcycle racing, and we expect strong results from them, right off the bat. This is because the new Yamaha YZF-R1 had an entire year of honing at the national level.

Super Hi-Res Photos of the 2016 Yamaha YZR-M1

Debuting today in Spain, the Yamaha Racing factory MotoGP team took the wraps up the 2016 Yamaha YZR-M1 race bike, and debuted its team, which features riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Seemingly, not much has changed to the Yamaha YZR-M1, though the bike now features 17″ wheels and Michelin tires. Yamaha’s spec-sheet (full listing, after the jump) is sparse on specifics as usual, and thus is vague on its details – horsepower is listed simply as “over 240hp” for instance. Indeed, most of the changes to the Yamaha YZR-M1 reside beneath the fairings, with perhaps the most important changes coming to the M1’s ECU, which is now a spec Magneti Marelli unit that runs the unified team software.

Is Honda Preparing a Major Engine Upgrade for 2016?

It is no secret that Honda are struggling with the engine for the RC213V MotoGP. HRC have been making the engine ever more aggressive for the past three years, but in 2015, they finally went too far. The power delivery of the RC213V was too difficult to contain, even with Honda’s electronics, and HRC suffered their worst season in MotoGP since 2010. Things had not been looking much better for 2016 either. The engine Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez tested at Valencia and Jerez last November was at best a marginal improvement, with a bit more power at the bottom end, but still delivered in a very aggressive manner. Added to this, HRC have had problems with the new unified software which is compulsory for 2016.

Ducati Sold 54,800 Bikes in 2015 – Another Record

As expected from earlier sales reports, Ducati Motor Holding is posting a banner year for 2015. The Italian motorcycle maker says that it sold 54,800 bikes last year, a 9,683 unit (+22%) increase over the number of bikes sold in 2014. Helping break the 50,000 units barrier, the Ducati Scrambler line accounted for virtually all of Ducati’s sales growth in 2015, with over 16,000 Scrambler models sold worldwide. As we have reported before, this paints an interesting picture of what is going on behind Borgo Panigale’s walls. At a national level, we already saw the report that Ducati was on track for strong growth in the USA last year. Ducati now reports that Ducati grew by 14% in the USA for 2015. In Europe though, sales were even stronger, with the Italian market up 53%, the UK up 37%, Germany up 24%, and France up 22%.

Erik Buell Racing Sold at Third Auction, Will Live On Again

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet today. Much like the spirit of its riders, Erik Buell Racing refuses to go quietly into that good night. After two failed receivership auctions, the brand has now been acquired for $2.05 million via a third auction held Wednesday, and seems set for another revival. The winning party of this latest auction is the same winner from the second auction, Liquid Asset Partners – the same company that liquidated Buell Motorcycles when it was shutdown by Harley-Davidson, which makes for some interesting trivia. Walworth County Circuit Judge Phillip Koss approved the winning bid today, despite a similar bid from Bruce Belfer, the first auction winner.

A Turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa Really Should Happen

I have been trying to avoid this story, mostly because I think it is a pipe dream concocted from a dubious source, but the word circulating through the interwebs is that Suzuki is working on a turbocharged Hayabusa motorcycle, in the 1,500cc territory, for the 2017 model year. While we are not confident about this exact rumor, we know two things for certain: 1) that Suzuki is finally ready to breathe some life into the GSX-R line; and 2) that the Suzuki GSX-1300R Hayabusa is in desperate need of an update. The first of the new GSX-R sport bikes is the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike, though we can expect to see all-new iterations of the GSX-R600 and GSX-R750. There is even word of a GSX-R250/300 in the works.

Preview of the Spanish GP: The Season Starts Here

04/30/2015 @ 6:26 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Jerez is always a very special weekend. When Valentino Rossi described the first race back in Europe using those words, he spoke for everyone in the MotoGP paddock.

Everyone loves being back in Europe, because the atmosphere changes, the hospitality units fill the paddock, the catering staff, hospitality managers, runners, cleaners, general dogsbodies – in other words, the people who actually do any real work – return to fill the paddock, and old friends are reunited after a long winter away, often doing something else to subsidize the meager pay they take for the privilege of working in Grand Prix during the summer.

The paddock becomes a village once again, awaking from the long winter slumber. The setting helps.

The charming old city of Jerez is showing the first shoots of economic recovery, not yet enough to match the full bloom of spring happening on the surrounding hillsides, the slopes covered with wild flowers, but there is a much more positive vibe than there has been for some years.

There is a sense of optimism. That sense of optimism flows into the paddock, already buzzing after a sizzling and surprising start to the 2015 MotoGP season.

With over 100,000 people expected to pack the stands on Sunday, Jerez feels like the right way to kick off the long European leg of the championship.

Saturday Summary at Argentina: The Ducati Disadvantage, Tire Choices, & How Great Tracks Create Surprises

04/19/2015 @ 12:21 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Fast tracks are good for racing. Phillip Island demonstrates this every year, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is confirming it in 2015.

The mixture of fast sweepers and tricky braking sections places an emphasis on bike handling and rider ability, over and above sheer engine power. This gives enterprising riders opportunities to excel, and overcome any horsepower disadvantages they may have.

Today was a case in point. The Suzukis had shown yesterday that they were extremely fast around the Argentinian track, and Aleix Espargaro came into qualifying as a favorite to take pole.

The medium tire (the softest compound available, which the Hondas and Yamahas do not have in their allocation) gave Espargaro plenty of speed, but would it be enough to stay with Márquez? Perhaps some sleight of hand would be needed.

With the hard tire his only race option, Espargaro had some mediums to play with. Taking a leaf out of Marc Márquez’ Big Book Of Strategy, he and crew chief Tom O’Kane decided that his best hope of getting pole would be a two-stop strategy: coming in twice to change bikes, using three new tires to chase a top time.

The trouble with stealing from Marc Márquez’s Big Book Of Strategy is that you find yourself going up against the man who wrote it. It was at Argentina last year that Márquez and crew chief Santi Hernandez saw that a two-stop strategy might be possible, putting it into practice at the next race at Jerez.

“Already last year, when I finished the qualifying practice here, we spoke with the team and saw that it was possible to use three tires, because the good lap was on the first lap,” Márquez explained at the front row press conference in Argentina.

Friday Summary at Argentina: Real-Deal Suzukis, Hard Tire Dilemmas, & Ducati’s Fuel Issue Explained

04/18/2015 @ 12:24 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Eight years. That’s how long it has been since a Suzuki last led two consecutive sessions in the dry. It was 2007, at Shanghai, when John Hopkins topped both FP2 and FP3 on the Suzuki GSV-R. Suzuki had a great year in 2007, spending the previous year developing the GSV-R ready for the start of the 800cc class.

John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen amassed one win (in the wet), seven podiums and a pole position that season, including a double podium at Misano. That Suzuki was a great bike, but sadly, it was the last time a Suzuki was truly competitive. It was pretty much all downhill from there. Until today.

Preview of the Argentinian GP: Of Price Gouging, Ducati’s Tire Disadvantage, & A Tough Moto3 Battle

04/17/2015 @ 1:11 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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From Austin, MotoGP heads south, to the most expensive GP of the season. The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit lies in one of the poorest regions of Argentina, but the economic reality is not reflected in the prices around the Grand Prix weekend.

The cost of renting a compact car from one of the nearby airports would get you a luxury vehicle at any other place. Room rate cards for even the most modest hotel look like they have been borrowed from Claridges for the week. Local businesses appear bent on extracting as much revenue as possible from the poor souls who have no choice but to attend, such as journalists, team staff, and riders.

Those (such as your humble correspondent) without a wealthy employer to cover the costs for them stay away. Many teams stay up to a couple of hours away, where accommodation prices drop from the truly extortionate to the merely pricey.

For much of the paddock, the Termas de Rio Hondo GP is a black hole, capable of swallowing money at an exponential rate.

Yet fans from around the region flock to the circuit. They are much smarter indeed, many bringing tents, vans, RVs, or even just sleeping bags in the back of their trucks.

The money saved on accommodation is well spent: the party around the circuit is stupendous, massive amounts of meat and drink being shared around all weekend. That adds real local flavor to the event, the passion of the fans being evident at every turn.

Sunday Summary at Austin: Weird Austin, Ducati’s Fuel, & The Wane of Spain

04/13/2015 @ 10:14 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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Keep Austin Weird is the slogan of the Austin Independent Business Alliance, meant to promote small businesses in the Texan city. The Circuit of the Americas certainly did its bit this weekend.

We had a delay due to marshals and medical support staff not being at their posts. We had a red flag due to a stray dog on the track. We had delays due to fog, we had one day of rain, followed by two days of peering at the skies wondering when the massive rainstorms which had been forecast would arrive. They never did.

We had Keanu Reeves, star of both The Matrix and Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, in the paddock, as well Carol Vorderman, British TV’s brainiest beauty, at least for gentlemen of a certain age. You wouldn’t imagine it could get much weirder.

Qatar Test Preview – Last Chance to Prepare for 2015

03/13/2015 @ 6:27 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Qatar Test Preview – Last Chance to Prepare for 2015

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Who starts the 2015 MotoGP season as favorite for the championship? The final test at Qatar will give us a much clearer picture of where the factories and riders stand than the last two tests in Sepang.

That is in part due to the fact that the factories have had time between the Sepang tests and now to work on further refining their bikes ready for the start of 2015.

But the Qatar test is also a little more representative for the rest of the season than Sepang is. The Malaysian circuit may have a good mix of fast and slow corners, but the tropical heat makes it tough on riders, tough on tires, and the track can lose a lot of grip as the temperatures rise.

Weekly Racing News Digest #5

03/11/2015 @ 10:28 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It has been a relatively quiet week in the world of motorcycle racing, with much of the focus on preparations for 2015 rather than actual on-track action. The past week has seen riders spending more time on stage than on track, as many teams have presented their 2015 racing programs.

This is but the calm before the storm, however: from Saturday, there is another bumper period of world championship action, with MotoGP testing at Qatar from 14th-16th March, Moto2 hitting Jerez from 17th-19th, followed by the second round of World Superbikes at the Chang circuit in Thailand from 20th-22nd.

There have been some bikes from other series circulating in the past week, however. The British BSB series has been testing in Spain, the MXGP championship has raced in Thailand, two weeks ahead of the World Superbike series’ first visit to the country, and in the US, Florida is gearing up for the Daytona 200.

Weekly Racing News Digest #4

03/05/2015 @ 12:29 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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After the burst of activity leading up to last week, things have once again calmed down in the world of international motorcycle racing.

Neither MotoGP nor World Superbikes are testing – though BSB are preparing for their season by testing in Spain – and as a consequence, news is thin on the ground.

But not completely absent, so here is our weekly round up of what is happening in MotoGP and WSBK. And in this case, further abroad.

Weekly Racing News Digest #3

02/28/2015 @ 1:11 pm, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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It has been a busy week for racing, with the World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island followed by the MotoGP test at Sepang, including the extra day of testing on Michelins.

There has been a lot of news, but there have been one or two things we may have missed, so again here’s our weekly round-up of racing news.

MotoGP Sepang 2 Test Summary – Day 2: Marquez vs. Lorenzo, Thumb Brakes, & Melandri’s Fall

02/24/2015 @ 3:12 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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After the excitement and confusion of the first day of testing at Sepang, some semblance of normality returned on Tuesday.

Cooler temperatures and more stable weather meant that riders had much more time to do work on track, the heat and humidity not quite as oppressive as they had been the previous day. The excitement over new bikes and gearboxes had also subsided, and the hard grind continued.

If Tuesday is representative of the normal state of play in MotoGP, then it seems like there are already two favorites for the title emerging from the pack, though margins are slim indeed.

Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo were the only two riders to crack the two minute barrier, posting fast times early-on in the day, then getting back to work on 2015.

Nobody else got near, with the exception of Andrea Iannone, who piled in a quick lap at the end of the day to fall just short of two minutes, the Ducati GP15 quickly proving its worth.