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.

MotoGP: Season Ends for Ben Spies after Surgery News

10/24/2012 @ 8:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Season Ends for Ben Spies after Surgery News Ben Spies Silverstone MotoGP Scott Jones

Crashing hard in the Malaysian GP, it initially seemed that Ben Spies had escaped serious injury, as the Clinica Mobile staff gave the American rider a clean bill of health at the circuit. Getting examined further in Kuala Lumpur however, it became apparent that Spies had suffered quite a number of injuries – an AC shoulder separation, a cracked rib in the upper-chest area, and bruising to his lung, to be precise.

Undergoing surgery today at the National Surgery Center near San Jose, California, Spies reported on Twitter that the operation had gone well, though the extent of his injuries will mean an increase in the duration of his recovery time, with 10 to 12 weeks being the number banded about. This news means that Spies will miss not only the Australian GP, but also the Valencian GP and the post-season MotoGP testing — a serious blow to the soon-to-be Ducati rider.

MotoGP: Ben Spies to Miss Phillip Island Round

10/22/2012 @ 11:11 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Ben Spies to Miss Phillip Island Round Ben Spies Yamaha Racing MotoGP Scott Jones

As if crashing out of the Malaysian GP wasn’t bizarro enough, Ben Spies has announced today that he will be missing the Australian GP, as it has become evident that he injured his shoulder in his wet-weather tumble at Sepang. Although found to have no injuries by the Clinica Mobile staff at the circuit, after undergoing tests in Kuala Lumpur post-race, Spies found that he had sustained an AC shoulder separation, a cracked rib in the upper-chest area, and bruising to his lung.

Returning to the US for treatment on Tuesday, Spies will accordingly miss the MotoGP’s next stop, which is at Phillip Island. His participation in the last round of the season, the Valencian GP, is now in question as well, though it could be possible for the American to be healed enough to race within that time frame.

Though this season has been a string of highly suspicious instances of bad luck for the factory Yamaha rider, Valencia will be important round for Spies, as the post-race test will be the first opportunity for him to ride the Ducati Desmosedici race bike.

Wild Card.

10/21/2012 @ 10:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Sepang: Of Championships, Red Flags, Rulebooks, & Riders on a Roll

10/21/2012 @ 10:15 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Sepang: Of Championships, Red Flags, Rulebooks, & Riders on a Roll Dani Pedrosa Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP Sepang 635x425

The Grand Prix Circus came to Sepang with three titles in the balance. Only one of them got wrapped up on Sunday, though, tropical rainstorms throwing a spanner into the works of the other two, but generating some fascinating racing. The fans had one fantastic dry race, one fantastic wet race, and a processional MotoGP race that looked much the same as it would have had it been dry.

There was a packed house – over 77,000 people crowded into the circuit, a highly respectable number for a flyaway round – cheering on local heroes, there was confusion over the rules, and there were a lot of new faces on the podium.

There was also a much better balance of nationalities on the podium: where in previous races, the Spanish national anthem has been played three times on a Sunday, at Sepang, it was only heard once. Most of all, though, the Moto2 and MotoGP races ran in the wet would be determined by the timing of the red flags, with Race Direction’s decisions on safety also having an outcome on the results of the races, and in the case of MotoGP, possibly implications for the championship.

MotoGP: Slippery Slope at the Malaysian GP

10/21/2012 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Slippery Slope at the Malaysian GP Rain Sepang Dani Pedrosa 635x421

As was forecasted, the rain made its appearance for the start of the Malaysian GP being held at Sepang. The wet weather of course meant all bets were off for what could happen on this third-to-last round in the MotoGP Championship, and the adverse conditions increased the possibility of some “off-road excursions” by the riders. No one had more to lost from such a proposition than current points leader Jorge Lorenzo.

Sitting 28 points ahead of Dani Pedrosa, the factory Yamaha rider needed only to stay upright on his machine to retain control of the 2012 MotoGP Championship title, but with the rain in Sepang, that simple task could prove to be more difficult than anyone imagined. Needing to grab back as many points as possible, no one probably welcomed the rain more than Dani Pedrosa…well, except maybe the Ducati riders, which made for some high-stakes in the otherwise low-action race

Saturday Summary at Sepang: Of MotoGP’s Future in the East, Honda’s Chatter, & The Chances of Rain

10/20/2012 @ 10:57 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

Saturday Summary at Sepang: Of MotoGPs Future in the East, Hondas Chatter, & The Chances of Rain Dani Pedrosa Sepang HRC MotoGP 635x421

This year’s Malaysian round of the MotoGP series has offered a glimpse of the future, for those with an interest in seeing it. While the series is locked in a series of arguments over the future of the technical regulations, the massive economic problems in its key television markets, and the Spanish domination of the sport in all classes, Sepang pointed the way forward, and that way is definitely east.

It starts with the crowds. Where crowd numbers have been falling almost everywhere at the European rounds, Sepang is seeing record attendances this weekend. Grandstand tickets are selling out fast, and despite the rain, fans are turning up in large numbers.

How much those numbers are being inflated by Australians flocking to the circuits they can fly to affordably to see Casey Stoner ride the last few races of his career is uncertain, but that they should be packing the grandstands in Malaysia seems unlikely. There are also plenty of local fans, coming to see riders from the region threaten the top of the time sheets for the first time in history, and not just make up the numbers at the rear.

They have had a treat this weekend. On Friday, local wildcard Hafizh Syahrin topped an admittedly wet session of Moto2 free practice by getting out early when it was relatively dry, but he had sufficient competition for his result to have been noteworthy.

On Saturday morning, Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami topped Moto2 FP3, once again by judging the conditions correctly. And on Saturday afternoon, the fans were in for a massive treat, when Zulfahmi Khairuddin bagged his first ever pole position in front of his home crowd, becoming the first ever Malaysian to start from pole in a Grand Prix. And on his 21st birthday too.

MotoGP: Qualifying with a Message at the Malaysian GP

10/20/2012 @ 10:25 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: Qualifying with a Message at the Malaysian GP Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Sepang 635x418

With the weather constantly the x-factor in the 2012 MotoGP Championship, the Malaysian GP unsurprisingly has seen Mother Nature play an integral part at Sepang. Limiting on-track practice time, things were surprisingly dry for MotoGP’s qualifying session, though riders came out of the pits immediately to bank some solid lap times. As the session wore on though, and the weather held, a display of talent proceeded, and another track record succumbed to the 1,000cc prototype machines.

The Larger Issue Behind the Maverick Viñales Affair

10/20/2012 @ 8:59 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

The Larger Issue Behind the Maverick Viñales Affair Maverick Vinales Estoril Moto3 Scott Jones

It was a strange day in Malaysia. Part of the strangeness was down to the weather. The familiar pattern of disrupted sessions as the rain fell, but not hard enough to allow the MotoGP riders, in particular, to spend much time on the track in the afternoon.

There was a twist, however, a particularly Malaysian one at Sepang: the heavy shower which passed over the track at the start of the afternoon session for MotoGP left part of the circuit soaking, with water a couple of centimeters deep at turns 1 and 2, while the rest of the circuit quickly dried out almost completely. It at least added a little novelty to the disruption, along with the frustration of another wasted practice.

The real strangeness came at the start of the day, however. It took about 10 minutes for observers to notice that Maverick Viñales had not gone out on track and there was suspiciously little activity in the Avintia Blusens garage. Once they noticed, low-level pandemonium broke out: within seconds, a throng of Spanish journalists crowded out of the media center and hastened on their way into the paddock, to find anyone and everyone and learn what they could.

As they drifted back in, and as TV pictures started to appear showing an empty Blusens garage, Viñales walking through the paddock accompanied by his father and the Dorna media officer, and team managers Raul Romero and Ricard Jové gathered in discussions, it was clear that there was something very wrong.

When it was revealed what that was – that Viñales had decided to quit the team with immediate effect – it sent a shockwave through the paddock. Riders quitting teams with races left in the championship is unusual; to do it while that rider is second in the title chase and still in with a shot at the championship is unheard of in motorsport.

Thursday Summary at Sepang: Of Championships Up for Grabs & Memories of a Racer

10/18/2012 @ 11:46 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Sepang: Of Championships Up for Grabs & Memories of a Racer Lucio Cecchinello Fausto Gresini Sepang Test MotoGP 635x421

The Sepang round of MotoGP could see all three championships clinched this weekend, with Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Sandro Cortese all closing in on their respective world championships. The job is easiest for Cortese, all the German has to do to become the inaugural Moto3 champion is finish one place behind Maverick Vinales and the title is his. After getting a little too excited at Motegi, Cortese will doubtless be heading to Sepang in a much calmer frame of mind.

Marquez also faces a relatively manageable task, but unlike Cortese, he does not have his fate entirely in his own hands. If Pol Espargaro wins at Sepang, then the earliest Marquez could be crowned champion would be at Phillip Island. If Espargaro does not win, the Marquez is in with a very good chance: should Espargaro finish the race in third or worse, then Marquez only has to finish directly behind him; if Espargaro finishes second, then Marquez has to win.

On current form, it would be hard to bet against Marquez, but Sepang was the circuit where the Spaniard was badly injured last year, suffering damage to his eyes which limited his vision and threatened to end his career. It will be interesting to see whether the memory has spooked Marquez, but judging by his performance this year, that seems faintly ridiculous.

Jorge Lorenzo faces the biggest challenge, with only a 28-point lead over Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo will not only have to win at Sepang, but he will also need Pedrosa to finish no better than thirteenth. Given that the only time that either man has finished outside the top four has been due to mishap, the chances are the title chase will go down to Phillip Island, at the very earliest.

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 3 at Sepang II

03/01/2012 @ 3:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 3 at Sepang II Andrea Dovizioso Tech3 Yamaha Sepang Test MotoGP 01 635x423

Finally getting a full day of sunshine, MotoGP took to the Sepang International Circuit for its third and final day of testing at the Malaysian track. MotoGP’s second test at Sepang this off-season, riders and teams will have one more opportunity to prepare for the 2012 season at the IRTA test in Jerez later this month. Sidelined yesterday with safety concerns over the RC213V’s engine, Honda’s four riders were back on the track, with the HRC factory riders once again taking the top honors on the results page.

Leading the pack was again Casey Stoner, followed by teammate Dani Pedrosa. Surprisingly leading the Yamaha contingency was Andrea Dovizioso, who was just under a tenth of a second quicker than Jorge Lorenzo. Also bucking the factory-dominance trend was Hector Barbera, who took the honors as the fastest Ducati of the day, while Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden languished down in 10th & 11th place respectively — over a second slower than Stoner’s best time.