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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

World Superbike Silly Season Update: Melandri Is Back, Bradl Switches, & Aprilia Arrives

07/26/2016 @ 10:31 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing.

With the Kawasaki riders’ contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.

The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.

Melandri has been angling for a ride ever since his departure from the factory Aprilia MotoGP squad, a move he had never wanted to make in the first place.

Over the past twelve months or so, he has been linked to rides with Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW, and Kawasaki in World Superbikes, and – possibly the most bizarrely inaccurate rumor to be published in a while – to a ride with BMW in MotoGP.

The fact that BMW have no intention of racing in MotoGP, and the break up with Melandri in 2013 so acrimonious that they would not have him back anyway is what made that particular rumor so entertaining.

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Thursday MotoGP Summary at Sachsenring: Asymmetric Tires, Terrifying Turn 11, & Aprilia Upgrades

07/15/2016 @ 4:03 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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There are good times to talk to MotoGP riders and there are bad times. Among the bad times are when sessions of other classes are on, or when other major sporting events intervene. Valentino Rossi’s press debrief on Saturday afternoon is one example.

When it clashes with the start of the Red Bull Rookies Cup race, Rossi can be distracted as he watches the opening laps on TV screens in the Yamaha hospitality.

Though Rossi is the consummate professional, always giving relevant answers to the questions we put to him, sometimes we have to wait, as fourteen Red Bull Rookies all try to fit into a corner where only three will go.

On Thursday, the press debriefs of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders were up against the last twenty minutes of the Tour de France stage, which finished near the top of the Mont Ventoux (not actually at the summit: strong winds meant the finish was moved 6km from the top).

Cycling is something which MotoGP riders tend to become passionate about, as they do it so much to maintain fitness. And the finish to this particular stage became so intense that both Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro remained glued to the screen, as did most of the journos who had come to talk to them, including myself.

We talked a lot with the Tech 3 boys, but none of it was about MotoGP.

Well, not quite none. As I prepared to rush from Tech 3’s hospitality through the tunnel under the track to a press conference I was already late for, I quickly asked about the asymmetric front tires Michelin have brought to the Sachsenring.

“We’ll see tomorrow,” was Bradley Smith’s answer, followed by a comment that he was more happy that the French tire manufacturer has brought the extra soft front rain tire, as the soft had still proved too hard at Assen.

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Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Signs Johann Zarco for MotoGP

07/14/2016 @ 9:07 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The long-awaited news of Johann Zarco’s MotoGP contract has been announced. The Frenchman is to join Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team for 2017. Zarco’s contract is for one year, with the team holding an option on the Frenchman for a second year.

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Laguna Seca World Superbike Debrief: The Boys of Summer

07/13/2016 @ 11:56 am, by Kent Brockman5 COMMENTS

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The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break, with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.

Jonathan Rea’s dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over, and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defence.

This is because an engine issue left Rea on the sidelines in Race 2 at Laguna Seca, and suddenly his championship lead had been cut to 46 points. It is still a comfortable margin for Rea but suddenly doubt can creep into the “Team 65” side of the Kawasaki garage.

Tom Sykes’ win on Sunday marked a return to the winner’s circle for the former champion, and while he is still an outside bet for the title, he is at least back in realistic range of Rea.

This paints an interesting picture for the WorldSBK riders to consider while they rest over the next two months.

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Moto2 Silly Season: Who Replaces Rins, Lowes, & Zarco?

07/06/2016 @ 8:35 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Moto2 Silly Season: Who Replaces Rins, Lowes, & Zarco?

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The first half of 2016 has seen a long and intense period of speculation, gossip and conjecture over which rider ends up where in MotoGP.

Big names have jumped from one factory to another, the entry of KTM has opened up opportunities for established satellite riders, and there has been much talk of the rookies entering MotoGP from Moto2 – Sam Lowes to Aprilia, Alex Rins to Suzuki, and Johann Zarco to Tech 3 (though the latter is still to be announced).

What there has been much less talk of is who is to fill their seats. Traditionally, Silly Season for Moto2 and Moto3 starts much later than for MotoGP, speculation and negotiations commencing in the run up to the flyaways, and often only being finalized at Valencia.

But with three of the strongest teams in Moto2 having seats to fill, team managers are looking ahead a little earlier than usual.

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MotoGP Silly Season Update: 2017 Grid Nearly Complete

06/30/2016 @ 9:31 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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MotoGP Silly Season is nearly at an end. With the confirmation that both Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow will be staying in their seats for 2017, the list of possibly vacant grid slots grew much shorter.

Those that remain empty are growing ever closer to being filled, leaving only three seats open, and one seat still completely free. So, it is time to take a look at the current state of play.

With the announcement that Aleix Espargaro would be joining Aprilia for two years, the last of the factory seats was filled. The factory rides filled up quickly in 2016, starting with Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith at Qatar, and culminating eight races later at Assen with the signing of Espargaro.

The timing of the Aleix Espargaro/Aprilia announcement was peculiar to say the least. Making a major announcement that a rider had been signed to a factory rider – a signing everyone already knew about – on the Sunday night after one of the most remarkable MotoGP races in recent memory was guaranteed to achieve the absolute minimum of media coverage.

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MotoGP: Aleix Espargaro Signs Two-Year Deal with Aprilia

06/27/2016 @ 1:18 am, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Aleix Espargaro Signs Two-Year Deal with Aprilia

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The last of the factory seats has been officially filled. Today, the Gresini Aprilia team announced that Aleix Espargaro will be joining Sam Lowes at Aprilia for the next two seasons.

The announcement did not come as a surprise. Rumors had emerged at Barcelona that Espargaro would be going to Aprilia, Espargaro telling the media on Friday that he had already signed a contract, but that he was unable to announce who with.

Espargaro’s signing leaves both Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista out of a job.

Bautista is expected to sign with the Aspar Ducati team for 2017, where he is likely to partner with Eugene Laverty, while Stefan Bradl is being linked to several rides in the World Superbike paddock.

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WSBK: Tom Sykes Extends Contract with Kawasaki

06/20/2016 @ 8:16 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The Kawasaki World Superbike line up will remained unchanged for the next two years. On Monday morning, the Kawasaki Racing Team announced they had signed Tom Sykes to another two-year contract for WorldSBK.

Sykes will line up alongside Jonathan Rea in 2017 and 2018, as he has for this season and last. There had been a lot of speculation that Sykes could jump ship to Ducati, after the Italian factory had handed him a de facto blank check for his signature.

Sykes preferred to remain with Kawasaki, however, despite the animosity in the Kawasaki garage between the two riders.

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MotoGP: Suzuki Signs Alex Rins to a Two-Year Deal

06/20/2016 @ 8:07 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The next piece in the puzzle which is the 2017 MotoGP grid has fallen into place. As had been widely expected, Alex Rins has signed a two-year deal to race with the factory Ecstar Suzuki team from next year. Rins will line up alongside Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki GSX-RR next season.

Rins had long been favorite to take the second seat at Suzuki, as his profile best suited the Ecstar Suzuki team’s strategy of having young rider with potential alongside a fast, more experienced rider to help lead development.

When Maverick Viñales left for the Movistar Yamaha team, Rins was the name most touted to take his place.

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MotoGP Silly Season Update: Zarco, Rins, & Espargaro

06/16/2016 @ 12:18 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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While Johann Zarco is out in Japan, testing the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, the 2017 MotoGP rider line up is starting to solidify further. Ironically, it is looking like Johann Zarco will not be the rider that Suzuki selects to pilot its factory MotoGP bike alongside Andrea Iannone.

Team boss Davide Brivio is in Japan, along with the test team, to finalize their plans for 2017. At Barcelona, Brivio admitted to us that he would be going to discuss Suzuki’s choice of rider for next year.

The Italian acknowledged that both Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins were under discussion, and though he declined to state a preference, he did say “It’s clear what our choice is.”

The announcement that both Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins will be in the pre-event press conference in Assen is a further sign that an announcement is imminent.

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