TVS Akula 310 – Hot, Small, Sporty, & Almost a BMW

The Auto Expo in India isn’t usually an event we would cover, but some interesting machines have turned up in New Delhi. The first one to grab our attention is the TVS Akula 310. On its own right, the TVS Akula 310 is a sharp looking small-displacement machine, especially when its dripping in carbon fiber (Daddy like). Beneath the skin though, the Akula 310 is exactly the same as the BMW G310R sport bike, which is pretty interesting. This is because TVS and BMW Motorrad collaborated to bring both models to market; and as such, the Akula 310 gives us an idea of where BMW could be headed next with its 300cc class offering. We knew that when BMW unveiled the G310R that the small sport bike was just one of several machines to come from the platform.

New Honda Superbike for 2017, But Will It Be Any Good?

It’s the worst kept secret in the motorcycle industry right now, Honda is finally updating its superbike offering for the 2017 model year – replacing the now extremely long-in-the-tooth Honda CBR1000RR. The interesting part of that news of course is whether that new superbike will go by the name CBR or RVF, as there is a bit of a debate regarding what kind of engine will power the Honda. Despite whether it is an inline-four like the CBR1000RR, or a V4 like Honda’s MotoGP bike, the new superbike will have big shoes to fill. Honda is the last Japanese brand to offer an update to its liter-bike platform, with Suzuki bringing a new GSX-R1000 later this year as a 2017 model, the Yamaha YZF-R1 now fully a year old, and even the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R saw a strong update for the 2016 season.

Report: Cycle Gear to Acquire RevZilla?

Respected newswire Reuters is reporting that Cycle Gear is close to finalizing the purchase of motorcycling e-commerce giant RevZilla. Citing a source “familiar with the matter” at hand, Reuters suggests that the deal could close in the next coming days, with the new venture worth between $400 million and $500 million. If true, this acquisition would mark a titanic shift in the motorcycle retail space, with America’s largest brick and mortar chain combining with the industry’s most prominent online parts and apparel purveyor. In all likelihood, it is J.W. Childs that will be doing the purchasing of RevZilla, though that might be an issue of semantics for some. RevZilla declined to comment on this report, at this time. We hope to have more on this story, as it develops.

Some Thoughts Regarding MV Agusta, From 30,000 Feet

I’m on my second-to-last airplane ride on this two-week travel stint, and while I might be headed to San Diego, CA for the Ducati XDiavel launch, my thoughts are still back in Spain, on another Italian motorcycle manufacturer: MV Agusta. I have always found MV Agusta to be a fairly open company, bordering on the territory of over-sharing sometimes. That perhaps is something that is endemic to MV Agusta’s family-styled atmosphere, as the brand comes across more as a close-knit group of motorcycle enthusiasts, rather than a bunch of corporate suits. That is an observation that cuts both ways of course, with MV Agusta perhaps needing some more business structure in order to ensure its long term success.

Ducati North America Has Record Sales Year in 2015

Ducati North America is reporting a record year for sales, selling 12,132 motorcycles in 2015 – this number includes all Ducati sales in the USA (9,674 units, +10%), Canada (1,458 units, +12%), and Mexico (1,003 units, +85%). The news is perhaps not surprising, since Ducati sales grew globally by 22% last year, for a total of 54,800 motorcycle sold in 2015. Ducati North America’s numbers continue a six-year trend of solid sales growth, with last year’s sales being fueled primarily by the Ducati Scrambler. Ducati North America isn’t breaking down sales by machine, though it does say that behind the Scrambler, the 899 Panigale and Monster 821 were top-sellers in the region. In the USA, it says that the 1299 Panigale and Multistrada 1200 were “sales standouts” for the country.

Secret KTM Moto2 Race Bike Breaks Cover

KTM has surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partner WP Suspension. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday. KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.

XXX: The 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP Race Bike

These are the first images of the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike from the Japanese manufacturer, the same machine that is currently lapping around the Sepang International Circuit this week for MotoGP’s first official test of 2016. As you can see, not much has changed visually, though obviously a lot of the development has occurred beneath the fairings of the Suzuki GSX-RR. What we can see though are subtle changes to the twin-spar aluminum frame, which has now been completely filled in on both sides. Also, there is a new and modified air ducts on the side fairings, likely for extra cooling – on the left side, it’s near the top of the bike, while on the right side, the lower ducts has been enlarged to expose the exhaust header more. The shape of the exhaust has also changed, making for a more sweeping design.

Casey Stoner’s First Day Back at Ducati Was A Success

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Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self. He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.

Six New MV Agusta Models Will Debut in 2016

Another more tidbit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale press launch (read the review here), is word from CEO Giovanni Castiglioni that MV Agusta will unveil six new models this year, ahead of the 2016 EICMA show. Castiglioni wouldn’t say which three models it would be, though he made hint with the above slide that three of them would be naked sport bikes, while the other three new models would be fully faired sport bikes. With these hints, it makes the guessing game fairly straight forward. We already broke the news to you that an updated Brutale 675 would debut in Q2 2016, with new Dragster 800 and Brutale 800 RR models soon to follow, with MV Agusta’s updated 798cc three-cylinder engine that now meets Euro4 emission standards.

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.

Thursday Summary at the Jerez MotoGP Test: Honda’s Overpowered Engine vs. Ducati’s Friendly Delivery

11/26/2015 @ 11:02 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Have HRC made the same mistake again? In 2015, the Honda RC213V was a nasty beast to tame, suffering with an excessively aggressive engine.

The engine was probably the single most important reason Marc Márquez could not mount a realistic defense of his second title, forcing him to try to make up in braking what he was losing in acceleration, and crashing out as a result.

At the Valencia test, all eyes were on Honda’s new engine, to see if they had finally fixed the problem.

Valencia turned out to be a little too complex to make a real judgment. The switch to spec-electronics and Michelin tires introduced way too many variables to be able to filter out a single factor, Honda engineers taking a long time to extract some kind of consistency from the new unified software all MotoGP bikes must now use.

The 2016 RC213V engine seemed a little less aggressive, but the new software made it hard to tell. The current test at Jerez was supposed to give a clearer indication, with HRC’s engineers having a better handle on the unified software.

Though the verdict is not yet in, it is not looking good for the 2016 engine Honda brought for the tests in Spain. Both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez have reported the engine as still being too aggressive, and difficult to manage, though the engine character has changed.

Wednesday Summary at Valencia: New Electronics, New Systems, & A Pleasant Distraction

11/11/2015 @ 9:15 pm, by David Emmett37 COMMENTS

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The final day of testing at Valencia was a repeat of the first day: a lot of crashes on the Michelin tires, the factory Hondas, Yamahas, and Ducatis working on the brand new spec-electronics, the satellite bikes, and the Suzukis working on their own 2015 electronics.

For the Suzukis, that was not such a problem. The new electronics were likely to be an improvement on their own electronics, both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro said, so missing out now was not such a problem.

Suzuki have another test planned at Sepang at the end November, at which they plan to switch the 2016 unified software. With two days of Michelin testing under the belt, testing the spec-software should be easier.

Tuesday Summary at Valencia: A New Frontier

11/10/2015 @ 8:36 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The 2016 MotoGP season got underway this morning, as the sound of MotoGP bikes out on track echoed round the amphitheater of the Valencia circuit, chasing away much of the bitterness and recriminations left hanging there in the wake of the 2015 season showdown.

With new bikes, new tires, new electronics, and new and old riders on new and old bikes, there was much to look forward to. It felt like MotoGP had a future again.

With new tires and new electronics, many teams had chosen to forego too many changes to their bikes, but there were still some novelties out on track. Honda had brought a 2016 bike, complete with a new engine.

Factory Yamaha had an intermediate version of their 2016 bike, complete with fuel tank moved to the rear of the bike. Despite Gigi Dall’Igna’s assurances yesterday that they would be testing nothing new to concentrate on the Michelins, Andrea Dovizioso confirmed that he had tried a new chassis.

At Suzuki, they spend the day working on adapting to the tires, and gathering more data for the 2016 bike. Engineers in Hamamatsu are getting that ready for the Sepang test – at least, that is what Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro are hoping – a bike that will produce more horsepower and have a fully seamless gearbox.

There was some shuffling of faces and equipment in the satellite teams, with bikes being wheeled from garage to garage, and a few riders moving along with them.

Sunday Summary at Valencia: How Championships Are Won, Lost, & Destroyed

11/08/2015 @ 9:53 pm, by David Emmett80 COMMENTS

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They say that truth is stranger than fiction. The more pressing question is how to distinguish between the two.

Narratives are easily created – it is my stock in trade, and the trade which every sports writer plies – but where does stringing together a collection of related facts move from being a factual reconstruction into the realms of invented fantasy?

When different individuals view the same facts and draw radically opposite conclusions, are we to believe that one is delusional and the other is sane and objective?

Most of all, how much value should we attach to the opinions of each side? Do we change our opinion of the facts based on our sympathy or antipathy for the messenger?

That is the confusion which the final round of MotoGP has thrust the world of Grand Prix racing into. What should have been a celebration of the greatest season of racing in the premier class in recent years, and possibly ever, was rendered farcical, as two competing interpretations of a single set of facts clashed, exploded, then dragged the series down into the abyss.

Bitterness, anger, suspicion, fear, all of these overshadowed some astonishing performances, by both winners and losers. Looked at impartially, the Valencia round of MotoGP was a great day of fantastic racing. But who now can look at it impartially?

Saturday Summary at Valencia: A Brilliant Pole Lap, & A Wide Open Championship

11/07/2015 @ 6:33 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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There is nowhere left to hide. On Sunday, it is time for the men and women of Grand Prix racing to stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and lend their eyes a terrible aspect.

Much is at stake: a Moto3 title that really should have been wrapped up by now; a MotoGP title rendered complicated by the impetuosity of youth and old age; and just sheer thirst for glory in Moto2.

Glory is what is at stake in all three classes, what young men and women dedicate their lives and sacrifice their bodies and their time to chasing. Sweet victory is there for the lucky few, the bitter draught of defeat for the rest.

It looked like the cards had already been dealt ahead of Sunday’s race when the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected Valentino Rossi’s request to have his three penalty points suspended.

Then Rossi came out swinging on Friday and Saturday, not his usual eight or ninth times, and a struggle to make it through to Q2, but strong pace from the outset and competitive times.

“I’ve been impressed with how fast he’s going,” Nicky Hayden said of Rossi after qualifying today. “He’s looked very solid. We know he’s a nine-time champion because he’s fast on Sunday, but he’s come out of the gate, might not be breaking track records, but compared to a normal Friday, Saturday, he’s looking strong.”

Then came qualifying. Rossi had earned passage to Q2 by right, and had told us on Friday he would be treating qualifying the same as he had every weekend, pushing hard for a fast lap. Rossi seemed to have the upper hand going into Q2, especially as Jorge Lorenzo was clearly suffering with nerves.

He forgot to take off a tear off in the pits, then spent long seconds trying to sort it out with his assistant, before finally leaving the pits in a bit of a fluster. Not a good omen, we all thought.

Friday Summary at Valencia: Goodbye to Two Legends, Tire Trouble, & Money Woes

11/06/2015 @ 8:06 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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We are creatures of habit in the paddock. After having had our biorhythms put out of whack by a wild and weird Thursday, having bikes on the track on Friday brought us all back into line, and restored a sense of normality to MotoGP.

This was a race weekend once again, and the arguments and backbiting have been put aside for a moment.

Though the return of racing motorcycles going fast around a circuit brought some joy back to the paddock, the day was also tinged with sadness. Two events punctuated the day, celebrating two mighty monuments of the paddock, who depart for pastures new.

At lunchtime, Nicky Hayden was inducted as a MotoGP Legend, with a ceremony and a brief press conference. In the evening, Bridgestone held an official soiree to take their leave of the paddock, as they ended their role of official tire supplier.

Thursday Summary at Valencia: Strange Days in MotoGP

11/05/2015 @ 6:51 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

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Thursday at Valencia was one of the strangest days in MotoGP that I have known since I first started covering the sport professionally. Maybe it’s just the fact that the usual schedule was disrupted.

Every race weekend has a rhythm: on Thursday, it’s a late start, then rider debriefs, then a press conference, then work; on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it’s an early start, watch practice, rider debriefs/press conferences and then work.

That rhythm was wildly out of sync at Valencia. Earlier start, Moto3 press conference, HRC press conference, a couple of rider debriefs.

Then an unnatural lull, as the riders headed into the press conference room for their meeting with the Permanent Bureau, consisting of Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta and FIM president Vito Ippolito addressed the MotoGP riders and their team managers.

Ten minutes after the riders started streaming through the paddock on their way to the meeting, they were all heading back out again.

What happened in the meeting with the Permanent Bureau? The first rule of meeting with the Permanent Bureau is don’t talk about meeting with the Permanent Bureau, apparently, as no one was willing to tell us about it, apart from some platitudes from Jorge Lorenzo about it being interesting to get different perspectives from people to get new ideas. Not that anyone truly believed that the riders came out with new ideas, but still.

What they must have talked about in the rider meeting was to move on from Sepang and focus on events at Valencia. Nobody, none of the riders involved, had any interest in going over the events of Sepang again, and so they did not really need to be told twice.

There was a suspicion – and I stress, it was nothing more than that – that the Honda and Yamaha riders had all been told not to comment on events, and to put it behind them.

That is probably smart advice, but it left the journalists (of which there were a colossal number at Valencia) feeling frustrated. There was much to ask: had anyone changed their minds, or their positions, after having time to look back at the footage again?

Preview of the Valencian GP: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

11/04/2015 @ 10:45 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Here is the one thing which everybody has wrong about Valencia: the 2015 MotoGP championship isn’t over by a very long chalk.

Whether Lorenzo qualifies on pole or the front row, whether Valentino Rossi starts from his qualifying position or the back of the grid, the championship won’t be done until the last rider gets the checkered flag. Everything is still to play for.

Why is the championship still wide open? Because Valencia is a fickle mistress, with a record of throwing up more than one surprise. Both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have won here, and both men have lost championships here.

Both men have dominated, and both men have crashed out. Races at Valencia are rarely straightforward, throwing up startling results more often than not. Throw in a spot of unpredictable weather, and anything can truly happen.

The cause of those surprises? Running a race at the beginning of November in Valencia means the weather is always a gamble.

Even when it is dry and sunny, as it is expected to be this weekend, the cold mornings and strong winds can cause tires to cool, turning Valencia’s right-hand corners – few and far between – into treacherous affairs. If it rains or is damp, the wind means a dry line forms quickly, turning tire choice into a gamble.

Sunday Summary at Sepang: Heroes Who Have Feet of Clay

10/26/2015 @ 6:41 pm, by David Emmett151 COMMENTS

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Seven days ago, we were talking about how the 2015 MotoGP season will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, with the Australian Grand Prix as its glittering highlight. A week later, we saw its low point.

There were some truly remarkable and admirable performances in all three classes. Dani Pedrosa confirmed his return to form with a formidable victory, his second of the season. The arm pump surgery has been a huge success, and if Honda can resist the temptation to build an unrideably powerful engine, Pedrosa will be back in title contention again next year.

Johann Zarco proved once again he is the class of the Moto2 field, stalking Tom Luthi all race and riding to the very limit of physical endurance to snatch victory from what seemed like a foregone conclusion.

And Miguel Oliveira demonstrated that he is capable of dominating the second half of the Moto3 season the way that Danny Kent dominated the first half, denying the Englishman the title and taking the championship to Valencia.

The trouble is, those stunning performances were overshadowed by one of the ugliest weekends of racing we have seen in a very long time. The tragedy may not have been physical this time, but it was tragic nonetheless.

Three great champions let their masks slip at Sepang, revealing the egotism, spitefulness and petty rivalries that underly their success. And the fans added insult to injury, booing at a result they did not like.

So we shall skip past the victory by Dani Pedrosa, failing to shower him with the praise which he deserves. We shall overlook the stunning ride by Jorge Lorenzo, passing riders at will and subduing everyone but Dani Pedrosa.

Instead, we must focus on the battle for third, the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez. On the breathtaking battle that went sour, after Rossi finally lost his cool at Márquez’s provocation and unwillingness to surrender, and precipitated Márquez’s crash.

Saturday Summary at Sepang: What Things May Come

10/24/2015 @ 6:28 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The atmosphere hangs heavy over the Sepang International Circuit, both literally and figuratively. The thick gray haze casts a pall over the circuit, dulling the light, restricting vision, cloying at the throats of everyone at the track, and in the region.

There is another oppressive weight over the proceedings, this time of expectation. There is the pressure of a MotoGP title battle going down to the wire, and a Moto3 championship that should have been wrapped up two races ago, before a new rival emerged on the scene.

Then there is the electric tension created by Valentino Rossi, when he decided to use the pre-event press conference to accuse Marc Márquez of helping Jorge Lorenzo at Phillip Island.

Since then, it has been impossible to view any action by either Rossi or Márquez with an objective eye. Rossi’s accusations, Márquez’ defense, and Lorenzo’s entry into the arena color everything that happens, on and off the track.