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.

MotoGP Retires #58 in Honor of Marco Simoncelli

09/08/2016 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

marco-simoncelli-motogp-number-58-retired

At the San Marino GP today, MotoGP officially retired the use of #58, giving honor to Marco Simoncelli, who died almost five years ago while racing in the Malaysian GP at Sepang.

Of course, this weekend’s stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar actually takes place at the Misano World Circuit, which changed its official name to the the “Misano World Circuit – Marco Simoncelli” in order to honor the fallen racer.

This makes the San Marino GP a fitting venue for Simoncelli’s number to be retired, and of course the weekend’s events take place in front of a home crowd, with Simoncelli born just a few miles away on the coast, in Cattolica.

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Marco Simoncelli To Be Named a “MotoGP Legend”

02/03/2014 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Marco-Simoncelli-MotoGP-Legend-Scott-Jones

The MotoGP Championship is in Sepang this week, for the first of its pre-season tests ahead of the 2014 season. Making an announcement at the site where Marco Simoncelli tragically lost his life during the Malaysian Grand Prix back in 2011, MotoGP has come up with a fitting way to tribute the popular Italian rider.

Simoncelli will thus join Grand Prix racing’s hall of fame, and officially become a “MotoGP Legend” — the 21st rider to receive the sport’s high honor — with a ceremony that will be held at the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello.

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San Carlo Gresini Honda Returns to White Livery

07/12/2012 @ 3:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

With MotoGP returning to Mugello for the Italian GP, the San Carlo Gresini Honda team is reverting back to its customary white livery scheme, a decision made by both Fausto Gresini and the Simoncelli family. Hoping to invoke some memories of Marco Simoncelli lapping around that famous Italian track, Gresini Racing’s time of mourning for its fallen Italian rider appears to be over as it retires its all-black livery, and has painted Alvaro Bautista’s Honda RC213V in the team’s customary all-while livery for this weekend.

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The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

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Marco Simoncelli Foundation Created

12/27/2011 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Talking to some friends the other day, who had recently watched Mark Neale’s latest MotoGP documentary Fastest, it was clear to me that the loss of SuperSic still runs deep with fans and the GP paddock alike. Gearing up for the 2012 MotoGP season, it would appear to be a done-deal that Rossi will use his Simoncelli Tribute helmet at least one or more times next season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Italian included a special tribute to SuperSic on his bike somewhere (along with his dogs of course).

While it will take sometime for the wounds of his passing to heal with his closest friends and family, the efforts to immortalize Marco Simoncelli have progressed well so far in this off-season. After the untimely death of Marco, it was announced that the non-profit Marco Simoncelli Foundation would be created to honor the lovable MotoGP racer. At the time, details of the organization, and its mission were vague, but now with its official formation, details about the charity are starting to come together.

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Gresini Racing Publishes ‘Ciao Sic’ in Time for Xmas

12/15/2011 @ 10:32 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

It’s been nearly two months since the passing of Marco Simoncelli, and the loss of the popular Italian motorcycle racer is still ever-present in the minds of MotoGP fans. Nothing proves this point better than a moment at our premiere of Fastest in San Francisco last week, where a collective “Marco!” could be heard as SuperSic’s face filled the big screen of the theater. The holidays surely must be tough for Marco’s family, so perhaps it is appropriate that Ciao Sic, an official coffee table tribute book to Marco Simoncelli, has been released in time for the holidays.

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Rich Lee Draws Marco Simoncelli

11/16/2011 @ 4:01 pm, by Scott Jones33 COMMENTS

In September Asphalt & Rubber suggested you check out the stylized artwork of Rich Lee, and since then he and I have teamed up to create this tribute to the late Marco Simoncelli. While we were already working on the project before Simoncelli died at Sepang, the illustration seems to have a more poignant meaning now that SuperSic has passed.

Based on several of my MotoGP photos from the 2011 MotoGP Championship season, Rich Lee has been able translate them into the latest addition of Rich Lee Draws’ portfolio. Prints of the the illustration are available for sale, and in honor of the late Super Sic, Rich and I are donating a portion of the proceeds to Riders for Health in Simoncelli’s name. To read more about the print or to order a copy, click here.

Illustration: Rich Lee Draws

Valentino Rossi’s SuperSic Tribute Helmet

11/06/2011 @ 3:09 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Perhaps none of the MotoGP riders have been affected by the loss of Marco Simoncelli more so than Valentino Rossi. Not only was Rossi “like a brother to Marco,” but the Italian was deeply shaken over his involvement with Marco’s accident at Sepang. With both Edwards and Rossi putting on a strong face publicly, the rest of us can only imagine the thoughts and grief that most be occurring internally. Everyone processes their grief differently, and one of Rossi’s more cathartic endeavors this weekend is to honor Marco with a special helmet for the Valencian GP. More photos after the jump.

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Some Closing Thoughts About Marco Simoncelli

10/30/2011 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

It has taken me a week to collect my thoughts and process the passing of Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider that lost his life during the MotoGP race in Malaysia. I’m not one of those journalists that can belt out some poignant thoughts on an event immediately after it happens, nor did I personally know Simoncelli well enough to offer a comprehensive anecdote on the man’s short but distinguished life. Having only met and talked to Marco briefly a few times, I cannot shed some deeper insight regarding who he was as a man, stripped away of all the pomp, prestige, and PR spin of the premier class.

I’ve heard the MotoGP paddock described as a family or village, so as one of its most recent members, this tragedy both cuts me deeply, but yet also seems like a distant and surreal event. Perhaps it will affect me more as I travel to Valencia this week, or perhaps I will continue to feel as if I am on the outside looking in at cataclysm of grief that has befallen friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Time will tell in that regard, and I’ll leave it to those masters of the pen who are better suited to the task to account for the young Italian’s life and racing career.

Instead my closing thoughts about Marco Simoncelli are a mixed commentary of life, tragedy, and where we go from here.

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Photo of the Week: SuperSic Forever

10/24/2011 @ 12:50 pm, by Scott Jones31 COMMENTS

As a 250cc rider, Marco Simoncelli struck me as being very talented, but also a grave danger to his fellow riders. In the 250GP races in which Simoncelli participated, he was always the wild card, and one never knew what he might do in his spirited attempts to win. As the list of other riders who’d narrowly escaped serious injury in on-track incidents with Marco grew, I developed a profound dislike for how he behaved on track, and I thought that this behavior indicated what type of person he was.

But as I gained access to the MotoGP paddock, and found opportunities to glimpse the riders’ personalities, Marco Simoncelli was one of the first for whom I recognized that I could not draw such conclusions based solely on what I saw on TV.

On a motorcycle, Simoncelli was ferocious, as the cat on the back of his helmet indicated. In person he was soft spoken, gentle, quick to smile and generous. Always a gracious participant with Riders for Health fundraising events, he courageously faced crowds who spoke no Italian and charmed them in his accented and limited English. He signed whatever people asked of him, and posed for photos with patience and grace.

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