MV Agusta Looking to Part Ways with Mercedes-AMG

The story of MV Agusta continues with even more interesting developments, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer seems intent on buying back its shares from Mercedes-AMG, and recapitalizing with new investors. Talking this week to Italy’s Il Giorno, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni said that he is “negotiating a buy-back of shares,” though that might be a task easier said than done for the Italian CEO. This is because MV Agusta’s current financial predicament is due primarily from the company’s massive debt accumulation, which now totals over €40 million. To complicate matters further, some of that debt was secured by the involvement of AMG, and its investment contract stipulates that if AMG doesn’t own 20% or more of MV Agusta then the loaned sum is due immediately.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity. Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so. But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well. Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs. To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine. We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda. How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine. The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

Could BMW Be Working on an XDiavel Killer?

Here’s some more BMW Motorrad speculation for your two-wheeled consumption, as Germany’s Motorrad Magazine says that BMW is looking to take on the Ducati XDiavel, with a power cruiser model of its own. This of course isn’t the first time that BMW has included a cruiser-styled motorcycle in its lineup, with the BMW R1200C being a unique, though slightly odd, offering to the cruiser demographic. Like Ducati, BMW seems to be learning from its mistakes in going after the cruiser crowd, and instead of offering a motorcycle that is BMW’s take on the cruiser concept, they are building a cruiser that has cues back to the BMW lineup. A subtle but potent distinction. Time will tell on how this rumor plays out, though there are number of interesting things to consider with a BMW power cruiser.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles. As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride. With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Is BMW Working on 300cc GS Model?

When the BMW G310R arrived, the German brand indicated that the small-displacement street bike would be the first of many model based on the 313cc platform. Now it seems that the first iteration is ready to drop, with news that BMW Motorrad is working on a G310R-based adventure-touer model. According to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, BMW Motorrad UK’s Director Phil Horton has confirmed that a BMW G310GS model will debut, perhaps in time for the 2017 model year, saying “new models aside, the line-up isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be. But there are plenty more bikes to come, including, hopefully in 2017, a G310R GS-style derivative.” The idea of small-displacement ADV machine does mimic what we have been seeing from other brands.

EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events. The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts. Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days. In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country. If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016). Honda says that its subsequent production plans will be determined according to facility restorations and component supply.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed. We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

The Importance of Suzuki’s Rider/Crew Chief Relationship

07/07/2015 @ 11:51 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

aleix-ecstar-suzuki-pit-stop-jensen-beeler

It is hard to overstate just how important the relationship between a motorcycle racer and his crew chief is. A rider must have complete confidence that his crew chief both understands what he needs from a motorcycle to go fast, and is capable of giving it to him.

A crew chief must be able to interpret the sometimes confusing and mixed signals from his rider, filter out the non-essential information, identify priorities from that which will offer the greatest gains, and assign the work to the rest of the crew in the garage.

There has to be complete trust between the two, or neither rider nor bike will achieve their full potential.

This was made all too apparent when I interviewed Ecstar Suzuki rider Aleix Espargaro and his crew chief Tom O’Kane for a story I wrote recently for the Dutch publication MOTOR Magazine, due out later this month.

One part of the interview which did not make it into the magazine was the relationship between Espargaro and O’Kane, and how they first started working together. However, it is a story which offers a fascinating insight into how a rider and their crew chief work together.

Team Orders: Is Motorcycle Racing a Team Sport?

11/01/2014 @ 4:26 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

maroc-melandri-sylvain-guintoli-aprilia-racing-wsbk

In a few hours time, we will know who will be the 2014 World Superbike champion. Tom Sykes leads Sylvain Guintoli by 12 points going into the final two races at Qatar. With 50 points up for grabs, the title race is still completely open, and in a series as close as World Superbikes has been this year, anything could happen.

What both Sykes and Guintoli need are help from their teammates. Guintoli most of all: if the Frenchman is to be champion, he will need someone, such as his Aprilia teammate Marco Melandri, to get in between him and the Kawasaki of Sykes.

Sykes, on the other hand, can wrap up the title by winning both races, or at least finishing ahead of Guintoli. If he can’t finish ahead of the Frenchman, then he will hope that his teammate Loris Baz can assist.

As loyal teammates, surely Melandri and Baz will be happy to help? That was only partially the case at the last round in Magny-Cours. In race one, Melandri theatrically waved Guintoli past and into the lead, making it patently obvious that victory was Melandri’s to dispense as he saw fit, and he was prepared to allow his teammate to win this time.

Further back, Baz did the same same for Sykes, though without making quite as much of a song and dance about it as Melandri did.

Race two was a different affair. Once again, Melandri led, and could grant victory to Guintoli if he wanted to. He chose not to, taking the win – despite his pit board making the feelings of his team very clear indeed, for the second race in a row – and taking 5 precious points from Guintoli.

If Melandri had obeyed team orders and moved over, then Guintoli would have trailed Sykes by 7 points instead of 12. That would put Guintoli’s destiny in his own hands: win both races, and it would not matter what Sykes did.

Now, Guintoli needs help, he needs someone between him and the Englishman. Will his teammate come to his rescue this time? Will the Aprilia WSBK team issue team orders again, commanding Melandri to serve the cause of Guintoli’s championship challenge? At the core of this is a much bigger question: Is motorcycle racing a team sport?

Paul Bird Motorsport Announces Michael Laverty & Broc Parkes for Its 2014 MotoGP Team

12/11/2013 @ 3:22 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

michael-laverty-paul-bird-motorsport-motogp-scott-jones

One of the two final missing pieces of the 2014 MotoGP line up has been filled in. Today, the Paul Bird Motorsport team announced it would be back in MotoGP next season, with a two-rider team and additional help from Aprilia.

The two riders will be Michael Laverty, who rode for Paul Bird’s PBM team in 2013, and Broc Parkes, who has spent most of his career racing in World Supersport and World Superbikes.

Though the press release issued stated that the team will be racing ‘PBM Aprilias’, it is still uncertain exactly what Laverty and Parkes will be riding.

This is LCR Honda

04/15/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on This is LCR Honda

Saturday-Qatar-GP-MotoGP-Scott-Jones-07

For the amount of media that LCR Honda generates, you would think that Lucio Cecchinello’s small satellite Honda MotoGP team is much larger than it is in actuality.

This is because Cecchinello and his crew take a different tack from the rest of the MotoGP paddock when it comes to marketing strategies — the most notable of which is the team’s revolving door livery, which lines up specific brands for races in specific markets.

A team of passionate enthusiasts, LCR Honda also has a knack for producing engaging media pieces, which can be as lurid as the Playboy sponsorship debut of LCR Honda in 2009 (NSFW), or as simple as the video shown after the jump.

For all the superlatives about MotoGP being the “premier class” of motorcycle racing, it is rare that the artwork that is performed on the track is of the same caliber as to what the teams show in their communications. This however is not the case with LCR Honda.

Trackside Tuesday: Dani Pedrosa’s Misano Nightmare

09/18/2012 @ 3:06 pm, by Scott Jones15 COMMENTS

It is a tribute to the skill of MotoGP mechanics how easily we can forget that motorbike racing truly is a team sport. Though the rider is the most visible member of the team, the one who captures the hearts of fans and the one whose talents are most likely to inspire us, without top level support from a team, the rider is helpless. On the rare occasion that the team fails their rider, only then are we likely to recognize how good a job they do the rest of the time.

Dani Pedrosa’s nightmare in Misano was a painful example of this. On pole position, 13 points behind Jorge Lorenzo, having finished every race so far this season, and with his best chance ever finally to win a premiere class title, Pedrosa was forced to start from the back of the grid after his team couldn’t free the front tire warmer and had to move his bike from the grid to pit lane. From outside HRC, we don’t know exactly what happened.

BMW Consolidates 2013 World Superbike Effort

07/16/2012 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In an effort to reduce costs and focus resources, BMW Motorrad announced today that it would be consolidating its World Superbike racing program for the 2013 Championship. Folding the factory BMW Motorrad team into the current BMW Italia squad, the Italain arm of the German company will run the WSBK program, developing the chassis, finding sponsors, and handling all race-related items, while Munich will develop the WSBK-spec BMW S1000RR’s powertrain and electronics package.

KTM Fielding Three-Rider Factory Moto3 Team

11/28/2011 @ 9:29 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It would be safe to say that KTM is making a serious commitment to the new Moto3 racing format, which replaces the two-stroke 125GP class in 2012 GP racing. Not only is the Austrian firm developing its own Moto3 race bike from scratch, but KTM is also helping engineering firm Kalex develop a Moto3 platform which uses KTM’s purpose-built Moto3 motor for its power plant.

Announcing that it will also field a factory team in the inaugural Moto3 season, KTM has named three riders for its factory squad. Signing Sandro Cortese, Danny Kent, and Arthur Sissis, KTM is making its debut back into entry-level GP racing a big one. The Austrian company last raced in 125GP in 2009, and with its departure, left the series to be dominated by the Piaggio Group’s Aprilia and Derbi-badged machines.

Official: Jeremy Burgess to Join Rossi at Ducati

10/20/2010 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Ever since it was confirmed that Valentino Rossi would be heading to Ducati for the 2011 & 2012 seasons, speculation began to swell about whether famed Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess would join the Italian rider at his new squad. The man behind Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, and of course Rossi, Burgess’ talents in the pit box are confirmed by the number of race victories and series championships he’s been a part of in GP racing. With many believing Rossi could not be successful on the Ducati without Burgess by his side, the Australian crew chief’s decision to follow Rossi to Ducati is an integral piece to the team’s success in the coming years, especially as Ducati prepares a new 1000cc machine for the rule changes scheduled in 2012.

With speculation rife that Burgess might stay at Yamaha (presumably to help Rookie of the Year Ben Spies), or even retire at the end of this season (Rossi said at Laguna Seca he wasn’t sure if Burgess would continue after this season), Burgess’ move to Ducati was anything but a sure thing. However this weekend at his home venue of Phillip Island and during the Australian GP, Burgess officially announced his intention to SportRider magazine that he would be following Rossi to Ducati, and continuing the pair’s successful history together.

Tardozzi Fired from BMW WSBK Team – Mechanics May Strike at Magny-Cours

09/29/2010 @ 3:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

According to our good friends at MotoMatters, Davide Tardozzi has just been handed his pink slip from the BMW World Superbike Team. The Italian manager has been instrumental in helping BMW get its house in order, but Tardozzi and the rest of BMW’s non-German crew are being purged from the team regardless. Tardozzi had apparently been banned from the BMW garage, as World Superbike heads to Magny-Cours this weekend, but the team’s mechanics are expected to work through the end of the season. Apparently not pleased with the idea of being replaced, the non-German mechanics are rumored to be planning a strike for Magny-Cours.

FB Corse FB01 Launch Video from Milan

02/15/2010 @ 8:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Fresh from it’s unveiling in Milan, DailyMotos has posted a video to YouTube on the Official presentation of the FB Corse MotoGP team and FB01 race bike. Garry McCoy was on hand to help take the wraps off the MotoGP contender, which has a three-cylinder 800cc motor that was originally intended for a BMW MotoGP entry. Check the unveiling after the jump.