Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Ben Spies Named MotoGP Rookie of the Year

10/17/2010 @ 10:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ben Spies clinched the MotoGP Rookie of the Year award while a racing at Phillip Island this weekend, adding another bullet point to the Texan’s impressive resumé, and achieving the next logical step in his GP career. Currently the highest ranking American in the MotoGP series, Spies holds a 11 point advantage over the Kentucky Kid Nicky Hayden. Both Americans have had a great season this year, and it will be exciting to watch the pair finish out the last two races of the season.

Moving up to the factory Yamaha team for the 2011 season, Spies will play second fiddle to Jorge Lorenzo, the reigning MotoGP World Champion. We’ll have to anxiously await Spies’ arrival on the factory-spec bike at the test in Valencia, following the conclusion of the 2010 MotoGP season, where we’ll get our first glimpse at what Spies can do on the more powerful factory M1. Team Texas: 1, Team Marco: 0.

Photo: Ben Spies (Personal Website)

Hervé Poncharal of Monster Tech3 Yamaha Sits Down with Asphalt & Rubber at Laguna Seca

07/27/2010 @ 7:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

During the Red Bull US GP weekend, Asphalt & Rubber’s Jensen Beeler got a chance to sit down with Hervé Poncharal, Team Manager of the Monster Tech3 Yamaha MotoGP team, and have a lengthy discussion. Sharing with us his insights into the race weekend, which for his riders was to a home crowed, Poncharal talks about the development of Ben Spies as a MotoGP rider, and role Colin Edwards has played in helping his teammate adjust to racing in MotoGP. Giving some insight about how the 2011 season will shape up for both Ben and Colin, Poncharal hints that we could see a British rider on the satellite team next year. Read the full interview transcript after the jump.

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Spies 5th Fastest at Second Day of Sepang Testing

02/05/2010 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP riders tested at Sepgang for the second time today, after waiting for the Malaysian track to dry out from the looming rains. For their second outing, Ben Spies gets the most improved award, as the Texan rookie moved up from yesterday’s 12th place testing position (2’03.142) to being the 5th quickest man around the track (2’02.266) today. Spies had complained of jetlag yesterday, but with nearly a second dropped off his pace, it would seem he got a full night’s sleep last night. The Malaysian outing has been especially good for Tech3 Yamaha, which saw Colin Edwards as the 3rd quickest man yesterday.

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Tech3 Wall Continues On with Spies and Edwards

11/30/2009 @ 10:23 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

tech3-wall-spies-edwards

As the relationshit between Colin Edwards and James Toseland came to a crashing halt during the 2009 season, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage found a proverbial and literal wall erected, dividing the team in two. Now despite the cordial relationship between Edwards and newcomer Ben Spies, comes confirmation that the wall will continue its presence as the 3rd teammate in the Tech3 camp.

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Official: Ben Spies Will Ride a YZF-M1 as a Wild Card Entry for the Valencian GP

10/03/2009 @ 3:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ben-Spies-wild-card-Valencia-MotoGP

Following the announcement on Thursday that Ben Spies will move to MotoGP in 2010, Yamaha now announces that it will enter the Texan as a wild card into the season-ending Grand Prix of Valencia.

25-year-old Spies will participate as a single rider entry of a Yamaha Factory Racing Team, using YZR-M1 test bikes brought over from Japan. The Valencia MotoGP race takes place 6-8th November, two weeks after the final World Superbike round at Portimao, Portugal.

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James Toseland Heads Back to WSBK for 2010

10/01/2009 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

James-Toseland-back-to-WSBK

This is a busy week for Yamaha Racing, with its MotoGP squad headed to Estoril and WSBK getting ready for its second-to-last stop in Magny-Cours. Fresh from the tuning fork brand is another announcement for its 2010 rider line-up, and this time around it concerns James Toseland.

Coming straight from Yamaha HQ, James Toseland, the former World Superbike Champion and current MotoGP satellite rider, will be headed back to World Superbike for the 2010 season, taking the place of Ben Spies who will be moving into Toseland’s now empty seat at Monster Tech3 Yamaha.

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Toseland WSBK Announcement Thursday?

09/30/2009 @ 8:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

James-Toseland-WSBK-announcement

MCN is reporting that James Toseland is set to make an announcement tomorrow (Thursday) regarding his plans for 2010. Toseland is expected to divulge that he and American rider Ben Spies will be doing an almost direct bike swap for next year. The plan has Spies taking a seat at Tech3 Yamaha alongside fellow Texan Colin Edwards, while Toseland takes the #1 seat at the Yamaha factory World Superbike team.

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