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.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

03/30/2017 @ 5:18 pm, by David Emmett37 COMMENTS

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.

From India, through Southeast Asia, motorcycle racing in general and MotoGP in particular has a huge following. But the only country in the region that has a race is Malaysia, hosting its Grand Prix at Sepang.

So expanding the calendar to include Thailand is a welcome addition for fans in the region. If the financial and logistical problems with organizing a race in Indonesia ever get sorted, then there might even be a third race in the region, at the Palembang circuit in South Sumatra.

Given the massive interest in MotoGP from that country, it is a racing certainty that any race there will be a complete sell out.

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Pint-Sized Honda 150SS RACER Debuts in Bangkok

03/29/2017 @ 1:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The Honda Grom was a huge success, no one can discount that. The pint-sized two-wheeler is ideal for developing countries that need cheap and versatile people-movers (on a budget).

And, the Grom has also shown similar success in markets like the United States and Europe, where it is considered a fun and unassuming motorcycle to add to the garage.

Seeing that success, Honda has been trying to tapp that same vein with its latest batch of concept creations. So today, we bring that latest effort, the Honda 150SS RACER concept, which is like the Grom’s cafe-racing sibling from the neo-retro future.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #48 – WSBK Australia & Thailand

03/27/2017 @ 1:10 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Paddock Pass Podcast #48 – WSBK Australia & Thailand

Episode 48 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Steve English covering the recent the first two rounds of the World Superbike Championship, at Phillip Island an Thailand.

With Jonathan Rea dominating the first two races, the guys talk about the expectations at the opening rounds, and how the season is far from over for the other riders. Tom Sykes is looking to be in his best form ever, Chaz Davies is in the hunt, and Marco Melandri is showing his teeth…all of which is making for good racing.

The show also covers the World Supersport class, which has proven to be anything but predictable. With injuries, mechanicals, and crashes shaking up the leaderboard, the WSS title is still very much any rider’s to claim.

Before wrapping up, the lads talk about the Supersport 300 series, which begins at the first European round of the season, at Aragon. They tip who to watch, and what to expect from the racing, and surely hardcore race fans won’t want to miss the debut of this new series.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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Thailand WorldSBK Notes: Recency Bias

03/15/2017 @ 12:01 pm, by Kent Brockman5 COMMENTS

It’s early days for the 2017 World Superbike season, but already plenty of people are crowning Jonathan Rea as a three-time champion. To anyone thinking that with 22 races remaining that the championship has been sown up, it would be wise not to count any chickens just yet.

Rea has most certainly been the class of the field so far in Australia and Thailand, but they are two tracks that the Kawasaki rider had been heavily favored to win at. Phillip Island is a wide-open race to open the year, but Rea has traditionally been a force at the Australian circuit.

Likewise in three years of visiting Thailand he has won five races. There’s a lot that can be taken from the opening three rounds of the year, but it will take a couple of European rounds before a clear picture truly emerges.

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Thailand WorldSBK Debrief – Sunday

03/13/2017 @ 12:10 am, by Kent Brockman7 COMMENTS

Jonathan Rea maintained his 100% record to start the 2017 World Superbike season, and in doing so the Northern Irishman became the first rider since Neil Hodgson in 2003 to open his campaign with four consecutive victories.

The Rea has made the Chang International Circuit his own over the course of the last three years, and this weekend was no exception.

A dominant lights-to-flag victory on Saturday was followed by a tremendous opening lap in Race 2, which saw him slice through the field to be in second position by the end of the opening tour.

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WSBK: Jonathan Rea Wins Restarted Race 2 at Thailand

03/12/2017 @ 9:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on WSBK: Jonathan Rea Wins Restarted Race 2 at Thailand

Thailand WorldSBK Debrief – Saturday

03/11/2017 @ 5:14 pm, by Kent BrockmanComments Off on Thailand WorldSBK Debrief – Saturday

Jonathan Rea claimed a dominant victory at the Chang International Circuit, with the reigning World Champion setting a searing pace en route to his third victory in a row.

When he arrived in parc ferme after Race 1, the Northern Irishman’s emotions were clear for all to see as he celebrated his 41st WorldSBK victory.

“I felt really good and quite calm, my guys gave me a really good bike again and that was my plan,” said Rea. “We had a really good pace, but Chaz also had a very fast pace, as did Marco, so I had to ride away into T1 to make the holeshot, I wanted to get my head down in T1 and I did it.”

“I managed to get a good gap and then built up a rhythm, I was just doing my job and it was enough to win, so I’m really happy. Last year there was a big fight between me, Tom, and Chaz, but the bike’s improved a lot since last year, so I’m really happy with that.”

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WSBK: Jonathan Rea Dominates Race 1 at Thailand

03/11/2017 @ 1:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Bits & Bobs: Motorcycle Racing News Thus Far in 2017

01/09/2017 @ 5:33 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

The first week of 2017 has come and gone, and we are a week closer to the MotoGP bikes hitting the track again at Sepang for the first test of the year.

Though little of consequence is happening publicly in the midst of the winter break, there are the first few signs of activity.

So, after the jump is a round-up of the news from last week: most of the things that matter, all in one place.

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Thailand World Superbike Debrief: Hard Racing at Chang

03/22/2016 @ 8:22 am, by Kent Brockman9 COMMENTS

tom-sykes-world-superbike-thailand

Good clean racing or overstepping the mark? That was the question being asked on the Sunday night in Thailand, after a thrilling race long duel between Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea.

For many the sight of Sykes fighting tooth and nail and refusing to cede the win to his teammate was something that was hoped for, but not expected this year.

The Kawasaki teammates fought a war of words over the winter, but after Rea’s dominant title victory last year, many expected something similar this year.

While Rea has walked away with 95 points from the first four races, the message from Sykes in Thailand was clear: You’re not going to have it all your own way this time around!

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