2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Leaked ahead of EICMA

Someone at Yamaha is going to get a stern talking to today, as it seems a photo of the still unreleased Yamaha FJ-09 made its way to Yamaha’s press site accidentally, and didn’t yank it down before our friends at Common Tread caught a glimpse of it. Mixed in with photos of the Yamaha FZ-09, the photo of the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 doesn’t really give too much away from the machine, as we’ve seen the same shot in black & white already. However, since it’s the new bike season, and Yamaha has already shown the YZF-R3 and teased the all-new YZF-R1, we thought it would be appropriate to show you this new model in all its glory. Based off the FZ-09 platform, the FJ-09 will be Yamaha’s budget-minded sport/ADV-touring machine, picking up were the old Yamaha TDM left off.

Ducati 1299 Will Have “Tiptronic-Like” Shifting

If there is a common thread for Ducati’s upcoming EICMA reveal, it is the influence and benefits of owner Audi AG. We have already seen the German car manufacturer’s variable valve timing technology find its way into the Testastretta engine, in the form of Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT). Our sources say that the all-new Ducati Multistrada, which will debut in just a few weeks’ time, will be the first model equipped with DVT. While Ducati ups its ante in the ADV market, our Bothan spies have tipped us off to another piece of Audi tech that will find its way onto a Ducati motorcycle, as the 1299 will received a “Tiptronic-like” gearbox that allows for touch-button upshifts and downshifts.

Yamaha YZF-R3 Revealed – 321cc Twin Coming to the USA

The rumors were true, Yamaha is bringing a special small-displacement model to market, the Yamaha YZF-R3. As the name indicates, the new R3 gets a fuel-injected displacement bump over the R25, to the tune of 321cc. Debuted at the AIMExpo today, the Yamaha YZF-R3 is coming to the USA, with a price tag of $4,990. Said by Yamaha to have “class-leading power”, the new R3 finally adds a small-displacement sport bike to Yamaha’s North American lineup, and makes an attractive offering when compared to the other 250cc/300cc machines from the other Japanese manufacturers. Expect to see it in Yamaha dealers, starting January 2014. Yamaha North America expects the YZF-R3 to be the volume leader for the company in the USA and Canada, and rightfully so.

Ducati Announces DVT — Desmodromic Variable Timing

As was teased, Ducati is unveiling its “DVT” technology today, which stands for Desmodromic Variable Timing, and to showcase that technology (borrowed from Volkswagen), Ducati has produced the first motorcycle engine with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts. Adapted to the now-called Ducati Testastretta DVT engine, which we reported will debut first on the new Ducati Multistrada for 2015, Ducati’s new v-twin powerplant can change the intake and exhaust timing independently, and throughout the rev range. This means that the Ducati Testastretta DVT engine can be optimized for peak power at high rpms, while maintaing rideability and smoothness at lower rpms — not to mention keeping with emission and noise regulations throughout the rev range.

What If You Put Dustbin Fairings on Modern Sport Bikes?

I simply love the latest sketches from Nicolas Petit. The French designer is sort of re-imaging a previous project of his, where he designed a modern-looking dustbin-style fairing for a BMW HP2 Sport and Moto Guzzi V12 Le Mans. Taking on now the Ducati 1199 Panigale, Petit has mixed the old-styled TT racer look with Italy’s premier superbike, in an effective manner. We haven’t seen this sort of clash between old and new technology since John Hopkins raced the last two-stroke GP bike, the Yamaha YZR500 in 2002. There are some obvious issues with dustbin fairings. While they cut the air ahead of the motorcycle, the first step to achieving better aerodynamics, they do little to shape the air behind the motorcycle, the second step to achieving better aerodynamics.

Is This How Much the Kawasaki Ninja H2R Will Cost? Nope.

It has certainly been interesting to see the buzz around the Kawasaki Ninja H2 these past few weeks, especially as everyone tries to cash in on the supercharged hype-machine that Kawasaki has been running. Now lately we have seen a supposed dealer invoice for the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R, with a price tag just north of $60,000. Many publications have latched onto that price point — which isn’t the craziest conclusion to come to, considering that the H2R is Kawasaki’s halo-bike project, and will likely cost a pretty penny — though with just a quick glance, we can see that the alleged paperwork has clearly been a work of Photoshop, and not inside information.

Ducati Reaches New Workforce Agreement with Factory Unions – Reduced Hours, Higher Wages

Ducati Motor Holding has reached a new agreement with its workforce, particularly those workers who are responsible for building the Italian company’s iconic two-wheeled machines. The agreement with the unions sees 13 new jobs created in the Italian factory, which will now stay open on seven days a week — a big move for a country that is usually resistant to working on Sunday. The factory workers will also go from 15 to 21 shifts per week, with a format of three days on, and two days off. In exchange, factory employees will work fewer hours per week on average, though will make higher average wages for their time.

New Ducati 1299 Gets +100cc, While 1299R Gets None

For 2014, Ducati is giving the Panigale a bit of a model update, and thanks to an ill-framed photo from the Ducati North America dealers’ meeting, we know that the new superbike will be called by the 1299 designation. The upgrade in number caused some confusion though, as Ducati has a mixed history of matching designation numbers to actual displacement sizes. Hoping to clear up the confusion and speculation, we received some details from our Bothan spy network. As expected, Ducati will not be bumping up the 1299R up to 1,300cc of displacement, as the World Superbike rules are for 1,200cc twin-cylinder engines, and are not going to be changed anytime soon.

MotoAmerica’s Provisional 2015 Racing Calendar Released

There is positive momentum around America’s new MotoAmerica series, which will takeover duties from DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing, starting next season. We have already seen the series’ new class structure, which makes significant steps to parallel what’s going on in the World Superbike Championship. Today, we see MotoAmerica’s efforts on its racing schedule, a hot-ticket item after DMG’s five, then six, race schedule this season. American fans should rejoice, as eight races are on the calendar, which reads like a greatest hits album of American race tracks.

Triumph Tiger 800 Gets Four More Variants

Triumph seems set to debut four more variants of its Tiger 800, as CARB filings filings show a Tiger 800 XCA, Tiger 800 XCX, Tiger 800 XRT, and Tiger 800 XRX models for the 2015 model year. The news seems to show Triumph spreading out its middleweight ADV offering, giving on-road and off-road riders a bit more to choose from the British brand. Helping us understand how Triumph sees the four added variants, Motorcycle.com has publish a chart (above), which Triumph sent to Tiger 800 owners as a part of its market research. That chart breaks down the various models’ spec, and which features that would come with as standard. Noticeable across the board is that the three-cylinder gets a 15% MPG boost, as well as ABS and traction control as standard features.

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Revival in Race 300, And How Marquez & Moto2 Are Changing MotoGP

05/30/2014 @ 3:39 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossis Revival in Race 300, And How Marquez & Moto2 Are Changing MotoGP Mugello Circuit Wireframe 635x341

The paradox of the motorcycle racer is that every race is a big race, yet no race is more important than any other. The pressure on the MotoGP elite is so great that they have to perform at their maximum at every circuit, every weekend.

Every race is like a championship decider, not just the race which decides the championship. There may be extra pressure at a home race, or on a special occasion, or when a title is at stake, but the riders cannot let it get to them. There is too much at stake to be overawed by the occasion.

Still, Mugello 2014 is a very big race indeed. It is Valentino Rossi’s 300th Grand Prix, and a chance for him to return to the podium on merit again, and not just because the crowds were calling his name.

It is the best hope of a Jorge Lorenzo revival, the Yamaha man having won the last three races in a row at the spectacular Tuscan track. It is the best hope for Ducati, the Italian factory having run well here in the past.

And it is the first realistic chance for Marc Marquez to fail, the Spaniard has never found the track an easy one, though it did not stop him winning there.

Thursday Summary at Le Mans: Can Anyone Stop Marc Marquez from Making It Five in a Row?

05/15/2014 @ 10:16 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Le Mans: Can Anyone Stop Marc Marquez from Making It Five in a Row? le mans bugatti track aerial 635x391

As the MotoGP circus descends upon the charming French town of Le Mans this weekend, there is one question at the front of everybody’s minds: can he do it? Can Marc Marquez continue his incredible string of poles and victories by winning at Le Mans?

On the evidence of the 2014 season so far, you would have to say he can. But Le Mans is a different circuit, and one where a gaggle of Yamaha riders have gone well in the past. This could possibly be the first race since Qatar where Marquez is made to work for it.

Marquez has a lot going for him in France. Leaving aside his form – a perfect record of poles and wins this year, as well as being fastest in over half the sessions of free practice so far – the track looks to play to the Honda’s strengths, on paper at least.

The stop-and-go nature of the Le Mans track sees the bikes spend a lot of time under hard acceleration, with slower corners needing hard braking. The Honda’s ‘V’ approach to the corners – brake late, turn hard, stand the bike up quickly and get on the gas – seems to be a much better fit to the Le Mans circuit than Yamaha’s ‘U’ style – brake early, enter faster, carry more corner speed and smoothly wind on the throttle.

And yet Yamaha riders have won four of the last six races at the circuit. Jorge Lorenzo has won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans three times, and each time with a very comfortable margin over his competitors. Valentino Rossi has won here twice on a Yamaha, in 2005 and 2008, and finished second behind Lorenzo in 2010.

It’s even a track where Colin Edwards has shone in the past on a Yamaha – and where perhaps he can do well once again, despite hating the current Yamaha chassis he is riding at Forward Yamaha. This is the first in a series of circuits where Yamaha riders have dominated in the past.

If Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi want to start fighting back against the might of Marquez, Le Mans is as good a place to start as any.

Thursday Summary at Jerez: On Bridgestone’s Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, & Stopping Marquez

05/01/2014 @ 7:07 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Jerez: On Bridgestones Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, & Stopping Marquez jerez circuit track design map 635x423

There’s a race on Sunday, but all the talk is of 2016. Why the seemingly absurd preoccupation with a date that is so ridiculously distant in the future? Because from 2016, MotoGP will have a new tire supplier, after Bridgestone announced they will be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of 2015. Why does this matter?

Because tires are the single most important component of a motorcycle, and determine the performance of a machine to a massive extent. No matter how much power your engine produces, if you can’t get it to the ground, it becomes irrelevant. No matter how powerful your brakes, if the front tire collapses when you squeeze the front lever, you won’t be doing much slowing down.

Even if you can brake and accelerate as much as you like, if the bike wanders around like drunken poodle on a skateboard when you tip it into the corner, your laptimes won’t be up to much.

It is hard to overstate just exactly how important tires are to motorcycle performance. Why is Aleix Espargaro so consistently fast during qualifying, on a bike that is two years old and with an engine under strict control by Yamaha? Because the Open class entries have a softer rear tire available, and that tire itself is worth half a second or more.

Thursday Summary at Argentina: A Long Awaited Visit to the Middle of Nowhere

04/24/2014 @ 6:07 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Argentina: A Long Awaited Visit to the Middle of Nowhere circuito termas de rio hondo argentina 2 635x448

Why on earth would you organize a MotoGP race in what is effectively the middle of nowhere? The answer is as simple as it is obvious: money. Dorna are being well paid by the circuit to bring the three Grand Prix classes to the little town of Termas de Rio Hondo in the heart of the Argentinian pampas.

And in case you should start to rail against Dorna’s greed, it is fair to point out that a significant part of that money will also go to the teams, to pay transport costs and to cover at least part of their annual budget. Some of that money, but not all.

A more relevant question might be why would a circuit in the middle of nowhere pay Dorna a massive amount of money to come race there? If it’s in the middle of nowhere, then surely they are unlikely to make back at the gate what they paid to Dorna to organize the race? They won’t, but that is not necessarily the point.

The circuit, after all, is not paying most of the fee. The vast majority of the cash (indeed, probably all of it) is being paid by the regional authorities, with help from the central government. The regional tourism promotion council is counting on the increased profile of the Santiago del Estero province attracting more visitors to the region, and to Argentina in general.

In essence, the Argentinian government and the Santiago del Estero province are making the same gamble as the province of Aragon did for the circuit at Alcañiz. They hope that by raising the visibility of the area to the outside world, more people will choose to visit, and that will being more revenue to the region and boost the local economy.

Thursday Summary at Austin: Edwards Retires, Blandspeak Returns, & The Dearth of US Racers

04/11/2014 @ 7:58 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Austin: Edwards Retires, Blandspeak Returns, & The Dearth of US Racers circuit of the americas 635x434

It was fitting – some might say inevitable – that Colin Edwards chose the Grand Prix of the Americas in his home state of Texas to announce his retirement. He had just spent the last couple of weeks at home, with his growing kids, doing dad stuff like taking them to gymnastics and baseball and motocross, then hosted a group, including current GP riders and a couple of journos, at his Bootcamp dirt track school.

He had had time to mull over his future, then talk it over with his wife Ally, and come to a decision. There wasn’t really a much better setting for the double World Superbike champion to announce he was calling it quits than sitting next to former teammate Valentino Rossi, the American he fought so memorably with in 2006, Nicky Hayden, the latest US addition to the Grand Prix paddock Josh Herrin, and with Marc Marquez, prodigy and 2013 MotoGP champion. It felt right. Sad, but right.

You can read the full story of Edwards’ retirement here, but his announcement highlighted two different problems for motorcycle racing. One local, one global, and neither particularly easy to fix.

The loss of Colin Edwards sees the MotoGP paddock, indeed all of international motorcycle racing, robbed of its most outspoken and colorful character. Edwards was a straight talker, with a colorful turn of phrase and uninhibited manner of speech.

His interviews were five parts home truths, five parts witticisms and a handful of obscenities thrown in for good measure. He livened up press conferences, racing dinners, and casual conversations alike.

With Edwards gone, motorcycle racing is a much blander, less appealing place. Though Edwards was always careful not to upset sponsors too much, he refused to toe the line and just spout the politically acceptable line handed down by his corporate paymasters. He spoke his mind, complained when he was annoyed, gave praise where it was due, and always, always entertained.

Thursday at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/20/2014 @ 9:12 pm, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Qatar: The Open Revolution, Bridgestone’s 2014 Tires, & Moto3’s Mixed Bag

03/20/2014 @ 8:59 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Qatar: The Open Revolution, Bridgestones 2014 Tires, & Moto3s Mixed Bag 2014 MotoGP Thursday Qatar Scott Jones 14 635x423

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover seems particularly apt after the first day at Qatar. Fans and followers were hoping the changes made over the winter might shake things up a little, but they weren’t expecting a revolution.

At the top of the timesheets in MotoGP sits Aleix Espargaro on the Open class Forward Yamaha, nearly half a second ahead of the rest. In second place was Alvaro Bautista, not on an Open bike, but on a satellite Honda. Bautista, in turn, was ahead of three other satellite machines, Tech 3’s Bradley Smith leading Pramac Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, with the other Tech 3 bike of Pol Espargaro behind.

The first factory rider (that’s factory rider, not Factory Option) was Dani Pedrosa in 6th, over a second behind the Open class bike of Aleix. Valentino Rossi in 7th, on the factory Movistar Yamaha, could only just hold off former teammate Colin Edwards on the other Forward Yamaha. Even Nicky Hayden was just a tenth off the pace of Rossi, despite the Drive M7 Aspar rider being on the production RCV1000R Honda, a bike which was giving away over 12 km/h to the M1 of Rossi.

Has the revolution finally arrived? Has the Open class turned MotoGP on its head? Not really, though that didn’t stop the bookmakers from shortening the odds of an Aleix Espargaro win from 51/1 down to 11/1. The first page of MotoGP’s 2014 chapter is deceptive, as the Open and satellite bikes all have a head start.

At the notoriously dusty and low-grip track, it takes time to get the bikes dialed in, and the factory riders, fresh from testing at the ultra-high-grip Phillip Island circuit are suffering a Qatari culture shock. The satellite and Open bikes have already spent three days testing here, and have both the setup and the feeling of the track under control.

Preview of Phillip Island: Of Spectacular Circuits, History in the Making, & A Legend’s Last Chance

10/17/2013 @ 5:50 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Preview of Phillip Island: Of Spectacular Circuits, History in the Making, & A Legends Last Chance phillip island circuit aerial view 635x423

Ask any Grand Prix rider for his top three circuits, and you can bet that two names will figure on almost everybody’s list: one will be Mugello, and the other will be Phillip Island.

The order which the rider in question will put them in may vary, but the two appear so often because they share something special. Three factors make the two tracks such magical places to ride: they are both fast, they are both naturally flowing, and they are both set in spectacular locations.

Though their settings may be equally stunning, there is one major difference between the two. While Mugello sits amid the Mediterranean warmth of a Tuscan hillside, the Bass Strait, which provides the backdrop to the Phillip Island circuit, is the gateway to the cold Southern Ocean, with little or nothing between the track and Antarctica.

The icy blast that comes off the sea will chill riders, fans, and team members to the bone in minutes, gale force winds often buffet the bikes and trying to blow them off course, when it isn’t throwing seagulls and larger birds into their paths. The fact that the the track has a corner named Siberia tells you all you need to know about conditions at the Australian circuit.

Thursday Summary at Sepang: Of Penalty Points, Modern-Day Gladiators, Racing as Entertainment, & Ducati

10/10/2013 @ 7:09 pm, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Sepang: Of Penalty Points, Modern Day Gladiators, Racing as Entertainment, & Ducati marc marquez hrc motogp repsol honda 635x423

Just a few hours before the bikes hit the track, all the talk should be about the prospects for the riders in the coming weekend. At Sepang, though, it was all different.

Nobody was talking about who might end where, whether the Sepang is a Honda or a Yamaha track, whether Ducati will benefit from Sepang’s long straights or suffer around the fast corners, about whether Scott Redding or Pol Espargaro will have the upper hand in Moto2. It was not the prospect of on-track action, but off-track drama which captured the attention.

Thursday Summary at Silverstone: Of Frayed Nerves, Stopping Marquez, & Hayden’s Quest for Carbon Fiber

08/30/2013 @ 12:24 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Silverstone: Of Frayed Nerves, Stopping Marquez, & Haydens Quest for Carbon Fiber Silverstone Circuit Scott Jones 635x422 635x422

As the last of three back-to-back races, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone sees the teams and riders looking a little more tired and frazzled around the edges than when they first convened after the summer break at Indianapolis. Tempers are a little shorter, stubble is a little longer, and eyes are a little redder.

Add to this the fact that Thursday at Silverstone also plays host to the Day of Champions, and the teams and riders have a lot more PR duties to do, going up to the stage to help sell some of the items up for auction to help Riders for Health, and you have a group of tired and irritable motorcycle racing followers all clumped together in a room.

Despite the weather, the overwhelming consensus is a positive feeling going into the weekend. The track is widely loved, every rider I spoke to singing the praises of the circuit. What’s more, the forecast of fine weather has also had a positive effect on the general mood. In the past, Silverstone has inspired dread among the paddock, as it has all too often been cold and very, very wet.

Moving the race from June to late August/early September has been a masterstroke, however, as the chances of warm dry weather are vastly improved. Nicky Hayden even half apologized to the waiting British journalists for having given them a hard time about the British climate.

Three races on three consecutive weekends may be tiring, but it does allow for a series of extended discussions between rider managers and teams. The first of the expected deals was made official today – Scott Redding announced at Gresini, to ride a production Honda for 2014, and the factory prototype in 2015 – but more are clearly in the pipeline.