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.

Marc Marquez: “It Was a Great Surprise”

11/17/2013 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Thanks to the good folks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Asphalt & Rubber recently got a chance to participate in a teleconference with an up-and-coming racer by the name of Marc Marquez. For those of you who haven’t heard about this talented Honda rider, he just won a little Spanish racing series called MotoGP — and apparently is the youngest rider ever to do so.

Taking questions from American journalists, the young Marquez shared with us his insights about winning the championship in his rookie season, riding on the factory-spec Honda RC213V, competing against riders like Jorge Lorenzo, and during the season when he thought he could actually be the MotoGP World Champion.

As always, Marc was his usual enthusiastic self, and we think it comes through in the transcript for the teleconference.

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Marc Marquez: “I’m Surprised, If I’m Honest”

08/12/2013 @ 1:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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This morning, Asphalt & Rubber and other members of the English-speaking press were treated to a teleconference with Marc Marquez, which was hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Currently leading the MotoGP Championship by 16 points, Marquez down-played his chances for carrying that lead to the end of the season, with the same boyish enthusiasm that he has shown throughout the season.

Talking about his success at The Brickyard in the Moto2 class, Marquez could be a dark horse for the upcoming Indianapolis GP, which has been dominated by the Repsol Honda machines the past three years; and if there is one thing that is certain about the young Spaniard, you can’t count him out on race day.

With IMS providing us with a transcript of the teleconference, you can read Marquez’s response to a wide range of subjects, all after the jump.

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Transcript: The Gay Question at Jerez

05/02/2013 @ 4:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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If you didn’t watch Thursday’s pre-event press conference for MotoGP at Jerez, it is worth a viewing right to the end (assuming you have a MotoGP.com account). Building off the news about the NBA’s Jason Collins coming out as gay in a self-written feature in Sport Illustrated, my good colleague David Emmett had the courage to inquire about the culture and acceptance of the MotoGP paddock for homosexual riders.

I will let David write in his own words the mood and response to the evening’s press conference, as well as address the comments, criticisms, and opinions put forth later on Twitter by members of the paddock, when learning about the event. For the sake of accuracy though, after the jump is a full transcript of David’s question, as put to riders Cal Crutchlow, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Stefan Bradl, and Scott Redding, as well as those riders’ responses to David’s inquiry.

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Rossi: “Have to Understand If I’m Still a Top Rider”

08/16/2012 @ 9:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Talking to journalists for the first time since the announcements that he would be leaving Ducati and joining Yamaha, Valentino Rossi provided some interesting insights today at the Indianapolis GP pre-even press conference, which showed his reasoning for the switch in teams, as well as how Rossi views his future in MotoGP. Perhaps the most interesting remark from The Doctor was his own questioning of his alien status, saying that he no longer knew whether he was a top rider in the sport.

Beyond the opportunity to question Rossi over his decision to move back to Yamaha, there was ample build-up, by both fans and journalists. The build-up of course pertained to seeing Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi in the same room with each other, as highly critical statements by Stoner were made this week in the media over Rossi’s tenure at Ducati. Putting the kibosh on the expected fight between the two riders, Stoner made it clear that the article in question was a composite of statements he has said in the press over the pass one and a half years, and that he made none of those statements in the past week.

Another interesting point included Rossi conceding that rival Jorge Lorenzo would be the #1 rider in the factory Yamaha team, though Lorenzo admitted later in the press conference that the distinction carried little weight when it came to parts and development, as Yamaha supplied riders equally within the team. Unwilling to talk money figures with his contract, Rossi would also not speculate on whether he and Lorenzo would share the same livery, i.e. sponsors, for next season.

With the atmosphere in the room palpable, Rossi fans will be interested in hearing The Doctor talk about his career with new uncertainty, and dwell on the possibility that the best of his motorcycle racing years might be behind him. A selected portion of the press conference transcript is after the jump.

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Nicky Hayden: “Nobody Has Lost Hope”

08/24/2011 @ 7:06 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to a teleconference with both Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards this week, allowing Asphalt & Rubber and a select group of journalists to get a preview of the riders’ thoughts before the Indianapolis GP kicks off in earnest this Friday. The only MotoGP rider so far to preview the resurfaced infield at The Brickyard, among other things Hayden gave journalists his thoughts on the new pavement, where he stands in the Championship, and esprit de corps inside Ducati.

What caught our ear listening to the teleconference was that despite all the frustrations he’s had this year, and his noticeable changes in demeanor during press scrums after particularly discouraging sessions, Hayden remains forever the up-beat optimist in the MotoGP paddock. Talking about the level of commitment and the attitude inside Ducati Corse, Hayden said “I told Fillipo (Preziosi) that after the last test, I’ve been impressed with his team and how all the guys have just kept their head down and kept working,”

“Those guys, they get there early and stay late. Some of the engineers I spoke to back at the factory, they’re all on board,” Hayden continued. “I’ve got to believe that hard work and that good attitude is going to pay off in the long run. It normally always does, and I hope this is no different.” Read the rest of the teleconference after the jump.

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Who is Karel Abraham?

07/28/2011 @ 4:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The lower ranks of GP racing, 125GP, 250GP, and Moto2, are not as well-followed in the United States as MotoGP, so when the Czech Republic’s Karel Abraham climbed aboard a Ducati Desmosedici GP10 and started putting down impressive lap times, a collective “who the heck is Karel Abraham?” was uttered out-loud. The 21-year-old law student got a proper roasting on his introduction to the premier class by english-speaking journalists (ourselves included), as it was revealed quickly that Karel Abraham is actually Karel Abraham Jr., where Karel Abraham Sr. is the owner of the Brno race circuit and the Cardion AB race team. Touching on a vein of nepotism, yes…daddy bought him a MotoGP race team was uttered by us.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this season at Qatar though, where I was standing on the wall at Turn 1 at the Arabian track during MotoGP’s last testing session before the 2011 season, and watched a young Ducati rider hold his own against the MotoGP field. Granted, the junior Abraham was not setting the desert sands on fire like Casey Stoner, but he was no slouch either…and this was on “the wrong bike” in the GP paddock. Throughout the season, he’s shaken things up a number of times, and on several occasions been the fastest Ducati in a session. When you consider that all of this is occuring in the 21-year-old’s first entry in the big show, Karel becomes an increasingly impressive rider.

Did his father buy him a MotoGP team? That may be the case, but the Czech rider is anything but a spoiled brat. Down to earth, friendly, and funny during our 30 minute conversation, Karel is perhaps an example of how MotoGP riders should be during interactions with fans and media. In a sport where riders switch into PR-zombie mode as soon as a journalist shows up, it can be incredibly difficult to get the true perspective inside the MotoGP paddock, but talking to Karel proved to be a refreshing reminder that MotoGP riders after all people like the rest of us.

It’s perhaps unfair that Abraham came into the MotoGP Championship with this stigma attached to him, as he showed to me this past weeekdn that he is at least one of the most relatable riders in the paddock. As for his raw talent and skill, the results speak for themselves really, as Karel is on his way to becoming MotoGP’s Rookie of the Year (sorry Crutchlow fans), and is currently ahead of Alvaro Bautista, Toni Elias, Cal Crutchlow, Loris Capirossi, and Randy de Puniet in the 2011 MotoGP Championship standings. That all being said, enjoy A&R‘s Q&A with Karel Abraham after the jump.

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“Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Can’t Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?” – Kenny Roberts Sr.

07/27/2011 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

On Thursday at the US GP, a day before the general public and non-MotoGP press could get into Laguna Seca, Yamaha unveiled its 50th Anniversary team livery, with a special cadre of legendary Yamaha riders. Eddie Lawson, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts Sr., and Wayne Rainey joined current Yamaha riders Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Jorge Lorenzo in the pit lane of the famous American track to commemorate Yamaha’s half-century of motorcycle Grand Prix involvement. After the presentation, a scrum of journalists got a chance to talk to King Kenny about his experience riding the YZR-M1 around Laguna Seca, as Yamaha had built a special GP bike for the American GP Champion, though it did not have a full electronics package.

A&R also got to eavesdrop in on the conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance.

Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Saying in his day, a rider could be 10 feet off the ideal line, fight the bike through the corner, and finish the lap none the slower; but on the current MotoGP equipment, being 10cm off the line can mean seconds missing on the lap time because of how exacting the sport has become.

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Simoncelli vs. Lorenzo: The Estoril Pre-Race Transcript

05/02/2011 @ 7:50 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Portuguese GP proved to be a thinking man’s race, but the pre-race press conference showed that some riders can switch their brains off from time to time. With Marco Simoncelli making strong impressions during the Free Practice sessions at Estoril, and Jorge Lorenzo on sitting on the pole, tempers flew a bit as the Spaniard and Italian minced words over riding styles and reputations.

Starting with a prompt as to whether Simoncelli had read some disparaging remarks made by Jorge Lorenzo in the media, the two riders had a heated exchange about past incidents of questionable riding conduct, while a bemused Pedrosa had to remain seated next to them during the handbag tussle. From there, the following transcript ensued. Read it after the jump.

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Colin Edwards – “I’m going fishing. Screw this sh*t.”

08/26/2010 @ 11:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

No one makes the MotoGP media center come alive with emotion more so than Colin Edwards. A veteran of the sport, and born with no filter between his brain and mouth, the Texan Tornado captured the spotlight during the pre-race press conference at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. A stark contrast to the polished veneers of other riders, Edwards isn’t afraid to tell things the way he sees it, even if it involves some colorful language. To get an idea of what we mean, check out a portion of the press conference transcript after the jump.

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