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.

Up-Close with the Mission R at Infineon Raceway

05/16/2011 @ 8:01 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It’s a good thing for Mission Motors that the Mission R looks fast standing still, as the electric superbike was unable to race in this weekend’s TTXGP series opener at Infineon Raceway. The Mission crew did bring the bike out for fans to see though, which gave us a chance to get up-close and personal with the machine with a camera in-hand. Electricity aside, the Mission R is one of the most attractive motorcycles we’ve seen in a while (even without its clothes on), and the fit & finish on the bike is superb…now if only it actually ran.

We can’t wait to see how the Mission R fares on the track, especially with Steve Rapp on-board. Mission tells us it will be at some of the upcoming TTXGP events, which would be an unfortunate place to launch the Mission R, considering A&R has a strict rule about blogging from New Hampshire. We’ll see what our Bothans can do about sneaking a peak of the bike testing before the next TTXGP round; until then, here are 25 photos to ruin your Monday productivity.

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TTXGP: Brammo Sets Track Record at Infineon

05/15/2011 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The California sun gods were in our favor this morning, as the rainy heavens over Infineon Raceway parted long enough to dry out the Sonoma track, and allow racing to commence under cloudy skies. After a thrilling ambulance race (Infineon Raceway had all its four-wheelers out drying the tarmac and racing line), Race Direction deemed the course fit for racing, and the slower-paced electrics were first on the card to try out the dryness of the track. Fielding three bikes for Race 2, we saw a return of Brammo, Moto Electra, and VOLT to the starting grid, as Ely Schless and his Proto Moto was a scratch for today’s event.

With such a large spread in the field, things sorted their way out much like on Saturday, with Brammo taking the early lead and never looking back. Thad Wolff made an impressive showing, but was no match for the faster Brammo Empulse RR. Meanwhile in the Formula TTX75 class, Kenyon Kluge rode to a solo victory with no other competitor fielding a 7.5 kWh machine.

Perhaps in response to some remarks by an unscrupulous blogger, Brammo put to rest any doubts about its efforts, as Steve Atlas set a track record for electric motorcycles on the Empulse RR. With a 1:55.150 race lap time, the Brammo team shaved nearly 19 seconds off his overall race time from yesterday. Breaking the record for electric motorcycles at Infineon with authority, Atlas posted 1:55 and 1:56 lap times throughout the race, setting a new bar in the TTXGP series.

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TTXGP: Brammo Wins at Infineon

05/14/2011 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

With rain threatening to put the kibosh on the West Coast Moto Jam’s Sunday events, the first of two scheduled TTXGP races was moved up to Saturday afternoon under the cooling wine country skies of Sonoma. With only four bikes taking to the starting grid (Lightning Motors’ two bikes were scratches, as was the Mission R by Mission Motors), it was a sparse showing for the first electric race of the 2011 season, which was disappointing considering Infineon’s proximity to a number of strong electric motorcycle entities.

Taking the overall win was Brammo Racing, which had motorcycle-racer-turned-motorcycle-journalist Steve Atlas at the helm of the Brammo Empulse RR. Brammo competed with Moto Electra’s Thad Wolff for the overall unlimited TTXGP class, while Kenyon Kluge on the VOLT bike finished third overall, besting Ely Schless and his Proto Moto bike in the Formula TTX75 class. Completing eight laps, Atlas took the Brammo Empulse RR to the winner’s circle with a 25 second gap and a best lap time of 1:57.875.

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Up-Close with the Brammo Empulse RR at Infineon Raceway

05/13/2011 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Getting ready for the first practice session of the 2011 TTXGP season, the Brammo Empulse RR is on hand at Infineon now we got a chance to take some photos and talk to Director of Product Development Brian Wismann. We already brought you the first photo of the revised Empulse RR, standing in front of the Brammo offices in Ashland, Oregon, where we saw the newly revised race livery (now in Brammo Racing Green). Photos and details of the Brammo Empulse RR after the jump.

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First Look: Brammo Empulse RR Race Bike for TTXGP

05/13/2011 @ 8:40 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Sitting outside of Brammo HQ in Ashland, here’s the first photo of the Brammo Empulse RR in its 2011 TTXGP livery. The green, white, and black paint scheme is a welcomed change from the red we’ve seen on the Empulse RR in the past, and should make it easy to spot the Brammo Empulse RR at Infineon this weekend, as Steve Atlas will be vying for the top step against the other five bikes that will be on the grid.

As we head up to the Sonoma track for the weekend, Asphalt & Rubber should get some more glimpses of the electric race bike, and bring you the first photos of it lapping the raceway-formerly-known-as-Sears-Point. We should also be getting our first glimpses of the Lightning Motors machines, but unfortunately will only be seeing the Mission R in the paddock, as Mission Motors has decided not to race this weekend.

Source: Brammo

TTXGP & FIM Holding Three Joint Electric Races – Laguna Seca, Donington Park, & Le Mans

05/09/2011 @ 9:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The FIM and TTXGP have issued a joint statement today, declaring that the two rival electric racing series would collaborate on three races this season, plus the possibility of a season-capping championship race in October. As we broke the news a couple months ago, the two series have begun to patch-up their relationship, and are slowly working their way back into a merger.

Today’s announcement sees TTXGP adding its name to perhaps the FIM e-Power Championship’s crown jewel event: the Laguna Seca round, which will count towards the TTXGP’s North American Championship.

Other event collaborations include stops on the FIM e-Power calendar as well, as both Donington Park and Le Mans have been named in the press release. e-Power races to be held at those venues were to be run during the FIM Endurance World Championship, and now will include TTXGP riders as well, who will be receiving points towards their European Championship standings.

The announcement should mean the bolstering of riders at all the events, but we imagine it will affect the FIM’s European rounds the most, as the American race was well-attended last year.

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Trailer: Charge – The IoM TTXGP Movie Out in a Week

05/05/2011 @ 6:58 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Since we first heard about it, we’ve been less than patiently waiting for Mark Neale’s next opus Charge, a movie about the first zero-emissions motorcycle race, which was held during the 2009 Isle of Man TT. Now we get word from the movie’s Facebook page that Charge will be available in about a week’s time, and we’re downright giddy about it.

Check the DVD library of any die hard MotoGP fan, and you’ll find Neale’s Faster, an iconic movie about MotoGP’s shift from two-stroke to four-stroke motors — we imagine Charge will have this same point of reference appeal to electric motorcycle enthusiasts, and eventually motorcyclists as a whole.

We got an email from Neale the other day, saying that an advanced copy of Charge would be headed to our mailbox. With promises of death by ex-Navy SEAL (no, seriously) if it should land into the wrong hands, Asphalt & Rubber will be hosting the world premiere of Charge here in the San Francisco/Bay Area (location pending). Until then, check the video after the jump.

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Mission Motors Racing at Infineon with Steve Rapp*

05/03/2011 @ 10:27 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

More news from the Asphalt & Rubber Bothan Spy network (that’d be a great spin-off site by the way…if George Lucas wouldn’t bullseye us like womp rats from a T-16 for our copious use of Star Wars references in our posts), as we’ve gotten word that Mission Motors is gearing up to go racing at the TTXGP season-opener at Infineon Raceway in two weeks’ time. At the helm of the gorgeous Mission R electric superbike will be AMA Pro Racing’s Steve Rapp.

The caveat to this news is that it all is contingent on Mission Motors getting its race bike ready to race in time for the event. The Bothans go on to tell us that the bike’s battery pack still needs to come together, which is something we’ve heard for some time now, but could suggest that the team has advanced its tech further and is upgrading the Mission R for even more on-board energy/power. As always, time will tell.

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Brammo Empulse to Race at Infineon with MotorcycleUSA

04/19/2011 @ 7:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotorcycleUSA has let it slip that it will be competing in the first round of the North American TTXGP series on-board the Brammo Empulse RR. Taking to the electric race motorcycle with be MotoUSA editor Steve Atlas, who will get the honors of piloting the Empulse RR in its first race outing (Brammo had to sit out its attempt to race a the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca last year after having a technical issue).

Brammo has been testing its Empulse RR for almost a year now, so the Oregonian company’s race package should be well-polished for the race at Infineon. When we saw the Empulse RR testing at Thunderhill Raceway earlier this year, the electric bike seemed capable of some good lap times, but of course we’ll have to wait and see how it compares to the competition that arrives later this May.

As for Atlas, the last we heard was that he single-handedly changing the well-earned stigma that motorcycle journalists don’t know how to ride motorcycles, which should make for some good racing for the TTXGP/AMA fans. Some photos of the Brammo Empulse RR are after the jump.

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FIM e-Power/TTXGP Merger Well Underway

03/16/2011 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Rumors of an FIM e-Power and TTXGP merger have been quietly floating around for the past week, and before we could report on those whispers of the event, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme has scooped us with the story that it has been holding conversations with the folks at TTXGP regarding the two series running joint events during the 2011 electric motorcycle season, with a possible final joint Championship to take place at the end of the year.

Sources close to the talks have told Asphalt & Rubber that a merger between the two series is imminent, with many of the stakeholders already signing-off on the deal. The likely outcome would be a series that lives on with the e-Power name, promoted by none other than Dorna Motor Sports, of MotoGP media fame. The FIM’s impetus seems to be in consolidating the two diverging series, and finally integrating them into established professional road racing.

Conversely, TTXGP will be able to find a financial exit from the rumored deal, something its investors will surely be happy to see. TTXGP has been able to piggyback off of local and club racing events, making deals with the tracks themselves, rather than the organizing bodies, in an effort to expand rapidly. While TTXGP has seen push-back from the Isle of Man TT, FIM, and AMA, the series has proven to be more adept at marketing itself than the FIM with its e-Power.

More on this as we get it, for now both parties are only admitting to the fact that they are talking about “collaborating” with one another. Joint statement from the FIM & TTXGP after the jump, along with their 2011 racing calendars.

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