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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

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.

Is Brammo Racing at the Isle of Man TT?

04/09/2015 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Our Bothans had been hinting at a secret entry in the TT Zero event at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, and it seems that entry could be Brammo.

The tip-off comes courtesy of renowned road racer Lee Johnston, who tweeted that the weather in California was just fine…while sitting next to the Brammo track trailer, and with a Brammo Empulse RR beside him (pictured above).

There is really only one reason why “General Lee” would be testing the American outfit’s electric race bike, and that’s if the now R&D company wanted to go head-to-head with Mugen, Saroléa, et al.

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Gone Riding: Yamaha YZF-R3

03/12/2015 @ 12:15 am, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we are out near Willows, CA testing the new Yamaha YZF-R3. We will be spending the first part of the day on a 120-mile street ride, and then following that up in the afternoon by riding the new “West Course” at Thunderhill Raceway.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #YamahaR3USA & #FirstRideR3 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

Yamaha’s entry into the small-displacement space, the YZF-R3 specifically fills a void in Yamaha’s lineup for a small-displacement, learner-focused, sport machine.

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The Easiest Way to Follow the Isle of Man TT on Twitter

06/03/2014 @ 1:19 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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It’s better late than never, so we thought we would share one of the ways we are keeping up with all that’s going on with the 2014 Isle of Man TT, and that’s our custom Isle of Man TT Twitter list.

To save you the trouble of hunting down all the teams and riders on the interwebs though, we’ve made a public list of the Isle of Man TT personalities that you should follow to keep up-to-date on the TT’s happenings.

Riders, teams, photographers, and local Manx news — all in one stream. Click that link, and hit “Subscribe” on the left-hand side…it’s that easy. Enjoy!

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David Emmett Named Best MotoGP Blogger & Tweeter in 2013 Silverstone Media Awards

12/20/2013 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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I am very proud to announce that my good friend and colleague David Emmett (check the reflection in Nicky’s sunglasses) has been named, not once, but twice in the 2013 Silverstone Media Awards for his coverage of the MotoGP Championship and for his website MotoMatters.

For the third year in a row, David has been named the Best MotoGP Blogger, something we already knew here at Asphalt & Rubber, which is why we feature his work, and this year marks David’s first time as the series’ top account on Twitter.

David is too humble to do anything other than announce his hat-trick of trophies, but I have no problems saying that his work is the definitive source for MotoGP commentary.

David’s true journalistic ethic and keen understanding of the internet as a medium of information has quickly distinguished him from his colleagues in the MotoGP paddock, and for all the hard work of his that we read on our computer screens, there is an iceberg of change underneath MotoGP’s murky waters that he has brought about.

Keep up the excellent work my good friend, I think I speak for all the Asphalt & Rubber readers when I say that Silverstone couldn’t have recognized a better man in MotoGP.

If you want to help support David’s site MotoMatters, you can take out a subscription; get one of the stunning MotoMatters.com 2014 Motorcycle Racing Calendars; buy a print from Scott Jones’ website; or simply make a donation.

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Marquez, We Have To Talk – You’re Getting Horrible Advice

10/25/2013 @ 12:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler80 COMMENTS

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Earlier this morning, Marc Marquez tweeted the following in Spanish to his Twitter followers: “Special helmet and shirt for a special GP in Japan, at home!!! ;) Do you like?” and attached the above photo to the message.

The intent is clear, Marquez hopes to clinch the 2013 MotoGP Championship while at the home grand prix for HRC, at track Honda owns no less. While Honda brass would surely love such a coup, we hope someone takes young Marc aside and explains something about his T-shirt.

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Beyond the Ben Spies Twitter Fiasco

08/26/2013 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies was, and perhaps still is, America’s great white hope when it comes to MotoGP racing. A sensational young rider, Spies cut his teeth in the AMA on six class championships before going onto winning the World Superbike Championship in his rookie season.

Fast-tracked into MotoGP, Spies served his time, by rule, in Hervé Poncharal’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, before finally getting the nod into Yamaha Racing’s factory outfit.

Fans expected a punctuated evolution from Spies when he put on Yamaha’s blue and white factory colors, as the Texan had shown great promise at Tech 3, and surely now with the very best that the tuning fork brand had to offer, Spies’s star would continue to rise, and a new generation of American GP domination could be ushered into the premier class. That was the hope at least, as unreasonable as it was.

Coming off a disastrous season at Yamaha in 2012, which ended with Yamaha declaring it had lost faith in the American, and Spies throwing a wrench in Yamaha’s marketing machine at the US GP at Laguna Seca, the hope would be that Spies’s move to Ducati would be a fresh start.

Instead, Spies entry into the Ignite Ducati squad has been a non-starter, with the Texan competing in only two grand prix races thus far this season. Instead of redemption, we have seen frustration, which perhaps is what brings us to today’s news, if you can call it that.

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Lin Jarvis Explains Yamaha’s New Social Media Policy

03/29/2013 @ 5:12 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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There was much consternation ahead of the Jerez MotoGP test, when it emerged that the Factory Yamaha MotoGP team had imposed a new social media policy. Given that Yamaha has perhaps the strongest presence on social media of all MotoGP teams, fans feared that the access they had been given would be restricted.

Apart from riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha also has Alex Briggs, mechanic to Valentino Rossi, Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Jorge Lorenzo, and Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager to Jorge Lorenzo on their payroll, all three popular figures on Twitter.

At the official launch of Yamaha’s 2013 MotoGP campaign, we spoke to Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis to ask about the policy, and try to clear up any confusion surrounding the situation. Our first question was naturally, did Yamaha indeed have a new social media policy?

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Motorcycle Racing vs. Social Media: How Dorna Could Turn Losing the Battle into Winning the War

03/11/2013 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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When the news that Dorna would be taking over World Superbikes broke, there was a wave of outrage among fans, expressing the fear that the Spanish company would set about destroying the series they had grown to love.

So far, Dorna has been careful not to get involved in debates about the technical regulations which seem to be so close to fans’ hearts, its only criteria so far appearing to be a demand that bikes should cost 250,000 euros for an entire season.

Yet it has already make one move which has a serious negative impact on the series: it is clamping down on video footage from inside the paddock.

There was some consternation – and there is still some confusion – about the situation at the first round of WSBK at Phillip Island at the end of February. Where previously, teams and journalists had been free to shoot various videos inside the paddock, there were mixed signals coming from Dorna management, with some people told there was an outright and immediate ban, with threats of serious consequences should it be ignored, while others were saying that they had heard nothing on the subject.

That Dorna is determined to reduce the amount of free material on YouTube became immediately clear after the race weekend was over: in previous years, brief, two-minute race summaries would appear on the official World Superbike Youtube channel after every weekend. After the first race of 2013, only the post-race interviews were posted on the site. It is a long-standing Dorna policy to try to strictly control what ends up on YouTube and what doesn’t. It is its most serious mistake, and one which could end up badly damaging the sport unless it is changed very soon.

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MotoGP: Davide Brivio Plays Down Suzuki Link

01/28/2013 @ 12:45 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Reports linking Davide Brivio to running Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP effort appear to have been premature. Less than 24 hours after reports first emerged on Italian TV, and were later picked up by other outlets, including this one, Brivio has issued a clarification on his Twitter page.

Brivio wrote: “Suzuki contacted me for MotoGP but I’m just talking and I’m not the only one. They have not yet decided yet about 2014 but only testing 2013.” The clarification suggests that the deal to run Suzuki’s MotoGP squad is far from complete. Brivio may currently be in talks with Suzuki, but other parties are also involved.

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MotoGP: PBM’s New Aprilia Chassis by GPMS

01/07/2013 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Using a sole Aprilia ART racing machine last season, Paul Bird Motorsports is looking to double-down with the Italian V4 power plant, though for 2013 the British team will split its time between continuing to develop the Aprilia ART with Yonny Hernandez on-board, as well as developing its own racing platform for Michael Laverty.

Building the PBM-o1 with the help of chassis-builder GPMS, PBM will have Laverty also ace with an Aprilia RSV4 engine between his legs, though the rest of the machine will differ from his teammate’s more “factory” machine. Teasing out the first pictures of the PBM-01 chassis by GPMS, Team Principal Paul Bird has teased out some pictures of the team’s new GP chassis with the V4 motor mounted.

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