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.

The Curious Case of Female Spectators in MotoGP

03/14/2017 @ 5:22 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Last week during International Women's Day, my colleague Tammy Gorali - the first female commentator ever in the MotoGP paddock, I should point out - tweeted some timely statistics about female attendance at MotoGP races.

In short, here tweets showed that over the past four years, the number of female spectators has declined an astonishing 19%. That's no small drop, and the timeliness of that revelation should be noted.

On its face, this tweet showed that MotoGP was seemingly hemorrhaging female fans. But, the reality isn't as clearcut, and this is also where things get weird.

Intrigued by Gorali's info, I dug into the numbers a bit further to see what was behind this startling statistic. What I found was that if you pulled the scope back further by just one more year, then over the past five years female attendance at MotoGP races has actually increased by 33%.

If your brain is hurting right now, that's ok, but it is difficult to understand how the number of women attending MotoGP races declined by 19% over the past four years, but increased somehow also increased 33% over the last five?

Keep on reading, and I will try and shed some light on this curious case of female MotoGP attendance.

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Elena Myers Says She Left Racing After Sexual Assault

02/18/2017 @ 10:01 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

At 23 years of age, it is strange not to see Elena Myers on the race track these days, as the talented MotoAmerica racer is undoubtedly in the prime of her life, racing-wise.

But, Myers hung up her leathers a little over a year ago, saying that she could not secure enough funding for the 2016 season – a common enough story in the American road racing paddock – but seemingly other issues were percolating below the surface of that statement.

Giving an extensive account to the Philadelphia magazine, Myers describes a narrative about how a sexual assault during a hotel massage changed not only her life, but also lead to her quitting the sport she loved.

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US Female Motorcycle Ownership Reaches All-Time High

12/18/2015 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler89 COMMENTS

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More and more women are riding motorcycles, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s (MIC) latest motorcycle ownership survey. The data from the survey shows that out of the 9.2 million motorcycle owners in the United States of America, 14% of them are women. Booyah!

This figure is a stark contrast to the 8% ownership rate for women that was found in 1998, though it shows that the motorcycle industry still has a great deal of ground to cover when it comes to appealing to both sexes equally.

Encouraging though is the fact that 30 million people in the USA swung a leg over a motorcycle, with over a quarter of those people being female (some presumably as passengers), which shows that the sport and industry is at least reaching out beyond the gender lines.

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Saturday Summary at Phillip Island: Lorenzo’s Tactics, Iannone’s Smarts, & Marquez’s Speed

10/17/2015 @ 10:32 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Phillip Island: Lorenzo’s Tactics, Iannone’s Smarts, & Marquez’s Speed

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Will championships be decided tomorrow? The Moto3 title could well be settled after the race, a lot of bleary-eyed British fans clinging to their cappuccinos in a desperate attempt to stay awake. It won’t take much: Danny Kent just has to finish ahead of Enea Bastianini and higher than seventh to be sure.

The MotoGP title is still too close to be settled at Phillip Island, but tomorrow’s race could well turn out to be pivotal. If Valentino Rossi finishes ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, the Italian will have one hand on the MotoGP crown.

If Lorenzo finishes ahead of Rossi, and especially if he can put some bodies between himself and his Movistar Yamaha teammate, then the pendulum might finally start to swing back Lorenzo’s way.

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Laia Sanz Drops HRC for KTM in Enduro and Rallies

04/10/2015 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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A bit of shocking news in the rally raid world, as Laia Sanz has jumped ship from HRC to KTM for the Women’s Enduro World Championship.

The move means Sanz will also compete as a factory KTM rider in the various FIM World Championship rallies, including the Dakar Rally, though only where the schedule permits, as the Women’s Enduro World Championship is her racing priority.

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The FIA’s Endurance Championship Bans Umbrella Girls

04/06/2015 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler85 COMMENTS

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No, it’s not April Fools, but it does seem that motorsports in general is evolving into the 21st century. No sooner did A&R run an article about umbrella girls in the MotoGP Championship, then did the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) announce that it would do away with scantily clad girls at all its events, including at the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It’s an interesting move by a major series in the four-wheeled world — the effects of which will undoubtedly be tracked by every major racing series around the world.

Will WEC see a drop in male attendance? An increase in female attendance? An influx of new advertisers? Younger viewers? These are all valid and interesting questions.

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Is This Why There Are No Female MotoGP Fans?

03/31/2015 @ 2:28 am, by Jensen Beeler179 COMMENTS

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First debuting a new website before the Qatar GP, it’s clear that Dorna has its social media team out in full-force for the 2015 MotoGP Championship season — the Spanish company finally taking a shine to the online world.

So with all the news coming out of the season-opener at Losail, it is unsurprising that my social feeds are full of posts regarding Rossi’s win, Ducati’s revival, and Dani Pedrosa’s shocking revelation — on top of all the usual fanfare that comes with MotoGP finally restarting.

One story caught my eye in particular though, less for its content, and more for its source. The caption to the story was your typical craftily picked social media headline, designed to illicit clicks and responses from readers. It read: “What would we do without our lovely ‪#‎MotoGP‬ girls?!”

It was by the Official MotoGP Facebook page, and it was not referring to the organization’s female racers. Le sigh.

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FIM Women’s European Cup Added to the EJC

12/01/2014 @ 5:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Good news for females riders in the European Union, as we hear that the FIM Women’s European Cup has been folded into the European Junior Cup, which runs alongside the World Superbike Championship.

Running alongside the EJC as its own class, young female riders won’t have to decide between the two series, as they will score points in both. This relieves young ladies from having to choose between racing with just the girls, or the boys on an equal playing field…as now they will be doing both.

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She’z Racing at Suzuka — Game Face, Race Day (Days 3 & 4)

08/08/2014 @ 4:26 pm, by Shelina Moreda6 COMMENTS

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We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

It’s Day 3 at Suzuka. We had a short practice in the morning and very soon after, I had qualifying. I started out on the bike, got a few laps in, and then it was Melissa’s turn. I got the “Pit” sign on my pit board and came in to the pits, using my pit speed limiter for the first time in a race situation, and we practiced our pit stop. Melissa took off and wrapped up the rest of practice.

My qualifying came quick and it was a short one, I got something like seven laps total, including my out lap and in lap. We tried a bit different of a setup for me this time, handlebars out a little more and the shifter lower, so I was more comfortable.

In an endurance race, the bike has to be set up somewhere in the middle for both riders to be comfortable. We were riding Melissa’s setup, so they made it better for me for my qualifying. Wasn’t much time to get up to speed, but I was at least remembering the track.

When my session was over, I headed to our office and hopped in our big “kiddie” pool on the way, to test it out. The pool is situated just outside the office so we can get in it after our race stints to cool us down. It seemed so cold to me!! but I knew the next day during the race it would feel great.

We didn’t qualify as high as we had wanted, 52nd out of 69 teams, but we were both still getting used to the track and getting up to speed. We also had to realize we were up against teams who have ridden this track before, many locals, and almost all teams were from Japan, so had a home track advantage here.

That said, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Our main goal being to make our team and sponsors proud, race hard and move up. Our team and sponsors wanted to see us finish the race, that was their priority.

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She’z Racing at Suzuka — Practice Makes Perfect (Days 1 & 2)

08/06/2014 @ 8:03 am, by Shelina Moreda5 COMMENTS

8 H DE SUZUKA 2014 WORMAN RIDE

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

“So How was Japan, Suzuka, Moriwaki?!” is the question of the week.

“Everything you think it should be and more” is the answer of the week. I’m still in awe of the week I have just had. The most amazing race I’ve done to date. Intensity like you wouldn’t believe.

I was practically in tears at the weight of the thing after the Le Mans-style start and then the most challenging, and coolest race I’ve had the privilege of competing in. I keep thanking SynergyForce, Moriwaki, and the FIM Women’s Commission for all they have done to make it happen.

My week started with a day in Tokyo, where I got to visit my Japanese family. We had an exchange student when I was a kid, and Miyuki is now grown up with kids of her own. This is the third time I’ve gotten to visit them. Last time was when I lived in Japan, right before I started racing.

Japan is really close to my heart. I lived in Okinawa for a year, and living away from home, and everything I knew, helped me decide that I really could go after anything I wanted to do in life. Japan helped me realize I could make anything I wanted out of life.

I got my racing license only one month after I moved home to California and set out to race professionally. Then it was just a dream people thought I was crazy for.

The opportunity to race in Japan is really special to me, especially because of this. Pair that with the legendary circuit of Suzuka, the distinguished team of Moriwaki, and my first endurance race ever taking place during the famous weekend of Suzuka 8-Hour: the whole thing is a dream come true.

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