MV Agusta Looking to Part Ways with Mercedes-AMG

The story of MV Agusta continues with even more interesting developments, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer seems intent on buying back its shares from Mercedes-AMG, and recapitalizing with new investors. Talking this week to Italy’s Il Giorno, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni said that he is “negotiating a buy-back of shares,” though that might be a task easier said than done for the Italian CEO. This is because MV Agusta’s current financial predicament is due primarily from the company’s massive debt accumulation, which now totals over €40 million. To complicate matters further, some of that debt was secured by the involvement of AMG, and its investment contract stipulates that if AMG doesn’t own 20% or more of MV Agusta then the loaned sum is due immediately.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity. Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so. But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well. Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs. To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine. We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda. How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine. The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

Could BMW Be Working on an XDiavel Killer?

Here’s some more BMW Motorrad speculation for your two-wheeled consumption, as Germany’s Motorrad Magazine says that BMW is looking to take on the Ducati XDiavel, with a power cruiser model of its own. This of course isn’t the first time that BMW has included a cruiser-styled motorcycle in its lineup, with the BMW R1200C being a unique, though slightly odd, offering to the cruiser demographic. Like Ducati, BMW seems to be learning from its mistakes in going after the cruiser crowd, and instead of offering a motorcycle that is BMW’s take on the cruiser concept, they are building a cruiser that has cues back to the BMW lineup. A subtle but potent distinction. Time will tell on how this rumor plays out, though there are number of interesting things to consider with a BMW power cruiser.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles. As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride. With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Is BMW Working on 300cc GS Model?

When the BMW G310R arrived, the German brand indicated that the small-displacement street bike would be the first of many model based on the 313cc platform. Now it seems that the first iteration is ready to drop, with news that BMW Motorrad is working on a G310R-based adventure-touer model. According to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, BMW Motorrad UK’s Director Phil Horton has confirmed that a BMW G310GS model will debut, perhaps in time for the 2017 model year, saying “new models aside, the line-up isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be. But there are plenty more bikes to come, including, hopefully in 2017, a G310R GS-style derivative.” The idea of small-displacement ADV machine does mimic what we have been seeing from other brands.

EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events. The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts. Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days. In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country. If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016). Honda says that its subsequent production plans will be determined according to facility restorations and component supply.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed. We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

SERT Wins the 2015 FIM Endurance World Championship

09/21/2015 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

BOL DOR 2015

Taking things all the way to the last round of the championship – the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race – the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team can finally lay claim to being the the 2015 FIM Endurance World Champions.

Though endurance racing is very much a team effort, this victory for SERT couldn’t have been achieved without the team’s EWC veteran riders: Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle, and Etienne Masson.

The trio’s results have allowed Suzuki to claim its 14th EWC title, which is just one part of the Japanese brand’s domination in the FIM Endurance World Championship.

On its road to EWC glory, SERT won at Le Mans, finished fourth in the very competitive specialist field at Suzuka, landed second on the podium at Oschersleben, and wrapped up the Bol d’Or in the third position.

XXX: The Yamaha YZF-R1 in “Speedblock” Yellow & Black

09/19/2015 @ 6:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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As we speak right now, Endurance World Championship machines are lapping around the Paul Ricard Circuit, competing in the 2016 Bol d’Or 24-Hour race.

Ahead of the endurance event though, Yamaha’s factory teams debuted a tribute to the company’s 60th birthday, as Yamaha Motor Company was founded in July 1955.

For us YZF-R1 fans, this weekend means a special yellow and black “speedblock” livery for the Yamaha race bikes – a paint scheme that will be available to the general public (in Europe, at least) starting December 2015.

This isn’t the first time that Yamaha’s special limited edition speedblock livery has helped spice up the R1, and like its previous efforts, we like the result. The added Akrapovic pipe is a nice touch too.

Speaking of results, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) is sitting in second place, at the time of this writing, just one lap behind the leaders, Honda Endurance Racing. Meanwhile, the French factory team that is Yamaha GMT 94 team sits in 5th (+4 laps), with roughly 11 hours remaining in the event.

We’re sure Yamaha would love to tie-up this press debut with a victory at the French track, with either of its yellow-clad factory teams. Until then, we have some super high-resolution photos of the 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 in its 60th Anniversary livery. Drool over them, after the jump.

Photos of the Top World Endurance Race Bike of 2014

12/23/2014 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The 2014 World Endurance Championship was action-packed from round-to-round, and at the end of the season, it was Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube team with that surprised the field with 141 championship points (SERT: 104pts, Bollinger 100pts), for the Championship win.

Team riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines finished second at the series opener at Bol d’Or. The team also had a strong 9th place finish at Suzuka, the third fastest full-time team at the Japanese race. At both Germany and Le Mans, Yamaha Racing GMT 94 team podiumed in second place — solidifying its Championship position through consistency.

Left uncleaned from its Le Mans finish, GMT 94’s endurance-spec Yamaha YZF-R1 is off to the museum…the French take the EWC very seriously. You can believe that Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki will be looking to give Yamaha a proper run at the Championship defense in 2015.

Ride with John McGuinness at Suzuka

07/26/2013 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BOL D'OR 2013 TEAM HONDA TT LEGENDE

The pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on the Endurance World Championship calendar.

Immensely popular with the fans and fielded with a bevy of expert local teams, even the Japanese OEMs take the Suzuka 8 Hours very seriously — and are not above stacking their factory squads with the top riders from various national and international road racing series.

One such team at Suzuka is the Honda TT Legends crew, which as the name implies, is made up of legends from the Isle of Man TT: John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews. Backed by Honda Europe, McPint & crew are on some top machinery, but as they have already seen in qualifying, that’s only part of the battle.

With Rutter and Andrews having never ridden at Suzuka before, the team has a steep learning curve, though over the eight-hour race, we think they will have plenty of time to crawl back from their 29th spot qualifying, and into their Top 10 goal. Racing kicks off Sunday at 11:30am local (JST), but until then enjoy this on-board footage and witty banter from Mr. TT.

Q&A: Yukio Kagayama Talks About the Upcoming Suzuka 8-Hour with Kevin Schwantz & Noriyuki Haga

05/07/2013 @ 10:09 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Team-Kagayama-Yukio-Kevin-Schwantz

In case you missed the story last week, Kevin Schwantz is preparing to race in this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race. The blue ribbon event in Japanese motorcycle racing, a Suzuka 8-Hour win is perhaps the most covetted trophy to have if you are a Japanese motorcycle OEM.

The Japanese manufacturers take the Suzuka 8-Hour so seriously, it is not uncommon to see them stack their endurance teams with top-talent from other World and national series, like MotoGP, WSBK, BSB, and AMA Pro Racing. With rumors circulating about a very factory Yamaha team in the works, right now our attention however is on Team Kagayama.

Formed by Japanese rider Yukio Kagayama, who in addition to having raced in the MotoGP, World Superbike, and British Superbike Championships, is also a previous Suzuka 8-Hour winner with the Suzuki Endurance Race Team. Joining Kagayama and Schwatnz on the three-rider team is Noriyuki Haga, also of MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB fame.

Releasing a Q&A about his team’s Suzuka 8-Hour entry, Yukio Kagayama walks us through how the team came together, what equipment the riders will use, and his outlook on the team’s competitiveness. It’s a pretty interesting read.

Kevin Schwantz Returns to Motorcycle Racing – Enters the Suzuka 8-Hours with Team Kagayama

04/30/2013 @ 11:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Team-Kagayama-Suzuka-8-hours-Kevin-Schwantz

Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz has certainly been in the news a bit these past few months, mostly for his involvement and falling out with the Circuit of the Americas and the Americas GP, but also more recently for his comments regarding Dani Pedrosa — we also sat down with Mr. Schwantz in Austin, and the Texan gave us some sobering insight into the future of American road racing.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Schwantz is making a return to two-wheeled racing, and has entered the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race with Team Kagayama. One of three riders on the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000, Schwantz will race with Noriyuki Haga and team owner Yukio Kagayama during the eight-hour event.

2013 eRoadRacing World Cup Provisional Calendar

04/01/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2013 eRoadRacing World Cup Provisional Calendar

eric-bostrom-brammo-empulse-rr

After years of being competitors, the FIM and TTXGP have finally come together to form a new cohesive series, and now they are finally ready to debut the name of their new lovechild, the eRoadRacing World Cup.

Premiering with six racing events, three in Europe, and three in the United States, the 2013 eRoadRacing provisional racing calendar primarily piggybacks off the FIM’s other Championship events, with the Indianapolis GP being the highlight addition to the schedule.

With American teams racing at two MotoGP Championship races (the other being Laguna Seca), and the Europeans racing in front of two World Endurance Championship crowds (Oschersleben & Le Mans), the exposure factor should be conducive to sponsors as well as teams for the 2013 season.

Additionally, the eRoadRacing calendar leaves a big enough hole open in its schedule for teams that want to race at the TT Zero event at the Isle of Man TT. Now isn’t that sporting? A still unset World Final is expected to be held in Asia, at the conclusion of the American and Europeans series. The provisional calendars for both series are after the jump.

Dunlop Replaces Donald on Honda TT Legends EWC Team

03/11/2013 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Michael-Dunlop-Honda-TT-Legends-EWC

With Cameron Donald and Honda TT Legends parting ways two weeks ago, and Michael Dunlop testing with the outfit’s World Endurance Championship squad in Albacete, Spain last week, the logical conclusion of those two events has occurred, with Dunlop singing on to ride with Honda TT Legend’s in the team’s two 24-hour races (the Bol d’Or 24 & the Le Mans 24-hour), riding alongside John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews.

Racing as well for the Honda TT Legends team in its road racing events at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200, Dunlop will also act as the reserve rider the HRC-backed squad at the Suzuka 8-hour race. For the young Irishman, it will be a bit of change from road circuits to proper race tracks, but the added exposure of another international series should certainly be a boon to his already promising racing career (Dunlop has three TT race wins under his belt already).

Michael Rutter Breaks Leg in Training Crash

03/07/2013 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Michael-Rutter-IOMTT-Daniel-Lo

Isle of Man TT star and World Endurance Championship rider, Michael Rutter injured himself this week while training with the Honda TT Legends EWC squad in France. Crashing on his Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike, Rutter broke his leg at Dunlop’s Mireval test track, and was diagnosed with a crack at the base of his tibia.

“It didn’t feel too bad at first and I was walking around after the crash but we thought it was best to get an x-ray done just to be sure,” explained Rutter. “That revealed a crack at the base of my tibia near the ankle joint. I was given crutches and a temporary cast so I can get back to the UK and get it sorted out. Hopefully it won’t take too long to heal and I’ll be back on the bike as soon as possible.”

Cameron Donald Out of Honda TT Legends EWC Team

02/27/2013 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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After announcing a “dream team” line-up for its 2013 season, Honda TT Legends has had to revise its rider-entry list, after coming to a mutual decision with Australian racer Cameron Donald, who will not not race with the Honda TT Legends World Endurance Championship squad this year.

Citing personal reasons, namely the desire to spend more time with his family, Donald’s absence from the Honda TT Legends team means that the HRC-backed squad will field a three-rider effort in this year’s four endurance rounds, leaving John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews to campaign on the Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.