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.

WSBK: Jerez Will Be Added to 2017 WorldSBK Calendar

02/06/2017 @ 1:19 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

The 2017 World Superbike calendar is close to being finalized. When it was announced at the combined WorldSBK/MotoGP test in November of last year, the calendar featured thirteen rounds of racing, only twelve of which had been confirmed.

The missing round, many present at the test felt, was a Jerez-shaped hole waiting to be filled. Now, we have learned, the penultimate round of World Superbikes will indeed take place at Jerez.

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Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

02/06/2017 @ 11:05 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today.

As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2.

This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #45 – Pre-Season Testing, Part 1

02/06/2017 @ 2:07 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Episode 45 of the Paddock Pass Podcast begins the 2017 racing season, and tackles the pre-season tests for MotoGP and World Superbike, which were at the Sepang, Jerez, and Portimão circuits.

In this show, Steve English, and David Emmett take us through the happenings on and off the track at these events, and discuss who is looking ready for the 2017 season, and who still has some work left to do before the green flag waves.

To start things off, first we get David’s account of the MotoGP testing at Sepang, where we got a quasi-glimpse of what to expect from MotoGP’s new riders, as well as how teams are dealing with the new ban on winglets.

Next, the show turns to the World Superbike paddock, where Steve gets us up to speed on what happened at both pre-season tests on the Iberian Peninsula. With a bevy of riders coming into WorldSBK as well as some shuffling of machinery, there’s no shortage of topics in World Superbike as well.

With the long wait over the winter now over, we should be bringing you shows regularly once again. Stay tuned for our next episode, from the MotoGP test at Phillip Island.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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Ducati Corse Looking to Make Big Gains in WorldSBK

02/01/2017 @ 3:32 pm, by Kent Brockman17 COMMENTS

Far from sitting on its laurels after winning seven of the last eight World Superbike races of 2016, Ducati came out of the blocks swinging at Jerez with a busy testing program. As such, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri had a host of upgraded parts in the Spanish sun.

Davies spent the majority of his time working on chassis development with Melandri focussing on the engine. Afterwards, the Welshman gave a revealing insight into the makeup of the mindset of one of the world’s top racers when at one of these pre-season tests.

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SCRAMP Will Continue to Manage Laguna Seca

01/31/2017 @ 4:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The battle for who would manage Laguna Seca going forward has finally been put to rest, for at least the next three years, as the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, better known as SCRAMP, has signed a three-year agreement with Monterey County to manage the historic Californian race track.

To get to this point has been a tumultuous process, with SCRAMP’s now 60-year role at Laguna Seca challenged by NASCAR’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC), and other local groups like the Friends of Laguna Seca.

Ultimately though, SCRAMP’s bid for the management agreement with Monterey County won out, and the non-profit organization will continue to operate the venue, which plays host to the World Superbike Championship’s only stop on US soil, among other racing events and activities.

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WSBK: Plenty of Work Ahead for Hayden and Honda

01/31/2017 @ 12:51 am, by Kent Brockman32 COMMENTS

They say you should never underestimate the fight in a dirt-tracker, but after Portimao the dirt-tracker isn’t underestimating the fight ahead of him. After four days on the new Honda Fireblade, Nicky Hayden cast a downbeat figure at times, but the American is digging deep.

Armed with his renowned work ethic, the Ten Kate rider will be leaving no stone unturned in finding a solution, but after a troubled opening test, it went from bad to worse for the Dutch team.

“The first day was not a good day for us,” admitted Hayden. “I really don’t know how to sugar coat it any better. We’re really struggling with edge grip, the bike pumping, and not being stable on the exit of the corners. We never found a direction to go in and nothing really helped the problem.”

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Portimão World Superbike Test Photos by Steve English

01/30/2017 @ 1:09 am, by Steve English4 COMMENTS

Eugene Laverty Talks About Aprilia’s New Factory Effort

01/26/2017 @ 12:02 pm, by Kent Brockman8 COMMENTS

It’s been a turbulent 12 months for Shaun Muir Racing. Their much touted move to World Superbike in 2016, as reigning British Superbike champions, proved to be an exceptionally trying campaign that ended with infighting between the team and its lead rider, Josh Brookes.

Armed with the BMW S1000RR, expectations were high for the British squad, but ultimately they struggled to find a consistent balance during the season, and their relations with the German manufacturer petered out.

For many teams that would have brought dark clouds, but instead SMR may have hit the jackpot. The team launched their 2017 project this week at Jerez, and while beautiful sunshine flooded the Jerez circuit, the team lifted their garage doors to a genuine belief that they can win races.

Their partnership with Aprilia began at the November tests last year, but it was this week that the real fruits of that relationship came to bear.

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2017 January WorldSBK Test, Day 2: Rea Still Leads

01/25/2017 @ 11:46 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

The second and final day of testing at Jerez is complete for the World Superbike series, and though the names at the top are familiar, the order is a little less clear cut than it was yesterday.

Jonathan Rea is still fastest, the reigning world champion a tenth quicker than anyone else on track, and one of only two riders to drop into the 1’39s.

But behind the Kawasaki rider is not his teammate Tom Sykes, but Milwaukee Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori. The Italian posted an impressive time in the afternoon, jumping to finish between the two Kawasakis.

Tom Sykes ended the day in third, four tenths behind teammate Rea. Both Kawasaki men fell during the day, not the only riders to crash, as Althea BMW riders Jordi Torres (WSBK) and Marco Faccani (STK1000) also fell, the two BMW men injuring their shoulders in the fall. 

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2017 January WorldSBK Test, Day 1: Rea on Top

01/24/2017 @ 11:45 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

The 2017 season is now officially underway, as bikes roll back out for testing. First up are the denizens of the World Superbike series, with most of the major teams getting underway at a sunny, but not especially warm, Jerez de la Frontera circuit.

A good selection of teams are present, including the Kawaski, Honda, Yamaha, Ducati factory teams, the Milwaukee Aprilia squad – now resplendent in their official 2017 colors – the Althea BSB team, and Puccetti Kawasaki.

The WorldSBK riders are joined by the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team from BSB, as well as a selection of World Supersport and Superstock 1000 riders.

Reigning champion Jonathan Rea topped the timesheets, starting the new season where he left off the previous one. Rea was a quarter of a second faster than his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, and six tenths quicker than Chaz Davies on the Aruba.it Ducati. 

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