After a month-long hiatus from the Phillip Island season-opener (Race 1 & Race 2), World Superbike action is back again this weekend and taking place in Imola, Italy. Though Max Biaggi leads the Championship with 45 points (ahead of Marco Melandri who has 30 points), much of the talk in the past month has been about the surprise resurgence of Kawasaki, with factory rider Tom Sykes taking a podium finish in Race 2 and showing potential to run against the likes of The Emperor, Carlos Checa, and Marco Melandri.
Now with Sykes third in the Championship going into Imola, the season that seemed preordained to be really between only two riders (Biaggi & Checa), has shown itself to be full of surprises. Continue reading for spoilers and results from the World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Imola.
The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.
Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.
If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.
Former GP racer Lucio Cecchinello is a Honda man through and through. Team owner and principal at LCR Honda (the ‘LCR’ standing for Lucio Cecchinello Racing), Cecchinello started his racing career on a Honda NS125R, and worked his way up to the GP ranks, where he spent most of his time on a Honda RS125 (he finished his career on an Aprilia though). In 1996, Cecchinello started LCR, making him both the team’s rider and its principal director, an absolute rarity in the paddock.
LCR Honda slowly grew from the 125 & 250 Championships into the premier class of the sport: MotoGP. Campaigning a number of top riders, LCR Honda has seen Casey Stoner, Randy de Puniet, Alex de Angelis, Nobby Ueda, Toni Elias & Carlos Checa all ride the team’s bikes at some point in their careers. This year LCR Honda has Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl in the saddle, and the team hopes the German rider will be just as impressive on the big bikes as he was with the 600’s.
Taking some time to talk to HRC’s PR machine, Cecchinello shares his unique perspective on having both a racing and managing career. As a satellite team owner, Cecchinello’s opinions about CRTs from a business perspective are especially intriguing, as he forecasts trouble for CRT teams trying to bring in big-name sponsors.
Perhaps most significant are his comments regarding Moto2 though, as Cecchinello believes that the middle class of GP racing should go to a 500cc two-cylinder format, which would allow manufacturers to race in all three class with the same cylinder and head designs. The interview is a pretty good read for any MotoGP fan, check it out after the jump.
We don’t know exactly how this story started, but as the video commences we see a motorcyclist sitting on his bike between two cars. With words being exchanged and the situation already rapidly deteriorating, the biker kicks the car. The driver then rams the biker, knocking the bike over. Now on the ground, the biker gets up and walks towards the car, eyeballing the driver on the way there. The rest? You’ll have to see for yourself to believe. Needless to say, Brazilians know how to road rage.
We are big fans of Luca Bar’s imagination and what comes from the stylus of Luca Bar Designs, and today just reinforces that point further. Drafting a Moto Guzzi sportbike concept, Luca has created a very eye-catching design that takes the longitudinal v-twin motor and places it into a modern sportbike chassis.
With the frame design and tail section borrowed from the Aprilia RSV4, the front-end incorporates a Hossack suspension system, instead of the customary fork tubes. The single-sided swingarm is a nice touch, and of course everyone loves carbon fiber bodywork.
According to Italy’s Correrie di Bologna, the Volkswagen Group has made a €750 million bid on Ducati Motor Holdings. Just shy of Investindustrial’s reported €832 million asking price on the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Reports are also saying that Volkswagen’s due diligence process has uncovered that Ducati has less debt on its books than previously thought (previously rumored to be in the €200 million range), and that the €750 million offer would nearly double Investindustrial’s initial purchase price of the Italian company.
Said to have until the middle of April to make an offer, the Volkswagen Group’s current proposal is lower than the €850 million originally rumored earlier this month. Despite it being less than Investindustrial’s initial valuation of €1 billion, the deal is said to be close to finalization, with Italian politicians and union members weighing in on the prospect of German involvement with the Italian brand.
While still maintaining the product line’s general aesthetic from its previous generations, Zero Motorcycles has refined and polished its electric motorcycles for 2012. This is primarily due to the Zero’s limited amount of time to further develop its 2011 models for the 2012 model year (roughly nine months says the Californian company), but still Zero has been able to revise most of the Zero S’s components to warrant this year’s models to be visually and functionally set apart from its predecessors.
This bodes well for Zero Motorcycles, because bluntly, the startup has had extremely unrefined and unpolished motorcycles from its inception to the 2011 model year (if you heard otherwise from somewhere else, they were trying to sell you something). Walking up to the 2012 Zero S, it is immediately clear that the electric motorcycle has been touched by people who understand motorcycles. Gone are the on/off switches marked in Sharpie (I wish I was making this up), though you’d be hard-pressed to find top-shelf components on the Zero line. This makes for a mixed response regarding the bike, from a visual perspective.
With 33 years of history surrounding the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), the Japanese manufacturer has one of the winningest legacies in the FIM World Endurance Championship (WEC). Set to start again with the 24-hour-long Bol d’Or race at Magny-Cours on April 14th-15th, WEC teams were out at the French track this week, with many debuting their 2012 squads. Winning nine of the last ten runnings of the Bol d’Or, SERT is of course this year’s favorite to win again.
A spectacle in its own right, the World Endurance Championship and its rounds like the Bol d’Or are more of a novelty for motorcyclists on this side of the pond, and provide often only the rare glimpse of race-trim bikes with headlights. As such, we get out first proper look at SERT’s Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000, which will be ridden by Fabien Foret, Vincent Philippe, and Anthony Delhalle — three Frenchmen with no intention of losing at their home race.
The Motorcycle Aftermarket Group (MAG) continues to be a force of acquisition in the motorcycle industry, as the group has announced its purchase of Motorcycle Superstore. Forming from the purchase a Death Staresque retail group with Motorcycle Superstore and J&P Cycles, MAG has added one of the largest online retailers of sport, street, & off-road motorcycle products to its existing interest in the largest online v-twin parts and accessories retailer.
“Since founding Superstore 14 years ago, I’ve seen it grow from a humble start-up to one of the nation’s largest retailers in the powersports industry,” said Motorcycle Superstore Founder Don Becklin. “Joining forces with J&P Cycles and creating the Retail Group represents an exciting new opportunity. Superstore has found a strategic partner that opens the door to more success and growth for all parties involved.”
With testing concluded at Jerez, the MotoGP paddock has just two short weeks before the opening round at the Losail International Circuit is underway. Heading into Qatar, there are few surprises from last season though, as the Honda of Casey Stoner continues to dominate the time sheets, while teammate Dani Pedrosa and top-Yamaha man Jorge Lorenzo trail closely behind.
Yamaha’s package looks very refined and balanced, and appears to have gained a step on the Honda machines. This should make for more interesting racing moments, where the more balanced Yamaha YZR-M1 will excel at certain tracks, while the more powerful Honda RC213V will shine at others. Also coming more into play will be the strengths and weaknesses of Honda and Yamaha’s top riders, whose particular track preferences could be the x-factor at some of the races.
Still at best, MotoGP is shaping up to be a three-man show, with maybe Ben Spies and some other riders occasionally mixing the order of things up. This statement is of course a direct reflection on the progress of Ducati Corse, which despite having made improvements to the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, is not really any closer to making up the difference to the front of the pack. Now using a completely revised aluminum frame, the team still seems to be struggling to find a starting point from which to build from, and in the process they have killed enough spare parts to start a pick-and-pull MotoGP junkyard.
Rewind back to the 2008, where the MotoGP pit walk was under full swing at the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Even without the riders present, the machines themselves drew plenty of attention from the fans, many of whom were probably experiencing their first GP weekend.
The Repsol Honda garage, then home to Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa, inevitably had a particularly large crowd of observers. It turns out that Honda’s stunning RCV attracted more than just the fans. A couple of Yamaha employees had made their way over as well, spending quite a bit of time standing outside the enemy’s gates.