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July 2014

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MV Agusta has announced its plan to grow the Italian motorcycle manufacturer’s presence in the USA, which includes strengthening the US dealer network, “enhancing connections” with existing customers, and increasing marketing investments. To help implement these goals, MV Agusta has turned to E.I.M. for interim and permanent executive management solutions. MV Agusta also announced its intention for similar plans in Brazil, Asia, and select European counties (read: Germany, France, and the UK).

Speaking to Speedweek, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer announced that the Austrian company will be entering the MotoGP World Championship in 2017. KTM will race with a brand new machine that features a V4 engine and will be called the KTM RC16. Pierer said that KTM will debut the V4 engine in May of 2015, and begin testing and developing the RC16 later that year — KTM may even wild-card the race bike during the 2016 season. Perhaps the biggest news though is that KTM plans to produce up to 100 units of the KTM RC16 race bike, which will be available to the public for a cool €150,000 to €200,000 (likely in the same way privateers can purchase a lower-spec machine than KTM’s Moto3 racer).

The 2014 World Superbike calendar has been updated once again. The South African round of WSBK has been canceled, after the Phakisa Freeway track failed homologation. Work was being carried out on the circuit to allow it to meet requirements, but the work will not be finished on time.

Dorna and the FIM are looking at finding a replacement for the dropped South African round, but at such short notice, and with attendance at WSBK events being disappointing, that will be difficult.

While the South African round was canceled, the Qatar race was confirmed. The racing at Qatar is to be held at night under the floodlights, just as MotoGP is.

Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali has made it pretty clear that he has no plans to take Ducati into the realm of small-displacement motorcycles, and he has flat-out squashed the chances Ducati making a scooter. This could make thigns difficult for the Italian brand, especially as the hot regions for growth in the motorcycle industry are teeming with machines under 500cc in engine displacement — markets like Southeast Asia, India, China, and the countries of South America. So what are Ducati fans in these countries to do? Well, where there is a will, there is a way…and for some Thai riders, that will manifests itself in a big way. Taking one perfectly good Honda Grom monkey bike, add in some impressively downsized Ducati Monster bodywork, and well…we introduce to you the Gromcati.

Honda Racing and Red Bull have announced an enhancement to their collaboration in MotoGP through the Repsol Honda team, which sees the energy drink company’s logo featured on Honda’s factory team starting in the 2015 season, as it becomes the official energy drink for the team as well.

The two parties have collaborated over the last nine years, but the Red Bull logo has never before been featured on the Repsol Honda machinery, despite Red Bull supporting both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa with personal sponsorships.

Jack Miller pit box losail Qatar 2014

For all the good that accompanied Marc Marquez’s arrival in the premier class, there was one casualty that we should consider reviving: The Rookie Rule.

A brief recap if you don’t recall the details: In 2010 the Grand Prix Commission approved a rule stating that no riders entering the premier class for the first time could ride for factory teams.

This was partly intended as a cost-saving measure and partly intended to placate satellite team owners who complained that without the rule, they would never have a chance to hire top rookie riders.

For several years The Rookie Rule worked nicely with one glaring exception, that of keeping Ben Spies out of the Factory Yamaha squad. Spies came to MotoGP as a multiple national series champion (AMA Superbike), as reigning WSBK champion, and most importantly, at 25-years-old.

Though he’d not ridden all of the GP tracks and didn’t know the Bridgestone tires, his experience with pressure and media attention made him the rookie perhaps most suited to going directly to a factory team. Cal Crutchlow could’ve also made a strong case based on his experience and maturity.

Jorge Lorenzo joined the Factory Yamaha team the year before the rule was adopted, but in my opinion became one of the best case studies to support the Rookie Rule.

World Superbike’s spec-tire contract with Pirelli comes to a conclusion after the 2015 season, and as such the Dorna WSBK Organization, in agreement with the FIM, has announced that it is taking bids from companies who are willing to be the sole-tire supplier of the World Superbike Championship from 2016 onwards. Interested parties will have to contact Gregorio Lavilla, the WSBK Sporting Director, and have their offers in by August 25th.

Could 2014 be another record year of sales for Ducati? If the first six months are any indication, maybe so, as the Bologna brand has reported a 3% increase in sales thus far for the year.

Ducati has sold 26,740 motorcycles so far this year, worldwide, and is aiming to top its all-time record of 44,287 units by the end of the year. Additionally, orders for the month of June were up 11%, causing Ducati to be optimistic about its performance in 2014.

Apparently there’s a new Mad Max reboot coming out, and it looks awesome. I have nothing really to say beyond that, and will argue a tenuous link to our usual content on Asphalt & Rubber because motorcycles are one of the best ways to survive the onslaught Imperator Furisoa (Charlize Theron) in George Miller’s post-apocolyptic imagination.

It’s interesting to think about Hollywood’s inclusion of motorcycles in collapse-of-civilization scenarios though. Is it because two-wheeled transportation is the best way to get around when roads no longer exist, much in the same way that Riders for Health uses motorcycles to effectively get medical aid to remote locations?

Or, is it some subliminal message that Hollywood feeds off of (and thus also helps create) that tells us society has truly fallen apart if we are riding motorcycles…much like how a movie character’s act of smoking a cigarette was used to heighten his/hers cool or mysterious persona?

I don’t know the answer to those question, but it keeps me up at night. I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller!

With heavy rain delaying the start, the Suzuka 8-Hour was more like the Suzuka 6-Hour, as only six hours and thirty-five minutes could be fit into the race’s time slot. Still, FIM Endurance World Championship fans were treated to a good battle, which unfortunately saw F.C.C. TSR Honda out early while in the lead.

Kosuke Akiyoshi gave F.C.C. TSR Honda its early lead, and strong stint from Jonathan Rea seemed to solidify the team’s position. But on his next outing, Akiyoshi had a massive crash at the 130R corner. Riding his Honda CBR1000RR back into the pits with a broken femur, Akiyoshi was the hero of the race, but F.C.C. TSR would have to settle for 40th overall.

The crash left the lead for MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team, which laid claim to the top step at Suzuka for the second year in a row. The Japanese team, which was comprised of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael van der Mark put in an impressive performance at the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance race, though only had roughly a minute’s gap at the finish line to show for it.