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March 2016

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The vast amount of work I have had to do to over the past five days has left me desperately short of time to write a proper preview for the Argentina round of MotoGP. This is a shame, as the Termas de Rio Hondo track is utterly magnificent, and deserves all the praise it can get.

So instead of a full preview, here are my notes on this weekend. What to watch out for, and what is likely to be important. For a fuller review, listen to the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, where Steve English and I look forward to the weekend ahead.

That this Silly Season – the (bi)annual round of rider contract negotiations – was going to be remarkable has been obvious for a very long time. Only very rarely have the contracts of nearly every rider on the grid ended at the same time, leading to a frenzy of speculation and rumor about who could and will be going where for the 2017 season. That this year is special was made obvious at Qatar, where both Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith announced they had already signed two-year deals for 2017 and 2018 before the flag had even dropped for the first race. Jorge Lorenzo has been the key figure in this year’s Silly Season, however. Of the four current MotoGP Aliens, he is the most likely to move, and to be offered big money to do so.

Aside from Husqvarna bringing the Vitpilen & Svartpilen concepts into production, another gem to come from KTM’s investor report for 2015 is that the Austrian company is working on what it calls a revolutionary two-cylinder engine design.

KTM is surely referencing the parallel-twin project that has been spotted a few times by spy photographers (shown above, and featured after the jump), which is rumored to feature an 800cc lump.

We are not too sure what is so revolutionary about a parallel-twin power plant – my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host Quentin loves to go on rants about how much he hates the engine design – but what is interesting is to hear that KTM plans on using the engine as a platform for multiple models.

It has been suspected for some time that the Husqvarna brand would build production versions of its Vitpilen & Svartpilen concepts. Now we have official word of that, as KTM has confirmed its intent to make the Vitpilen 401 & Svartpilen 401 concepts into production bikes, in its 2015 investor annual report.

KTM doesn’t outline a timeframe for both models, but it has confirmed that Husqvarna will debut two Vitpilen models for the 2017 model year – something that we already knew.

What is not clear however is whether Husqvarna counts the Vitpilen 125 & Vitpilen 401 models as two separate releases, or one bird of a feather. If it is the latter, then we can expect the Vitpilen 701 to arrive for next year. As Martha Stewart says, that’s a good thing.

Both MotoGP and World Superbike have contests this weekend, so we grabbed David and Steve and had them preview both races for Episode 22 of the Paddock Pass Podcast.

After wrapping up thoughts on the MotoGP season-opener in Qatar, the guys go into a lengthy discussion about winglets, focusing on how aerodynamics play a role in motorcycle racing, and why the Grand Prix Commission is banning them in Moto2 & Moto3.

The boys also talk about the prospects of Ducati, both in Argentina and in Aragon, with both rounds likely to be strong showings for the Italian factory. There’s also a good discussion as to why Casey Stoner will not be racing this weekend, though maybe we’ll see him later this season.

Lastly, Steve shows us that he has his finger on the pulse of the World Superbike paddock, and tells us what to expect in Spain at the Aragon WSBK round. You won’t want to watch this weekend’s racing without first listening to this show.

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!

News out of Austria says that KTM is gearing up to pull its shares off the public stock market. The move comes from a request by Cross Industries, which is run by Stefan Pierer and is the largest shareholder of KTM’s stock, with 51.4% of the shares.

With Indian motorcycle manufacturer Bajaj owning another 48%, this means the announcement only affects roughly 0.6% of KTM’s overall stock, which is floating around on the Third Market (Dritter Markt) of the Vienna Stock Exchange.

According to KTM’s press release on the issue, Cross will offer €122.50 per share for the outstanding stock, which will then make KTM officially a privately held company.

They call it Silly Season for a reason. Every year, the MotoGP paddock engages in intrigue and speculation as to where certain riders will land for the upcoming season.

Lately, this means that the MotoGP Silly Season has its ebbs and flows, as the contract cycle for many of Grand Prix racing’s riders have come into synch with a two-year cycle. As such, it is game-on for this year, as the 2016 season has turned into a perfect game of contractual musical chairs.

We have already seen Valentino Rossi sign a two-year deal with Yamaha Racing, likely The Doctor’s last contract in MotoGP, as many expect the nine-time world champion to retire at the end of that stint.

We have also already seen Bradley Smith sign a two-year deal with KTM’s new MotoGP entry, which is perhaps the ideal situation for both the Austrian factory and the British rider.

These are both important pieces to the Silly Season puzzle, but the seat that everyone is watching the closest is that of Jorge Lorenzo, and whether the reigning world champion will remain as a Yamaha rider, or try his hand elsewhere – likely at Ducati.

For the first time in eight years, you can now watch AMA Supermoto racing action on TV, as the rebooted series has signed a television deal with the MAVTV Motorsports Networks.

The TV package is a bit limited, as it includes 12 airings of six episodes (two apiece), which will cover racing from three venues, as well as highlights from the other three races on the calendar, but it is still a step in the right direction for supermoto racing in the USA.

The three race venues that MAVTV will cover are the rounds in Sturgis, South Dakota (round three); Denver, Colorado (round five); Tuscon, Arizona (the season finale).

In addition to the MAVTV package, the main event at the Quebec City race (round four) will get national and international coverage, as its part of the World Rally X Series.

The Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro is perhaps the Italian model we look forward to riding the most this year, as it marks the first modern Ducati that earnestly is meant to go off-road.

Ducati has made some obvious changes to its Multistrada 1200 platform to make the Enduro model ready for the dirt, the most noticeable of which are the spoked wheels (with a 19-incher up front) and the beefier double-sided swingarm. The optionally equipped Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires, slimmer exhaust can, and crash bars help complete the transformation, as well.

With 158hp on tap from the 1198cc Testastretta DVT v-twin engine, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro should be quite potent on-road as well – something we are seeing more of in the ADV space.

It will be interesting to see how the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro stacks up against the KTM 1190 Adventure, which makes 10hp less than the Ducati, but also comes with KTM’s impeccable off-roading credentials.

The ADV market is heating up now, especially with the on-road focused “Adventure-Sport” machines that we have seen from European manufacturers, which are supplanting the sport-tourer markets.

The more off-road leaning selections are getting beefier as well though. Does this mean that we’ll see a 150hp+ ADV bike from BMW? Based off the S1000XR, perhaps?

The German manufacturer is obviously still dominating this sector with its R1200GS offering, but ADV riders certainly have more choices now than they did previously. The ADV market should be an interesting segment to watch.

In the meantime, we have over 100 high-resolution photos of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro available for your photonic consumption. Enjoy!

Despite what you may have read, MV Agusta isn’t declaring protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the United States Code. But, we can understand the confusion. Just so we are clear, by definition Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings are a figment of American law. Since MV Agusta is an Italian company, it would be fundamentally wrong to say that MV Agusta Motor S.p.A. was seeking a protection under the US Code that pertains to bankruptcy. The branch of MV Agusta that would be able to file for Chapter 11 would be MV Agusta USA, but the US subsidiary is not embroiled in MV Agusta Motor’s financial troubles, which makes the use of the term incredibly inaccurate.

For many, video games might just seem like a good way to waste an hour. But you should take note, as video games are roughly a $100 billion industry worldwide. With that much money on the line, the gaming industry has had to evolve much more rapidly than our two-wheeled world, with video game companies not only looking for the latest trends and technologies, but also needing to be keenly more aware of their consumers’ traits and desires. Because of this, the video game industry has made some interesting progress on understanding its users, and catering to their wants and needs. One of these frameworks has always struck me as being highly salient to the motorcycle industry (among others), and the idea has come back to me as something we should talk about here on Asphalt & Rubber.