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July 2016

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Our friend and photographer Stephen McClements was recently out at the Southern 100, that other road race that’s held each year at the Isle of Man.

Set in the scenic town of Castletown, the Southern 100 doesn’t run on the famous TT course, instead racers compete on the Billown Circuit.

Though it’s not as famous as the Isle of Man TT, the Southern 100 still manages to attract some recognizable names from the TT and Irish road racing championship.







For instance, this year’s race saw entries from Michael Dunlop, Dave Molyneux, Dean Harrison, Ivan Lintin, Dan Kneen, and James Cowton.

Stephen brought Asphalt & Rubber some great high-resolution photographs from the 2016 Southern 100, we hope you enjoy them, after the jump (above: Dan Kneen at the Church Bends stone wall).







The 2016 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the bag, and once again the Japanese endurance race proved to be a formidable challenge to its competitors, and a great spectacle for fans.

As expected, this edition of the Suzuka 8-Hours saw strong teams succumb to the challenges of endurance racing – examples being the Honda factory-backed MuSASHI RT HARC PRO team, which had to retire early for mechanical reasons, as well as the SRC Kawasaki Team that also did not finish.

While there were surprises in defeat, we also saw surprises in victory, with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team once again winning the prestigious Japanese race. A repeat of last year’s result for Yamaha, today’s win is marks a shift in the balance of power for endurance racing in Japan.







“I’m very happy and very satisfied with this win, for me, for Alex and for Nakasuga-san because we really deserved it. From the start of the test we have worked so hard to get the best for us three,” said an ecstatic Pol Espargaro.

“After last year, to win two times with Nakasuga-san and one time with Alex is amazing. I’m sure Alex will complete the second one next year! I just want to say thanks to Yamaha, to all the people that support this fantastic team, because we are three riders but a lot of mechanics and other people work in the Yamaha Factory Team.”

“Thanks so much to Alex and Nakasuga, they were amazing today, I can’t say anymore, just thanks!”













The Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race is this weekend, and while the iconic race isn’t being broadcasted by a US television station, the Suzuka Circuit does make a live stream available via Ustream.

The live stream typically covers the Suzuka 4-Hour race (on right now, as of the time of this writing), as well as the free practice and qualifying sessions for the Suzuka 8-Hour. On race day, however, the stream usually just features a live-timing screen, which is still better than nothing.

You can find a schedule of the sessions on the Suzuka Circuit website, or just click right here.













Monster Energy’s five-part video series on Valentino Rossi has finally come to its conclusion, and for fans of The Doctor, it is roughly an hour of video that hammers home the continued idolization of the Grand Prix motorcycle racer that many refer to as The G.O.A.T. or Greatest Of All Time.

Episode One gives us the genesis story of Valentino Rossi as a motorcycle racer, and as a popular figure. The episode, along with the series as a whole, relies on Rossi’s inner circle to tell most of the Italian’s story, and the episode sets the stage for things to come.

Mugello is the epicenter of the second episode, as it sets the tone for the motorcycle racing culture in Italy, and the iconic race track has been home to a number of Rossi’s post-race antics and famous one-off helmet designs.







The third episode focuses on The Ranch, Valentino Rossi’s flat track course and training facility in Tavullia, Italy. The dream of any rider, you can tell that Rossi is proud of his creation, and what it affords him to do with honing his tradecraft, as well as hanging out with his friends.

Episode Four basks in the yellow glory that is Valentino Rossi. This episode is the neon wet dream of all hardcore Valentino Rossi fans, as it shows not only Rossi’s impressive racing career, but also sets a narrative for how Valentino has shaped the MotoGP Championship.

The final installment is the moneymaker, with obvious nods and plugs for Valentino Rossi’s various business enterprises, sponsors, and partnerships.







In a less schwarmy way though, the fifth episode also takes a look at the VR46 Academy, which is developing the talent of young Italian racers. This is critical element not only to Valentino Rossi’s legacy, but the continued Italian powerhouse in motorcycle racing.

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the racing talent and business juggernaut that Valentino Rossi has become. Any true MotoGP racing fan owes it to themselves to spend some time watching these videos, even if they make you curiously thirst for a Monster Energy drink.

We have all five of them waiting for you, after the jump.







We got a strange email from MV Agusta this morning, one that seems to be teasing a new motorcycle. That much isn’t too uncommon, as the Italian brand loves to build anticipation of its new model releases. But, this teaser seems like something else entirely.

You can see it above, although there is not much to see beyond a wheel and some sort of enlarged canopy. That in itself though is something of an oddity, and quite frankly it looks like that on September 4th, we are going to see a machine like no other that’s ever been in the MV Agusta lineup.

I have three theories on what this rogue “Z” wearing vehicle could be, and they all are based off the idea that we are looking at the hind quarters of a new machine. Let me explain.













The indisputable king of the Moto2 paddock right now is the Kalex platform. Nine of the Top Ten riders in the Moto2 Championship are on Kalex machinery, while roughly 75% of the entire Moto2 grid is using the German company’s racing package.

The idea of the Moto2 Championship of course is to use a single-engine supplier, in order to curb costs in the intermediate class, while highlighting the differences in chassis design, and the prowess of riders and their teams.

Here, the Marc VDS Racing Estrella Galicia 0.0 team gives us a glimpse into what it takes to build a Kalex Moto2 bike from just a bare frame. Checkout this time-lapse video as the Marc VDS Racing crew builds up Franco Morbidelli’s Kalex machine, condensed to under just three minutes.













Harley-Davidson released its second quarter sales results today, showing the Bar & Shield brand taking a dip in sales in Q2 2016.

According to its report, Harley-Davidson sales are down 1.9% worldwide, a figure that is due mostly to the company’s performance on its home turf in the USA, which are down 5.2% when compared to Q2 2015.

In fact, Harley-Davidson sales abroad saw a modest gain of 4.3%, but since the iconic American brand still sells roughly two-thirds of its units here in the United States, the sales trends here steer the company’s fate heavily.







To that tune, Harley-Davidson notes that the US motorcycle industry as a whole is down 8.6% in Q2 2016 – a fair point to make, but it is also skewed by the fact that Harley-Davidson accounts for one-in-two of every new motorcycle sold in the USA.







Just two days ago we told you that Marco Melandri would be headed to the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati World Superbike team, replacing fellow Italian Davide Giugliano. That news has been publicly confirmed today, with Melandri set to join Chaz Davies on the factory WSBK team.

The move is a surprising return for Marco Melandri back into motorcycle racing, as the Italian took a hiatus during the 2016 season, after a less-than-amicable departure from the struggling Aprilia MotoGP team last year.

Melandri’s reputation as a racer, and perhaps his desperation to come back to motorcycle racing, comes with a price though, as the former 250GP World Champion is said to be forgoing a salary from Ducati Corse. Instead, Melandri is bringing his own money to the team, and likely has a performance-based pay schedule.













Call it a hat trick, because today marks three years in a row (2014 & 2015 here) where Harley-Davidson has had to recall a large swath of its model lineup for issues with their clutch actuation.

For 2016, 14 Harley-Davidson models are facing a recall because their clutches may not disengage when the clutch lever is pulled by the rider.

The recall affects 27,232 units in total – more specifically the 2016 Electric Glide Ultra Classic (FLHTCU), Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low (FLHTCUL), Ultra Limited Low (FLHTKL), Ultra Limited (FLHTK), CVO Street Glide (FLHXSE), Street Glide (FLHX), Street Glide Special (FLHXS), Road Glide Special (FLTRXS), Road Glide (FLTRX), Police Electra Glide (FLHTP), Road Glide Ultra (FLTRU), Fat Boy S (FLSTFBS), Softail Slim S (FLSS), and CVO Softail Pro Street Breakout (FXSE) motorcycles.













A reader asked me recently what I knew about the upcoming 2017 Honda CRF450R dirt bike, and admittedly I had to say “not much” – it’s called Asphalt & Rubber after all.

For the past year though, even my radar has picked up sighting of Akira Narita (one of the greatest Japanese MX racers of all time) showing up to events in Japan with a race bike that looked pretty advanced from what was currently on dealership floors.

This is nothing new in the world of Honda though, with next year’s models often ending up at events on the other side of the Pacific…usually in Narita-san’s very capable hands.







But today, we can answer more accurately what Big Red is up to with the 2017 Honda CRF450R, as the folks at VitalMX caught the new motocrosser spinning laps at an MX track in Southern California (read their expert breakdown of the new bike, here).







While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing.

With the Kawasaki riders’ contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.

The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.







Melandri has been angling for a ride ever since his departure from the factory Aprilia MotoGP squad, a move he had never wanted to make in the first place.

Over the past twelve months or so, he has been linked to rides with Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW, and Kawasaki in World Superbikes, and – possibly the most bizarrely inaccurate rumor to be published in a while – to a ride with BMW in MotoGP.

The fact that BMW have no intention of racing in MotoGP, and the break up with Melandri in 2013 so acrimonious that they would not have him back anyway is what made that particular rumor so entertaining.