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July 2017

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On first glance, the field looks to be close ahead of this weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hours. Yamaha led the opening session, Honda topped the second, and there are four manufacturers inside the Top 5, and all within a second of the pace.

It seems to be setting up for a great weekend of racing, but when you delve into the times it’s clear that, while Honda has made progress, they are still playing catch up with their CBR1000RR SP2.

Despite a crash for Jack Miller, the #634 machine led the way in the afternoon session, but with Yamaha electing to use only one set of tires in the session, their true one-lap pace is still unknown.

Remember last year when Harley-Davidson had a Brinks truck dropped on them, for performance tuner kits that failed to comply with EPA emission regulations for street motorcycles?

At the time, the government was looking for $12 million in cash for penalties, as well as another $3 million in emissions mitigation, in the form of Harley-Davidson paying to retrofit or replace wood-burning appliances with cleaner stoves.

Now, an article from Reuters is reporting that Harley-Davidson won’t have to spend that $3 million dollars, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to drop the penalty.

There aren’t many circuits as challenging as the Suzuka International Racing Course. So what’s the key to a quick lap?

Suzuka is a real rollercoaster racetrack. The unique figure-of-eight layout ensures that it is unlike any other circuit on the racing calendar, but the Japanese venue isn’t a gimmick, it’s a true test of skill and bravery for every rider.

As riders come across the start-finish line, it is a rare chance to catch their breath as they look across for their pitboard – and the Suzuka 8-Hours is not a short race.

The mental challenge of Suzuka is huge, and it’s easy to get fatigued. The heat and humidity play havoc with the riders, but the 20 corners, with most linked together, mean that mental errors are heavily punished. With such a long lap and stifling conditions, the lap counter seems to grow at a snail’s pace.

While the current crop of BMW R1200GS model motorcycles are being recalled for issues with their front suspension, the future of the venerable GS line continues to evolve, as Motorrad Magazine is reporting that the boxer-twin engine that powers the R-series will be getting variable valve timing (VVT). Motorrad is also reporting that the engine displacement will also see a bump, up from 1,170cc to 1,250cc for the next-generation of R-series machines, which should mean that the water-cooled motor should get a healthy (and much needed) bump in power, to help compete in this hotly contested segment. This announcement also means that BMW is the second manufacturer to bring VVT technology to its ADV bike offering, hoping to balance low-end and mid-range torque with peak horsepower.

We already broke the news last week about the BMW R1200GS model recall, for issues with the front fork tubes, but today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made it official, listing the recall on its public database. The move sees BMW Motorrad USA recalling over 14,000 units in the US market, which is close to one tenth of the total models sold worldwide. This recall affects certain 2014-2017 BMW R1200GS and BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycles. As we mentioned in our previous reporting, at the center of the recall – which started life as a mere technical bulletin – is the ability for the fixed fork tube to separate from the pressed in seal plug that secures the tube to the upper triple clamp.

MV Agusta has finally closed a very important funding round, getting equity investment from ComSar Invest, which is backed by the Black Ocean Group, which in turn is owned by Russian billionaire Timur Sardarov. The move sees MV Agusta able also to repurchase its stock from Mercedes AMG, which previously owned a 25% stake in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. The details of the ComSar deal however have not been disclosed, though we do know that the deal includes enough cash to finish MV Agusta’s recapitalization plan with its creditors and to begin its new, more focused, business plan for new models and motorcycle production. According to MV Agusta’s press release, the newly financed recapitalization plan has already been approved by a quorum of the creditors.

At eight years old, the BMW S1000RR has aged remarkably well, due in part to a healthy update for the 2015 model year. But, when compared to the cutting edge bikes in the market right now, the venerable “RR” does seem to be lacking some modern touches, so it shouldn’t surprise us to see the German brand updating its machine for the 2018 model year. Caught testing by the busy lenses at Motorrad Magazine, the 2018 BMW S1000RR appears to be an all-new motorcycle, with several noticeable changes to the chassis, and rumored changes to its four-cylinder engine.

When Glenn Frey released one of the biggest hits of the 80s, the Suzuka 8-Hours was on the verge of its glory days. Those days are now being repeated.

In 1984, the Suzuka 8-Hours was on the cusp of being the biggest race of the season for the Japanese manufacturers, and that year’s edition was won by double WorldSBK champion Fred Merkel and 500GP rostrum finisher Mike Baldwin.

The win was Baldwin’s third and final victory, but started a run of success by the world’s biggest names in racing. The following six years saw riders such as Wayne Gardner, Kevin Magee, Wayne Rainey, and Eddie Lawson all have their name etched on the winners’ trophy, and in 1991 the first “Suzuka Super Team” emerged victorious.

With Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner winning, the all-Australian team was a 500GP dream team taking on the rest of the field. With Doohan sidelined by his horrific Assen crash the following year, Gardner nevertheless claimed his third win in Japan, with Daryl Beattie as his teammate.

The run of Grand Prix winners then came to an abrupt end in 1993 with Superbike stars Scott Russell and Aaron Slight delivering Kawasaki’s only victory in the race.

It was an era of exotica, with the Japanese manufacturers using incredible machinery to try and win the race; an era of big budgets and no holds barred racing – a true golden era of motorcycle racing.