The Fruits of Carmelo Ezpeleta’s Grand Plan for MotoGP

Sometimes decisions are a long time in the making. Tech3’s decision to leave Yamaha and sign with KTM may have been made in the space of a few months, but the genesis of that choice, the process that made it all possible is ten years in the making. If MotoGP hadn’t switched from 990cc to 800cc at the start of the 2007 season, if the ban on tobacco sponsorship in sports hadn’t been enforced from 2005, if the financial system hadn’t collapsed under the weight of tranches of “ninja” loans, Tech3 would be a Yamaha satellite team for the foreseeable future. Whether they wanted to be or not. How did MotoGP get to a place where Tech3 could switch to KTM? To make complete sense of the story, we have to go back to the end of the last century.

Here’s How to Race a $20,000 KTM RC390 R in the USA

In case you haven’t noticed, the Supersport 300 class is heating up, and perhaps most interestingly with virtually zero machines with a 300cc displacement…but that is a subject for another time. This has put pressure on KTM to remain at the pointy end of business in the small-displacement category, which has lead the Austrian company to the release of a homologation special for the 300cc class. As such, say hello to the 2018 KTM RC390 R sport bike. A street legal motorcycle, the KTM RC390 R aims to sharpen the points where the entry-level KTM RC390 is a bit dull, namely by using better suspension and new intake trumpets that widen the powerband, but also with a new triple clamp, clip-ons, and levers.

The Future of Fast, A Review of the Alta Redshift MXR

I always joke with industry folk that “it’s called Asphalt & Rubber for a reason,” as I am a dyed in the wool street bike guy. So when Alta Motors invited A&R to ride the new Alta Redshift MXR, I knew there were better people for the job than I. This is where heterosexual life partner Carlin Dunne comes into the mix. On top of being one of the fastest men ever up Pikes Peak on two wheels, as well as the fastest electric motorcycle to compete in The Race to the Clouds, Carlin is an accomplished off-road racer – both with and without a motor between his legs. So, we sent Carlin down to Southern California to ride Alta’s newest machines, and with already a bevy of time in the saddle on electric motorcycles, I can’t think of a better person’s opinion for these electron-powered off-road racers.

What A Trade War Means for Motorcycles

Strangely enough, we have talked about trade wars several times before, here on Asphalt & Rubber, as the Trump administration has been keen to use this tool in its toolbox, often with effects that reach into the motorcycle industry. The first time around, we talked about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) affected the motorcycle industry, namely Harley-Davidson, and how the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement would likely be a negative effect for US motorcyclists. We have also had to talk about how fighting over beef imports could lead to possible tariffs on small-displacement European motorcycles in the United States, a tariff that would seriously hurt Piaggio/Vespa scooter sales and KTM dirt bike sales.

KTM and Tech3 Team Up in MotoGP for the 2019 Season

It was a shock to hear that the venerable Tech3 team would be leaving the Yamaha family, come the 2019 MotoGP season, after all Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal cut his teeth with Yamaha. But, once the news of his move sunk in, we are not surprised to hear that he is headed to KTM for the 2019 season, as was officially announced today (and rumored for well over a week). That is right, for the 2019 MotoGP Championship, the Tech3 team – one of the most regarded satellite teams in the GP Paddock – will be racing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike, with full-factory machines from Austria. That last caveat is likely the tipping point and main reason for Poncharal’s switch, with Tech3 long having to put-up with having the leftovers from the Yamaha Racing factory squad.

What If Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors Had a Baby?

With the news that Harley-Davidson has invested an undisclosed sum in electric motorcycle manufacturer Alta Motors, the following concept might seem like a no-brainer. That is because the folks at Carbon Projects invisions the partnership between the two American brands as lending itself to the creation of an electric street-tracker model. Taking the heritage-focused roots of Harley-Davidson, and applying them to Alta’s Redshift platform, the resulting model is quite a looker, if we do say so. Of course, we should remember that Alta has already shown a street tracker concept of its own, displaying the Alta Motors Redshift ST concept at last year’s One Moto Show, in Portland, Oregon.

This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor, Redux

In this installment of “This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor,” we again take a look at the motor of this venerable sport bike. The rumor going around the interwebs right now is that the 2019 Suzuki Hayabusa will feature a “semi-automatic” gearbox. Side-stepping the part where saying a gearbox is semi-automatic is  a lot like saying someone is “semi-pregnant” (you either are, or aren’t), the rumor stems from a patent filed by Suzuki that shows a gear-shifting mechanism with the foot-shifter that doesn’t require a clutch. If this sounds a lot like an up/down quickshifter system, then you score extra bonus points today for being a rational human being, but you would be very wrong about what this whole rumor should actually be about.

Harley-Davidson Invests in Alta Motors

Harley-Davidson has announced its strategic investment in Alta Motors, which will see the two American companies co-developing two new electric motorcycle models. As one can imagine, the news has big ramifications for both brands. For Harley-Davidson, it means having access to cutting-edge electric vehicle technology, and a technical partner that can help them navigate the coming shift to electric drivetrains. And for Alta Motors the news is perhaps even more impactful, as Harley-Davidson brings not only a key monetary investment into the San Francisco startup, but the deal likely provides access to a variety of assets for Alta, namely purchasing power with parts supplier, access to a worldwide dealer network, and instant credibility with other future investors.

Here Comes a New Complaint About Californian Drivers…

If you are riding in California anytime soon, you might want to think twice before blaming the state’s fleet of drivers, as The Golden State just made it legal for self-driving cars to operate without a human behind the wheel. While similar actions have stalled in the US Congress (the SELF DRIVE ACT is stuck in a Senate committee), states have begun to take matters into their own hands, like they did in Arizona. That is right, the dawn of truly autonomous vehicles has just arrived, and it is primed to change the driving landscape as we know it, which by correlation means changes for the motorcycle community as well. Announced on Monday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved rules that would make it legal for automated vehicles to operate without a human behind the wheel. 

BMW S675RR Concept by Nicolas Petit

I really like the idea of BMW making a supersport model, to compliment the already potent BMW S1000RR. The category is a tough one though, and it is dominated by the Japanese brands. Maybe, this is why BMW Motorrad is the perfect brand to disrupt the supersport segment. The S1000RR made a killing in the liter-bike space, because it brought European features and performance, at a Japanese price-point. Because of the success that resulted from that formula, maybe the Germans can do the same in the 600cc segment. Putting some pen and paper to this thought, Nicolas Petit has inked together a render of a proposed BMW supersport machine, which he dubs the BMW S675RR.

John McGuinness, pictured here with brolly girl Bruce Anstey, is the undisputed King of the Mountain, having won 19 times on the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course. Even at 40-years-old and a bit thicker around the middle than his fellow racers, one would have a hard time arguing that McGuinness is not at the top of his game, as the man from Morecambe is well on his way to beating Joey Dunlop’s all-time TT race win record.

So how has McPint become the winningest living TT racer in history? With a massive amount of course knowledge, that’s how. Coupled to strong bike entries, and a team comprised of road racing’s top talent, it makes perfect sense why McGuinness is the favorite to win whenever a 1,000cc machine is involved, and you can’t count him out of the 600cc Supersport races either. Narrowly missing his chance to break the 20 race win barrier on an electric bike, McGuinness was also instrumental in the cancellation of the Senior TT at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, a race he likely would have won.

McGuinness and his team will be back next year though, as will his competitors who are eager to knock the King off his thrown. We imagine a few of them will be paying close attention to the course notes given in the video after the jump.

Continue Reading

Video: John McGuinness – A Legend in the Making

06/18/2012 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

John McGuinees, the King of the Mountain, could quit road racing today and go down in history as a legend of the sport. The thing is though, Mr. McPint is showing no signs of slowing down, and in reality McGuinness is at the top of his game — adding two more race wins from the 2012 Isle of Man TT to his impressive total. Nineteen wins to his name, McGuinness was favored to win his 20th in the Senior TT, after coming in second during the TT Zero competition.

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt in the TT paddock that McGuinness will break the twenty-win barrier, a feat only ever accomplish by one other man: Joey Dunlop. But, fate has a cruel way of changing our expectations. Three wins in a TT fortnight is no easy matter, and no one wants to win more than John McGuinness himself. So, it goes to show you a bit about the man when you learn that McGuinness was instrumental in the canceling of the Senior TT, since his voice hold some of the most weight with the riders and Race Control — even though his own racing interests would have been served best by the race’s continuation in adverse conditions.

On that Saturday’s Senior TT, no one wanted to make more history than McGuinness — of course he wanted to do so in an entirely different way than what occurred. It will now be a long wait before he can lay claim to that twentieth IOMTT victory trophy, but John McGuinness isn’t too worried about that I suspect, and I reckon he has his eyes leveled firmly on the horizon, staring at what would seem to be an impossible an impossible number that starts with three.

Continue Reading

The 2012 Isle of Man TT with Daniel Lo

06/14/2012 @ 7:59 am, by Daniel Lo5 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Good Man

06/12/2012 @ 12:14 pm, by Daniel Lo6 COMMENTS

The stage was set for Guy Martin to take his first ever TT win in 2012, with the popular fan favorite returning with the same team with which he scored four podium finishes in the previous year’s contest. Top-level crew, competitive machinery, and one of the fastest men to ever lap the Mountain Course teaming up again for another assault. Reaching the top step of the podium should be all but a forgone conclusion — or at least in theory.

What resulted instead was truly a week to forget, starting with Guy getting nudged off the podium in the opening Superbike race when his crew was unable to change his rear tire for the final two laps. The first Supersport race ended prematurely after his engine gave out, forcing a retirement into the pits, after just a single lap. The Superstock race that followed was barely an improvement, with Guy taking an anonymous eighth place finish, after being off the pace from the start. Further engine problems in the second Supersport race again saw him off the podium, finishing down in fifth. To cap it off, a final shot at a good result was thwarted by the first ever cancellation of the Senior TT race. Things did not go according to plan, to say the least.

Continue Reading

Ian Hutchinson may not be a household name here in the United States, but over on the Isle of Man, “Hutchy” is a pretty big deal. Winning five solo-class races in the 2010 season, the English rider’s hot-streak was cut short after a tragic closed circuit racing accident, which saw him sidelined for the 2011 TT fortnight.

Suffering another leg injury going into the 2012 racing season, Hutchinson was still physically not 100% as he headed to the TT, with the Swan Racing Team making obvious adjustments to his Yamaha YZF-R1 to accommodate Hutchy’s injured leg.

While Hutchinson would ride through the pain, he was noticeably off the pace during this last TT meeting.

While a large component of those results are surely products of his physical state, where were compound by the fact that his practice and racing schedule has been truncated, many also wondered about Hutchinson’s mental state as well.

Twice beaten, once shy, one Swan team member explained to me that when you looked into the his eyes as he got on board the bike, there was something there that didn’t exist before in Hutchy’s eyes. “Fear?” I asked. The team member wouldn’t comment further.

Continue Reading

IOMTT: Farquhar Wins the Reinstated Lightweight TT

06/09/2012 @ 8:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Suffering the same postponement and delays as the PokerStars Senior TT, the 2012 Lightweight TT overcame the adverse conditions, finally getting its start well into the Saturday afternoon.

With the 650cc twin-cylinder class getting reinstated for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, there was tremendous pressure for the race to go ahead this fortnight, especially with the number of entries that solely arrived to compete in the class. Reduced from four laps to three, the strategy for the Lightweight TT got amplified, with riders having to choose when to take their pit stop: ahead of Lap 2 or Lap 3.

Continue Reading

The 2012 PokerStars Senior TT is making history books, despite the fact the race was postponed from Friday to Saturday, and ultimately cancelled late in the afternoon on its rescheduled race day. The first time the Senior TT has been called for track conditions, the only other time the blue ribbon race has failed to run has been during the TT’s racing suspension for WWI and WWII.

Leaving fans to wait along the Mountain Course for several hours, the race was finally scrapped after a contingency of TT riders viewed the full course via automobile. Finding damp patches along sections like the Mountain Mile, John McGuinness et al deemed the race too risky for the 200+ bhp superbikes, though they thought that the tamer inaugural Lightweight class (650cc twins) would be alright to make the run.

Continue Reading

IOMTT: Watch the 2012 Isle of Man TT Right Here

06/08/2012 @ 1:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

I’m going to put my fingers in my ears and go “lalalala” on this one, since someone has ripped ITV4’s coverage off the telly and put it onto the intertubes. With television networks not getting Friedman’s memo about the world being flat, those of us with an IP address outside of the United Kingdom are SOL when it comes to watching the FREE COVERAGE of the 2012 Isle of Man TT episodes on ITV4’s website. Thankfully, a more enlightened individual has put the coverage up on YouTube for those outside of the Queen’s domain to view. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Continue Reading

IOMTT: Conor Cummins Fit to Race in Senior TT

06/07/2012 @ 1:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Manxies will rejoice to the news that local-man Conor Cummins has been declared fit enough to race in Friday’s Senior TT at the 2012 Isle of Man TT. Caught in a crash during the North West 200 with Gary Johnson, Cummins has been on the sidelines of the Isle of Man TT fortnight with an injury to his right hand. The Tyco Suzuki rider’s appearance at the blue ribbon race will be a boon to the BSB team, as so far Cummins’ teammate Guy Martin has been unable to put the Suzukis on the podium.

Though Cummins had circulated during some of the practice sessions, Cummins has sat out all of the solo races thus far at the TT, much to the disappoint of his home crowd. Spending some time in a hyperbaric chamber and doing some physiotherapy, Cummins has been able to heal enough over the past week in order to salvage his Isle of Man TT outing, and put down a 125 mph lap during the Senior TT qualifying.

Continue Reading

The bike that carried John McGuinness to his 18th career Isle of Man TT win, the very same Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR could be the King of the Mountain’s stead to an even 20 wins this TT fortnight. Making 200+ bhp, the factory-backed Honda CBR1000RR has to contend with some of the most gruel miles in racing, and has the scars to prove it. Pitted and potted with rocks and pebbles from the course, McGuinness’s ride on the CBR is an equally tumultuous affair.

Splitting his time equally between head shakes and wheelies, it is no small feat in keeping a TT bike on-line at the famous road course. Only able to complete two laps before needing to be refueled, the Honda TT Legends race team has not only optimized the Honda CBR1000RR for the 37.733 mile Snaefell Mountain Course, but also for the single and double pitstops it will have in the Senior TT and Junior TT races, respectively.

Looking at the bikes of the other teams, what is most striking about McGuinness’s ride, aside from its drool-worthy livery homage to the Honda RC30, is how stock the bike appears. Sure, there is a heavily massaged and tuned motor underneath that bodywork, and the bike’s top-shelf brakes, wheels, and quick-shifter are readily apparent, but for a bike that any racer would kill to ride, the Honda TT Legends CBR is rather unassuming, as is its portly rider. Maybe that is how they like it.

Continue Reading