At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

More Bits & Bobs: Racing News Post-Argentina GP

04/17/2017 @ 10:42 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

If the two MotoGP races so far this year have had the kind of internal logic more commonly associated with a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, the Moto2 and Moto3 classes have been rational seas of serenity.

Which, come to think of it, also makes them more than a little like the more pious parts of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. These are topsy turvy times indeed.

When Moto2 first started, it brought the most harrowing and raucous parts of Bosch’ work to mind, voracious insanity unleashed on two wheels, which sensible people feared to look at. Fortunately, motorcycle racing fans are anything but sensible. It is one of their better traits.

But those days are now long gone, and the intermediate class has become processional, races decided almost before they are begun.

A nostalgia for the madness of the past keeps us watching, hoping to see a revival of the old ways. From time to time, the series livens up again, and we start to dream that our prayers have been answered, though such thoughts are usually dashed as soon as they arise.

The Moto2 race in Argentina was very much a case in point. It started out processional, then grew tense, then the tension frayed, then renewed, only to end with bang.

Literally, in the case of Alex Márquez, who ended a long way up in the air before coming down to earth with a solid thump.

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Photos from the 2016 Superprestigio in Barcelona

12/18/2016 @ 5:11 pm, by Steve English3 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber is fortunate to publish this outstanding photos by friend and photographer/journalist Steve English. Most motorcycle racing fans will know Steve for his work as a commentator on the World Superbike Championship feed, but thankfully his skills translate to dirt ovals as well. We hope you enjoy his photos. -JB

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Barcelona Superprestigio 2016 Takes Place December 17th

12/12/2016 @ 8:19 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

The Barcelona Superprestigio has proven to be a popular staple of the winter break. The indoor flat track race, which takes place at the Palau Sant Jordi, is returning for its fourth edition on December 17th.

Once again, the stars of the MotoGP, World Superbikes and Endurance will take on the cream of dirt track and off-road disciplines. Former winners Marc Marquez and Brad Baker face off for the fourth time.

The event follows the formula which has been so successful in the past. The field is divided into two classes: the Superprestigio class, which features some of the best asphalt riders in the world; and the Open class, in which the best of the off-road world will compete.

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Sunday MotoGP Summary at Aragon: How Championships Are Won & Lost

09/27/2016 @ 11:01 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Momentum. That’s what the last race before the Australasian triple header is all about. Momentum heading towards the end of the championship. Coming out on top and carrying it forward to Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang is vital.

The deal may get done on one of the flyaways, but Aragon is the place where the riders put their chips on the table.

All three races on Sunday had a huge impact on the MotoGP championship. In the first race of the day, a title was settled. In the second race of the day, the championship was blown even further open.

The final race of the day saw another brick hammered into the wall of Marc Márquez’s third MotoGP title, and further cemented his legacy. It was a good day’s racing.

There are a lot of ways to win titles, but the way the 2016 Moto3 championship was settled was about as fitting as it could be. At the end of a classic Moto3 race, where a strong group battled for control until the final four laps, four men broke away from the pack.

That group consisted of Brad Binder, the two men who could still mathematically challenge Binder for the 2016 title, Enea Bastianini and Jorge Navarro, and rookie revelation Fabio Di Giannantonio.

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Moto2 Silly Season: Who Replaces Rins, Lowes, & Zarco?

07/06/2016 @ 8:35 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Moto2 Silly Season: Who Replaces Rins, Lowes, & Zarco?

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The first half of 2016 has seen a long and intense period of speculation, gossip and conjecture over which rider ends up where in MotoGP.

Big names have jumped from one factory to another, the entry of KTM has opened up opportunities for established satellite riders, and there has been much talk of the rookies entering MotoGP from Moto2 – Sam Lowes to Aprilia, Alex Rins to Suzuki, and Johann Zarco to Tech 3 (though the latter is still to be announced).

What there has been much less talk of is who is to fill their seats. Traditionally, Silly Season for Moto2 and Moto3 starts much later than for MotoGP, speculation and negotiations commencing in the run up to the flyaways, and often only being finalized at Valencia.

But with three of the strongest teams in Moto2 having seats to fill, team managers are looking ahead a little earlier than usual.

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Photos from the 2015 Superprestigio in Barcelona

12/14/2015 @ 12:01 am, by Steve English7 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber is fortunate to publish this outstanding photos by friend and photographer/journalist Steve English. Most motorcycle racing fans will know Steve for his work in the MotoGP paddock, but thankfully his skills translate well on dirt ovals. We hope you enjoy his work and captions. -JB

Failure to prepare leads to failure. On Friday, Brad Baker made sure that everything was just right for him to succeed on Sunday. Having crashed heavily last year and broken his shoulder and elbow, the Washington native took a different approach to this year’s Superprestigio.

“Last year was tough and when I crashed I was just trying so hard. This year I took a different approach because the win is given on the last race and I was building all weekend towards it. Two serious surgeries in two years helps you realize that the most important race is the final. Last year I was going out to impress everyone and I crashed and missed the race. This year I was able to win both finals and it’s great after such an emotional year.”

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Double Pro Flat Track Grand National champion Jared Mees wasn’t able to make the magic happen in the Superfinal, but enjoyed the weekend and said afterwards that “I’m glad Brad won because it means that it’s another win for America!”

The flat track rivals both joked that this weekend was a very different challenge for them. “For me and Jared we’re usually on opposite sides and looking to beat each other so it was fun that we both approached this weekend thinking ‘If I don’t win I hope you do,'” was how Baker summed up their approach to the weekend.

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“Is that a penny at the apex?” Marc Marquez brought a tremendous style to MotoGP when he arrived three years ago and his flat track style is equally impressive.

Leaning so far off the bike to try and generate grip from the edge of the tire is a very different style to that employed by the full-time flat track racers, but on the 200m Barcelona track it worked well for the Spaniard.

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2015 Superprestigio Set for December 12th in Barcelona

12/03/2015 @ 1:01 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The Barcelona Superprestigio race is becoming a regular fixture in the winter break, and this year is no exception. The third edition of the race is due to take place on December 12th in the Palau Sant Jordi, part of Barcelona’s Olympic Ring up on the Montjuic hill which sits on southwest edge of Barcelona.

Once again, the feature will pit some of the best MotoGP riders in the world against the cream of the US flat track scene, as well as top riders from many other motorcycling disciplines.

Star of the show is once again Marc Marquez, the man who helped organize the show after hearing about previous editions of the race which had been run in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Sunday Summary at Brno: Foiled Expectations, A Sea Change in the Championship, & The Distractions of Contracts

08/17/2015 @ 12:40 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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There were many things we expected to see on Sunday at Brno. Rain was one of them. Order restored in Moto3 was another. But most of all, we expected to see a scintillating MotoGP race going down to the wire.

We saw none of those things, yet the Czech Grand Prix turned out to be one of the most intriguing races of the season. The momentum shifted in Moto3 and MotoGP, and swung even further in Moto2. And apart from a few drops shortly after Moto3 finished, the rain stayed away all day.

Free practice had promised a thrilling MotoGP race, with little to choose between the pace of the top three riders in the championship. Expectations were both raised and dispelled after qualifying, with Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi locking out the front row.

Lorenzo on pole was no surprise, nor really was Márquez on the front row. Rossi, though, was an eye-opener, and on paper, a mouth-watering prospect.

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Thursday Summary at Brno: Of Racing, Tires, R1s at Misano, Braking, & The King of Moto3

08/14/2015 @ 9:14 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday Summary at Brno: Of Racing, Tires, R1s at Misano, Braking, & The King of Moto3

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It was a hectic trip across the Atlantic for many in the MotoGP paddock. The air at Brno was thick with tales of airport-based woe, of overbooked flights, bad weather delays, missed transfers, and lost luggage.

Despite the supposed privilege of platinum frequent flyer status – one of the side benefits of working for a MotoGP team is you rack up a lot of air miles – the staff of one MotoGP team were stuck in one airport for over 24 hours, thrown out of the airport lounge and unable to leave.

Chicago O’Hare was temporarily transformed into the motorcycle racing equivalent of purgatory: large numbers of riders, mechanics, and other staff kicking their heels with nothing to do.

That is especially tough on riders: most of them suffer from some form of hyperactivity or another. Few can sit still, and most are very outdoor types. L’enfer, c’est les aéroports, if you will forgive me paraphrasing Sartre.

But there was an overwhelming sense of contentment at being in Brno. The track is much loved, even among those who do not go particularly well here. It is wide, fast, and flowing, and allows the riders to play with the lines. Dani Pedrosa, who has won here twice in MotoGP, explained why he liked the track.

“It’s wide, and the corners are with a nice shape, so you can be precise,” Pedrosa told us. “It’s a track that demands that you are precise, and I like this. Also, you can try many things, one centimeter more out, one centimeter more in, later, deeper, or earlier. This gives you a gain to be able to adjust your riding lap by lap, and some tracks are just one line and one pace and you cannot change. Here you can play a little bit more and that’s positive. I like it.”

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April Fools: Dani Pedrosa Switching to Moto3 with KTM for 2016

04/01/2015 @ 1:26 am, by David Emmett36 COMMENTS

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The cause of Dani Pedrosa’s shock announcement that he will be withdrawing from racing temporarily to seek treatment for arm pump has finally been unearthed.

We have learned that in addition to seeking treatment for the medical condition, Pedrosa is headed to Austria, where he is to test KTM’s Moto3 machine ahead of a shock return to the junior class in 2016, in pursuit of a fourth world championship.

Pedrosa believes racing the lighter Moto3 bikes will allow him to avoid arm pump, and thus prolong his Grand Prix career.

Alongside racing for KTM in Moto3 in 2016, Pedrosa will help develop the Austrian manufacturer’s MotoGP prototype, ahead of its debut in 2017.

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