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.

World Superbike is expected to announce after the Magny-Cours round next week that the Ducati 1199 Panigale will not incur the same 6kg weight ballast penalty as the current Ducati 1098R Superbike. A part of WSBK’s fluidic formula for Superbike racing, World Superbike rules allow for the air intake to be restricted and weight ballast to be added to twin-cylinder motorcycles on an prescribed basis, to compensate for the 200cc displacement capacity advantage the twins have over the four-cylinder machines.

With Carlos Checa handily winning the 2011 Championship, the recipe was set for Ducati to continue to incur a 6kg disadvantage this season, which has sent the Spaniard to fourth in the World Superbike Championship standings this season. Mathematically out of the hunt for the Championship in 2012, Checa is expected to re-sign with Althea Ducati for the 2013 season, where he will campaign the Ducati 1199 Panigale, which will race without the 1098R’s restrictions.

Continue Reading

With many of World Superbike’s top riders finding themselves on unfamiliar grid positions for WSBK’s stop at Misano, a slew of new names were thrust into the spotlight. Getting their chance to shine at the coastal track, WSBK fans were treated to a multitude of great battles under sunny Italian skies, as veteran riders had to work their way from the bike of the field, and contend with riders they normally don’t see in racing conditions. If you didn’t catch Race 1 at Misano, your life isn’t complete. Race reults after the jump.

Continue Reading

Carlos Checa Re-Signs with Althea Ducati…Finally

10/17/2011 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Good news for Carlos Checa, as the Althea Ducati race team has finally extended the reigning-World Superbike Champion a contract for the 2012 season. Recently, Checa was in the precarious position of having clinched the 2011 World Superbike Championship, and yet had no contract for the 2012 season. Stuck in the tug-of-war between Althea Racing and Ducati Corse, as well as the scandal currently gripping Althea Ceramics, Checa’s future with the Ducati squad was in question to such an extent that the BMW Italia team offered the Spaniard €800,000 to ride one of its BMW S1000RRs in 2012.

Continue Reading

In what can only be described as an ambitious move, BMW Italia is trying to poach newly crowned reigning-World Champion Carlos Checa from the Althea Duacti racing team. Rumored to have a €800,000 offer on the table, Checa has until Saturday (tomorrow) to respond to the offer. With the 2011 World Superbike season set to end this Sunday, Checa finds himself in the precarious position of having just clinched the 2011 WSBK Championship, yet having not concrete contract for next season at this season’s conclusion.

Continue Reading

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose

05/31/2011 @ 12:19 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

The story of the 5th WSBK round at Miller Motorsports Park was all Carlos Checa. Last year he had the pace but not a reliable machine. This year he had both, dominating the weekend with the triple crown: Superpole and victories in Race 1 and Race 2. MMP provided a formidable challenge with wildly varying weather, from pouring rain to bright sunshine to freezing cold winds. Adaptable, patient, and just plain the fastest rider of the weekend, Checa rose above all difficulties and earned a well-deserved double victory.

A pair of Utah wins that has been long overdue since he had to retire twice out of commanding leads last year due to mechanical problems. Checa also extended his lead in the Championship, and seems well on his way to his first world title. His amiable personality and good humor will surely make him a popular champion should he reach the season’s finish line in first place.

Continue Reading

The weather gods were appeased this Memorial Day weekend, as not a single drop of water rained down from the heavens on the World Superbike Race 1 and Race 2 that were being held at Miller Motorsports Park. This statement is of course only true if you’re not watching WSBK according to Oregon Trail rules, as riders still had to ford the river at the “Black Rock Hairpin” in Turn 5 of the Outer Course. While no oxen were lost in the attempt to cross the water feature, a bull was on the loose in the form of Carlos Checa. Would 2011 be redemption or disappointment for the Spaniard? Find out after the jump.

Continue Reading

Phillip Island proved a smashingly good weekend for Aprilia, as Max Biaggi began to defend his #1 plate by qualifying and finishing second in both races, one nearly as uncontested as Carlos Checa’s wins, and one a ray of hope for close fighting all season. Though teammate Leon Camier did not fare nearly as well, his thirteenth and sixth place finishes were remarkable for someone contending with a nasty fever.

Overall, the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike season seems to belie the suspicions that all of Aprilia’s 2010 success came down to its “unfair” gear-driven camshaft, and that Ducatis could not be competitive in WSBK’s oppressive technical formula.

Continue Reading

UPDATE 3: Michel Fabrizio has signed-on with Alstare Suzuki team for 2011.

UPDATE 2: Leon Haslam has signed with the BMW Factory Squad.

UPDATE: It’s being reported that Noriyuki Haga has agreed to ride with the DFX team on a factory Aprilia RSV4, with  an announcement delayed out of deference to Biaggi’s impending WSBK crowning.

While the MotoGP silly season is just starting to wind down, the World Superbike shuffling of riders is apparently just getting underway. So far this silly season we’ve seen Marco Melandri make the switch into WSBK Racing, joining the young Eugene Laverty in the Sterilgarda Yamaha squad, and clearly displacing James Toseland from a job. Johnny Rea has also been in the news, confirming that he’d be with Ten Kate Honda next season, despite being only two years into a three year contract, which was a strange announcement at the very least.

After Ducati’s little spat with Infront Motor Sports last month, the Xerox Ducati Team will be no more in 2011, leaving factory riders Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki S.O.L. when it comes to gainful employment, which is where our fist batch of silly season rumors starts us. If‘s Carlo Baldi is to be believed (he is the listed press officer for Althea Ducati after all), Haga will find himself on a satellite Aprilia ride, while Michel Fabrizio will go to Alstare Suzuki. If you’re a die-hard WSBK fan you may realize that means that current Alstare Suzuki star Leon Haslam must be finding work elsewhere, with Baldi putting the British rider in the factory BMW squad. Still with us?

Continue Reading

Our good colleagues over at delved into this idea today, and it brings up an interesting issue. At what point does Ducati begin supporting the privateer efforts of Althea Ducati and its rider Carlos Checa?

Checa is of course already has a win under his belt this season, not to mention that he has had very strong and consistent finishes. Checa also leads the factory Ducati riders by 18 (Haga) & 50 (Fabrizio) points…all of which was accomplished on a machine that should be inferior to what Xerox Ducati has been racing, and achieving lesser results with to this point in the season.

Continue Reading

World Superbike Favoring Four Cylinders Over Two?

04/26/2010 @ 6:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

If you take a look through our coverage of World Superbike’s stop in Assen this weekend, you’ll notice a trend in the standings on how riders finished in relation to what type of equipment they ran in the race. The trend seems to suggest an advantage for the inline-four cylinder bikes, and didn’t go unnoticed by Carlos Checa, who found himself struggling to compete with the four cylindered machines this weekend on his twin cylindered Ducati.

As one of the privateer Ducati’s on the grid, Checa and the Althea Ducati team believe the current WSBK rules hinder the twins in being competitive with the focus in both acceleration and top speed. You make the call after the jump.

Continue Reading