Ride in Peace, Nicky Hayden

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nicky Hayden today, the American motorcycle racer finally succumbing to the injuries he sustained on Wednesday, at 7:09 PM CEST. The former-MotoGP Champion was struck by a car, while he was training on his bicycle near the Rimini coast. After the incident, Hayden was ultimately treated at the trauma center at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he later passed away. While motorcycle fans around the world have been hoping for good news throughout this past weekend, and looking for signs that Nicky’s condition would improve, today Nicky’s race ended, with his family and friends at his side.

Americas Top Öhlins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Daniel Laine Kyle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California – known best for his speed shop, Kyle Racing – pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government earlier this week, after it was found that Kyle had been hiding cash-based purchases made at this business. Dan Kyle Racing is known best for being the largest Öhlins suspension dealership in the United States (if not the world), as the company offered aggressive pricing on the Swedish-born suspension, and was one of the first Öhlins dealers with an online presence in the early days of the internet. According to the plea agreement made between Kyle and the US Attorney’s Office, Kyle pleaded guilty to tax fraud and structuring currency transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements in the US Tax Code.

The 2017 Saroléa SP7 Is Ready for the Isle of Man TT

The focus for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT may center around Team Mugen’s dual entry with John McGuinness and Guy Martin, but one should not overlook this very attractive entry from Belgium. Saroléa is back for the 2017 Isle of Man TT, continuing with its state-of-the-art carbon fiber chassis goodness and retro fairing design. On board will once again be Dean Harrison, who will be gunning for a podium-finish on the 2017 Saroléa SP7. If looks alone could get you across the finish line, then Saroléa would have our vote. The Belgians have always been in the running for a strong result though, finishing 4th in 2014 and 5th in 2015. Maybe this year will be “their year” at the TT.

India Is Now the World’s Biggest Motorcycle Market

Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year). India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents

I am really excited about the Suzuki brand right now. Out of the four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the recession affected Suzuki the most, probably more than many people realize, but the Hamamatsu brand is poised to bring out some exciting machines in the coming few years. Could we finally see a turbocharged Suzuki this year though? The rumor mill is pointing to yes…but just pointing, and the reason is because of patents. Much of this internet rumors stems from a flood of patents that have been found, where Suzuki is patenting technology related to turbo-powered engines in motorcycles, or because of other patents that make reference or inference to being part of a turbocharged motorcycle.

No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.* “Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well. Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

KTM Caught Testing an Electric Street Bike

Spy photos from Austria have caught KTM testing a rather interesting motorcycle – one that does not run on a petroleum-based fuel, but rather it has an electric drivetrain at its core. This isn’t the first time that KTM has experimented with an electric motorcycle, of course, with the KTM Freeride E being available in select markets. However, the machine seen here is a pretty big step forward for the Austrian brand, from its modest electric dirt bike. Using the chassis of a KTM 390 Duke to house the battery, inverter, and motor, KTM’s electric street bike (we’ll call it the KTM E-Duke for now) looks like a rolling mess, but is what you would expect from a project in its early stages of development.

For the Geeks, Your Luke Skywalker HJC Helmet Is Here

I am a solid Star Wars geek, but not in the dress-up and go to a convention sort of way – if you know what I mean. But, this new lid from HJC might have me singing a different tune, as it mimics Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing “Red 5” fighter helmet, in a DOT legal ¾ helmet format. That’s just cool…in a really un-cool sort of way. Based off the budget-friendly HJC IS-5 helmet, this Luke Skywalker replica will cost roughly $180 when it comes out (at a date still to be determined). Additionally, 10 versions of the lid will be signed by Mark Hamill, and auctioned for charity (UNICEF and the Starlight Children’s Foundation), if your geekdom takes you in such a direction (and you have a four-figure wallet).

Hayden: “It’s Clear That There Is A Problem”

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in its search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team’s struggles will continue. Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend, but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again. Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round, the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

The Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

“Danny is probably the most talented rider I have ever worked with,” Peter Bom, Danny Kent’s former crew chief at Kiefer told me several times last year. Bom has seen plenty of talent in his time: he also worked with Stefan Bradl at Kiefer, Chris Vermeulen in World Supersport and World Superbikes, Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport. World champions all, and to this tally he added Danny Kent. Less than a year after helping him win the Moto3 world championship, Danny Kent asked the Kiefer team for a new crew chief, abandoning his collaboration with Peter Bom. Kent felt that Bom had been slow to pick up on the changes in the Moto2 class during Bom’s three years in Moto3. Stefan Kiefer obliged, and Kent started the season with a new crew chief and a Suter Moto2 chassis.

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

09/04/2014 @ 2:07 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

wicked-witch-melting

Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM.

It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

Long-serving staff were replaced, circuits were dropped, classes were dropped, rejigged and renamed, and the manufacturers – or rather, the national distributors of the Japanese manufacturers – were either chased out of the series, or left over disagreements over the technical regulations.

The series reached a low point this year, when the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series held a grand total of just six races. Making things worse was the fact that just one of those rounds was in California, traditionally a very strong base for motorcycle racing in the US.

To alleviate the situation, Roadracing World’s John Ulrich stepped in to organize the Superbike Shootout, a three-race series held in California and Utah, to offer road racers something approaching a fuller season. However, DMG did not have a deal to televise the Superbike series, relying instead on live internet streaming of the events.

The decline of the series cannot be laid completely at the door of the DMG. They took over the AMA Superbike series at the start of 2008, a few months before the global financial crisis hit. That crisis had a massive impact on all forms of motorsports, and saw a great deal of sponsorship money evaporate.

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So Long DMG — New North American Road Racing Series Established by Wayne Rainey & Co.

09/03/2014 @ 2:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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For months now, we have been talking about a North American road racing series that would compete against the ailing AMA Pro Road Racing championship that DMG runs. The series in question was rumored to be headed by Dorna and Wayne Rainey, and today’s news confirms at least half of that partnership, as the three-time World Champion is affiliated with the project

Called MotoAmerica, the North America series is run by KRAVE Group LLC. Rainey is a partner in the KRAVE Group, along with Chuck Aksland who was a 20-year manager of Team Roberts and recently the Vice President of Motor Sport Operations at the Circuit of the Americas race track. Terry Karges, a marketing executive from Roush Performance is a part of the team, as is Richard Varner, a motorcycle industry entrepreneur.

According to the AMA, MotoAmerica will promote and manage the series, which will be sanctioned by the AMA and FIM North America. This means that MotoAmerica will be able to award AMA and FIM North America #1 plates to series class champions, replacing the role of AMA Pro Road Racing as run by the Daytona Motorsports Group.

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Dorna & Wayne Rainey Looking to Develop American Racing

08/12/2014 @ 9:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

merica

There has been so much smoke lately about Dorna doing something in the American market for road racing, that surely there must be some fire. Our sources, and the consensus in the MotoGP paddock is that Carmelo Ezpeleta has his eyes on a North American Championship, of sorts — a move designed to side-step issues with DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing.

With the France family perhaps responsible single-handedly destroying American interest in motorcycle racing, it should not be too surprising that the often unliked entity that is Dorna Sport, is being hailed as a possible savior of the sport in the United States. Whatever you think about those two entities, it is clear that something has to give.

Talking to Fox Sports 1, Ezpeleta tipped his hand on what he envisioned for the US market, saying that he has been talking to “relevant people” to create a program that will develop American riders for the Grand Prix Championship. Helping him spearhead that plan is none other than a certain Mr. Wayne Rainey.

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Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy

07/23/2014 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

photogp-lens-scott-jones

A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.

I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.

As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.

For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.

I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.

I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.

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No TV or Live Stream for AMA Pro Racing at Laguna Seca

07/09/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

elvis-shoot-tv-simpsons

Near the start of the 2013 AMA Pro Road Racing season, DMG had yet to announce a TV package for America’s premier motorcycle road racing series.

The issue was of great concern to riders and teams, who had made sponsorship commitments, with TV exposure being an integral piece of consideration involved in those contracts. Luckily at the last-minute, a TV package was announced, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Fast-forward to the 2013 Laguna Seca round, and it became apparent that not all of the AMA Pro Road Racing events would be on TV, namely the AMA’s stop at Laguna Seca, which was being held with the now Dorna-control Superbike World Championship. Again the news was a shock, and sent the AMA Pro Racing paddock into a fervor.

Thanfully again a remedy was found at the last minute — albeit, an imperfect one — with a free online live stream being offered to two-wheel racing fans.

Moving into the 2014 season, once again it was revealed that AMA Pro Road Racing would see a downgrade in its exposure levels, as no TV contract would be produced for the season. Instead, the 2014 races would be broadcast solely on the FansChoice.tv website for free.

Laguna Seca has once again proved to be the stickler though, as DMG announced this week that the only AMA round west of The Rockies would not even be shown on the company’s streaming website. The reactions are predictable.

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Dorna Eyeing a North American Championship?

06/23/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

spanish-inquisition

The discourse in AMA paddock is palpable. From 2013’s surprise revelation that AMA Pro Road Racing’s TV package would not cover all the events, to 2014’s complete lack of television coverage, there have been serious questions raised about DMG’s ability to market the premier road racing series in the United States.

A constantly dwindling calendar of events has caused many to wonder about DMG’s ability to organize race weekends, as this year’s provisional five-event calendar was marked with the absence of any races west of The Rockies (the motorcycle industry’s sweet spot), a move that would cause John Ulrich of Roadracing World to start his own three-event “Superbike Shootout” series (Laguna Seca would later be added to the AMA calendar as a sixth event).

This year was also marked by an exodus of top-level teams (Michael Jordan Motorsports and Erik Buell Racing), as well as marquee sponsors (The Army National Guard and GEICO).

Just recently torrential rain, a field of Superbikes on slicks, and not a red flag in sight caused a dust-up just a few weeks ago at Road America, resulting in a modest investment in publication ink regarding the officiating at AMA Pro Road Racing events, especially in regards to rider safety.

American road racing has long been in decline, but never before has the frustration with the series been so evident across the series’ stakeholders of riders, teams, sponsors, fans, and journalists. The malcontent is evident whenever the subject is broached.

No one can say for certain what form American road racing will take for the 2015 season, but things do not seem to be taking a positive direction with DMG’s ownership of AMA Pro Racing.

American road racing is in serious danger of fracturing if the Superbike Shootout continues, and it could legitimately collapse altogether if DMG continues operating the way it has to date. As if that wasn’t enough, a third option is waiting in the wings: Dorna.

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Thursday Summary at Austin: Edwards Retires, Blandspeak Returns, & The Dearth of US Racers

04/11/2014 @ 7:58 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

circuit-of-the-americas

It was fitting – some might say inevitable – that Colin Edwards chose the Grand Prix of the Americas in his home state of Texas to announce his retirement. He had just spent the last couple of weeks at home, with his growing kids, doing dad stuff like taking them to gymnastics and baseball and motocross, then hosted a group, including current GP riders and a couple of journos, at his Bootcamp dirt track school.

He had had time to mull over his future, then talk it over with his wife Ally, and come to a decision. There wasn’t really a much better setting for the double World Superbike champion to announce he was calling it quits than sitting next to former teammate Valentino Rossi, the American he fought so memorably with in 2006, Nicky Hayden, the latest US addition to the Grand Prix paddock Josh Herrin, and with Marc Marquez, prodigy and 2013 MotoGP champion. It felt right. Sad, but right.

You can read the full story of Edwards’ retirement here, but his announcement highlighted two different problems for motorcycle racing. One local, one global, and neither particularly easy to fix.

The loss of Colin Edwards sees the MotoGP paddock, indeed all of international motorcycle racing, robbed of its most outspoken and colorful character. Edwards was a straight talker, with a colorful turn of phrase and uninhibited manner of speech.

His interviews were five parts home truths, five parts witticisms and a handful of obscenities thrown in for good measure. He livened up press conferences, racing dinners, and casual conversations alike.

With Edwards gone, motorcycle racing is a much blander, less appealing place. Though Edwards was always careful not to upset sponsors too much, he refused to toe the line and just spout the politically acceptable line handed down by his corporate paymasters. He spoke his mind, complained when he was annoyed, gave praise where it was due, and always, always entertained.

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Watch Jake Gagne’s Daytona 200 Pit Stop in Slow-Motion

03/26/2014 @ 3:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

jake-gagne-roadrace-factory-daytona-200-pit-stop

We have a strange love affair with motorcycle pit stops here at Asphalt & Rubber. Maybe it’s the added spectacle that comes with rider and crew racing to change tires and fuel the machine.

Maybe it’s the carefully planned and choreographed dance that ensues, with an ever mindful eye on the stopwatch. Maybe it’s because any number of things can go wrong in those few precious seconds, which could alter the result of a race.

Whatever the case may be, we are enthralled, and at 120 frames per second, what takes only a handful of seconds to achieve, is drawn out into nearly a minute of precise motions. So without further ado, watch the RoadRace Factory Red Bull team pit their rider Jake Gagne, and help solidify his second place finish in this year’s Daytona 200.

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How to Watch the Daytona 200 – A Glimpse into the Future?

03/17/2014 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Did you miss this weekend’s Daytona 200? It wasn’t on TV, but instead was streamed on DMG’s new website: FansChoice.tv. The content was pretty standard, for anyone who has watched AMA Pro Racing’s TV commentary before, though it was without a high-defition feed, which irked video snobs like us.

Some readers reported other technical difficulties with the steam itself, though for the large-part of viewers, things seemed to work ok. The only probably up until now, is how to watch the Daytona 200 and other races if you didn’t catch them live. DMG has a fix for that now as well: YouTube.

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No TV for AMA Pro Road Racing, But Live Stream for Events

03/13/2014 @ 4:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

ama-pro-road-racing-live-stream

So you want to watch AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track this year, but because DMG screwed the pooch on securing any form of TV deal, you think you’re up an apex without a kneepuck, right? Not so fast there speed racer.

To its credit, the Daytona Motorsports Group has created its own live streaming site for AMA Pro Racing, IMSA, and NASCAR content that is not on television: FansChoice.tv, which will be your go-to destination for watching the Daytona 200 live this weekend.

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