KTM Finally Brings the Freeride E-XC to the USA

KTM was the first major motorcycle manufacturer to debut a production-ready electric motorcycle, all the way, way back in 2011. In true KTM fashion though, it has taken six years for the “Ready to Race” brand to be ready for the US market with its electric motorcycle design. This is because KTM North America is finally bringing the KTM Freeride E-XC to the United States, starting with a handful of dealerships (11, to be precise) who will carry the electric dirt bike, reportedly in limited quantities. Your guess is as good as ours as to why it took so long for KTM to bring the Freeride E-XC to the USA, though we have a pretty good idea why its debut is happening at this particular point in time. Even still, today’s news is just the first step to a full rollout.

“Ducati 959 Panigale Corse” Spotted in CARB Docs

If you dumpster dive through filings with the California Air Resources Board, you will find that Ducati has a new variant of its “middleweight” superbike ready for us, as the paperwork reveals a Ducati 959 Panigale Corse is on the way for the 2018 model year. The Ducati 959 Panigale Corse has the same emission figures, and is on the same filing as the current Ducati 959 Panigale, so we don’t expect any radical mechanical differences between the two motorcycles. But, looking at Ducati’s past with “Corse” models, there are a few pieces of information that we can glean from the news. The first piece of information is pretty obvious: the Ducati 959 Panigale Corse will be a special edition version of the 955cc sport bike, likely fitted with special parts (suspension, brakes, electronics) and a unique livery (bold new graphics).

Ducati Debuts New Aero “Hammerhead” Fairing at Brno

Ducati Corse has returned to using aerodynamic fairings, after packing up its “Hammerhead” design (as fans like to call it, Ducati not so much) at the preseason Qatar Test. As such, fans at the Czech GP were treated to the debut of a new fairing design at Brno. Featuring on the Desmosedici GP of Jorge Lorenzo during free practice, the new aerodynamic fairing design is an evolution of Ducati’s original winglet shape and its preseason attempt at replicating the winglets efficacy, while still adhering to the set of rules in MotoGP, which ban winglets. While the Hammerhead debuted to disappointing results, and thus has left Ducati Corse without an aerodynamic fairing so far this season, the new fairing design appears to be getting the nod from Lorenzo.

BMW HP4 Race Engine Life Set at 5,000km

If you’re in the market for a BMW HP4 Race – the carbon fiber clad superbike from Bavaria – the $78,000 price tag might not be all that you’re spending on, as BMW Motorrad has a few items in the fine print that you might want to be aware of – the first being the engine life. According to documents sent to BMW Motorrad dealers in the United States, the 212hp inline-four engine for the BMW HP4 Race comes with an expiration point of 5,000km (roughly 3,100 miles), at which point the entire engine will have to be replaced. There is no word yet what a new HP4 Race engine from BMW Motorrad will cost, but we do know that it will come from the factory with performance certification and already broken-in for immediate use.

Check Out This Aprilia RSV4-Powered Race Car

If you are in the market for a track-only race car, might we suggest the Griip G1. Though featuring double the wheels that we’re used to, this carbon fiber clad Formula 1000 cart is powered by a very familiar power plant: the Aprilia RSV4 superbike’s V4 engine. The RSV4 engine on the Griip G1 remains fairly stock, though it uses a drive shaft, instead of a chain drive, as it would on a motorcycles. As such, it makes roughly 201hp in this form, though the real value of the Griip G1 is the weight of the vehicle, which tips the scales at 860 lbs wet and fully fueled. Designed in Israel, and built in Italy, the Griip G1 will set you back a cool €52,900 if you are interested in owning one. To frame the figure on that price tag, the cost of a G1 is about the cost of three Aprilia RSV4 RR superbikes, over in Europe.

Bonnier Closes Sport Rider Magazine

It has been speculated in the motorcycle community for quite some time now, and the day has finally come, as the Bonnier Motorcycle Group (BMG) announced today that it is ceasing production of Sport Rider Magazine. The news about Sport Rider comes wedged into a larger announcement, which involves BMG restructuring its motorcycle publishing and sales departments “in order to deliver more specialized content and provide better solutions for the motorcycle industry to engage with enthusiasts.” There is a lot to be said with how Bonnier is “restructuring” media, marketing, and editorial amongst its brands – perhaps better left for an article of its own – but the big shock today is how the closure of Sport Rider ends a 25-year tradition of covering the sport bike market in the United States.

Ducati V4 Superbike to Debut in September?

Italian media is reporting an invitation to a Ducati event at the Misano circuit, the Thursday before the MotoGP race weekend held on the Adriatic Coast. The event has surely something to do with Ducati’s new V4 superbike, with Ducati claiming it will be “the sound of a new era” for the Italian manufacturer. That sound surely will be of the new V4 powerplant, which will not only replace the company’s iconic v-twin superbike lineup, but also power future large-displacement sport bikes from Ducati – something Claudio Domenicali told A&R at the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition launch. What we will see at Misano is up for speculation, however. A strong guess would be that Ducati only unveils its 90° V4 engine, teasing for us the interesting technical bits that Domenicali hinted at during the Laguna Seca WorldSBK weekend.

Lucky Strike Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro by MotoCorsa

Though it is known better for its exploits on race tracks, many two-wheeled enthusiasts should know that Ducati’s history extends well into the sand dunes of the Dakar Rally. Nestled in the Ducati Museum in Borgo Panigale, there is proof of Ducati’s racing history in the Dakar Rally. And while the bike says “Cagiva” on the outside, it was an air-cooled Ducati engine that powered Edi Orioli and his Elefant to two Dakar Rally wins. That machine was painted in one of the most iconic paint schemes ever to grace a racing motorcycle: the Lucky Strike cigarette company’s red, white, black, and gold livery. So, to pay homage to Ducati’s off-road racing history, the folks at the MotoCorsa Ducati dealership have taken the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro and linked it to its racing pedigree, creating a unique motorcycle in the process.

Speed vs. Stamina, For 220 Laps at the Suzuka 8-Hours

The day is done and the battle is won. Yamaha claimed its third-consecutive Suzuka 8-Hours on Sunday. The victory put a stamp on their dominance of the one race each year that the Japanese manufacturers place more emphasis on than any other. As such, Asphalt & Rubber takes a look at the winning machine, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s YZF-R1. It’s often said that endurance racing is the last bastion of design and technological freedom in motorsport. Whether it was Audi’s decision to use a diesel engine on four wheels, or the current breed of two-wheeled endurance bike, i i’s clear that there is plenty of innovation on the grid.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Priced at $78,000 for USA

Before the machine officially debuted in China, we got our first taste of the carbon-clad BMW HP4 Race at the 2016 EICMA Show in Milan. At that time, all we knew about this track-only motorcycle was that it would be built in limited quantities, and thus would not be cheap. In China, we learned that pricing across “the pond” had been set at £68,000 / €80,000 for the UK and EU markets, respectively. And now, we finally get word regarding how much the BMW HP4 Race will cost American buyers, as BMW Motorrad USA has set an asking price of $78,000. Only 750 units will be made worldwide, so it’s hard to say how many will even make the trip to the United States, but for that price tag you get quite the machine.

Aprilia has today confirmed another of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock, announcing that they have signed Scott Redding to replace Sam Lowes in the Gresini Aprilia MotoGP team for the 2018 season. 

The news came as no surprise, after it became apparent that Aprilia had decide to break Lowes’ contract at the end of this season.

Lowes had been contracted for two seasons in MotoGP, but Aprilia decided to invoke an escape clause, after the Englishman had struggled at the start of the season. For the full background to the story, read the Friday MotoGP round up from Austria.

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The weather is looking up at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and that is a good thing. First of all, it provided a fascinating day of practice and qualifying, with more than a few surprises and plenty of data to chew over.

But secondly, and far more importantly, it meant that riders were out on track riding, and returning to the pits safely after doing so. If the weather had turned, and rain had fallen, that might not have been the case.

The reason for that is simple. The Red Bull Ring is not safe in the wet. That was the consensus of the riders at Friday night’s Safety Commission. It is not particularly safe in the dry either, but in the wet, it is so bad that everyone said they would not ride if it rained.

“Everybody yesterday in the Safety Commission said they would not ride in the wet,” Aleix Espargaro said. It was a point which Cal Crutchlow had made on Thursday, even before practice began. He reiterated it on Saturday. “If it rains I ain’t riding,” he told the media.

“I have no interest, because there are barriers everywhere. As you saw, everyone was crashing in a complete straight line and they were going to the left at a right hand corner. It was just ridiculous. Until they move the barriers back, I have no interest to ride here in the wet.”

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We were promised a storm on Friday, and we got one. But it was a media storm, rather than a thunderstorm, with riders finally free to speak about the situation at Aprilia.

That’s not to say the weather wasn’t an issue: rain fell during Moto2, wreaking havoc on the field. That would have as many repercussions as the fallout from Aprilia’s decision to dump Sam Lowes. It was an eventful day indeed.

First, to get the Aprilia story out of the way. Last night, it emerged that Aprilia had finally made a decision on Sam Lowes. The Italian factory had decided to drop the Englishman after just a single season, rather than keeping him for the full two years of his contract.

It was a move that had been telegraphed at the Barcelona test, when Aprilia Corse boss Romano Albesiano admitted that dropping Lowes was a possibility they were considering. So for it to be announced in Austria was hardly a surprise.

In part because Lowes’ contract stated that Aprilia had until August 15th to make up their minds.

There was little surprise at Aprilia’s move. Sam Lowes and Alex Rins have been vastly outclassed in their rookie years by Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger. Rins has had an excuse, having spent so much of his first year in MotoGP being injured.

But viewed from the outside, Lowes has no such excuses. He is on a factory team, and his teammate is showing him up badly. Aleix Espargaro is regularly in Q2, and has shown pace to challenge for the top 5 on occasion. Lowes has been in Q2 only once, and has just two points to his name.

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MotoGP Preview of the Austrian GP

08/11/2017 @ 12:33 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The riders will have been off the bikes for about 80 hours before they take to the track again at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Back-to-back races are always tough, but doing back-to-backs with a test in between can be pretty brutal. At least everyone will be sharp when practice starts on Friday.

The Red Bull Ring is a unique track, though how you interpret the word “unique” is very much up to you. In one respect, the Spielberg circuit is just a few straights connected by sharp corners, with a replica of the Sachsenring’s Omega curve thrown in for good measure.

On paper, it looks pretty dull, yet it is surprisingly popular among the riders. This is in part because of the stunning setting, and the elevation changes that add charm to the circuit.

But mostly, it’s because it’s a very, very fast circuit. And there is nothing that a motorcycle racer likes more than going very, very fast on a motorcycle. Oddly enough.

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If the weather has been the bane of MotoGP this year, then Saturday at Brno made up for an awful lot. The day started out with clear blue skies, and stayed that way just about all day.

It was still bone dry and warm when we left the track as darkness began to fall, though the occasional cloud could be spotted here and there. It was a great day for racing motorcycles.

It was apparently also a great day for crashing motorcycles. In the first session of the day, 40 minutes of free practice for the Moto3 class, 15 riders crashed, all going down like skittles.

Next up it was FP3 for MotoGP, and a further 7 riders hit the deck. Moto2 followed, and 6 more went down. By the end of the day, there had been a grand total of 48 falls.

To put that number into perspective: on Friday, in much dicier conditions, there were only 9 crashes. Over all three days of the 2014 event at Brno, there were 46 crashers.

If there are three more crashes on Sunday – and it’s race day, when risks offer better rewards – then the Automotodrom Brno will seen more crashes than in the previous seven years. They really were going down like flies.

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MotoGP is back, and so naturally, so is the rain. The weather continues to plague Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the weekend starting off in the pouring rain making for a wet FP1.

Despite the heat, Brno is slow to dry, and so the MotoGP bikes started FP2 on a damp track with a dry line, the track ending the session almost completely dry. Hardly an ideal start to the weekend, if you are focused on finding the best setup possible for the race on Sunday.

Not everyone sees it that way, however. For Johann Zarco, it was nice to ease himself gently back up to speed. “Restarting the season in wet conditions was good for me,” the Frenchman said.

“This way we start the season slowly, and that’s good for the feeling.” It also reduced the advantage of the big teams who can eke out an advantage in stable conditions.

“Also because we didn’t do a test here, maybe it was better, because if we have a dry track for all the weekend, there are many teams which can work, work, work and be so strong at the end of the weekend. And for our situation as a rookie, it’s good to have this tough weather.”

The wet weather also made it a little easier on bodies which had not ridden a MotoGP bike for four weeks. “Especially it’s difficult about physical condition,” Valentino Rossi said on Friday.

“Because it’s one month without the bike, in the beginning you have some pain in the hands, in the legs. But it was not so hard to arrive to a good level, especially in the wet.”

The training he had been doing for the past couple of weeks – including running a VR46 Master Camp for Yamaha’s riders in the WorldSSP 300 class – had helped him prepare.

“It’s a long break, but in the last weeks I train a lot on the bike, and sincerely, in the last ten days you always think about FP1. So you watch video, try to understand, try to remember the way to ride.”

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MotoGP Preview of the Czech GP

08/03/2017 @ 7:08 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

After four weeks, MotoGP is back. That four-week break is a big deal. A much bigger deal than you might expect. Having a big break in the middle of the summer made the season much more manageable.

“The problem is the pressure we have,” Aleix Espargaro explained. “MotoGP looks like it’s a lot of fun on the TV, and it is very fun, but we have a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure, so to be able to disconnect and do nothing, it’s always good.”

That comment came in response to a question about the addition of the KymiRing in Finland to the calendar in 2019, which will expand the schedule to 20 races, after the inclusion of the Chang circuit in Thailand next year.

The general feeling among riders was that 20 races was manageable, though with the caveat that Dorna ensures there is a large summer break.

Aleix Espargaro again: “For me the most important thing is to have a good break in the summer, like one month, because then you can disconnect. Really, I don’t care if we do four races in a row, I don’t care.”

“I would like to do it if possible, four races in a row or three times three races in a row, but it’s important in the middle to have a break, to just reset your mind, charge batteries. Because when you race a lot of consecutive races, it’s very very hard for the body, for the head, for everything. But if we still have the summer break, one race more is no big problem.”

The plan, as I understand it, is to cut testing to a minimum, with two, or perhaps even just a single winter test in late January/early February. The timing of the Qatar race would be changed, so the race would be at 7pm rather than 9pm, with Moto3 and Moto2 running during daylight.

That will allow Qatar to be scheduled for a much earlier start, perhaps the first week of March, or even the last week of February. The season could then be broken up into two parts of ten races each, with a month break in the middle.

Where Finland fits in with that is uncertain, but it seems clear that a change is coming.

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MotoGP Mid-Season Review – A Wild Ride So Far

08/01/2017 @ 10:09 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Can part two of the (melo)drama that is the 2017 MotoGP season live up to part one? It has been a wild ride so far, but like any great fairground ride, we have ended up more or less back where we started.

Just five points separate Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales at the top of the championship, and Valentino Rossi in fourth is only ten points behind Márquez, with Andrea Dovizioso in between, a point behind Viñales.

If Márquez does not win the Czech Grand Prix at Brno on Sunday, there is every chance the championship will have a new leader. If there is, it would be the fifth time the title lead had changed hands so far this year. It has been a wild ride indeed.

So how did we get here? Through a mixture of rider swaps, tire changes, weird weather, and changing track conditions. Add in a healthy dose of spec electronics, the loss of winglets for this season, and a brace of astonishing rookies, and you have an explosive mixture.

At Mugello, perhaps the nearest thing we have had to a normal MotoGP weekend this year, the gap from the winner, Andrea Dovizioso, to Jack Miller in fifteenth was 30.7 seconds, with 50 seconds covering all 20 finishers.

In 2015, 30 seconds covered just the first eight riders. In 2013, only five other bikes finished within half a minute of the winner. Those kinds of gaps have been the rule for most of the modern era. But the old rules no longer apply.

Michelin can take much of the credit, or shoulder much of the blame, depending on your perspective. In their second year back in MotoGP, the French tire manufacturer have been a much more stable force in the series, the tires changing less this year than in 2016.

But that has not stemmed the complaints: there have been a string of riders muttering that the Michelins are not up to scratch, that they change too much from one race to the next, and even from one day to the next.

Are their concerns valid? Michelin deny it, of course, and give a long list of entirely plausible reasons for the tires to react differently from day to day.

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WorldSBK Wednesday – Silly Season Begins

07/19/2017 @ 10:25 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

It looks set to be a quiet year on the rider market for World Superbike, with the leading seats already filled for 2018, but there will still be some significant deals announced in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies, and Marco Melandri are all secure in their seats for next year, but Sykes had been linked with a move away from Kawasaki earlier this summer.

Prior to winning two races before the summer break, the 2013 World Champion had been touted as a potential target of Yamaha, but with wins in the bag it looks highly unlikely that he will make a switch.

For Ducati there is little reason to change their status quo, and the only change in their ranks could be the addition of a second bike to the Barni squad.

The Italian entry has thrived with Xavi Fores in the last year, and came close to adding a second machine for this year. If there is a fourth Ducati on the grid it will likely have a rider bringing money to the table for Barni.

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The MotoGP bikes have fallen silent for over a week now, the teams and riders dispersed to the four winds, nominally for “vacation”.

And while riders relaxed on a beach somewhere for a week, before returning to their training for the second-half of the season, teams and rider managers have been anything but dormant. There has been a hive of activity in preparation for the latter half of the season, and for some of the satellite teams, for 2018 as well.

For the Silly Season That Wasn’t Supposed To Be has stepped up a gear. The summer break has so far seen extensive negotiations going on over the MotoGP seats which will be free in 2018, and in some cases, whether a seat will become available or not.

Phone calls to team staff start with pleasantries about vacation time, but quickly reveal that vacation consists of at best a day or two taken in between meetings and preparations for the remainder of the year.

The first shoe to drop in the summer edition of MotoGP’s 2018 Silly Season is the revelation by Motorsport.com that Jack Miller will be joining Danilo Petrucci at Pramac Ducati for next season.

After losing his direct contract with HRC – that contract going to Cal Crutchlow instead – the Australian had been in talks with the Marc VDS squad about a contract directly with the team. However, a failure to agree terms over money, and a better offer from Ducati, pushed Miller towards Pramac.

The deal is yet to be announced, and teams are refusing to confirm anything officially. With Miller commuting between Japan for the Suzuka 8-Hour race and his home in Townsville, the Australian has been hard to reach for comment. But an announcement is expected when MotoGP convenes again at Brno.

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