Rumors of a New Aprilia RSV4 Begin

This is the 10th year of the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, and despite that duration, the V4 superbike remains one of the top machines that you can stick in your garage. Part of this is due to the fact that the RSV4 is an incredibly well-engineered high-tech motorcycle. After all, it was the first superbike to use an inertial measurement unit (IMU) in conjunction with traction control, and one of the first superbikes to have a ride-by-wire throttle. The other part of Aprilia’s dominance comes down to the fact that the Italian brand has consistently updated the RSV4 every couple of years, helping keep it at the sharp end of the superbike stick. Now if you believe the rumors, the 2019 model year will be no different.

Cameron Beaubier Headed to WorldSBK for 2019?

When you talk to veterans of motorcycle racing about which American could be the next champion at the international level of the sport, one name is almost always included in that very short list: Cameron Beaubier. This is not only because of Beaubier’s status as a two-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion, but also his experience abroad. A promising young rider, Beaubier impressed during the 2007 Red Bull Rookies Cup season, which found him some riders on the international stage before returning to the USA. Now a proven talent on domestic soil, along with his experience abroad, Beaubier is an easy pick to make when looking for Americans to promote to a paddock like the WorldSBK Championship. And now that is exactly the case, with the Cameron Beaubier tipped for ride in World Superbike next season.

More Details on the KTM 790 Adventure R Emerge

The KTM 790 Duke hasn’t even made it to American soil yet — though, it strangely can race in the production middleweight class at Pikes Peak… — and we are already talking about its off-roading sibling, the KTM 790 Adventure R. Built around the same 799cc parallel-twin engine found in the Duke model, the Adventure variant takes things to a whole new level for ADV riders. Promising light weight, plenty of off-road power, and Dakar-inspired chassis components, this should be the adventure-tourer that dual-sport riders have been asking for. With the production version of the KTM 790 Adventure R set to debut later this year at the annual industry trade shows, most of our appetite has been sustained by the prototype bike, which has been making the marketing rounds.

Tom Sykes, Where Will You Be Racing Next Year?

With Jonathan Rea’s future firmly set at the Kawasaki Racing Team, the focus this past weekend at Laguna Seca was on the future of his teammate, Tom Sykes. The Yorkshire man had spared few words in the media for his team and teammate in the days ahead of the California round, and he certainly wasn’t holding too much back once he was at Laguna Seca. You could almost smell the smoke emanating from Sykes, a result of the bridge that was being burned behind him. Sykes is 99.9% not riding with Kawasaki for the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, and he finds himself as one of the top picks in the paddock in the rider market. Chaz Davies is another top rider who is highly sought after in the paddock, and he is likely to remain at Ducati.

Moto2 Builders Out Testing the Triumph Triple

The 2019 Moto2 Championship is rapidly approaching, and next year’s season sees the introduction of a new spec-engine platform. Using a 765cc three-cylinder engine from Triumph, Moto2 competitors have begun testing their new chassis designs for the British triple. Out in Aragon, we get our first glimpse of the front-running race bike providers: Kalex, KTM, and NTS, as well as Triumph’s own test mule, which uses a Daytona 675 chassis. Shaking down their machines ahead of the start of next season, bike manufacturers focused on learning the new race engine and its accompanying spec-ECU. The Kalex was ridden by Moto2 racer Alex Marquez and test rider Jesko Raffin; on the KTM was Julian Simon and test rider Ricky Cardús; and on the NTS was Moto2/MotoGP veteran Alex de Angelis.

Polaris Moving Production to Europe Because of Tariffs?

President Trump’s trade war is about to see another player in the motorcycle industry jump ship from American soil, and this time it is heavyweight Polaris Industries. According to a report by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Polaris is considering moving some of its production capacity to Europe, eyeing a production facility in Poland that would build units for the European market. The move is a direct response to the retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union on motorcycle imports, which itself was a response to the Trump Administration’s taxing of steel and aluminum imports.

Here’s Why Suzuki’s New Factory Is Such a Big Deal

One of the more overlooked announcements this week is perhaps one of the bigger ones we have seen in a while, as Suzuki Motor Corp has announced the creation of a new manufacturing plant in Hamamatsu, Japan. The new factory combines engineering, development, engine production, and vehicle assembly into one location, which will streamline operations, increase efficiency, and reduce production costs on Suzuki’s Japanese-made motorcycle models. Over 40 acres in size, the new factory is massive, and it sits in the Miyakoda district of Hamamatsu. Part of a five-year consolidation plan, the new factory replaces an engineering and development facility in Ryuyo; an engine production plant in Takatsuka; and a motorcycle assembly line in Toyokawa.

Take a Look at the Norton Atlas, Another British Scrambler

Today we get another look at Norton’s 650cc project, now named the Norton Atlas. We have already seen concept sketches for this British scrambler, and now Norton is showing us some engineering renders. This is because the physical machine should debut later this year, at the NEC bike show in November. Details are still vague and light, but we do know that the 650cc parallel-twin engine will piggyback off the work done for Norton’s V4 superbike. Essentially the using the V4 engine with its rear cylinders lopped off, the parallel-twin engine shares the same head, pistons, valves, etc as the V4 bike. Several flavors of the Atlas are expected to come to market, with 70hp and 100hp naturally aspirated versions already planned, as well as a supercharged version that is said to clear 175hp.

Limited Edition Celebrates 25 Years of the Ducati Monster

This year marks the 25th year of the Ducati Monster, one of the most iconic motorcycles ever to come out of the Borgo Panigale assembly line. To commemorate this 25-year mark, we have the aptly named Ducati Monster 1200 25° Anniversario. A special edition version of the Italian naked bike, only 500 Anniversario models will be produced for the world’s market, with the highlight being the machine’s tricolore livery and gold frame and wheels. Mostly an aesthetic exercise, the Ducati Monster 1200 25° Anniversario comes with some top-shelf parts, and a number of pieces to make this a unique member of any Ducatisti’s garage. Key features include Öhlins suspension, forged Marchesini wheels, and Ducati’s up/down quickshifter mechanism.

Harley-Davidson Moving Production Because of Trade War

We have already reported on the European Union’s 25% tariff increase (6% to 31%) on American-made motorcycles, and how those import taxes are going to affect in particular Harley-Davidson. The short version: not well. Seeing that writing on the wall, Harley-Davidson has responded to Europe’s retaliatory tariffs, though it is perhaps not the response that the American government was hoping for when it began taxing aluminum and steel from European Union member states. As such, Harley-Davidson plans to shift its production for motorcycles destined to the European market from its factories in the United States to it facilities abroad.

MotoGP Preview of the Dutch TT

06/28/2018 @ 11:22 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The tale of the TT Circuit at Assen is really the tale of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

That is hardly surprising, given that the race has featured on the calendar since Grand Prix racing was born, or rather, since the FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix Road Racing World Championship was established, back in 1949. And like Grand Prix racing, it has roots which go back a long way before that.

The first race took place in 1925, a year after the Dutch government passed a law permitting racing on public roads. It ran over cobbled roads and sand tracks between three villages to the east of Assen: Rolde, Borger, and Schoonlo.

The next year it moved south of Assen, again over public roads, between De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen, and Laaghalerveen. It stayed there until 1955, when the first sections of what would become the modern circuit were built.

The roads were closed and the circuit was separated from the world, an isolated loop of tarmac, where racing was safer, easier to organize, and, not coincidentally, easier to monetize.

The inaugural Grand Prix season in 1949 took place mainly on circuits set out using public roads, which made for long tracks taken at high speed (Bremgarten in Switzerland and Monza in Italy were the two purpose-built circuits on the calendar, but Bremgarten, in particular, was a spectacularly dangerous circuit which wound through a forest).

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At the beginning of the year, I predicted on MotoMatters that MotoGP’s Silly Season this year would change the face of the MotoGP grid beyond recognition.

The revolution I predicted looks like it is coming to pass, but as with every prediction, the changes happening are beyond even what I had expected.

Young talent is coming into the series – Joan Mir, Miguel Oliveira – big names are changing bikes – Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone – and a couple of major names face being left without a ride altogether.

A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks. Contracts have been signed with Andrea Dovizioso, Johann Zarco, Aleix Espargaro, Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira, and Pol Espargaro, adding to the contracts signed earlier in the year with Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Marc Marquez, and Pecco Bagnaia.

With Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon already having a contract, there are thirteen seats officially taken for next year. Ducati have an option on Jack Miller – and look certain to exercise it – making it fourteen riders in a strong position.

And Taka Nakagami looks very likely to keep his seat at LCR Honda.

But the big news is what happens at Suzuki, Ducati, and Repsol Honda. Rumors that Joan Mir would sign for Suzuki grew very strong at Le Mans, as I wrote on Friday, and now appear to be taking shape.

The reliable Spanish journalist Mela Chercoles is reporting in sports daily AS that Joan Mir has signed a two-year deal with Suzuki, which will see him line up alongside Alex Rins for the next two years.

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Once upon a time, a post-race test would see almost a full complement of riders taking part. But in the past couple of years that has changed, as spec software has meant fewer things to do.

The spec software, the engine freeze, the aerodynamics freeze: there is less to test, and so more factories are opting out of the one-day post-race tests.

So it was at Jerez on Monday that the factory Ducati riders, the Ecstar Suzuki team, and the Gresini Aprilia squad all decided to skip the test at Jerez in favor of some private testing at Mugello later in the week.

Behind closed doors, they can work a little more freely, away from the prying eyes of the press, and especially of a contingent of photographers.

There are other reasons to be wary of a post-race test. The track is in as good a condition as it is going to get on the Monday after a race. It has been swept clean by a weekend of racing, and the last class to smear its rubber all over the track is MotoGP.

So the bikes are treated to a clean, well rubbered in circuit, allowing lap times to drop. The average improvement between the race and the test was nearly 1.3 seconds a lap.

About half the 16 permanent riders who took to the track on Monday improved their times from qualifying. It is fair to say that Monday tests can be deceptive.

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Miguel Oliveira into MotoGP in 2019 with Tech3

05/06/2018 @ 10:00 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

It has been a big weekend of news for KTM at Jerez. First, there was Pol Espargaro extending his contract. Then the factory KTM team announced they had signed Johann Zarco.

And now, the first seat at the KTM Tech3 team has been filled, with Miguel Oliveira moving up to MotoGP for 2019.

The Portuguese rider had been widely expected to make the move. Oliveira has progressed all the way through the KTM Red Bull project, from Moto3 to Moto2 and now up to MotoGP.

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The Clock Keeps Ticking for Bradley Smith

04/19/2018 @ 4:37 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

That the world keeps spinning and the clock never stops is one of the few constants in life. For a MotoGP rider, that is even more true. For one in a contract year, it always seems to speed the process up throughout a campaign.

Bradley Smith had to deal with the pressures of expectation last year, and he knows that teething issues will be no excuse in 2018.

The British rider also knows that the KTM will be a sought after seat throughout the silly season, and with Johann Zarco and Dani Pedrosa having been heavily linked with a move to the Austrian manufacturer, it is clear that Smith needs to exceed expectations.

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How Far Can Talent Take You?

04/08/2018 @ 1:45 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

God-given ability can be a crutch or curse depending on the mindset of an athlete. Talent can take you all the way to the top, but eventually you'll face a challenge that can only be overcome through hard work.

Lessons need to be learned along the way to ensure success, and only a handful of riders ever make it to MotoGP on their talent alone.

Most riders marry talent with dedication at an early age in the Grand Prix paddock, and some have had to learn those lessons at a very young age. Vince Lombardi once said that “the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

In any sport, to get to the very top you need dedication as well as raw talent, but how far can natural ability get you in motorcycle racing? We set out to answer that question at the recent Qatar Grand Prix.

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MotoGP Teams Finish Private Test at Jerez

03/29/2018 @ 8:55 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The importance of a private test can sometimes be measured by the lack of news emerging from the track. For the past three days, the Jerez circuit has resounded to the bellow of MotoGP and WorldSBK machines, as Honda, Ducati, Aprilia, and KTM have shared the track.

Yet other than a couple of social media posts on Twitter and Instagram, there was next to no news from the test. The only official source was a brief news item on the official website of the Jerez circuit.

Despite that, it was an important test for the factories involved.

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It seems safe to say we are living in a new Golden Age of MotoGP. The stomach-churning tension of 2015 was followed by an unimaginably wild 2016 season, the racing turned on its head by the combination of Michelin’s first season back in MotoGP and the switch to fully spec Magneti Marelli electronics.

2017 saw the surprises keep on coming, with new and unexpected names such as Andrea Dovizioso and Johann Zarco becoming serious factors in the premier class. The field got deeper, the bikes more competitive, domination a thing of the past. All the signs are that this trend is going to continue in 2018.

Preseason testing has shown that there is now little to choose between four or maybe five of the six different manufacturers on the grid, while the sixth is not that far off being competitive as well.

Where we once regarded having four riders capable of winning a race as a luxury, now there ten or more potential winners lining up on a Sunday. This is going to be another thrilling season, with the title likely to go down to the wire once again.

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At its core, motorcycle racing is a war of diminishing returns, where manufacturers, teams, and riders dive ever deeper into the details in search of an advantage.

The latest battleground is in rider coaching, with riders and now teams using rider coaches / spotters / observers / analysts to help riders identify where they are strongest and weakest.

Spotters and rider coaches have been around for a while. Wilco Zeelenberg started working with Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha in 2010, and now has a similar role for Maverick Viñales. Jonathan Rea has worked with Keith Amor in WorldSBK, Amor also filming Rea to help him perfect his technique.

More recently, Valentino Rossi started working with former 250cc world champion Luca Cadalora, and has employed a rider coach for the VR46 Riders Academy, the talent pool of young Italian racers Rossi has taken under his wing.

Current Red Bull KTM MotoGP rider Bradley Smith was also a relatively early adopter. The Englishman has worked with former 500cc legend Randy Mamola since his entry into MotoGP, and is fulsome in his praise of the idea.

“I had Randy and I see that as a massive help just in terms of having eyes outside of the track,” Smith said. The Red Bull KTM spoke about rider coaches, their role and benefits, to a small group of journalists at the Sepang test.

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The second day of MotoGP testing at Sepang turned out to be Motor Monday. Four of MotoGP’s six manufacturers dedicated their day to gathering the data to make a decision on their 2018 engine.

All of them have the lessons of 2017 in mind, when the rule on sealed engines caught Suzuki out completely, and Honda to a lesser extent. Make the wrong choice in testing, and you have nineteen races to spend regretting it, much as Suzuki did last year.

The difficulty factories face is that the testing tracks early in the year are ideally suited to camouflage potential problems. Sepang is fast and wide, with relatively few very slow corners to test just how aggressive an engine might be. It is also almost as hot as the surface of Venus, which saps power and tames the engine.

Buriram replaces Phillip Island as a test track this year, but neither is conducive to teaching anything. Phillip Island is fast and flowing, and easy to go fast on. Buriram is stop and go in a heat even fiercer than Sepang, making a nonsense of engine assessment.

There’s the Qatar test, of course, but if you finally figure out what is wrong with your engine at Qatar, you have two weeks to fix it before the start of the season. That is not something that is ever going to happen, even in an ideal world.

So Monday was designated as engine day for the MotoGP teams, factory riders making a concerted effort to discern whether the engineers had found the correct direction for development.

It looks very much like that is the case for Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha. Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha confirmed that the new engine is better than their old ones, and have laid their worries to rest.

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