Harrison, On Chasing a 135 MPH Lap at the TT

On Saturday during the RST Superbike race, Dean Harrison smashed the outright Isle of Man TT lap record with a 134.432 mph lap of Mountain Course. It was the culmination of a long apprenticeship on the roads for the Bradford rider, and having claimed a second career TT victory this week, he’ll be out to impress once again during the Senior TT on Friday. Road racing is in his blood, his father Conrad is a sidecar race-winner, but for Dean the challenge has been to gain the experience to show what he can do on the 37-mile long circuit. That experience has been taking place on the roads, at home studying videos, and racing in the British Superbike Championship to understand more about what it takes to reach the limit of his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.

The Honda Super Cub Is Finally Coming Back to the USA

It has been 44 years since Honda offered the Super Cub on American soil. That is a pretty astounding thing to say, when you think about it, because the Super Cub is the best selling motorcycle in the world – with 100 million units sold, as of 2017. Needless to say, the Honda Super Cub is beyond iconic, and it is the go-to people mover in more countries than we can count. Now helping Honda fill-in a price-point hole in its motorcycle lineup, the 2019 Honda Super Cub C125 will be one of the cheapest motorcycle that Honda has to offer inside the United States, with an MSRP of $3,599. Built using the same 125cc single-cylinder fuel-injected engine that features on the Grom and Monkey bikes, the Honda Super Cub C125 features a step-through body design and clutchless semi-automatic transmission, as well as ABS as standard.

Yesssh! The Honda Monkey Is Coming to the USA

There is something about the Honda Monkey that we find adorable and appealing, as we did with the Honda Grom, of which the Monkey shares a platform (namely, its 125cc single-cylinder engine with DOHC). So needless to say, we were thrilled when we heard that Honda would bring the Monkey into production, and today we get confirmation of news we expected: the Honda Monkey will come to the USA as a 2019 model. Priced at $3,999 of the USA ($4,199 if you want ABS), the 2019 Honda Monkey will be available in October, and come in two colors: red or yellow. A retro-styled mini-bike for the masses, the Monkey is unassuming and welcoming motorcycle, which is ideal for younger and newer riders.

The Big, Fat, Comprehensive MotoGP Silly Season Update

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP. So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions that almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen.

Here’s a First Look at the MV Agusta Moto2 Race Bike

After a substantial hiatus, MV Agusta is headed back to the Grand Prix paddock – though the Italian brand’s return isn’t into the MotoGP class. Instead, MV Agusta will take a more measured, and a more curious, entry with a Moto2 team. Set to use a 765cc Triumph three-cylinder engine in the class from 2019 onward, it is a little curious to see MV Agusta racing in the Moto2 series, but the similarities between the British engine and what MV Agusta itself produces in Italy, is perhaps close enough. While we don’t expect to see the MV Agusta Moto2 bike on the track until next month, today we get our first glimpse at what the race bike will look like. Unsurprisingly, the machine looks very much like the three-cylinder MV Agusta F3 supersport.

Well It’s Official: HRC Signs Jorge Lorenzo for MotoGP

Yesterday the shock news from the MotoGP paddock was that Dani Pedrosa was to leave the Repsol Honda team, after 18 years with HRC and Honda. Now, the news continues to astound, as HRC has confirmed that is has signed Jorge Lorenzo to a two-year contract with its MotoGP program, which will see the three-time MotoGP world champion join Marc Marquez in the factory Honda team. The terse HRC announcement confirms reports that were published yesterday, almost immediately after Dani Pedrosa’s departure from Honda was made public. A bit of a surprise to paddock pundits, who had widely tipped Lorenzo as headed to a satellite Yamaha effort, Lorenzo’s jump to Honda is certainly an interesting one.

Making the Jump From BSB to Ballagarey

Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes are two riders who have proved that short circuit riders can still make the switch to the roads. Twenty years ago the, top British short circuit riders were all racing on the roads. Whether you were an up and coming John McGuinness, or an established star like Michael Rutter, it was expected that you would join the list of short circuit racers that raced on the roads. The practice was as old as factory contracts, and it was expected that if you wanted to have the best bikes in the British championships, you would race at the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT. That practice has slowly faded out, but in recent years the move has been made by some short circuit riders to return to the roads.

This Might Be the Best Buell on the Market

You won’t often find me talking about my deep desires for a Buell motorcycle in my garge – any long-time Asphalt & Rubber reader should surely know this by now. But, what you are looking at here might be the only Buell I lust after – in Claudia Schiffer sort of way. The bike I am referring to is the BOTT XR1R Pikes Peak race bike, which finished 4th in the exhibition class in 2017. You won’t see it at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this year though, unfortunately because of sponsorship reasons. But, this doesn’t have to be the final chapter of the BOTT XR1R Pikes Peak race bike however, and in fact, you could be writing its future story. This is because Bottpower is selling its race bike, and let me tell you, it is one tasty piece of two-wheeled machinery.

What Does the Yamaha NIKEN Look Like Naked?

It has to be the weirdest motorcycle yet, if you can even call it that (some don’t), but it is also luridly intriguing. we are of course talking about the Yamaha NIKEN (read the ride review here, by the way). A mullet of machines, the NIKEN is business in the front, and party in the back, with its dual 15-inch front wheels mated to a grand total of four conventional fork tubes, via an elaborate parallelogram linkage, while the 17-inch rear wheel spins from a more conventional swingarm design. This is because from behind the headstock, things get a bit more familiar, with a chassis that is built mostly from steel tube, and a swingarm that comes from cast aluminum. The motor is a revised version of the three-cylidner engine that is found in the Yamaha MT-09.

BMW Motorrad Concept 9Cento – Looking at the Future

What you are looking at here is the BMW Motorrad Concept 9Cento. It is a middleweight adventure-sport motorcycle concept that BMW showed off this past weekend in Lake Como, Italy – at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. The 9Cento Concept is an interesting look into BMW Motorrad’s mindset, with the German brand showing a new platform for its parallel-twin engines. The bike is sporty in nature, and focuses on providing a motorcycle that can do it all: fast canyon-carving, long-distance touring, and urban riding. The adventure-sport is a crossover concept that BMW has latched onto already with its S1000XR model, and now it seems that the folks in Berlin are looking to add to that lineup even further, with chatter that the 9Cento is likely to become a production model in the near-ish future.

Unstoppable Lorenzo Wins the Catalan GP

06/17/2018 @ 7:06 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The trouble with racing in MotoGP at the moment is that no matter how spectacular your riding, no matter how phenomenal your achievements, no matter how dominant your performance, you will always, always be upstaged by Marc Márquez.

“The worst thing is that we have to deal with the situation of Marc saving [crashes] every week,” Cal Crutchlow complained, only half joking. “It makes the rest of us on Honda look like idiots. Imagine how many he has saved this year compared to how many we have we crashed. He saves fifteen a weekend.”

Saturday in Barcelona was yet another example, and perhaps Márquez’ biggest yet. In the dying seconds of FP4, after passing Xavier Simeon through Turn 12, Márquez entered Turn 14 and the front folded completely on him.

Where other riders would simply go down, Márquez was unwilling to surrender without a fight. “It was last corner, last lap and I lose the front,” the Repsol Honda rider told the press conference.

“I was fighting against everything, against the bike, against my knee pushing a lot. Then it looks like I was able to save it, but the when I go on the dirty part of the track, I again lose the front.”

He had not yet had a chance to look at the data, he said. “I already said to [my team] to check, but what I can say is that the steering was full close because I feel, but it was long. It was very long this one. It was maybe the longest one in my career.”

Long enough to upstage everyone else on Saturday, despite there being many riders deserving of attention.

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Lorenzo Continues Form in Catalan GP Qualifying

06/17/2018 @ 12:59 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

From time to time, the media gets hoist by its own petard. A story comes along which everyone picks up and runs with, pushed to ever more dizzying heights of breathless commentary; what ifs, maybes, and wild speculation.

Professional sports are soap opera for men, as the great darts promoter Barry Hearn once said, and the logical corollary of that is that sports media extrapolate throwaway comments and a handful of facts into vast sweeping narratives.

Thus it was that what looked like the entire MotoGP media contingent packed into Honda’s hospitality unit to hear what Dani Pedrosa had to say during his media debrief. It was both genuinely impressive and actually quite frightening.

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Being a replacement rider is never easy. Being asked to replace a factory MotoGP rider is always an honor, and one which nobody wants to turn down, but it also means being thrown in at the deep end, with a new bike, new tires, and sometimes even new tracks to learn with little or no testing.

Bearing all that in mind, experience can make the world of difference. So when Suzuki were forced to replace Alex Rins, after he broke his left arm in Austin, they turned to one of the most experienced riders around.

Sylvain Guintoli spent five seasons in 250s and two full seasons in MotoGP, before heading off to World Superbikes, where he won the title in 2014. He is currently racing the brand new Suzuki GSX-R1000 for Bennetts Suzuki in the BSB championship.

In Barcelona, I found myself alone at Guintoli’s debrief, and had a chance to spend fifteen minutes talking to the Frenchman.

We had a wide-ranging conversation, covering topics as diverse as the changes to the bikes and tires since 2008, the character of the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, and how it compares to Suzuki’s production GSX-R1000.

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Sete Gibernau Snagged in Spanish Tax Dragnet

06/21/2017 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Spanish tax authorities have been stepping up their game in recent months, and now they have two high-profile cases to show for their hard work. This matters in the two-wheeled universe because one of the case involves former MotoGP racer Sete Gibernau.

According to prosecutors in Barcelona, Gibernau defrauded the Spanish government of roughly €2.8 million. Gibernau on the other-hand says that during the time in question, from 2005 to 2006, he did not live in Spain, but instead lived in Switzerland.

Spanish prosecutors however state that Gibernau did not live in Switzerland, like he says, but instead lived in Esplugues de Llobregat, a province in Catalunya.

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It is not often that journalists get to speak to team managers at length, but test days provide the perfect opportunity to do just that. So it was that a small group of journalists attending the tests sat down with Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio to discuss progress so far.

There was a lot to talk about. There have been rumors that Andrea Iannone is not fitting in well with the ECSTAR Suzuki team, and is currently engaged in talks with Aprilia about moving there for the 2018 season. Some of Iannone’s issues are down to his problem adapting to the bike, and trying to fix his feeling with the front end.

Brivio spoke to us about Iannone’s situation, and the development of the GSX-RR. He also talked about the benefits of a satellite team, what Suzuki is doing to improve the spec electronics package, the test program at Barcelona, and the return of Alex Rins for the test.

It was a long discussion, but there was plenty to go over. We think you will enjoy it.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #54 – Italian & Catalan GP

06/15/2017 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 54 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison doing double duty, as they cover the last two rounds for the MotoGP Championship’s – the Italian GP and the Catalan GP.

The show’s focal point is obviously the double-win for Ducati Corse and Andrea Dovizioso, as the Italians are clearly finding their stride this year with the GP17. Dovizioso’s double also means a shake-up in the MotoGP Championship standing, which David and Neil discuss at length.

The brings up a conversation about what is happening inside the Honda and Yamaha garages, as both factories seem to be struggling this season, though at different times, at different tracks, and under different conditions.

The show also covers the events of Monday’s MotoGP test at Barcelona, which sees some talk of Yamaha’s different chassis, and what tires Marc Marquez prefers from Michelin.

The conversation then turns to the Moto2 and Moto3 championships, before the guys talk about their winners and losers of the two weekends.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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Why go testing on Monday after a race? Even though riders are pretty drained after a full race weekend, riding on Monday provides really useful feedback. First of all, the track is clean and already rubbered in.

Weather conditions are usually close enough to race day to provide good comparison. But above all, the riders are already up to speed, so no time is wasted.

Johann Zarco put it very nicely: “I enjoy it so much, because you don’t lose half day to find the feeling, you already have the feeling,” the Frenchman said. “You just wake up, warm the bike up and you are ready, and you can start to work.”

“We did the same today. It’s good anyway. Even if you are tired from Sunday, you go on the bike, going over 300 km/h and that’s just a nice life!”

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Are Michelin deciding the 2017 MotoGP championship? That would be an easy conclusion to draw after the war of attrition which the Gran Premi de Catalunya at Barcelona turned into. It would also be inaccurate.

This race, like the race at Jerez, was about managing tires in poor grip conditions, with the added complication in Barcelona of extremely high tire wear. The riders and bikes which managed that best ended up at the top of the results sheet. The bikes and riders which struggled with that went backwards, and lost out.

And yet Michelin undeniably has a role in all this. After the race, Honda boss Livio Suppo pointed out that we were seeing different manufacturers do well at each different race.

The pendulum swings between one and another, as a particular team or a particular factory hits the performance sweet spot for the tires, and gets the most out of them. At the next race, it’s a different rider, a different bike, a different team.

The criticism Suppo had was that the sweet spot for the tires could be hard to find. “The tires seem to have a very narrow operating window. If you get it right, you can be competitive,” he told me.

If you didn’t get it right, if you couldn’t find that operating window, you are in deep trouble. “Maybe it would be better if that window was bigger.”

That may be true. When Bridgestone were official tire supplier to MotoGP, their tires had a much wider operating window. But that tended to reward the teams with the biggest budgets to spend the most time analyzing data, finding the perfect setup, and the riders who could ride with inch-perfect precision for 25 laps.

That left little room for improvisation, for adapting to circumstances, for the element of surprise. Whether you prefer the Bridgestone way, rewarding relentless precision, or the Michelin way, rewarding the ability to adapt quickly, is probably a factor of where you as a fan fall on the Motorcycle Racing Purist Scale.

However you feel about it, though, the racing in the Michelin era is undeniably more entertaining.

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