At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

MotoGP Adding Breathalyzer to Drug Test Protocol

04/20/2017 @ 9:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Going forward, the MotoGP Championship will begin testing its riders for alcohol consumption, adding a breathalyzer test to its random drug screening process.

While alcohol use has been banned in MotoGP since 2004, today’s news comes as the FIM has added the testing protocol to its 2017 medical code.

Like its current process regarding the screening for drug use, the FIM will pick three random riders before several rounds during the season, and make them take a mandatory breathalyzer test.

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Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

04/17/2017 @ 1:44 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

We have a soft spot for the FIM Endurance World Championship series, here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands.

Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry.

The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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World Superbike Follows MotoGP, Drops Penalty Points

04/04/2017 @ 4:33 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

After the Grand Prix Commission abolished penalty points at their meeting at Qatar, it was inevitable that they would meet the same fate in World Superbikes.

At the latest meeting of the Superbike Commission, the rule-making body for the WorldSBK series, the penalty point system was abolished in the World Superbike Championship, just as it has been in MotoGP.

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2017 MotoGP Calendar Becomes Official

01/23/2017 @ 4:35 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

The 2017 MotoGP calendar is now officially confirmed. The FIM removed the provisional status of the calendar after Dorna finalized contracts with the two remaining circuits still left with an asterisk: Silverstone and Sepang.

The situation with Sepang had been settled earlier, with Sepang keen to retain a MotoGP race for the long term. Sepang has grown to become one of the best-attended races on the calendar. So large are the crowds that they now easily outnumber attendance for F1, which the circuit is trying to drop.

Silverstone was the last race to be finalized. Representatives from the Circuit of Wales, which holds the contract for the British round of MotoGP, had traveled to the Movistar Yamaha launch in Madrid, where they met with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.

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FIM Appoints Steve Aeschlimann as New CEO

01/12/2017 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme is set for some new leadership, as Steve Aeschlimann has been appointed to take over from Ignacio Verneda as CEO of the FIM.

Aeschlimann has been a senior member of the FIM since 2011, holding several high ranks within the organization during his tenure. Before joining the FIM, Aeschlimann was the Director of the UEFA, the European Football Union.

Now as the CEO of the FIM, Aeschlimann’s goal will be to modernize motorcycling’s highest governing body, which will be no easy task.

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Michelin Will Automatically Display Tire Usage in MotoGP

12/24/2016 @ 3:31 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

The Grand Prix Commission has made a couple of minor changes to the MotoGP regulations for the 2017 season, and unlike many rule changes, at least one of them will be met with outright joy by most MotoGP fans. 

The biggest change to be announced is the adoption of Michelin’s wireless technology that allows them to automatically identify which tire a rider is using, and pass that information back to the Dorna data feed.

This data will then be available to all teams and riders, but far more importantly, it will also be available to TV broadcasters. No longer will they have to rely on the sterling work of pit lane reporters such as MotoGP.com’s excellent Dylan Gray, they will have the information at their fingertips.

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Barcelona Circuit Modifies F1 Chicane for MotoGP Use

12/16/2016 @ 3:42 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, home to the Barcelona round of MotoGP, has agreed a new track layout to be used for MotoGP from now on.

After consultation with the FIM and the FIA, the circuit has settled upon a slightly revised version of the F1 layout used during the race at Barcelona this year, with the chicane at the (new) Turn 14 and Turn 15 having been moved several meters closer to the (new) Turn 13, providing more run off at the chicane.

The new layout confirms the use of the F1 layout after Turn 9, the right hander leading on to the back straight.

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An Argument for World Superbike’s New Grid

12/12/2016 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

Did you hear the news? The World Superbike Championship has officially jumped the shark, with a new wacky formula for the Race 2 grid. At least, that is what the internet seems to think.

I understand the push-back from purists of the sport, as the new rules set forth by the Superbike Commission are nothing short of gerrymandering for the sake of the show.

My right and honorable colleague David Emmett described the changes as violating the “sporting ethos of a World Championship series,” and he’s right. The new rules for the Race 2 grid are not sporting. Not in the least.

But, the key thing here to understand is that motorcycle racing stopped being a sport the second fans showed up and TV contracts were signed. World Superbike competes for viewership, just like any other sport, which means money is made on passes and crashes.

When you look at the realities of the World Superbike Championship too, Dorna’s madness makes a bit more sense. I’m not saying I agree with it, but I at least get what they are trying to accomplish, and why they are doing it. Let me explain.

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MotoGP Rules Get Tweaked for 2017

12/09/2016 @ 11:32 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

December is a time for reflection, and for making the necessary changes to the rulebook where incidents during the season have made clear.

Last week, MotoGP’s rule making body, the Grand Prix Commission met to review the 2016 season and make a few necessary adjustments to the MotoGP rulebook. Fortunately, they decided not to do anything quite so drastic as the Superbike Commission did at the same time.

The most eye-catching change is the dropping of intermediate tires in MotoGP. Intermediates had been introduced at the request of the teams and Dorna, to allow riders to go out during sessions when conditions were not suitable for slicks.

However, the experience of 2016 showed that intermediates were rarely used, and when they were, they added little or no value over soft slicks or hard wets.

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2017 MotoGP Provisional Calendar Updated

12/07/2016 @ 11:28 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Sunday-MotoGP-Sachsenring-German-GP-Cormac-Ryan-Meenan-15

The FIM today issued a revised and updated version of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar. The calendar features just a single change: the date of the German round of MotoGP at Sachsenring has been moved forward two weeks, and will now take place on July 2nd.

The change has both benefits and disadvantages. On the plus side, moving the date of the Sachsenring race means that the riders now have a proper summer break again, with a month off to recover between the Sachsenring and the following race at Brno.

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