While we were busy running around Cologne, Germany for the INTERMOT show, Honda Motor Europe was busy in France, for the Paris Motor Show. Debuting there another “Neo Café” concept model, the Japanese brand seems set to release a middleweight version of this popular trope.
Based off the Honda CB650F, the latest Honda Neo Café concept promises a 650cc inline-four engine package in a retro-modern style, similar to what Big Red has done with the Honda CB300R and Honda CB1000R. As such, we are very likely looking at an early version of the Honda CB650R.
And on Sunday, Ana Carrasco became the first female world champion in all of motorcycle racing, clinching the World Supersport 300 title in the final round of the season. Carrasco won the championship by the narrowest of margins, a single point, just ahead of Mika Perez, who lost the lead of the race with two corners left to go on the final lap.
BMW Motorrad is looking for new ways to get motorcyclists on the German brand’s two-wheelers, and as such BMW has created its “Rent a Ride” program. The name sort of gives things away, as the BMW “Rent a Ride” service is a short-term rental program that will be based out of BMW dealerships.
The concept is in its pilot phase right now, and focused on the German, Austrian, and French markets, with two dealers from each of these markets having a small fleet of motorcycles that renters can choose from.
If successful, the BMW “Rent a Ride” program will be rolled out to all BMW Motorrad dealers, effectively giving the German brand the largest motorcycle rental network in the world.
The second-quarter sales results from OEMs continue to roll in, and another brand is showing a decline, this time it is BMW Motorrad. Usually one of the stronger brands, in terms of yearly and quarterly growth, the Germans are reporting a 3.1% sales decline for Q2 2018.
In total, BMW Motorrad sold 51,117 units worldwide, compared to the 52,753 units it sold during the same time period last year. In terms of money, this sales drop means a corresponding 5.8% decline in revenue (€658 million) and a 6..8% decline in profits before tax (€174 million).
This is also translating into a 1.6% sales decline (by unit volume) for the first half of the year, with only 86,975 motorcycles and scooters sold to customers. This has resulted in a 10.1% revenue drop (€1,182 million), and a profit decrease of 23.7% (€196 million).
Covering the French GP in Le Mans, this episode sees Steve English and Neil Morrison on the mics, talking about all the news from the MotoGP round in France, as well as what is happening in the WorldSBK paddock.
An eventful race for the MotoGP Championship lead, the guys talk about the on-track action briefly, before switching gears and looking ahead to 2019. There are a lot of lucrative seats up for grabs next season, and the very real possibility that we could see Pedrosa and/or Lorenzo without a job.
Discussing those possibilities, and the rest of the rider market, the MotoGP Silly Season is truly in full-swing.
Switching paddocks, the conversation then turns to the WorldSBK Championship, and what contracts are on the tables there. Could Jonathan Rea switch to Ducati? Sykes to Yamaha? What about the Ducati Corse team.
There is some enticing smoke coming from the World Superbike teams, so it will interesting to see what fire comes of it.
Of course the show ends with the guys picking their biggest winners and losers from the weekend’s events, which isn’t as obvious this week as one would think.
We think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter 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!
Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking.
In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways.
In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa’s brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.
In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden’s championship challenge was over.
Valentino Rossi’s heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time.
Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.
Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia.
The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship.
And Sunday’s drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn’t finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.
Pressure comes in many different varieties in motorcycle racing. There is always the internal pressure to perform, of course, but that is natural. Without that, there are no results.
There is external pressure from the team, who want to succeed just as badly as the rider does. There is pressure from sponsors, who want to know their money has been well spent.
There is pressure from friends and family, who want to see a rider succeed, and from the fans, who will on their favorite riders. How a rider handles this pressure is usually the difference between success and failure in MotoGP.
Then there are occasions when the pressure rises to bursting point. When fighting for a championship, for example, when riders both need to win, but at the same time, they can’t afford to fall off.
Or at a rider’s home race, when the fans, the media are all willing you on to win, and show a lack of understanding if that doesn’t happen. How a rider handles this pressure is the difference between being a very good rider and being a great champion.
Riding at home can create extra pressure, especially if you are the only rider representing your country of birth. When it comes to home races, Spanish and Italian riders are at an advantage.
The pressure they have on them is much less than some of the other nationalities in MotoGP. Firstly, they have multiple attempts at getting it right at their home race. With four races in Spain and two in Italy, riders know that if they don’t do well in their first home race, they will get another shot at a second race.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there are plenty of riders to share the stress with. At Mugello in two weeks’ time, fans will come to see Valentino Rossi win, but will be just as happy if Andrea Dovizioso wins, or Andrea Iannone, or Danilo Petrucci, or even Franco Morbidelli.
Two weeks after that the fans will be cheering for Marc Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, the Espargaro brothers, Alex Rins, Tito Rabat. There isn’t the focus on one rider, who has one race to get everything just right.
Andrea Dovizioso’s manager arrived in Le Mans on Friday morning, and by Friday afternoon, the Italian had a new two-year contract with Ducati, provisional pole after FP2, and a new lap record.
Not a bad start to the weekend, and a harbinger of good things to come, you might think. This is after all not particularly a Ducati track, yet here he was, on top of the timesheets.
Perhaps having his future settled helped, but Dovizioso has been an expert at excluding distractions from his race weekends.
The simple fact is that the Ducati man was quick at Jerez, and is quick here, because he is in good form, and the bike is working really well. Dovizioso heads into qualifying feeling confident.
But there is a fly in the ointment, and it is Márquez-shaped, as always. Dovizioso had been pretty quick throughout the first part of FP2, just a couple of tenths behind the leader Márquez.
Then in his final run, he fitted a new soft rear slick, dropped six tenths of a second off his best time and set a new lap record around Le Mans. It was an impressive showing of blistering speed.
Dovizioso had demoted Marc Márquez to second place, yet that still left Dovizioso much to fear. Márquez may have been nearly two tenths faster than Dovizioso, but Dovizioso had set his quickest lap on a new soft rear with just four laps on it.
Márquez had set his best time on an old hard rear tire with twelve laps on it. In terms of outright race pace, Márquez looks very hard to beat.
But it is still only Friday, and the difference between the soft and the hard rear tires is not as great as you might think.
After all, Dovizioso had set a 1’32.562 on an old soft tire with nineteen laps on it, or about two-thirds race distance. Race pace for both Dovizioso and Márquez looks to be very strong indeed.