Remembering Nicky Hayden – Growing Up a Racer

Growing up in Kentucky, Nicky Hayden was a motorcycle racing protégé from an early age, but winning hasn’t come easy to the Hayden family. Over the last 15 years, Nicky Hayden has become one of the most recognisable faces in the motorcycle racing world. He’s morphed from the Kentucky Kid to an old hand of the paddock, and now the Kentucky Legend. But where did that legendary status come from? Hard work, dedication and an insatiable love of racing are the traits that have made Hayden famous, but the cornerstone has always been family and loyalty. “I grew up in Kentucky, where horse racing was really big, and my dad always jokes that with horses you’ve got to have the right bloodline,” said Hayden. “Both my mom and dad raced, so maybe he really was looking for a good bloodline!”

Ride in Peace, Nicky Hayden

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nicky Hayden today, the American motorcycle racer finally succumbing to the injuries he sustained on Wednesday, at 7:09 PM CEST. The former-MotoGP Champion was struck by a car, while he was training on his bicycle near the Rimini coast. After the incident, Hayden was ultimately treated at the trauma center at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he later passed away. While motorcycle fans around the world have been hoping for good news throughout this past weekend, and looking for signs that Nicky’s condition would improve, today Nicky’s race ended, with his family and friends at his side.

Americas Top Öhlins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Daniel Laine Kyle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California – known best for his speed shop, Kyle Racing – pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government earlier this week, after it was found that Kyle had been hiding cash-based purchases made at this business. Dan Kyle Racing is known best for being the largest Öhlins suspension dealership in the United States (if not the world), as the company offered aggressive pricing on the Swedish-born suspension, and was one of the first Öhlins dealers with an online presence in the early days of the internet. According to the plea agreement made between Kyle and the US Attorney’s Office, Kyle pleaded guilty to tax fraud and structuring currency transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements in the US Tax Code.

The 2017 Saroléa SP7 Is Ready for the Isle of Man TT

The focus for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT may center around Team Mugen’s dual entry with John McGuinness and Guy Martin, but one should not overlook this very attractive entry from Belgium. Saroléa is back for the 2017 Isle of Man TT, continuing with its state-of-the-art carbon fiber chassis goodness and retro fairing design. On board will once again be Dean Harrison, who will be gunning for a podium-finish on the 2017 Saroléa SP7. If looks alone could get you across the finish line, then Saroléa would have our vote. The Belgians have always been in the running for a strong result though, finishing 4th in 2014 and 5th in 2015. Maybe this year will be “their year” at the TT.

India Is Now the World’s Biggest Motorcycle Market

Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year). India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents

I am really excited about the Suzuki brand right now. Out of the four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the recession affected Suzuki the most, probably more than many people realize, but the Hamamatsu brand is poised to bring out some exciting machines in the coming few years. Could we finally see a turbocharged Suzuki this year though? The rumor mill is pointing to yes…but just pointing, and the reason is because of patents. Much of this internet rumors stems from a flood of patents that have been found, where Suzuki is patenting technology related to turbo-powered engines in motorcycles, or because of other patents that make reference or inference to being part of a turbocharged motorcycle.

No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.* “Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well. Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

KTM Caught Testing an Electric Street Bike

Spy photos from Austria have caught KTM testing a rather interesting motorcycle – one that does not run on a petroleum-based fuel, but rather it has an electric drivetrain at its core. This isn’t the first time that KTM has experimented with an electric motorcycle, of course, with the KTM Freeride E being available in select markets. However, the machine seen here is a pretty big step forward for the Austrian brand, from its modest electric dirt bike. Using the chassis of a KTM 390 Duke to house the battery, inverter, and motor, KTM’s electric street bike (we’ll call it the KTM E-Duke for now) looks like a rolling mess, but is what you would expect from a project in its early stages of development.

For the Geeks, Your Luke Skywalker HJC Helmet Is Here

I am a solid Star Wars geek, but not in the dress-up and go to a convention sort of way – if you know what I mean. But, this new lid from HJC might have me singing a different tune, as it mimics Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing “Red 5” fighter helmet, in a DOT legal ¾ helmet format. That’s just cool…in a really un-cool sort of way. Based off the budget-friendly HJC IS-5 helmet, this Luke Skywalker replica will cost roughly $180 when it comes out (at a date still to be determined). Additionally, 10 versions of the lid will be signed by Mark Hamill, and auctioned for charity (UNICEF and the Starlight Children’s Foundation), if your geekdom takes you in such a direction (and you have a four-figure wallet).

Hayden: “It’s Clear That There Is A Problem”

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in its search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team’s struggles will continue. Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend, but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again. Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round, the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

The Dynamic Duo That Is John McGuinness & Guy Martin

01/24/2017 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Honda Racing’s pairing of John McGuinness with Guy Martin is looking like a masterpiece right now. Not only are the two racers extremely fast around a road course, but they are also extremely entertaining to watch when off the track.

Sitting both McGuinness and Martin down for a chat about the upcoming season, Honda has put together a very entertaining video that shows the charismatic personalities of these two very different riders.

After some talk about favorite racing moments from the past, whether they fancy beer over tea, and other similar topics, things get down to brass tacks, with a baited conversation about who is the faster rider.

The interactions and exchanges between McGuinness and Martin are more than entertaining, so we think you will enjoy the long-ish video of them, after the jump.

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This Is What It’s Like to Hang Out with John McGuinness

01/13/2017 @ 8:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

John McGuinness is a pretty cool dude. You would know that if you spent some time with him. In case you haven’t though, here is you best chance, as British actor Andrew Shim is working on a project called “Inside the Passion” – the first episode of which covers McPint, in all his Average Joe glory.

The format is one part “day in the life” and another part “candid interview”…and there might be a couple fart and dick jokes in there as well. All in all, it shows McGuinness to be the down-to-earth fella most fans know him to be, and most racers aren’t.

At over 20 minutes long, there are also some fun cameos from riders like Lee Johnston and Conor Cummins.

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Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

12/29/2016 @ 3:04 pm, by Steve English9 COMMENTS

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. 

At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes.

The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again.

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The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 2: On Moto2

12/15/2016 @ 11:20 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 2: On Moto2

Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

Ajo explained how he goes about identifying talent in the first part of this two-part interview. In the second part, he gives more insight into the process of building a winning team.

Ajo talks about how he nearly ended up working with Romano Fenati in 2017, and some of the factors which prevented it. Ajo also explains why he believes Moto2 is the toughest category in motorcycle racing, and the daunting challenge stepping up to the intermediate category can be.

The Finnish team manager also dives more deeply into the importance of a team, and surrounding a rider with the right pieces to help him get the best out of himself. 

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The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 1: On Identifying Talent

12/15/2016 @ 10:19 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

The list of champions and great riders he has produced is almost endless: Marc Marquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Sandro Cortese, Luis Salom, Danny Kent to name just a few. 

To find out how he does it, I sat down with Aki Ajo at Valencia and spoke for nearly half an hour. The results of this interview were fascinating, and offer a great insight into the how to get the best out of a rider, to help them achieve success.

In the first part of this interview, he shares his philosophy of racing and team management, of motivation, and what keeps him going. He also talks about the difference it makes working with a rider the second time around, and why he is happy with his current crop of riders in Moto2 and Moto3.

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Eugene Laverty Explains His Return to Aprilia & WSBK

12/02/2016 @ 12:34 pm, by Kent Brockman3 COMMENTS

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The Jerez Test was hardly the first day at school for either Eugene Laverty or Lorenzo Savadori, but while the bike was similar, it was new surroundings for both riders.

With the Shaun Muir Racing squad switching to an Aprilia steed in 2017, the opening day of the Jerez test was the team’s first experience of the Italian bike.

Both Laverty and Savadori have plenty of experience on the RSV4, the Irishman was a title contender on the bike, and Savadori raced it this year, and that certainly helped both throughout the day.

For SMR however, it was all change, having used BMW S1000RRs during their debut WorldSBK season. For team boss, Shaun Muir, it was clearly an important day for the British squad.

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Marco Melandri Talks About His Return to World Superbike

11/27/2016 @ 10:46 am, by Kent Brockman10 COMMENTS

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The return of Marco Melandri to World Superbike in 2017 has been one of the biggest talking points in the series over the last few months. The Italian has won 19 races, from 100 starts, in the championship, and as a former 250GP World Champion, and 22-times Grand Prix winner, his credentials are highly impressive.

The last two years have been a blot on the copybook, however. Having enjoyed an exceptionally strong finish to the 2014 WorldSBK season, Melandri looked well placed to finally win a second world title.

Winning six races and finishing fourth in the standings looked to be a perfect springboard for a title run the following year, but Aprilia had other ideas and with Melandri, and the Italian was forced to race in MotoGP. The relationship then turned sour.

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How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

11/23/2016 @ 5:36 pm, by Kent Brockman6 COMMENTS

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It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it.

Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, 39 victories from 76 races, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements.

The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, and the Italian manufacturer’s renaissance over the last 12 months has made it the early favorite for title success in 2017.

New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

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Q&A: Dani Pedrosa – Media & Changes from 990/800/1000

11/09/2016 @ 10:17 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Dani Pedrosa is in his eleventh season in MotoGP. Throughout that period, he has seen many changes in the premier class. He raced in the last year of the 990s, then throughout the 800 era, and saw the return of the 1000cc machines.

Only Valentino Rossi has been in MotoGP for longer, or raced, and won on, a greater variety of machines.

Pedrosa arrived in MotoGP being heralded as the next big thing, the prime candidate to challenge Valentino Rossi for the title. He started strongly, winning races in his first season, and clearly being competitive.

But the focus would shift in his second year to his former 250cc rival Casey Stoner, who took the factory Ducati ride and blew the competition out of the water in 2007.

In 2008, Jorge Lorenzo came to strengthen the top of MotoGP, creating the narrative of the four MotoGP Aliens. When Stoner hung up his helmet at the end of 2012, Marc Márquez stepped into his boots and upped the level of competition even further.

The level of competition Pedrosa has faced has meant he has not received the recognition he deserves for his incredible record. In eleven seasons, Pedrosa has won 29 races in MotoGP, putting him in 8th place on the all time winners list.

His win at Misano, after a very difficult start to the season, laid any doubts to rest over his motivation, and his ability. Pedrosa remains capable of winning any race he lines up on the grid for.

I spoke to Pedrosa at Misano, intending to look back at his time in MotoGP, and to discuss how things had changed. But the conversation took a slightly different tack than I was expecting.

In our conversation, Pedrosa talked about his relationship with the press, and how that had colored his time in the class.

Pedrosa has not always been the most talkative of riders – questions are sometimes answered with a tiny nod or shake of the head, where another rider might explain in great detail – but when he does talk, it is always worth listening carefully.

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Leon Camier – “To Be on the Podium Would Be Perfect”

10/18/2016 @ 6:08 pm, by Kent Brockman1 COMMENT

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Which rider has exceeded pre-season expectations the most in the 2016 WorldSBK season? For many inside the paddock, Leon Camier is the most popular and obvious response.

Coming into the season there was little expected of the Italian manufacturer, but eight Top 6 finishes mean it is easy to see why Camier’s performances are being hailed.

The fortunes of MV Agusta in 2016 have surpassed expectations to such a degree that there is now the expectation rather than hope of podium finishes.

“I think a lot of our improvement this year comes down to personnel,” said Camier, after the Jerez round of the championship. “Mainly it comes down to just having a little bit more structure in the team, so they can get the changes done they needed to get done.”

“The team is now more streamlined and Andrea Quadranti is the one boss. We brought in some extra staff, and that has helped, but we knew last year what we needed to change with the bike, and we’ve been able to make those changes this year.”

Having announced his decision to re-sign with the team for a third season, the changes made to the team and the improvement to the bike mean that he is well-placed to finally give the manufacturer their maiden podium finish.

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