KTM Finally Brings the Freeride E-XC to the USA

KTM was the first major motorcycle manufacturer to debut a production-ready electric motorcycle, all the way, way back in 2011. In true KTM fashion though, it has taken six years for the “Ready to Race” brand to be ready for the US market with its electric motorcycle design. This is because KTM North America is finally bringing the KTM Freeride E-XC to the United States, starting with a handful of dealerships (11, to be precise) who will carry the electric dirt bike, reportedly in limited quantities. Your guess is as good as ours as to why it took so long for KTM to bring the Freeride E-XC to the USA, though we have a pretty good idea why its debut is happening at this particular point in time. Even still, today’s news is just the first step to a full rollout.

“Ducati 959 Panigale Corse” Spotted in CARB Docs

If you dumpster dive through filings with the California Air Resources Board, you will find that Ducati has a new variant of its “middleweight” superbike ready for us, as the paperwork reveals a Ducati 959 Panigale Corse is on the way for the 2018 model year. The Ducati 959 Panigale Corse has the same emission figures, and is on the same filing as the current Ducati 959 Panigale, so we don’t expect any radical mechanical differences between the two motorcycles. But, looking at Ducati’s past with “Corse” models, there are a few pieces of information that we can glean from the news. The first piece of information is pretty obvious: the Ducati 959 Panigale Corse will be a special edition version of the 955cc sport bike, likely fitted with special parts (suspension, brakes, electronics) and a unique livery (bold new graphics).

Ducati Debuts New Aero “Hammerhead” Fairing at Brno

Ducati Corse has returned to using aerodynamic fairings, after packing up its “Hammerhead” design (as fans like to call it, Ducati not so much) at the preseason Qatar Test. As such, fans at the Czech GP were treated to the debut of a new fairing design at Brno. Featuring on the Desmosedici GP of Jorge Lorenzo during free practice, the new aerodynamic fairing design is an evolution of Ducati’s original winglet shape and its preseason attempt at replicating the winglets efficacy, while still adhering to the set of rules in MotoGP, which ban winglets. While the Hammerhead debuted to disappointing results, and thus has left Ducati Corse without an aerodynamic fairing so far this season, the new fairing design appears to be getting the nod from Lorenzo.

BMW HP4 Race Engine Life Set at 5,000km

If you’re in the market for a BMW HP4 Race – the carbon fiber clad superbike from Bavaria – the $78,000 price tag might not be all that you’re spending on, as BMW Motorrad has a few items in the fine print that you might want to be aware of – the first being the engine life. According to documents sent to BMW Motorrad dealers in the United States, the 212hp inline-four engine for the BMW HP4 Race comes with an expiration point of 5,000km (roughly 3,100 miles), at which point the entire engine will have to be replaced. There is no word yet what a new HP4 Race engine from BMW Motorrad will cost, but we do know that it will come from the factory with performance certification and already broken-in for immediate use.

Check Out This Aprilia RSV4-Powered Race Car

If you are in the market for a track-only race car, might we suggest the Griip G1. Though featuring double the wheels that we’re used to, this carbon fiber clad Formula 1000 cart is powered by a very familiar power plant: the Aprilia RSV4 superbike’s V4 engine. The RSV4 engine on the Griip G1 remains fairly stock, though it uses a drive shaft, instead of a chain drive, as it would on a motorcycles. As such, it makes roughly 201hp in this form, though the real value of the Griip G1 is the weight of the vehicle, which tips the scales at 860 lbs wet and fully fueled. Designed in Israel, and built in Italy, the Griip G1 will set you back a cool €52,900 if you are interested in owning one. To frame the figure on that price tag, the cost of a G1 is about the cost of three Aprilia RSV4 RR superbikes, over in Europe.

Bonnier Closes Sport Rider Magazine

It has been speculated in the motorcycle community for quite some time now, and the day has finally come, as the Bonnier Motorcycle Group (BMG) announced today that it is ceasing production of Sport Rider Magazine. The news about Sport Rider comes wedged into a larger announcement, which involves BMG restructuring its motorcycle publishing and sales departments “in order to deliver more specialized content and provide better solutions for the motorcycle industry to engage with enthusiasts.” There is a lot to be said with how Bonnier is “restructuring” media, marketing, and editorial amongst its brands – perhaps better left for an article of its own – but the big shock today is how the closure of Sport Rider ends a 25-year tradition of covering the sport bike market in the United States.

Ducati V4 Superbike to Debut in September?

Italian media is reporting an invitation to a Ducati event at the Misano circuit, the Thursday before the MotoGP race weekend held on the Adriatic Coast. The event has surely something to do with Ducati’s new V4 superbike, with Ducati claiming it will be “the sound of a new era” for the Italian manufacturer. That sound surely will be of the new V4 powerplant, which will not only replace the company’s iconic v-twin superbike lineup, but also power future large-displacement sport bikes from Ducati – something Claudio Domenicali told A&R at the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition launch. What we will see at Misano is up for speculation, however. A strong guess would be that Ducati only unveils its 90° V4 engine, teasing for us the interesting technical bits that Domenicali hinted at during the Laguna Seca WorldSBK weekend.

Lucky Strike Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro by MotoCorsa

Though it is known better for its exploits on race tracks, many two-wheeled enthusiasts should know that Ducati’s history extends well into the sand dunes of the Dakar Rally. Nestled in the Ducati Museum in Borgo Panigale, there is proof of Ducati’s racing history in the Dakar Rally. And while the bike says “Cagiva” on the outside, it was an air-cooled Ducati engine that powered Edi Orioli and his Elefant to two Dakar Rally wins. That machine was painted in one of the most iconic paint schemes ever to grace a racing motorcycle: the Lucky Strike cigarette company’s red, white, black, and gold livery. So, to pay homage to Ducati’s off-road racing history, the folks at the MotoCorsa Ducati dealership have taken the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro and linked it to its racing pedigree, creating a unique motorcycle in the process.

Speed vs. Stamina, For 220 Laps at the Suzuka 8-Hours

The day is done and the battle is won. Yamaha claimed its third-consecutive Suzuka 8-Hours on Sunday. The victory put a stamp on their dominance of the one race each year that the Japanese manufacturers place more emphasis on than any other. As such, Asphalt & Rubber takes a look at the winning machine, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s YZF-R1. It’s often said that endurance racing is the last bastion of design and technological freedom in motorsport. Whether it was Audi’s decision to use a diesel engine on four wheels, or the current breed of two-wheeled endurance bike, i i’s clear that there is plenty of innovation on the grid.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Priced at $78,000 for USA

Before the machine officially debuted in China, we got our first taste of the carbon-clad BMW HP4 Race at the 2016 EICMA Show in Milan. At that time, all we knew about this track-only motorcycle was that it would be built in limited quantities, and thus would not be cheap. In China, we learned that pricing across “the pond” had been set at £68,000 / €80,000 for the UK and EU markets, respectively. And now, we finally get word regarding how much the BMW HP4 Race will cost American buyers, as BMW Motorrad USA has set an asking price of $78,000. Only 750 units will be made worldwide, so it’s hard to say how many will even make the trip to the United States, but for that price tag you get quite the machine.

The MotoGP grid is set to expand to 24 riders for the 2018 season. As had been widely expected, the LCR Honda team is to add a second bike for next season, with Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami moving up to MotoGP. Nakagami will operate alongside Cal Crutchlow in the LCR Honda team.

Like Crutchlow, Nakagami’s contract is directly with HRC, rather than with Lucio Cecchinello’s LCR squad. Unlike Crutchlow’s deal, however, Nakagami’s contract is only for 2018 at the moment.

Nakagami’s wages will come directly out of Honda’s pockets, but the bike will largely be funded by money from Idemitsu, the Japanese oil company already backing Nakagami in Moto2.

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Aprilia has today confirmed another of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock, announcing that they have signed Scott Redding to replace Sam Lowes in the Gresini Aprilia MotoGP team for the 2018 season. 

The news came as no surprise, after it became apparent that Aprilia had decide to break Lowes’ contract at the end of this season.

Lowes had been contracted for two seasons in MotoGP, but Aprilia decided to invoke an escape clause, after the Englishman had struggled at the start of the season. For the full background to the story, read the Friday MotoGP round up from Austria.

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MotoGP Preview of the Austrian GP

08/11/2017 @ 12:33 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The riders will have been off the bikes for about 80 hours before they take to the track again at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Back-to-back races are always tough, but doing back-to-backs with a test in between can be pretty brutal. At least everyone will be sharp when practice starts on Friday.

The Red Bull Ring is a unique track, though how you interpret the word “unique” is very much up to you. In one respect, the Spielberg circuit is just a few straights connected by sharp corners, with a replica of the Sachsenring’s Omega curve thrown in for good measure.

On paper, it looks pretty dull, yet it is surprisingly popular among the riders. This is in part because of the stunning setting, and the elevation changes that add charm to the circuit.

But mostly, it’s because it’s a very, very fast circuit. And there is nothing that a motorcycle racer likes more than going very, very fast on a motorcycle. Oddly enough.

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MotoGP Preview of the Czech GP

08/03/2017 @ 7:08 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

After four weeks, MotoGP is back. That four-week break is a big deal. A much bigger deal than you might expect. Having a big break in the middle of the summer made the season much more manageable.

“The problem is the pressure we have,” Aleix Espargaro explained. “MotoGP looks like it’s a lot of fun on the TV, and it is very fun, but we have a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure, so to be able to disconnect and do nothing, it’s always good.”

That comment came in response to a question about the addition of the KymiRing in Finland to the calendar in 2019, which will expand the schedule to 20 races, after the inclusion of the Chang circuit in Thailand next year.

The general feeling among riders was that 20 races was manageable, though with the caveat that Dorna ensures there is a large summer break.

Aleix Espargaro again: “For me the most important thing is to have a good break in the summer, like one month, because then you can disconnect. Really, I don’t care if we do four races in a row, I don’t care.”

“I would like to do it if possible, four races in a row or three times three races in a row, but it’s important in the middle to have a break, to just reset your mind, charge batteries. Because when you race a lot of consecutive races, it’s very very hard for the body, for the head, for everything. But if we still have the summer break, one race more is no big problem.”

The plan, as I understand it, is to cut testing to a minimum, with two, or perhaps even just a single winter test in late January/early February. The timing of the Qatar race would be changed, so the race would be at 7pm rather than 9pm, with Moto3 and Moto2 running during daylight.

That will allow Qatar to be scheduled for a much earlier start, perhaps the first week of March, or even the last week of February. The season could then be broken up into two parts of ten races each, with a month break in the middle.

Where Finland fits in with that is uncertain, but it seems clear that a change is coming.

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MotoGP Mid-Season Review – A Wild Ride So Far

08/01/2017 @ 10:09 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Can part two of the (melo)drama that is the 2017 MotoGP season live up to part one? It has been a wild ride so far, but like any great fairground ride, we have ended up more or less back where we started.

Just five points separate Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales at the top of the championship, and Valentino Rossi in fourth is only ten points behind Márquez, with Andrea Dovizioso in between, a point behind Viñales.

If Márquez does not win the Czech Grand Prix at Brno on Sunday, there is every chance the championship will have a new leader. If there is, it would be the fifth time the title lead had changed hands so far this year. It has been a wild ride indeed.

So how did we get here? Through a mixture of rider swaps, tire changes, weird weather, and changing track conditions. Add in a healthy dose of spec electronics, the loss of winglets for this season, and a brace of astonishing rookies, and you have an explosive mixture.

At Mugello, perhaps the nearest thing we have had to a normal MotoGP weekend this year, the gap from the winner, Andrea Dovizioso, to Jack Miller in fifteenth was 30.7 seconds, with 50 seconds covering all 20 finishers.

In 2015, 30 seconds covered just the first eight riders. In 2013, only five other bikes finished within half a minute of the winner. Those kinds of gaps have been the rule for most of the modern era. But the old rules no longer apply.

Michelin can take much of the credit, or shoulder much of the blame, depending on your perspective. In their second year back in MotoGP, the French tire manufacturer have been a much more stable force in the series, the tires changing less this year than in 2016.

But that has not stemmed the complaints: there have been a string of riders muttering that the Michelins are not up to scratch, that they change too much from one race to the next, and even from one day to the next.

Are their concerns valid? Michelin deny it, of course, and give a long list of entirely plausible reasons for the tires to react differently from day to day.

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Just how clever has Honda been with its fairings? At Assen, Cal Crutchlow spent Friday going back and forth between bikes with and without the addition of aerodynamic side pods on the outside of the fairing.

That led to some confusion among the media. Had Honda homologated the aerodynamic fairing already? Or was this something new?

I went to see Danny Aldridge to ask what the situation was, and the MotoGP technical director explained the situation.

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MotoGP got off to an inauspicious start at Assen. Just a couple of minutes into FP1 on Friday morning, the red flags were already out.

The cause? Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati Desmosedici GP17 had started spewing oil all over the track on his out lap, causing first Jonas Folger to take a massive tumble through the gravel at Duikersloot. It also took down Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

“I felt some movement a few corners before,” Folger said of his crash. “I had a highside, and then the bike hit me as well.” After a brief check up at the Medical Center, Folger was sent on his way again.

Fortunately for the Tech 3 rider, it took the best part of half an hour to clean up the oil left on the track by Dovizioso, so he had plenty of time to get back to the garage and get ready again.

Surprisingly, the crash left him with few ill consequences. Folger was able to get back out, and build up his confidence again. So much so, in fact, that he ended the day as second fastest, with only a masterful Maverick Viñales ahead of him.

Where had his speed come from? Confidence mainly. He had gained confidence from the past couple of rounds, and especially at Barcelona. Being fastest during warm up in Barcelona, and seeing Marc Márquez struggle to match his pace had given Folger a boost.

This, and working out that he needed to brake later, had made a world of difference.

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Cal Crutchlow Signs Two-Year Deal with HRC

06/21/2017 @ 12:37 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Cal Crutchlow is to stay with the LCR Honda team for the next two years. The Englishman’s contract is part of a new deal between HRC and LCR, which will see Honda supply Honda RC213Vs to the LCR Honda team for the next two seasons, and signs Crutchlow directly to HRC, rather than LCR.

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With all twelve factory riders on two-year contracts, there wasn’t supposed to be a MotoGP Silly Season in 2017, or at least, not much of one. That impression was further reinforced when the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad quickly tied up both Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger for an extra year, until the end of 2018.

As usual, reality intervened, of course. Though the factory seats were supposedly taken, there was plenty of interest in the satellite seats once the season got underway.

All eyes turned to the Moto2 class, and especially to the remarkable performances by Franco Morbidelli and Pecco Bagnaia. Alex Márquez, too, raised eyebrows. And so speculation started.

Then there were those factory seats. Yes, all twelve factory riders have two-year contracts, but all contracts have clauses that allow for either side to make an early escape.

Great managers make sure the escape clause benefits their rider. Great factory lawyers make sure the contract is in their favor. The measure of a rider manager is where they end up on that side of the equation.

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There are a lot of reasons to visit Barcelona. It is one of the greatest cities in the world, a triumph of the architectural movement known as Modernisme, a vibrant center of culture, a place where you can eat, drink, and sleep well, after a day spent gazing mouth agape at some of the most remarkable buildings created by human hands, and human minds.

Once upon a time, the Montmelo circuit was also a good reason to visit the city. A track full of fast, sweeping corners challenging riders and bikes in equal measure.

That was before the aging asphalt turned the track greasy in the summer heat, and the repeated abuse from fat F1 tires left the surface rippled and bumpy, cracked and patched.

Tragedy struck with the death of Luis Salom – probably the victim of a wayward bump sending him flying towards a patch of gravel-free run off – and the Safety Commission (consisting of MotoGP riders, Dorna, and the FIM) decided to neuter the second half of the track, removing one of the fastest and most furious final sections on the calendar. There is little left to love about Montmelo.

I asked several riders whether it would be possible to race in Montmelo next year if the track had not been resurfaced. The response was unanimous. “No.”

Worse than that, Bradley Smith explained how the Safety Commission had grown impatient with the circuit, which has been singularly unresponsive to their requests to adapt the track to make it safer. Hopefully, MotoGP would not return, Smith told us bluntly.

“That’s finally what it comes down to. This is the only track on the calendar that’s not actually reacting to Safety Commission / rider / organizer’s requests. So at some point, you have to give them an ultimatum, and I think that this is the last year that they’ll be in that situation. We have enough people that want us to go race there, we don’t have to come here.”

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