The Fruits of Carmelo Ezpeleta’s Grand Plan for MotoGP

Sometimes decisions are a long time in the making. Tech3’s decision to leave Yamaha and sign with KTM may have been made in the space of a few months, but the genesis of that choice, the process that made it all possible is ten years in the making. If MotoGP hadn’t switched from 990cc to 800cc at the start of the 2007 season, if the ban on tobacco sponsorship in sports hadn’t been enforced from 2005, if the financial system hadn’t collapsed under the weight of tranches of “ninja” loans, Tech3 would be a Yamaha satellite team for the foreseeable future. Whether they wanted to be or not. How did MotoGP get to a place where Tech3 could switch to KTM? To make complete sense of the story, we have to go back to the end of the last century.

Here’s How to Race a $20,000 KTM RC390 R in the USA

In case you haven’t noticed, the Supersport 300 class is heating up, and perhaps most interestingly with virtually zero machines with a 300cc displacement…but that is a subject for another time. This has put pressure on KTM to remain at the pointy end of business in the small-displacement category, which has lead the Austrian company to the release of a homologation special for the 300cc class. As such, say hello to the 2018 KTM RC390 R sport bike. A street legal motorcycle, the KTM RC390 R aims to sharpen the points where the entry-level KTM RC390 is a bit dull, namely by using better suspension and new intake trumpets that widen the powerband, but also with a new triple clamp, clip-ons, and levers.

The Future of Fast, A Review of the Alta Redshift MXR

I always joke with industry folk that “it’s called Asphalt & Rubber for a reason,” as I am a dyed in the wool street bike guy. So when Alta Motors invited A&R to ride the new Alta Redshift MXR, I knew there were better people for the job than I. This is where heterosexual life partner Carlin Dunne comes into the mix. On top of being one of the fastest men ever up Pikes Peak on two wheels, as well as the fastest electric motorcycle to compete in The Race to the Clouds, Carlin is an accomplished off-road racer – both with and without a motor between his legs. So, we sent Carlin down to Southern California to ride Alta’s newest machines, and with already a bevy of time in the saddle on electric motorcycles, I can’t think of a better person’s opinion for these electron-powered off-road racers.

What A Trade War Means for Motorcycles

Strangely enough, we have talked about trade wars several times before, here on Asphalt & Rubber, as the Trump administration has been keen to use this tool in its toolbox, often with effects that reach into the motorcycle industry. The first time around, we talked about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) affected the motorcycle industry, namely Harley-Davidson, and how the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement would likely be a negative effect for US motorcyclists. We have also had to talk about how fighting over beef imports could lead to possible tariffs on small-displacement European motorcycles in the United States, a tariff that would seriously hurt Piaggio/Vespa scooter sales and KTM dirt bike sales.

KTM and Tech3 Team Up in MotoGP for the 2019 Season

It was a shock to hear that the venerable Tech3 team would be leaving the Yamaha family, come the 2019 MotoGP season, after all Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal cut his teeth with Yamaha. But, once the news of his move sunk in, we are not surprised to hear that he is headed to KTM for the 2019 season, as was officially announced today (and rumored for well over a week). That is right, for the 2019 MotoGP Championship, the Tech3 team – one of the most regarded satellite teams in the GP Paddock – will be racing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike, with full-factory machines from Austria. That last caveat is likely the tipping point and main reason for Poncharal’s switch, with Tech3 long having to put-up with having the leftovers from the Yamaha Racing factory squad.

What If Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors Had a Baby?

With the news that Harley-Davidson has invested an undisclosed sum in electric motorcycle manufacturer Alta Motors, the following concept might seem like a no-brainer. That is because the folks at Carbon Projects invisions the partnership between the two American brands as lending itself to the creation of an electric street-tracker model. Taking the heritage-focused roots of Harley-Davidson, and applying them to Alta’s Redshift platform, the resulting model is quite a looker, if we do say so. Of course, we should remember that Alta has already shown a street tracker concept of its own, displaying the Alta Motors Redshift ST concept at last year’s One Moto Show, in Portland, Oregon.

This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor, Redux

In this installment of “This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor,” we again take a look at the motor of this venerable sport bike. The rumor going around the interwebs right now is that the 2019 Suzuki Hayabusa will feature a “semi-automatic” gearbox. Side-stepping the part where saying a gearbox is semi-automatic is  a lot like saying someone is “semi-pregnant” (you either are, or aren’t), the rumor stems from a patent filed by Suzuki that shows a gear-shifting mechanism with the foot-shifter that doesn’t require a clutch. If this sounds a lot like an up/down quickshifter system, then you score extra bonus points today for being a rational human being, but you would be very wrong about what this whole rumor should actually be about.

Harley-Davidson Invests in Alta Motors

Harley-Davidson has announced its strategic investment in Alta Motors, which will see the two American companies co-developing two new electric motorcycle models. As one can imagine, the news has big ramifications for both brands. For Harley-Davidson, it means having access to cutting-edge electric vehicle technology, and a technical partner that can help them navigate the coming shift to electric drivetrains. And for Alta Motors the news is perhaps even more impactful, as Harley-Davidson brings not only a key monetary investment into the San Francisco startup, but the deal likely provides access to a variety of assets for Alta, namely purchasing power with parts supplier, access to a worldwide dealer network, and instant credibility with other future investors.

Here Comes a New Complaint About Californian Drivers…

If you are riding in California anytime soon, you might want to think twice before blaming the state’s fleet of drivers, as The Golden State just made it legal for self-driving cars to operate without a human behind the wheel. While similar actions have stalled in the US Congress (the SELF DRIVE ACT is stuck in a Senate committee), states have begun to take matters into their own hands, like they did in Arizona. That is right, the dawn of truly autonomous vehicles has just arrived, and it is primed to change the driving landscape as we know it, which by correlation means changes for the motorcycle community as well. Announced on Monday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved rules that would make it legal for automated vehicles to operate without a human behind the wheel. 

BMW S675RR Concept by Nicolas Petit

I really like the idea of BMW making a supersport model, to compliment the already potent BMW S1000RR. The category is a tough one though, and it is dominated by the Japanese brands. Maybe, this is why BMW Motorrad is the perfect brand to disrupt the supersport segment. The S1000RR made a killing in the liter-bike space, because it brought European features and performance, at a Japanese price-point. Because of the success that resulted from that formula, maybe the Germans can do the same in the 600cc segment. Putting some pen and paper to this thought, Nicolas Petit has inked together a render of a proposed BMW supersport machine, which he dubs the BMW S675RR.

Effenbert Liberty Racing Withdraws from WSBK…Again

05/21/2013 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS


Sweet baby Jesus, here we go again. We are only into the fifth round of the World Superbike Championship, and Effenbert Liberty Racing is having its first (and hopefully last) kerfuffle. Announcing that “the adventure of the team in the WSBK 2013 is not of our further interest” in a press release today, Effenbert Liberty Racing announced that it will no longer race in World Superbike.

Explaining that the team was unable to promote the interests of its sponsors and partners through WSBK racing, the Liberty Racing will skip the Donington Park round, which would have been only the fourth round of the season for the squad, having skipped the opening round at Phillip Island, and starting its season at Motorland Aragon.

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After very publicly imploding part-way through the 2012 season with its four-rider team, which included a dust-up between the Czech team and French Rider Sylvain Guintoli, it would seem that Team Effenbert Liberty Racing is ready to give things another go, though on a much smaller scale.

Accordingly, after missing the season-opener at Phillip Island, Liberty Racing will once again compete in the World Superbike Championship, and plans to campaign the rest of the 2013 season with Mark Aitchison on a Ducati Superibke 1098R.

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2013 Provisional WSBK Entry List Shows Only 19 Riders

02/04/2013 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT


As feared, the World Superbike grid seems likely to shrink for the 2013 Championship season, with only 19 riders listed on the provisional list by the FIM. Down from the 23 bikes on the grid at Phillip Island in 2012, the euro-centric series is still dealing with the economic downturn in Europe, which continues to linger in the important markets of Spain and Italy.

However though, it is of note that the difference in machines can be attributed to the absence of the Liberty Racing Team, which ran four riders in the early part of the 2012, before falling to pieces by the conclusion of the season. Only one former Liberty Racing rider returns to WSBK for 2013: Sylvain Guintoli, who will race on the factory Aprilia Racing team, with Maxime Berger, Jakub Smrz, and Brett McCormick unable to secure rides in WSBK for the coming season.

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After the shocking news this weekend that Ducati and Althea Racing would go their separate ways, the Bologna Brand has issued its own press statement about the break-up. Confirming that it has contracted former World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa to its payroll for next season, Ducati Corse also reaffirmed its commitment to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale in the series.

Ducati Corse has yet to release its official plans to race in the series, but the writing on the wall hints towards a factory team for 2013. Citing its strong ties and good relationship with the Althea Racing team, Ducati’s press release mentions the possibility of a “cooperation between Ducati and Team Althea” that could still be “found in the future,” which suggests that Althea could come on as a satellite team for 2013, or again takeover as the factory-backed effort at a later point in time.

While Ducati’s WSBK racing effort is still very much in the air, names like Liberty Racing and Davide Tardozzi are being banded about, and it is certain that Ducati Corse is exploring every option available. What is perhaps most intriguing in the news is Ducati Corse’s reconfirmation of its plan to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 next season.

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Some more controversy is brooding for World Superbike rider Sylvain Guintoli, as Paul Denning and the FIXI Crescent Suzuki have slammed the British-living French-born rider for backing out of his 2013 commitments with the team. Issuing a statement to the press, Crescent Suzuki states that Guintoli and the team came to a “full and final agreement” at Magny-Cours, which was singed by the Frenchman.

According to Crescent Suzuki, Guinters made significant steps with the team to test at Aragaon starting today, but since that agreement, Guintoli has informed the team that he has to back out of his testing obligation in order to consider a new offer from a rival team. That rival team is heavily rumored to be Aprilia Racing, which may be scrambling to find a replacement rider for the still undecided Max Biaggi, the now-current World Superbike Champion.

For devout WSBK fans, the statements from FIXI Crescent Suzuki sound similar to those made by Liberty Racing, when the Czech team let Guintoli go mid-season, citing a number of reasons, including the Frenchman’s on-track results. Starting strong early on, Liberty Racing’s swan song started at Monza, and ultimately saw the team release its riders one-by-one, before finally missing the last race at Magny-Cours altogether.

For added Drama Llama, the press statement from FIXI Crescent Suzuki and Paul Denning is after the jump.

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After its absence at the Moscow round, Effenbert Liberty Racing affirmed earlier this week that it would be participating in World Superbike’s Nürburgring round with all three of its riders. Always keeping things interesting though, the team has followed up that announcement today with the news that it has replaced Jakub Smrz with Italian rider Lorenzo Lanzi. This should surprise no one.

Rumored heavily to be in financial difficulty, after Effenbert reduced its support for the team after the round at Monza, today’s move is just the latest of many strange developments for the Liberty Racing squad, which showed so much promise earlier in the season, but has spiraled out of control ever since.

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“In Soviet Russia, motorcycle race skips you” is how the joke should read. Confirming our earlier report, Liberty Racing has formally announced that it is skipping World Superbike’s Moscow round, which is two weeks away. Stating that the team will restructure itself for the future, Liberty Racing will be back on the track come the German World Superbike round, at the Nürburgring.

In addition to its restructuring process, Liberty Racing also cites Canadian rider Brett McCormick’s rehabilitation to riding form as a factor for its skipping of the Russian round. The more-than-slightly confusing press release is after the jump.

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WSBK: Liberty Racing to Miss Moscow Round?

08/15/2012 @ 9:48 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The financial woes of Liberty Racing seemingly continue, as the World Superbike team is absent from the entry list for the upcoming WSBK round in Moscow, Russia. It is being reported that all three of Liberty’s riders are missing on the entry list, as well as Team Grillini’s Norino Brignola.

It is not clear at this time why the four riders are not entered in this weekend’s race, though since it is the first time World Superbike has run at Moscow, one cannot rule out logistical issues. However, considering the type of season Liberty Racing has had this year, not to mention the rumors of the team’s financial difficulties, the non-entry at Moscow could signal a much bigger problem.

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After the debacle of a round at Monza, the Effenbert-Liberty Racing Team had some choice words regarding how the World Superbike Championship was being handled last weekend. Surely having something to do with the fact that Effenbert racer Sylvain Guintoli qualified on the pole position, the Czech squad had to watch as the French rider’s bike died on the sighting lap for Race 2. Gaining momentum from its win at Assen, the guys at Effenbert-Liberty Racing were surely frustrated by the events in Italy, though things have seemingly escalated from there.

First stating that the team would only minimally participate at the Donington Park round, i.e. not bring a full hospitality service, and would reconsider its involvement in the rest of the WSBK season, the words from the Ducati squad have cooled to some degree, but continue to be rather ominous. With Infront Sports & Media, the rights holder to World Superbike, publicly saying it has deferred the matter to its legal council, Liberty Racing released another statement, noticeably absent of its title sponsor’s name, that confirmed its previous statements about Donington Park.

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