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.

Here Is the ECSTAR Suzuki 2018 MotoGP Livery

01/29/2018 @ 1:55 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The 2018 team liveries continue to debut, and this weekend the ECSTAR Suzuki squad took the wraps off its design for the Suzuki GSX-RR…which looks pretty much like the old one.

As we have seen from Yamaha and Ducati, these unveils are now becoming less about showing off the new machines for the upcoming season, and instead are becoming more of a PR exercise to get attention for their sponsors – with little substance offered for the affair, we might add.

That being said, we can catch a couple interesting glimpses from Suzuki’s photos, as the MotoGP team focuses on evolving its 2017 racing platform. 

Of note is that ECSTAR Suzuki has seemingly acquired the carbon fiber fork tubes from Öhlins, which Ducati was last year with positive results. It also seems that the tail fairing design is longer than last year’s, likely to aid aerodynamics. Can you spot other changes as well?

With Andrea Iannone seemingly showing a renewed commitment to the team, and Alex Rins finally in good health, Suzuki is looking to build upon its otherwise unremarkable 2017 MotoGP season. 

Can the Suzuki GSX-RR fight for races in 2018, though? That remains to be seen.  

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Here Is Movistar Yamaha’s 2018 MotoGP Livery

01/26/2018 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

While the MotoGP boys are in Sepang right now, working properly on their 2018 machines (including revised aerodynamic packages), back home the teams are busy debuting their liveries for next season.

We have already seen Ducati’s new colors for 2018, and now it is Movistar Yamaha’s turn to show us the livery that Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales will wear for the coming season. No surprises here, it’s very blue.

While not too much has changed visually (these launches are becoming more a PR event, rather than a glimpse into next year’s racing machines) though Yamaha Racing have news for us that it has tied up Viñales with a two-year contract extension.

Of course, we can expect similar news from Valentino Rossi in the coming months, as the Italian is set to finish his career with Team Blue, before likely transitioning into a team owner rule inside the paddock.

All of that will come at a later day, however, and right now the 2018 MotoGP Championship season is rapidly approaching. Until the green flag waves at Qatar, we have some high-res photos of the 2018 Yamaha livery and for you to drool over.

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The difference in perspective between team managers and riders is always fascinating. Team bosses always have an eye to the big picture, to the coming year and beyond.

Riders are usually looking no further ahead than the next session or the next race. Anything beyond that is out of their control, and not worth wasting valuable energy worrying about. The future is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.

That difference was all too evident at the Ducati launch in Bologna on Monday.

While the people in charge of Ducati – Paolo Ciabatti, Davide Tardozzi, and Gigi Dall’Igna – were already thinking of managing rider signings and sponsorship deals for 2019 and beyond, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were mostly concerned about the Sepang test and about being competitive in the 2018 season.

New contracts for 2019 were on their horizons, but compared to their bosses, it was little more than a blip. First, there is a championship to win.

Andrea Dovizioso has spent the winter relaxing, and preparing for the new season. He starts the year as one of the title favorites, not a position he has been accustomed to.

A great sensation, and one I had lost in the last few years” is how the Italian described it. He did not feel the pressure of that sensation, but rather saw it as a challenge.

Sure, he was one of the favorites, but there were a lot of competitive bikes with riders capable of winning. “The level of competitiveness has become very high in MotoGP in the last three years,” he said. “There are many riders who can win races. It wasn’t like this in the past.”

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MotoGP team launches are always the triumph of hope over experience. Each year, the bosses of every factory in the series tell the media that their objective is to win races and fight for the championship. Sometimes, they even believe it.

At last year’s launch of the Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna said they hoped to be fighting for the championship. That, after all, is why they signed Jorge Lorenzo to what is reported to be a very lucrative contract.

The assembled press was skeptical, despite the clear progress that Ducati had made in the past couple of seasons, its first wins coming in 2016.

Such skepticism was unwarranted, though you get the distinct feeling that even Ducati was surprised at how close Andrea Dovizioso came to clinching the 2017 MotoGP title.

Ducati was delighted by the Italian’s first win at Mugello, amazed at his victory in Barcelona a week later, and impressed by the way he beat Marc Márquez at Austria.

By the end of the season, Ducati had come to expect to win races, and realized just how far they had come on their journey since the dark days of 2013, when they didn’t score a single podium all year.

So on Monday, when Dall’Igna echoed the words of Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali in Bologna, that Ducati’s objective was to win races and challenge for the championship in MotoGP, they were deadly serious.

There is no doubt that Ducati is capable of doing just that – Dovizioso’s results and Lorenzo’s improvement in 2017 demonstrate that – and though they are all too aware of the dangers of complacency, Ducati start the 2018 season with both a firm expectation and belief that they are candidates for the 2018 MotoGP title.

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Ducati Debuts Livery for the 2018 Desmosedici GP

01/15/2018 @ 11:05 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

This is almost certainly not the 2018 Ducati Desmosedici GP race bike for next season’s MotoGP Championship, but it does look a lot like it. That is because today Ducati unveiled its 2018 MotoGP team, with its fresh new livery design.

The bikes used in these photos of course are of the 2017 model, complete with its hammerhead front fairing design. We expect the 2018 edition of the Desmosedici GP to have more obvious changes (likely improved aero), though it is hard to tell when Ducati will take the wraps off that race bike officially.

Strong money would be on a Qatar debut, just ahead of the 2018 MotoGP Championship’s season-opener. However, the Italian brand could surprise us at Sepang with some new fairings or mechanical pieces.

One thing is for certain though: Ducati aims to win the championship this next season.

With Andrea Dovizioso finishing as last year’s runner-up, taking the fight all the way to Valencia; and Jorge Lorenzo finally looking comfortable and fast on the Ducati; the Italian brand is looking stronger than ever before (save for maybe the 2007 season, with Casey Stoner on-board).

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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 (1990 & 1994).

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.

The effect is a handsome motorcycle that remembers when the Dakar Rally actually traced a route from Paris to Dakar, and when the Ducati brand was thriving in the golden era of motorcycle racing – oddly enough, due to the massive support that tobacco companies were pouring into motorsport racing at the time.

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Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

02/06/2017 @ 11:05 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today.

As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2.

This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport.

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Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

02/03/2017 @ 4:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense.

Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike.

The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

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2017 Ducati Corse MotoGP Team Launches in Italy

01/20/2017 @ 1:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Another day, and another MotoGP team launch (there’s a bevy of launches over the next few days, if you didn’t already know). Today, it was Ducati Corse’s time to shine, with the Italian brand’s MotoGP team taking the stage in Bologna.

As was the case with the Yamaha MotoGP team launch, the bike on display was last year’s model, with new a livery. But, the event did give us our first chance to see Jorge Lorenzo in his new Ducati colors, and it was an opportunity to hear the 2015 World Champion talk about his new home at Ducati Corse.

Much of the launch focused on the collegial atmosphere inside Ducati Corse – an interesting topic to focus upon – with Lorenzo echoing the feeling of hope and progress, also talking extensively about the collaboration inside the MotoGP team.

The comments were interesting because of the contrast they present to the former teammates of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo. One thing is clear though, Ducati expects strong results for the 2017 season, and they are taking the matter very seriously.

As such, don’t expect to see the team’s new aerodynamic package until the first session of the Qatar GP. Until then, enjoy the bounty of high-resolution photos we have of the Ducati Desmosedici GP in its 2017 livery, after the jump.

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What We Learned from the Movistar Yamaha Launch

01/19/2017 @ 6:43 pm, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

Yamaha have kicked off the 2017 MotoGP season. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team were the first to present their bike, their riders, their team, and most importantly, their sponsors and color scheme to the world.

Launches being what they are – a show primarily put on for the benefit of their sponsors – there was nothing radical to see.

The bikes on display had been painted in the correct colors – the Yamaha blue a little darker, the Movistar M a lot bigger, Monster’s sponsorship being visually demoted a little further, the green claw M looking a little too much like Movistar’s M – but they were not the actual 2017 bikes, the eagle-eyed MotoGP technical blogger Manziana spotted.

That is unsurprising, if a little disappointing. It makes little sense for Yamaha to fly new bikes halfway around the world from Japan to Spain just to put them on display, then pack them up again to fly them back to Sepang for the tests.

More disappointing is the news broken by, that Ducati are to present what is basically a GP16 in 2017 colors.

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