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 Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

“Danny is probably the most talented rider I have ever worked with,” Peter Bom, Danny Kent’s former crew chief at Kiefer told me several times last year. Bom has seen plenty of talent in his time: he also worked with Stefan Bradl at Kiefer, Chris Vermeulen in World Supersport and World Superbikes, Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport. World champions all, and to this tally he added Danny Kent. Less than a year after helping him win the Moto3 world championship, Danny Kent asked the Kiefer team for a new crew chief, abandoning his collaboration with Peter Bom. Kent felt that Bom had been slow to pick up on the changes in the Moto2 class during Bom’s three years in Moto3. Stefan Kiefer obliged, and Kent started the season with a new crew chief and a Suter Moto2 chassis.

Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang

02/22/2011 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang

Casey Stoner set the pace today at MotoGP’s second off-season test at Sepang. The Australian, and the rest of the four factory Honda riders, proved to be very impressive on the Malaysian track, as the 2011 Honda RC212V seems to be hitting its stride just before the season opener in Qatar in a few weeks.

The Honda riders don’t have things all sewn up though, as the Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo was looking very fast, as were Americans Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. Earlier in the day, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi even cracked into the Top 5 on the standings, and despite finishing the day just over a second behind Stoner, the Italian was upbeat about the team’s progress and his physical condition.

Continue Reading

Photo of the Week: It’s Called Marlboro Ducati for a Reason

01/24/2011 @ 8:52 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

Editor’s note: Scott Jones will graciously be running a weekly series of his best photos from the AMA, WSBK, and MotoGP racing events here on Asphalt & Rubber. For more of his work, you can catch him at ScottJones.net.

Besides the Rossi-Ducati situation, how Casey Stoner will fare with HRC’s 2011 bike is on everyone’s mind, not least of all Jorge Lorenzo’s, who was just quoted as saying Stoner, not Rossi, would be his main competition in 2011. Stoner’s rookie MotoGP season showed flashes of brilliance, ruined repeatedly by a Michelin front tire that was not up to the demands Stoner placed on it.

Back on a Honda, Stoner will have the magnificent Bridgestone front tire without the Ducati’s temperament to manage at every corner, plus several years’ experience and a world title in his pocket since that rookie season. Given what Stoner got out of the Ducati, he should be very dangerous indeed on HRC’s final 800cc bike.”

Continue Reading

Traffic.

09/19/2010 @ 1:03 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Photo: Courtesy of Bridgestone Corporation © 2010 All Rights Reserved

Valentino Rossi Goes to Ducati – Officially Official

08/15/2010 @ 5:59 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

The worst kept secret in the paddock is finally official, thus completing what MotoGP fans (especially Italians) have been waiting for: Valentino Rossi signing with Ducati Corse. The nine-time World Champion and Italian celebrity is finally paired up with Italy’s most iconic motorcycling brand for the 2011 season, an action that has been the subject of intrigue not only for the better part of this season, but for years inside MotoGP.

Announcing their partnership today, Rossi and Ducati have their work cut out for them in taking-on impressive up-start Jorge Lorenzo and the formidable Yamaha YZR-M1. Press releases from Ducati & Fiat-Yamaha after the jump, along with a quote from Valentino himself.

Continue Reading

V-Day Will Be Sunday after the Race

08/12/2010 @ 4:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Asked when he would announce his move to Ducati his future plans during the pre-race press conference today, Valentino Rossi confirmed that he would make an announcement after Sunday’s Czech GP race. The next few days will probably be the longest ever to occur in Italy, but we all must wait a little longer for the the arrival of V-Day, and to know what we already know.

Valentino Rossi Signs Two-Year Contract with Ducati

07/09/2010 @ 3:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

UPDATE 3: Ducati has officially announced signing Valentino Rossi.

UPDATE 2: Ducati Motor Holdings CEO Gabriele del Torchio has confirmed that Valentino Rossi will race with Ducati in 2011.

UPDATE: Ducati & Yamaha have made a gentlemen’s agreement to delay the announcement of Rossi’s move until after Laguna Seca, in exchange for letting the Italian test the Desmosedici GP10 at the Valencian Round.

Let’s avoid the the “scoops”, “exclusives”, and “OMG’s”, and just say that Asphalt & Rubber has received word from a trusted source that Valentino Rossi has signed a two-year agreement with Ducati, that’s set to be announced on Monday…and boom goes the dynamite (sorry, we couldn’t resist). The Rossi/Ducati fantasy has been put forth for years, with the fervor on the subject reaching its pinnacle this season, as Ducati reportedly wafted a €15 million salary (almost double Yamaha’s offer) in front of the nine-time World Champion.

Likely less to do with money, and more about prestige and priority, the announcement comes on the heels of Casey Stoner’s exodus from the Ducati team, as the Australian has jumped ship back to HRC, in what is to be some sort of multinational threesome with energy drinks involved. Ok Italy, it’s almost time to change the sheets, this wet dream is nearly a reality. Stay tuned for Monday.

Continue Reading

BREAKING: Stoner Officially Leaving Ducati at the End of the Season – HRC Announcement Imminent

07/09/2010 @ 2:01 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

UPDATE: HRC has announced that they have signed Casey Stoner for the 2011 season, and that he will likely ride with both Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

Now officially official, Ducati has officially announced what we’ve known for months: that the Australian rider would be leaving the Marlboro Ducati team at the end of the 2010 season.

The relationship was first marred last season when Stoner came under a mysterious illness (too mysterious for some commentators), missed a number of races, and since then has been seemingly the bond between Stoner and Ducati has been unsalvageable. Compounded by poor results so far this season, rumors intensified as links between the Australian and HRC became evident.

While Stoner has not mentioned where he will ride for the 2011 season, an announcement about his move to Repsol Honda is expected later today.

Continue Reading

Silly Season: Ducati Offers Rossi €15 Million & Benefits – Yamaha Reduces Salary to €9 Million

06/24/2010 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

The Italian press is buzzing about the latest silly season info regarding Valentino Rossi, and where he will be racing next year. According to Corriere dello Sport, Ducati has upped their offer to Rossi to €15 million and has included provisions that would allow the Italian to race later with either Ferrari F1 or Fiat Rally teams once he’s finished with motorcycle racing.

Now…you’d expect Yamaha to up its ante on the nine-time World Champion, right? Not quite. Instead Yamaha has reduced Valentino’s Rossi contract price from the €14 million they current pay him each year to €9 million. More on the reasoning behind that after the jump.

Continue Reading

Stoner’s Mechanics Given Notice

06/21/2010 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

GPweek.com is reporting that Casey Stoner’s mechanics in the Marlboro Ducati garage have been warned “that they may have to seek new employment for next season.” If true, this is a strong indication that Ducati does not expect the Australian GP Champion to return to the Italian team for the 2011 season. While many sources are quick to make the link that this means Rossi is inbound to the Ducati team, we’re still hesitant to subscribe to that faulty logic.

Continue Reading

Stoner “Has Already Decided to Go” to Honda

05/25/2010 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Crash.net is reporting that Casey Stoner has already made his mind up to leave Ducati, according to a high-ranking Marlboro Ducati team member. While rumors were rife a couple weeks ago that Stoner had signed a deal to ride with HRC in the upcoming season, parties were quick to correct that nothing had been signed, and this was still rumor. Rumor it might be, but the skinny in the MotoGP paddock is that Stoner has basically come to terms with riding with Honda in 2011, with the contract ready to go, but still sans signatures.

Continue Reading