Harrison, On Chasing a 135 MPH Lap at the TT

On Saturday during the RST Superbike race, Dean Harrison smashed the outright Isle of Man TT lap record with a 134.432 mph lap of Mountain Course. It was the culmination of a long apprenticeship on the roads for the Bradford rider, and having claimed a second career TT victory this week, he’ll be out to impress once again during the Senior TT on Friday. Road racing is in his blood, his father Conrad is a sidecar race-winner, but for Dean the challenge has been to gain the experience to show what he can do on the 37-mile long circuit. That experience has been taking place on the roads, at home studying videos, and racing in the British Superbike Championship to understand more about what it takes to reach the limit of his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.

The Honda Super Cub Is Finally Coming Back to the USA

It has been 44 years since Honda offered the Super Cub on American soil. That is a pretty astounding thing to say, when you think about it, because the Super Cub is the best selling motorcycle in the world – with 100 million units sold, as of 2017. Needless to say, the Honda Super Cub is beyond iconic, and it is the go-to people mover in more countries than we can count. Now helping Honda fill-in a price-point hole in its motorcycle lineup, the 2019 Honda Super Cub C125 will be one of the cheapest motorcycle that Honda has to offer inside the United States, with an MSRP of $3,599. Built using the same 125cc single-cylinder fuel-injected engine that features on the Grom and Monkey bikes, the Honda Super Cub C125 features a step-through body design and clutchless semi-automatic transmission, as well as ABS as standard.

Yesssh! The Honda Monkey Is Coming to the USA

There is something about the Honda Monkey that we find adorable and appealing, as we did with the Honda Grom, of which the Monkey shares a platform (namely, its 125cc single-cylinder engine with DOHC). So needless to say, we were thrilled when we heard that Honda would bring the Monkey into production, and today we get confirmation of news we expected: the Honda Monkey will come to the USA as a 2019 model. Priced at $3,999 of the USA ($4,199 if you want ABS), the 2019 Honda Monkey will be available in October, and come in two colors: red or yellow. A retro-styled mini-bike for the masses, the Monkey is unassuming and welcoming motorcycle, which is ideal for younger and newer riders.

The Big, Fat, Comprehensive MotoGP Silly Season Update

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP. So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions that almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen.

Here’s a First Look at the MV Agusta Moto2 Race Bike

After a substantial hiatus, MV Agusta is headed back to the Grand Prix paddock – though the Italian brand’s return isn’t into the MotoGP class. Instead, MV Agusta will take a more measured, and a more curious, entry with a Moto2 team. Set to use a 765cc Triumph three-cylinder engine in the class from 2019 onward, it is a little curious to see MV Agusta racing in the Moto2 series, but the similarities between the British engine and what MV Agusta itself produces in Italy, is perhaps close enough. While we don’t expect to see the MV Agusta Moto2 bike on the track until next month, today we get our first glimpse at what the race bike will look like. Unsurprisingly, the machine looks very much like the three-cylinder MV Agusta F3 supersport.

Well It’s Official: HRC Signs Jorge Lorenzo for MotoGP

Yesterday the shock news from the MotoGP paddock was that Dani Pedrosa was to leave the Repsol Honda team, after 18 years with HRC and Honda. Now, the news continues to astound, as HRC has confirmed that is has signed Jorge Lorenzo to a two-year contract with its MotoGP program, which will see the three-time MotoGP world champion join Marc Marquez in the factory Honda team. The terse HRC announcement confirms reports that were published yesterday, almost immediately after Dani Pedrosa’s departure from Honda was made public. A bit of a surprise to paddock pundits, who had widely tipped Lorenzo as headed to a satellite Yamaha effort, Lorenzo’s jump to Honda is certainly an interesting one.

Making the Jump From BSB to Ballagarey

Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes are two riders who have proved that short circuit riders can still make the switch to the roads. Twenty years ago the, top British short circuit riders were all racing on the roads. Whether you were an up and coming John McGuinness, or an established star like Michael Rutter, it was expected that you would join the list of short circuit racers that raced on the roads. The practice was as old as factory contracts, and it was expected that if you wanted to have the best bikes in the British championships, you would race at the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT. That practice has slowly faded out, but in recent years the move has been made by some short circuit riders to return to the roads.

This Might Be the Best Buell on the Market

You won’t often find me talking about my deep desires for a Buell motorcycle in my garge – any long-time Asphalt & Rubber reader should surely know this by now. But, what you are looking at here might be the only Buell I lust after – in Claudia Schiffer sort of way. The bike I am referring to is the BOTT XR1R Pikes Peak race bike, which finished 4th in the exhibition class in 2017. You won’t see it at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this year though, unfortunately because of sponsorship reasons. But, this doesn’t have to be the final chapter of the BOTT XR1R Pikes Peak race bike however, and in fact, you could be writing its future story. This is because Bottpower is selling its race bike, and let me tell you, it is one tasty piece of two-wheeled machinery.

What Does the Yamaha NIKEN Look Like Naked?

It has to be the weirdest motorcycle yet, if you can even call it that (some don’t), but it is also luridly intriguing. we are of course talking about the Yamaha NIKEN (read the ride review here, by the way). A mullet of machines, the NIKEN is business in the front, and party in the back, with its dual 15-inch front wheels mated to a grand total of four conventional fork tubes, via an elaborate parallelogram linkage, while the 17-inch rear wheel spins from a more conventional swingarm design. This is because from behind the headstock, things get a bit more familiar, with a chassis that is built mostly from steel tube, and a swingarm that comes from cast aluminum. The motor is a revised version of the three-cylidner engine that is found in the Yamaha MT-09.

BMW Motorrad Concept 9Cento – Looking at the Future

What you are looking at here is the BMW Motorrad Concept 9Cento. It is a middleweight adventure-sport motorcycle concept that BMW showed off this past weekend in Lake Como, Italy – at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. The 9Cento Concept is an interesting look into BMW Motorrad’s mindset, with the German brand showing a new platform for its parallel-twin engines. The bike is sporty in nature, and focuses on providing a motorcycle that can do it all: fast canyon-carving, long-distance touring, and urban riding. The adventure-sport is a crossover concept that BMW has latched onto already with its S1000XR model, and now it seems that the folks in Berlin are looking to add to that lineup even further, with chatter that the 9Cento is likely to become a production model in the near-ish future.

Q&A: Michele Pirro, On the Life of a Test Rider

06/10/2018 @ 10:28 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

In the final part of our series on test riders, (see also Part 1, with Mike Leitner, Part 2, with Davide Brivio, and Part 3, with Davide Tardozzi) an interview with Michele Pirro, Ducati’s workhorse and arguably the rider responsible for taking the concept of a test rider to a higher level.

Pirro’s path to Ducati ran through the CRT bikes, spending a year on a Honda-powered FTR bike with the San Carlo Gresini team in 2012, after graduating from Moto2.

In 2013, he was hired by Ducati to work as a test rider under Bernhard Gobmeier, who was brought in as head of Ducati Corse, after the Italian factory had been bought by Audi.

A year later, when Gigi Dall’Igna took over as Ducati Corse boss, Pirro was given even more responsibility in helping to turn the program around, which had lost its way in the years after Casey Stoner left Borgo Panigale.

Since then, Pirro has been charged with pushing forward the development of the bike. Pirro’s speed has been key to helping the Desmosedici improve, the Italian consistently capable of running in or around the top ten.

His best finish last year came at Misano, where he crossed the line in fifth, equaling his best result in MotoGP. Wildcards are just one way in which Pirro remains fast, he also races in the Italian CIV championship, which he wins with relative ease.

But his dream remains to return to MotoGP, and to have a shot at proving he is not just a great test rider, but a great MotoGP racer.

Andrea Dovizioso, who came to Ducati at the same time as Pirro, is clear about his importance as a test rider. “His work about test the rider is amazing, because he’s able to make a similar lap time, so we are very lucky to be in this condition. He is testing a lot.”

I spoke to Pirro at the 2018 Sepang test, on a day he was not testing the GP18. Pirro was very open about his aims and goals, and also about the process that had brought him to where he is today, and about the development he has engaged in for Ducati.

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Mugello is many things: majestic, magical, magnificent. Beautifully set, with a natural flow unmatched almost anywhere else.

It was made to host the fastest, most powerful motorcycles in the world, giving them room to stretch their legs and challenging the rider’s skill and bravery, and the bike’s handling, horsepower, and braking.

Unfortunately, this challenge is what makes Mugello so dangerous. During the afternoon session, Andrea Dovizioso hit 356 km/h on the Ducati Desmosedici GP18. Shortly after, his engine spewed a huge cloud of smoke at the end of the straight, causing the red flag to come out.

A little while previously, the session had also been red flagged, after a huge, vicious crash by Michele Pirro just over the crest at the end of the straight, the fastest and most dangerous part of the track.

It made for some harrowing moments at Mugello. The track fell silent, a pall descending on pit lane as the teams feared the worst. Having learned their lesson at previous tragedies, Dorna were not showing either the crash or the rider on the ground.

The mood only lifted when word reached us that Pirro was conscious, and moving his arms and legs. MotoGP dodged a bullet on Friday. But there are still rounds in the chamber.

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Testing for WorldSBK & MotoGP Starts This Week

01/23/2018 @ 4:31 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

With the holiday season receding into the rear view mirror, that means that we are getting closer to seeing bikes on tracks.

Testing starts this week for both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks, and before testing, the Movistar Yamaha team will present their 2018 livery later on this week as well.

The action starts on Tuesday in Jerez, where virtually the entire WorldSBK paddock is gathered for a two-day test.

The Andalusian track will see the first real test of the 2018 WorldSBK machines, with the teams all having had the winter break to develop their bikes under the new technical regulations – new rev limits, and better access to cheaper parts.  

All eyes will once again be on triple and reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, the man who dominated at Jerez in November.

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MotoGP is fated not to escape the influence of the weather this season. There has barely been a race which has not been affected in one way or another. Even when it hasn’t rained, it has been stiflingly hot, sizzling tracks causing tires to wilt. So why should things be any different at Misano?

Heavy overnight rain left the track still spotty and damp in patches in the morning, Moto3 getting the worst of it, MotoGP just being left to deal with the occasional stubborn spot of dampness where the water took longer to dry.

It caused a spate of crashes in the morning, and though the track dried nicely and blue skies dominated, it was cooler than normal. When Marc Márquez tried the hardest front tire, that proved just a little too critical, the Repsol Honda rider washing out the front in the final corner.

The rain had also washed any residual rubber from the track, radically altering the grip level. That was a major setback for the factories which had tested at Misano prior to Silverstone, in preparation for this Grand Prix.

“The feeling is completely different than at the test,” Aleix Espargaro complained. “It looks like all the settings we had were not working. The grip is completely different. No grip at all. It feels like ice.”

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Does the absence of Valentino Rossi from the Misano race make much difference? It is too early to tell. Certainly the media center feels a little more empty, but this is a trend which has been underway for a while.

Print media has less money to spend, and non-specialist media is increasingly choosing not to report from the race track, taking their information from publicly available sources such as the ever-expanding TV coverage.

Specialist print media and websites are also suffering, though their very rationale depends on being at the track, and so they have little choice.

So maybe a more empty press room is a sign that Italian newspapers have decided against sending a correspondent because Valentino Rossi is not racing. Alternatively, it could just be a sign of a more general decline in media presence.

The paddock feels pretty busy, but then it was only Thursday, and the real frenzy doesn’t start until the bikes hit the track. We won’t really know how badly Rossi absence affects the Misano race until the flag drops on Sunday, and official figures and empty spots on grandstands tell the true tale.

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More factories racing means more factories testing. The usual one or two-day shakedown test ahead of the first official MotoGP test of the year organized by IRTA has expanded this year to become much more than that.

All six MotoGP factories are present with test riders – Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, and Yamaha – as well as a couple of factories testing Superbike machines ahead of the 2017 season.

The reason? The more factory teams there are, the cheaper the cost per factory to rent the circuit, and the more time they get preparing for next week’s test.

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Could there be a ninth winner in nine MotoGP races? On Thursday, the massed ranks of MotoGP riders had elected Andrea Dovizioso for the role.

“I’m happy they said my name,” Dovizioso told us journalists on Friday, “but they have put a lot of pressure on me. Because I have to win this race, and today wasn’t the best day for me to try to think about winning…”

The Ducati rider had struggled with a lack of grip on the track, adding to the fact that this is not a great track for Dovizioso.

“This track doesn’t have the best characteristic for my style,” he said. Dovizioso’s strength lies in hard braking and quick turning, and there is not enough of that to suit the Italian. Add low grip to that, and he faces an uphill struggle.

Dovizioso also faces Aragon with a new teammate. Andrea Iannone has once again been forced to withdraw, the T3 vertebra he injured at Misano causing him too much pain to continue. He could manage three or four laps, before needing to return to the pits and get some rest.

With 22 laps coming up on Sunday, Iannone quickly understood that would be too much. Michele Pirro was already on standby, and once FP1 made it clear that Iannone would not be able to ride, Ducati’s test rider was put on the bike.

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There are few more intimidating atmospheres in motorcycle racing than the MotoGP race at Misano. Unless, of course, you are from what the regional government refer to as Motor Valley, the area which stretches from the Adriatic coast and the up the Po Valley towards Milan.

The fans are fiery, passionate, and vocal. If you are not a local, to come here and race is to enter the lion’s den.

The irony is that since 2010, Spaniards have won every MotoGP race held in Italy, with the exception of the 2014 race at Misano, which was won by Valentino Rossi. The enemy has come into the heart of Italy, and left victorious. It is a grave wound to Italian pride.

For the second time this year, it looked for a long time that Valentino Rossi would heal that wound. At Mugello, it was Yamaha who broke the hearts of Italian fans, after turning up the revs on the Yamaha M1 just a little too far, and causing the engine to detonate, leaving Rossi dejected at the side of the track.

At Misano, Rossi took the lead with a firm pass, exploiting a minor mistake by Lorenzo and diving through the barn-door sized opening Lorenzo had left on the inside of Turn 14. There would be fall out from that pass, but not until the press conference.

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The Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati team yesterday confirmed that Michele Pirro will substitue for Danilo Petrucci during the Italian’s absence. Petrucci was forced to pull out of the Qatar Grand Prix after bone fragments from his the broken metacarpals in his right hand displaced while riding.

Petrucci had broken his hand in a crash during testing at Phillip Island, and had tried to ride despite it being just 22 days after surgery, where normally the recovery periods is at least 4 to 6 weeks.

The announcement that Pirro will be replacing Petrucci came as a disappointment to many fans who had been hoping that Casey Stoner would step in to replace the injured Italian.

However, speaking to the official MotoGP.com website, Stoner made it perfectly clear that he had no intention of racing, and wanted to focus solely on testing.

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The hour of truth is at hand. On Monday morning, MotoGP fans will get their very first look at how the 2016 season is really going to look like. We got a glimpse at Valencia, but it was not a uniform picture.

Though the 2016 electronics and Michelin tires made their debut at the two-day test after the final race of 2015, there were still too many variables.

Everyone was on the Michelins, but some riders were on the spec-electronics, others were on the old proprietary software they had been using for the 2015 season, and the factory teams were using a mixture of both.

It was also the first time the teams had to focus solely on the new tires and electronics, without the pressure of an ongoing championship. Though for both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, the intensity of the season finale had left them drained, making it difficult to generate the necessary enthusiasm for testing.

There was a lot of work to do, for everyone concerned, and nobody did anything but scratch the surface.

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