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.

MotoGP Preview of the Argentina GP

04/06/2018 @ 1:43 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

It is a good job that the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina is one of the finest on the calendar. Because actually getting there would test the patience of Odysseus.

For most of the MotoGP paddock, it is at least a 24-hour journey to get to the track. If everything goes according to plan, that is, which, as any experienced traveler will tell you, things tend not to do.

This year, as usual, a sizable portion of the paddock found themselves taking the better part of two days or more to get to the circuit. Poor weather, a diverted flight, or a missed connection meant that some paddock folk found themselves rerouted via Montevideo in Uruguay.

Pol Espargaro got bumped off his overbooked flight to Buenos Aires. Members of the Marc VDS MotoGP team took 48 hours to get to Termas, with team press officer Ian Wheeler the current record holder, taking 50 hours to get from Dublin to the Argentinian track.

It took him 28 hours to travel just 500km, an average speed that even I, an overweight, aging journalist manage to exceed while out cycling.

It’s worth it once you get there, though. The atmosphere at the track is phenomenal, and the circuit layout is one of the best of the season.

The circuit has a bit of everything, and a lot of the thing which racers love: fast, flowing, challenging corners which test rider courage and skill equally. Though there is no real elevation change, the circuit has enough dips and crests to require precision in braking.

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“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” wrote the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Little minds or no, consistency is the one complaint that many riders still level at Michelin, the official tire supplier of MotoGP.

When it comes to grip, feedback, and chatter, complaints are few and far between. But consistency of feel between one tire and another remains a problem, at least in the minds of the riders.

The 2018 season opener at Qatar threw up several more examples of this lack of consistency. Ahead of the weekend, Cal Crutchlow had expressed concerns about the variation between what are supposed to be identical tires.

“You can show them the data, and if you have 20% throttle here, and this tire’s got this much more spin than the tire that you’ve got 50% throttle, and that’s got less spin. It doesn’t work. Apparently, they’ve come off the same batch.”

During the race, both Johann Zarco and Dani Pedrosa believed that a lack of consistency had hampered their performance. Zarco had led for the first 17 laps, before fading with what he believed was a faulty front tire.

“I got the best I could, I did what I could do, I did the job, and when I have a technician from Michelin and also on my team saying that something has been wrong, it means that OK, the rider’s job is done, then when you are doing this kind of sport, this can happen.”

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Qatar is always a strange place to kick off the MotoGP season: a windswept circuit in the middle of the desert (though not for long, as the suburbs of Doha are rapidly approaching the track), racing under the floodlights, around a circuit with just a single grandstand and a VIP pavilion.

It is an odd location with a weird atmosphere. The race feels surreal, part of a science fiction spectacular, an impression reinforced as you drive back to Doha afterwards, the huge Blade Runner-esque skyscrapers awash with ever-shifting patterns of blinking lights.

You would think that the season opener couldn’t get much odder, but series organizer Dorna has found a way. In response to complaints of dew forming after 9pm in the evening, rendering the track treacherous.

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Have we emerged any the wiser after three days of testing at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand by the MotoGP field? That is hard to say.

The test was more for the benefit of Michelin than for the teams, and the French tire maker brought some 2000 tires for the 24 riders who took part in the test.

The track itself was not particularly challenging or instructive in terms of understanding how well bike development was going. “This track is also not so easy or so difficult, it’s intermediate,” is how Monster Tech 3 Yamaha replacement Hafizh Syahrin summed it up.

Is it possible to draw conclusions about how the 2018 championship might play out on the basis of the Buriram test? “No, impossible,” Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso said, before proceeding to do just that in some detail.

“I can see Marc in a better shape than at the beginning of last year,” Dovizioso said. “I can see Dani in a good shape, I can see Zarco with a little bit more experience, so a little bit better for the championship than last year.”

It was harder to judge the Movistar Yamahas, Dovizioso said. “It’s very difficult to understand the two factory Yamahas, because they will be fast in the race, on race weekends, for sure.”

“But when you look at the riders and the teams from outside, it’s impossible to know the details, so I don’t know. I can see the Pramac riders are fast, they are happy with the bike, so I think they will be quite fast during the season.”

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It is always easy to get carried away by testing. Seeing a particular rider at the top of the timesheets, it is tempting to start constructing a narrative which sees that rider dominate the season, while writing off the rest.

That, of course, is nearly always a mistake. And in the case of the second day at Buriram, Thailand, it is definitely a mistake.

That doesn’t mean Marc Márquez won’t be fast for the rest of the year, as well as Saturday in Thailand. He has won the MotoGP title in four of his five seasons in the class, so topping the timesheets was not, as one journo joked, because Michelin gave him special tires for his birthday.

Márquez had been fast, and consistently so, through both the Sepang and Buriram tests so far. But the order behind Márquez probably doesn’t reflect the true relative strength of the field.

The reason? Tires, of course. On Saturday, Michelin brought a new rear tire for the riders to test, after the rears used on Friday had shown some signs of degradation. The original allocation of rear tires were the same as used at Brno, Argentina, Sachsenring, and Sepang.

The new tire was the rear used at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That is relatively unsurprising, given that the place everyone compared Buriram to the first time they saw it was Austria.

The different compounds in the Austria rear were better placed to withstand the stresses of Buriram, especially along the three successive straights in the tropical heat.

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Preview of the MotoGP Test at Buriram, Thailand

02/15/2018 @ 8:08 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The Sepang MotoGP test proved to be most instructive, both for the fans, who got a first taste of what the 2018 season could look like, and for the factories, who put the first imaginings of this year’s bikes – and especially engines – through their paces.

We learned that Ducati has taken another step forward, that Honda has improved, that Yamaha has solved one problem but possibly created another, that Suzuki is showing promise, that Aprilia is still waiting on a new engine to match their new chassis, and that KTM is starting to realize that closing in on the top ten was much easier than getting into the top five will be.

From Sepang, MotoGP moves to Thailand, some 1300km almost due north. The Chang International Circuit – mostly referred to as Buriram among the MotoGP faithful, as the circuit is owned by (and named after) the main Thai rival to Official MotoGP Beer Supplier Singha – may prove a good deal less instructive than Sepang, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it offers more of the same, especially from a climate point of view. And secondly, it offers less, in terms of variety of corners and bike maneuverability.

The layout of the Buriram circuit is relatively simple. There are no real elevation changes, though the track has one or two crests and dips.

The track consists of three straights strung together with tight corners, and then an ornery section of tightish corners taking the riders back to the final first-gear corner, and back onto the relatively short start and finish straight.

It is, unsurprisingly, a Hermann Tilke track, and exactly what you would expect as a result.

That doesn’t mean the track is completely without entertainment value. Turn 4 is fast left hander with a lot of run off behind it, giving riders the confidence to attack it. The long Turn 9 is relatively slow, but it leads onto a complex left-right section taken at speed which demands a lot of effort from the rider.

The final corner is a favorite overtaking point, but it tends to bring out the worst in riders. The only pass available is one of the kamikaze variety, offering glory or the gravel trap. To see a lap of the Buriram circuit, watch this video on the WorldSBK website.

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Details Emerge about the FIM MotoE World Cup

02/06/2018 @ 8:19 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

After announcing the 2019 FIM MotoE World Cup roughly a year ago, details have been slow to emerge about this electric motorcycle series, which will run in parallel to the MotoGP Championship.

Late last year we learned that Italian firm Energica had won the contract to supply MotoE with race bikes, which would be based off the Energica Ego production superbike, and now today we learn a little bit more about this fledgling series.

In a press event announcing Enel as the title sponsor (more on that in a minute), Dorna and the FIM laid out the basics for MotoE, in terms of teams, bikes, tracks, and race format.

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Three Predictions for the 2018 MotoGP Season

01/04/2018 @ 12:15 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

A new year brings new opportunities, and a chance to start again with a blank slate. The future is unknown, and so now is a time for predictions, some wild and baseless, some canny educated guesses.

That we do not know which category our predictions will fall into is half the fun of making them, of course.

2018 looks like being another outstanding year for motorcycle racing. There is much reason for optimism: the racing in MotoGP has never been as close as it is now, the field is deep in talent and the bikes are close in performance.

There are fresh young faces coming up through Moto2 and Moto3 too, ready to push aside the old guard, and new rules in MotoGP may help to address the disparity between the championship front-runners and those who pursue them.

Will the new season play out as we hope? Anything can happen in racing, but here are three predictions for 2018, and factors to watch in the coming year:

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At the MotoGP round for which they are title sponsor, Michelin announced that it has extended its contract as official tire supplier to MotoGP for a further five years. As such, the French tire manufacturer will continue to be the sole tire supplier until the end of the 2023 season.

The news did not come as a surprise. Dorna has made no secret of how happy it has been with the job Michelin have done for them, in helping to make the MotoGP series a much closer and exciting championship.

During the press conference held to announce the deal, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta lauded the fact that there had been nine race winners in 2016, saying “this is a championship of bikes and of riders”. Ezpeleta added “We are happy Michelin has helped the competitiveness of the championship.” 

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When they come to write the history of the 2017 MotoGP season, one of the largest chapters is going to bear the title “Weather”. The weather continues to play an inordinately large role in the 2017 championship.

Not always on race day, perhaps, but the amount of time wasted during practice because conditions were so utterly different to Sunday has made a significant difference to the course of the championship.

Aragon was a case in point. Wet conditions on Friday meant one less day of practice for the teams. For some, that meant never finding a solution to problems which would come to plague them on race day.

For others, their first guesses at setup were pretty much spot on, the benefit of years of experience allowing for an educated guess. For the race winner, failing to find a decent setup leading to a lack of feeling was no obstacle to success. Sometimes, the will to win can overcome remarkable odds.

This lack of setup time may be the bane of the teams’ lives, but it is a boon for fans. It adds an element of unpredictability, helping to shake up the field and make the races and the championship more interesting.

The championship ain’t over till it’s over: there has been too much weirdness this year to take anything on trust.

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