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.

Paddock Pass Podcast #49 – Qatar GP

03/30/2017 @ 11:52 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Episode 49 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison covering the opening round of the MotoGP Championship, the Qatar GP at Losail International Circuit.

The race weekend was a tumultuous affair, with the rain in the desert throwing huge wrenches into the plans of the race organizers. With the qualifying sessions cancelled because of standing water on the track, Sunday’s race was marked with question marks.

Thankfully, the weather gods spared us a rescheduled race, and allowed for some excellent on-track action. As such, the guys catch us up on everything that happened in Qatar for the MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 riders.

They also finish the show with a new segment, picking their “winners” and “losers” from the season-opener. With some interesting picks, it makes for some good debate between David and Neil. We think you will enjoy the show, and enjoy more that the GP season is finally upon us.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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We need to talk about Johann Zarco. For a rookie to lead his very first race on a MotoGP bike is not just unusual, it has never been done before. To do so for six laps is beyond remarkable, and a sign that something rather special is happening.

To put this into perspective, it is worth noting that not only did Zarco lead the race, but he also set the fastest lap in his first race. The last rookie to set the fastest lap during their first race? Marc Márquez, Qatar 2013. Before that? Valentino Rossi, Welkom 2000. And before that, Max Biaggi, Suzuka 1998.

Zarco’s downfall came at Turn 2 on Lap 7. Quite literally: he got a little off line, hit a dirtier part of the track, and down he went. There is no shame in crashing out of your first MotoGP race.

Valentino Rossi crashed out of his first premier class Grand Prix too. On the other hand, Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa all finished on the podium in their MotoGP debut race. Max Biaggi actually won his first 500cc race at Suzuka.

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Miguel Oliveira is one of the brightest minds in the Grand Prix paddock. A quiet, calm presence, the Portuguese rider is widely admired throughout the paddock. His modesty and his down-to-earth attitude mean that he does not garner a great deal of attention off track, nor does he seek it. 

His performance on track does, though. Oliveira came very close to winning the 2015 Moto3 championship, staging a remarkable comeback that saw him recover from a 110-point deficit with six races to go to close to within 6 points of Danny Kent at Valencia.

At the Jerez Moto2 tests, Oliveira was similarly impressive, finishing regularly in the top three. 

That success is in no small part due to his return to Aki Ajo’s Red Bull KTM Ajo Motorsport team. At Jerez, the Finnish team manager spoke glowingly of his return to the fold, and Oliveira returned the compliments.

We spoke to Oliveira at some length at Jerez, covering a vast range of subjects. Oliveira spoke of the KTM Moto2 bike, and of its development. He told us why he went endurance racing last year, and what he is doing to help develop young Portuguese talent.

And he talks about his other career, studying to be a dentist. That study, and his approach to it and to racing, gives a fascinating insight into a very intelligent and grounded young man.

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Moody Photos of the KTM Moto2 Race Bike

02/21/2017 @ 2:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

If you couldn’t get enough moody goodness from KTM’s photoshoot with their MotoGP race bike, the KTM RC16, here is a look at the Austrian brand’s Moto2 machine that Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira will race in the 2017 season.

KTM will continue to use its steel-tube chassis design in Moto2, with of course a mildly tuned Honda CBR600RR engine powering the race bike, per class rules.

KTM CEO Stefan Pierer had some choice words for Honda at the bike’s debut, chastising the Japanese brand for its time penalties in the Dakar Rally (for an illegal fuel stop) and for the manufacturer’s alleged cheating in the Moto3 race class, where its competes heavily with KTM’s own offerings.

Pierer is said to be much happier with Moto2’s switch to a Triumph supplied power plant, which will begin with the 2019 season and be based off the three-cylinder engine found in the new Triumph Street Triple 765.

With a Moto2 now in place, KTM has a pathway for GP talent, all the way from Moto3 to Moto2 and into MotoGP. With a strong partnership in place with Red Bull as well, KTM is well-positioned to take on HRC’s racing dominance, and the powerhouse that is Repsol Honda. We smell a good rivalry heating up.

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The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 2: On Moto2

12/15/2016 @ 11:20 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

Ajo explained how he goes about identifying talent in the first part of this two-part interview. In the second part, he gives more insight into the process of building a winning team.

Ajo talks about how he nearly ended up working with Romano Fenati in 2017, and some of the factors which prevented it. Ajo also explains why he believes Moto2 is the toughest category in motorcycle racing, and the daunting challenge stepping up to the intermediate category can be.

The Finnish team manager also dives more deeply into the importance of a team, and surrounding a rider with the right pieces to help him get the best out of himself. 

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Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

The list of champions and great riders he has produced is almost endless: Marc Marquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Sandro Cortese, Luis Salom, Danny Kent to name just a few. 

To find out how he does it, I sat down with Aki Ajo at Valencia and spoke for nearly half an hour. The results of this interview were fascinating, and offer a great insight into the how to get the best out of a rider, to help them achieve success.

In the first part of this interview, he shares his philosophy of racing and team management, of motivation, and what keeps him going. He also talks about the difference it makes working with a rider the second time around, and why he is happy with his current crop of riders in Moto2 and Moto3.

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KTM’s Moto2 project officially debuted today, with Aki Ajo managing the team that will consist of riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira. Like KTM’s MotoGP project, with the KTM RC16 race bike, the Moto2 project uses some intriguing elements.

Namely, the frame is of a steel trellis design, the suspension is provided for by WP, and of course the engine is a lightly tuned Honda CBR600RR lump.

If looks could win races, the WP KTM Moto2 machine would already be a contender. That being said, we have high expectations for the racing program in next year’s Moto2 Championship.

Until then tough, we’ll let you drool over the high-resolution images we have waiting for you, after the jump.

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KTM is to enter the Moto2 class. The Ajo team is to expand its current Moto2 operation to two riders, with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira (not Tom Lüthi, as we had previously reported) taking the place of the departing Johann Zarco.

The team is also to switch from Kalex to KTM, as part of KTM’s project to provide a career path for young riders from the FIM CEV Moto3 championship through all three Grand Prix classes to MotoGP.

The names of the riders involved should come as no surprise. Brad Binder is a race or two away at most from becoming the 2016 Moto3 world champion, and Miguel Oliveira came very close to winning the Moto3 title in 2015, as Binder’s teammate in the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team.

Both riders are highly rated both by KTM and by team boss Aki Ajo.

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KTM Will Race in Moto2 Starting in 2017

08/07/2016 @ 4:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS


Did you hear? KTM is working on Moto2 race bike, to compliment the Austrian brand’s move into the MotoGP Championship next year? We only learned about the project earlier this year in February, but KTM and WP suspension are supposedly quite far with their progress on the bike, and are now “ready to race” in earnest.

It might seem a little strange to see a KTM building a race bike chassis around a rival manufacturer’s engine (the Moto2 class is powered by slightly massaged Honda CBR600RR engines), but zie Austrian’s are serious about their Grand Prix racing presence, and feel that they need to be involved in all three of the championship’s classes.

KTM CEO Stefan Pierer recently talked to Germany’s Speedweek publication about the Moto2 project recently, where Pierer revealed that the Austrian brand will race in the Moto2 Championship starting in 2017, with a team lead by Aki Ajo.

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Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 10 – Valencia

11/11/2015 @ 1:25 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS


We thought the MotoGP drama would subside at Valencia, but the final race of the season proved it would not go quietly into that good night.

David, Neil, and Tony talk about both the on-track and off-track shenanigans that occurred in Spain. The guys leave no stone un-turned as they examine Marquez’s pace, Rossi’s surge to the front, and Lorenzo’s Championship victory.

We also talk about the Moto3 Championship, and the drama behind the scenes for Danny Kent. This is surely an episode you do not want to miss if you are a Grand Prix racing fan.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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