Unions End Partnership Agreement with Harley-Davidson

Two labor unions have ended a partnership agreement with Harley-Davidson, citing differences with how the Bar & Shield brand handles staffing issues at its factories (Harley has been accused of replacing hourly union workers with temporary seasonal workers). The move comes after a meeting on Monday, which saw leaders from the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), and Harley-Davidson President & CEO Matt Levatich unable to agree on how to handle staffing issues going forward. While the disagreement ends an accord that has existed between the unions and Harley-Davidson for the past two decades, it does not affect the collective bargaining agreement that the unions have with Harley-Davidson, which has been incorrectly reported elsewhere.

US House of Representatives Passes Self-Driving Car Bill

Say what you will about American politics, but the US House of Representatives has passed the “SELF-DRIVE Act” (H.R. 3388) – a bipartisan bill that would open up autonomous vehicle regulation for manufacturers. The big advantage of the SELF-DRIVE Act is that it would supersede the varying and ad hoc state rules that manufacturers must currently adhere to while developing their autonomous platforms. The bill would also do away with some safety standards put in place for vehicles with drivers, such as where the steering wheel and foot pedals must be located. Lastly, the SELF-DRIVE Act would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to research and develop a way of conveying to consumers the level of automation a vehicle possesses.

Is the MV Agusta Brutale 800 the Best Bike on the Market?

In early 2016, I was fortunate enough to ride the revamped and Euro4 version of the MV Agusta Brutale 800. On paper, the Brutale 800 lost power and gained weight, but the reality is that MV Agusta improved upon already one of its best-selling machines, in subtle and clever ways. Now a year-and-a-half later, the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is finally available in the United States, and I have been reunited with one of the best street bikes on the market. Spending almost all of last month with this motorcycle again, it is clear that not much has changed from a rider’s perspective, though internally improvements have been made to some of the weaker elements of the design, like the sprag clutch and valve train. While not much has changed with this year’s edition of the MV Agusta Brutale 800, I am mostly fine with that.

Lin Jarvis Talks Rossi’s Injury, Replacement, & Training

What happened when Valentino Rossi crashed? How serious is his injury? When will he be back? Who will replace Rossi, if he doesn’t return at Aragon? And what does Yamaha think of Rossi’s training methods? Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis spoke to a small group of journalists at Misano on Saturday morning, to answer these questions and much more. Jarvis knew about the accident very shortly after it had happened. “I knew before he got to the hospital,” Jarvis told us. “Albi [Tebaldi] called Maio Meregalli as soon as he got the news that Vale was on the way to the hospital. Maio called me straight away.” The good news was that Rossi’s injury was not as bad as the last time he broke his leg, at Mugello in 2010. “It’s much less serious,” Jarvis told us, “but probably just as irritating.

Aprilia Debuts Augmented Reality Helmet for MotoGP

While the launch of the Ducati’s Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine and leaked photos of the Ducati Panigale V4 dominated the news on Thursday, Aprilia Racing was quietly changing the sport of motorcycle racing, as it debuted an augmented reality helmet that its mechanics will wear in MotoGP. Aprilia has partnered with DAQRI and Realmore to make the augmented reality helmet come to fruition – DARQI is making the hardware, while Realmore is responsible for the software. As followers of augmented reality (AR) tech may already have guessed, Aprilia Racing’s AR helmet will allow its mechanics to visualize and share information, overlaid on what is occurring in the pit box. Aprilia Racing sees two major scenarios where using augmented reality could be of benefit.

More Leaked Photos of the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4

Apparently today is Ducati Day, as news continues to come from Italy about the Ducati Panigale V4 and its Desmosedici Stradale engine. Ducati has already spilled the beans on the new 210hp V4 engine it has been developing for its next superbike, but now we also get more spy photos of the Panigale V4 that will carry it. These latest spy photos show quite clearly the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 that will debut later this November, at the EICMA show in Milan. Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali confirmed the Panigale V4 name today, and for our A&R Pro members, we have gone into a lengthy analysis as to why Ducati is choosing to keep the styling and name of this machine so similar to the previous model.

Ducati Reveals the 210hp Desmosedici Stradale Engine

Hello and welcome to a new era of Ducati motorcycles, which is starting with a very special engine. Named the Desmosedici Stradale, this road-going version of the company’s MotoGP power plant is what is going to power Ducati’s next superbike, the Ducati Panigale V4. Debuting today in Misano, at a special event ahead of the San Marino GP, the mystery around the Desmosedici Stradale engine has finally be revealed, to the tune of 210hp (@ 13,000 rpm) and 88.5 lbs•ft of torque (@ 12,250 rpm). Dropping details on the 90° V4 engine with desmodromic valves, we now know that Ducati will continue to play the displacement game with its superbike, as the street version of the Panigale V4 coming with a 1,103cc displacement.

Verdict Reached in Alpinestars/Dainese Airbag Patent Case

A verdict has finally been reach in the German patent law dispute between Alpinestars and Dainese, concerning their respective airbag suit technologies. In the ruling, the “Landgericht” court in Munich found that Alpinestars violated two Dainese patents concerning its D-Air technology, and thus issued a verdict that sees Alpinestars forbidden from selling its Tech-Air products in Germany. Alpinestars will also have to pay Dainese restitution for damages incurred from Alpinestars selling Tech-Air products in Germany. The monetary amount of the damages will depend on how much Tech-Air product the Italian firm sold in Germany, which has yet to be determined. After the verdict, both companies issued press releases touting their side of the patent dispute story, with clearly no love lost between the two parties.

Ducati Divestiture Seemingly Stalls Out

For the past few months, talk of Ducati’s divestiture from the Volkswagen Group has grabbed the attention from news outlets and Ducatisti alike, as the future of the Italian motorcycle company seemed uncertain. Internally, a power struggle was a play, with Audi keen to unload Ducati from its books, but lacking the support from upper management in the Volkswagen Group. Talks reportedly hit the skids once it was realized that the Volkswagen labor unions, which control half of the seats on the Volkswagen Group management board, weren’t onboard with divesting Ducati from the holding group. This is probably information that investors would have liked to know, before they spent the time and resources putting together purchase proposals for Audi’s consideration.

Ducati Panigale V4 Spotted in Photo

Later this week, Ducati will debut its Desmosedici Stradale engine, the new 90° V4 engine that will power Ducati’s next superbike (amongst other models). To see Ducati’s next superbike though, we’ll have to wait until November’s EICMA show in Milan, Italy…or will we? This photo is going around the internet, purporting to show the new “Panigale V4” superbike. The photo looks legit, and looks very similar to the spy photos that we have seen of the Ducati’s new superbike machine. The bodywork on the Ducati Panigale V4 mimics very closely the previous generation Panigale (the v-twin model), though there are some obvious changes. It looks like the headlight recesses also channel air around the body, likely to aid in cooling the V4 engine.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Assen

06/25/2017 @ 10:30 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

There are days when being a MotoGP journalist can be hard work. You spend hours each day trying to wheedle tidbits of information from unwilling conversation partners, then hours chasing round after riders.

You top it off with hours trying to spin a day’s worth of platitudes into something vaguely readable and semi-interesting, before hopping into bed for five hours’ sleep, only to do it all over again.

There were years when writing race reports containing any entertainment value was a hard slog through tiny details, as for much of the Bridgestone years, the riders would pretty much finish in the order in which they qualified. You keep doing it from a deep love of the sport, and the hope of better days.

You keep doing it for days like today. Sunday at Assen saw not one, but three breathtaking races. Each race was packed with a season’s worth of drama, and combined spectacular passing, raw, undiluted speed, tricky weather conditions and surprise results from the first race through to the last.

It was a reminder that majestic tracks produce phenomenal racing. A reminder that we are living through a new golden age of Grand Prix racing, with the outcome of any of the three races completely up in the air on any given weekend.

Above all, though, it was a reminder that we are watching giants of the sport at play. In twenty years’ time, when MotoGP fans come to draw up their lists of the top ten racers of all time, at least half of the names they choose will have been on the grid on Sunday. Assen was a veritable cornucopia of racing greatness.

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Motorcycle racing is an outdoor sport. The riders are at the mercy of the elements. Not just the riders, but the teams and factories too. A bike that works well in the dry may be terrible in the wet.

A bike that is strong in the wet may struggle when conditions were mixed. Finding the right balance when conditions change can throw the best laid plans into disarray.

All of these questions were multiplied by the weather at Assen. With nothing between the circuit and the North Sea but a row of sand dunes, the odd high rise office block, and a hundred kilometers of pancake-flat farmland punctuated by the occasional tree, the wind, sun, and rain blow out just as quickly as they blow in. The weather at Assen is as fickle as a pretty teenager in a crowded disco.

That made it tough for MotoGP at the Dutch circuit. Searching for the right setup was both perilously difficult and ultimately futile, for as soon as you found something in the right ballpark for the conditions, the rain would come or the track would dry out, and you would have to start all over again.

Add in tarmac which has fantastic grip in the dry but diminishing grip in the wet, and you had a recipe for, if not chaos, then at least a fairly random mix of riders topping qualifying.

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MotoGP got off to an inauspicious start at Assen. Just a couple of minutes into FP1 on Friday morning, the red flags were already out.

The cause? Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati Desmosedici GP17 had started spewing oil all over the track on his out lap, causing first Jonas Folger to take a massive tumble through the gravel at Duikersloot. It also took down Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

“I felt some movement a few corners before,” Folger said of his crash. “I had a highside, and then the bike hit me as well.” After a brief check up at the Medical Center, Folger was sent on his way again.

Fortunately for the Tech 3 rider, it took the best part of half an hour to clean up the oil left on the track by Dovizioso, so he had plenty of time to get back to the garage and get ready again.

Surprisingly, the crash left him with few ill consequences. Folger was able to get back out, and build up his confidence again. So much so, in fact, that he ended the day as second fastest, with only a masterful Maverick Viñales ahead of him.

Where had his speed come from? Confidence mainly. He had gained confidence from the past couple of rounds, and especially at Barcelona. Being fastest during warm up in Barcelona, and seeing Marc Márquez struggle to match his pace had given Folger a boost.

This, and working out that he needed to brake later, had made a world of difference.

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MotoGP Preview of the Dutch TT

06/22/2017 @ 11:46 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

For the first ten years I spent writing previews for the Dutch TT at Assen, I would start have to start of on a tangent, with a brief summary of the schisms and splits of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Without the background to the religious topology of The Netherlands, it is hard to explain why the race was held on Saturday. Last year, when the MotoGP race was held on a Sunday for the first time, I had to recap that, to explain why it was a big deal for the race to be held on Sunday, and to be moved from Saturday.

This year, 2017, I can leave aside the history of Dutch Protestantism and its aversion to any activity on the Sabbath. This will be the second time the race will be held on Sunday, and so the novelty of the change has worn off.

It has fallen in line with the rest of the calendar, and so it is just another race weekend, same as any other. Although of course, being Assen, it is still something a bit special.

If anything, the switch from having a Saturday race to a Sunday race has been a positive boon. Though some feared the traditionalists would stay away, offended by change, visitor numbers were up last year, especially on Friday and Saturday.

More people came for the race as well, despite taking place in an absolute downpour. Over 105,000 fans packed a flooded Assen, because being Assen, it is still something a bit special.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #54 – Italian & Catalan GP

06/15/2017 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Paddock Pass Podcast #54 – Italian & Catalan GP

Episode 54 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison doing double duty, as they cover the last two rounds for the MotoGP Championship’s – the Italian GP and the Catalan GP.

The show’s focal point is obviously the double-win for Ducati Corse and Andrea Dovizioso, as the Italians are clearly finding their stride this year with the GP17. Dovizioso’s double also means a shake-up in the MotoGP Championship standing, which David and Neil discuss at length.

The brings up a conversation about what is happening inside the Honda and Yamaha garages, as both factories seem to be struggling this season, though at different times, at different tracks, and under different conditions.

The show also covers the events of Monday’s MotoGP test at Barcelona, which sees some talk of Yamaha’s different chassis, and what tires Marc Marquez prefers from Michelin.

The conversation then turns to the Moto2 and Moto3 championships, before the guys talk about their winners and losers of the two weekends.

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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Friday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: The Last Waltz?

06/10/2017 @ 2:25 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: The Last Waltz?

There are a lot of reasons to visit Barcelona. It is one of the greatest cities in the world, a triumph of the architectural movement known as Modernisme, a vibrant center of culture, a place where you can eat, drink, and sleep well, after a day spent gazing mouth agape at some of the most remarkable buildings created by human hands, and human minds.

Once upon a time, the Montmelo circuit was also a good reason to visit the city. A track full of fast, sweeping corners challenging riders and bikes in equal measure.

That was before the aging asphalt turned the track greasy in the summer heat, and the repeated abuse from fat F1 tires left the surface rippled and bumpy, cracked and patched.

Tragedy struck with the death of Luis Salom – probably the victim of a wayward bump sending him flying towards a patch of gravel-free run off – and the Safety Commission (consisting of MotoGP riders, Dorna, and the FIM) decided to neuter the second half of the track, removing one of the fastest and most furious final sections on the calendar. There is little left to love about Montmelo.

I asked several riders whether it would be possible to race in Montmelo next year if the track had not been resurfaced. The response was unanimous. “No.”

Worse than that, Bradley Smith explained how the Safety Commission had grown impatient with the circuit, which has been singularly unresponsive to their requests to adapt the track to make it safer. Hopefully, MotoGP would not return, Smith told us bluntly.

“That’s finally what it comes down to. This is the only track on the calendar that’s not actually reacting to Safety Commission / rider / organizer’s requests. So at some point, you have to give them an ultimatum, and I think that this is the last year that they’ll be in that situation. We have enough people that want us to go race there, we don’t have to come here.”

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Thursday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: First Shots Sounded in Satellite Silly Season

06/08/2017 @ 11:21 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: First Shots Sounded in Satellite Silly Season

Last year, at Jerez or thereabouts, I had a chat with Livio Suppo about the insanely early start to MotoGP’s Silly Season that year.

Suppo bemoaned the fact that so many riders were switching factories so early, with contracts signed as early as Qatar (in the case of Bradley Smith and Valentino Rossi), and the ensuing hullabaloo surrounding Jorge Lorenzo, and whence he was bound.

“Normally, we start talking after a few races, in Mugello or so,” Suppo said. “You want a few races to see how strong a rider is.”

While last year’s Silly Season was nearing its close at Mugello last year, it seems that 2017 is taking a slightly more normal trajectory. This year, Mugello may have seen the early conversations, which kick off the period where riders discuss their future options.

And Barcelona was the first race where they started to discuss – or more accurately, hint at – those options publicly.

Why is this year’s Silly Season so much later (or so much more normal) than last year’s? Put simply, it’s because last year, every single factory rider was out of contract, and every factory seat was up for grabs.

This year, all the factory seats are still taken for 2018 (or at least, unless a factory boss decides that one of their riders is grossly underperforming), and there are only the satellite bikes at stake.

Fewer seats are available, and those which are available have less money attached, and less chance of competing for podiums and victories. All that combined leads to a lower sense of urgency when it comes to negotiations.

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MotoGP Preview of the Catalan GP

06/08/2017 @ 12:40 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP Preview of the Catalan GP

From Mugello to Barcelona, with, in most cases, nary a chance in between to head home and wash your smalls. It used to be that the trip from Mugello to Barcelona was a chance to see MotoGP race back-to-back at two of the great motorcycle racing circuits.

Now, it’s one and a half great circuits, with a nadgery little section tagged on at the end to slow everything down. Or as Marc Márquez described it in Mugello, “You arrive [at Montmelo] and you know that it’s kind of two different tracks: the first part is really fast and wide, the last part tight and slow.”

What was a temporary fix to solve the immediate issues exposed by the tragic death of Luis Salom last year – one year on, the paddock will doubtless be full of memorials to the bright young Spaniard – has been turned into a rather horrible bodge job.

The fast sweeper of Turn 12, where Salom fell and found himself on an unexpected trajectory across asphalt, and not gravel which would have slowed him down, is replaced by an even tighter and shorter chicane than last year, made so because of the proximity of the walls on the inside of the F1 chicane used last year.

It is a tragedy – I use that word advisedly, as it cannot compare with the loss of a young man’s life – to sacrifice one of the great sections of a motorcycling track.

But it is also an inevitable consequence of Grand Prix motorcycles getting ever faster, being able to brake later, carry more corner speed. The progress in motorcycle development is pushing their performance beyond the capacity of race tracks to safely host that performance.

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Saturday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Recovery

06/03/2017 @ 11:12 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Recovery

Imagine you find yourself at the start of a 40-minute session of track time, at one of the greatest racing circuits in the world, sat astride one of the most sophisticated racing motorcycles in the world, with the Tuscan sun beating down from clear skies, and the hillsides echoing to the roar of tens of thousands of delirious fans. What would you do?

If you’re a Moto3 rider competing at the Italian Grand Prix, then the answer is simple: you sit in your pit box for five minutes, then pootle out into pit lane, spending all your time looking backwards.

You are finally persuaded to head out of pit lane over the crest and down towards one of the most challenging corners of the season, so you potter around at a miserable 30 km/h, constantly looking behind you in the hope of finding a faster rider coming up behind you at speed. You repeat this for the full session, interspersed with the odd hot lap.

The situation got so bad that in one of the hospitality units after the day was over, one person came over to us and asked if the Moto3 qualifying session had been red-flagged. They had been working through the session, and had noticed that the track had gone completely quiet.

But it was not red flags that stopped the action, it was the desperate search for exactly the right tow. The trouble is, when all 31 Moto3 riders are waiting for a tow, there is no one left to be giving them.

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MotoGP Preview of the Italian GP

06/01/2017 @ 2:05 am, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP Preview of the Italian GP

There are a lot of reasons to love Mugello. First, there is the setting: a dramatic backdrop of Tuscan peaks and dales. A place so fecund you need only stretch out your arm to grasp the riches of the earth: nuts, fruit, wild mushrooms, stag and boar.

To the south, Florence, one of the marvels of the Renaissance and a city so beautiful it breaks your heart to look upon it alone. At every bend in the road on the way to the circuit, the view takes your breath away. And there are a lot of bends. Hypoxia is a real concern.

Then there’s the track itself. It snakes across the landscape like a discarded shoelace, a thin filament of tarmac hugging the hillsides of the valley into which the track is wedged.

It has everything a motorcycle track needs to make it truly majestic: long, fast corners like the Arrabbiatas; fast combinations like Casanova/Savelli or Scarperia/Palagio; a terrifyingly fast front straight where the braking point is blind; and a corner where front brakes and front tires are tortured, as riders dump their speed into San Donato.

No pass at Mugello is ever a done deal, there is always an opportunity to counterattack. No bike has outright superiority at the track, for the nature of motorcycle dynamics is compromise, and each manufacturer chooses to make their compromises in different areas.

Mugello rewards only perfection, and perfection is almost impossible to sustain for 23 laps at such blistering speeds.

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