20 days ago today, Valentino Rossi fell off an enduro bike at slow speed, breaking his tibia and fibula in the crash. That night, he had pins fitted to fix the bones, and went home the next day to recover.
It looked like his championship was over. He would have to miss both Misano and Aragon, and that would put him too far behind to ever catch up.
20 days later, and Rossi has already ridden a motorcycle on track. Twice. On Monday and Tuesday, he rode a Yamaha R1M around a damp Misano. A few laps on Monday, a total of 20 laps on Tuesday.
The press release Yamaha issued said that he finished the second day “with an improved feeling and a more positive impression compared to yesterday.” Translation? He’s going to try to ride at Aragon.
I don’t know why I have to write this story, it seems so obvious to me, yet I have read about half a dozen publications this week spewing fake news about how MV Agusta is about to release a new scrambler model, based either off the Brutale or Dragster street bike.
In case you missed it, MV Agusta released a terse video trailer the other day, touting something called “RVS” which stands for “Reparto Veicoli Speciali” in Italian.
In English of course, this means “Special Vehicles Department”…and thus to us it seems fairly obvious what the Italian brand is up to. Well, apparently we are somewhat alone in that regard. Le sigh.
The ending of this video does show what looks like a scrambler-type motorcycle, with a few obvious MV Agusta lines to its styling. And, this is apparently enough fuel to start a fire about a brand new model from the Varesini brand, at least if your mammalian ancestry is more closely linked to the noble lemming.
The thing is though, MV Agusta has given us all the pieces of information required in order to know that the iconic brand isn’t releasing a new motorcycle, and is instead up to much bigger things within its factory walls.
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Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.
It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.
There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.
In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.
My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.
The final piece of the MotoGP puzzle has finally dropped. Eugene Laverty has decided that he will be switching back to WorldSBK, where he will ride a factory-backed Aprilia RSV4-RF with the Milwaukee Racing SMR squad.
The departure of Laverty means that Yonny Hernandez will get to keep his place in the Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati team, filling the final empty slot on the MotoGP grid.
It may seem strange for Laverty to abandon MotoGP, just as his star has been rising in the class. Since Aspar switched from Honda’s RC213V-RS Open Class machine to the Ducati Desmosedici GP14.2, the older Ducati working very well with the Michelin tires, more rear grip helping to reduce the understeer the GP14.2 suffers from.
He is currently eleventh in the championship, and has a fourth and a sixth as best finishes, Laverty being annoyed that early traffic cost him the chance of a podium at Brno. It took the factory Ducatis on their brand new GP16s six races to get ahead of the Irishman in the championship standings.
So why has Laverty decided to abandon MotoGP in favor of WorldSBK? There are a number of reasons, but all of them boil down to a single issue: Eugene Laverty is a winner, and he likes to win.
On two-year-old machinery, in a private team (though with good factory support, unlike other satellite set ups), Laverty’s only chance to win in MotoGP would come when the weather acts as the great neutralizer.
California just got another step closer to formalizing the practice of lane-splitting in the Golden State, as AB 51 just passed the California State Senate.
The bill will now go back to the California State Assembly, which will need to approve of the amendments made by the Senate, but that should be a formality for the legislative body.
This means that California is now just a couple procedural movements away from codifying lane-splitting into its vehicle code. For many lane-splitting advocates, this marks a decisive victory. Though, we’ve had some reservations.
British magazines MCN dropped a bombshell on the motorcycle world today, reporting that Honda was set to discontinue the Honda CBR600RR, with no supersport replacement in sight.
According to their reports, the main impetus for the Honda CBR600RR being discontinued is the Euro 4 emission standards, which the Honda CBR600RR does not meet.
Honda feels too that the demand for a 600cc sport bike is too low to warrant updating the CBR600RR to meet Euro 4 regulations, let alone building an all-new machine for the market that would be Euro 4 compliant.
Of course, Euro 4 emissions only apply to bikes sold in the European Union; but there too, MCN says that Honda seems to feel that the world demand for the Honda CBR600RR is too lacking to continue with the machine.
Coverage of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s referendum whether to continue as a member of the European Union, has largely been ignored in the United States, and it certainly hasn’t been a blip on the radar recently within our microcosm of the motorcycle industry.
But of course, the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union will have far-reaching consequences, even in our beloved little two-wheeled world.
If you check the timestamp on the most recent Paddock Pass Podcast posting, you will see that I was up late enough into the evening to get word that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, with the “Leave” supporters edging out the “Remains” by the narrow margin of 1.3 million votes.
There is a lot of politics at play here, and I don’t care to rehash it, other than to say that it could be a foreshadow of what could come soon in the United States as well. What I do have to say though is an examination of how the United Kingdom leaving the European Union can and will affect the world of motorcycling.
“MOTORSPORTS CAN BE DANGEROUS” it says on the back of my media pass, the hard card I wear around my neck and which gives me access to the paddock and the media center.
It says the same thing everywhere around the circuit: on rider passes, on the back of tickets, on signs which hang on fences around the circuit.
You see it so much that it becomes a cliché, and like all clichés it quickly loses its meaning. Until reality intervenes, and reminds us that behind every cliché lies a deep truth.
Friday brought a stark reminder. During the afternoon session of free practice for the Moto2 class, Luis Salom exited Turn 11 and got on the gas towards Turn 12.
Just before the turn, traveling at around 170 km/h, the rider caress the front brake to help the bike turn through the fast right hander of Turn 12, an engineer told me.
At that point, Salom lost control of his bike, fell off, and he and his bike headed towards the air fence which protects the wall there.
They slid across a patch of tarmac put in to help the cars if they run straight on at that corner, and Salom’s bike hit the air fence and wall, careened off the wall and into Salom, fatally injuring him.
Salom received treatment in the corner, and was then taken to a local hospital where doctors did all they could to save his life. Sadly, they could not. Luis Salom died at 4:55pm on 3rd June 2016, at the age of 24.
When opportunity comes knocking, it is a fool who does not open the door. That is especially true when the opportunity is as unique as the chance to race at a World Championship level event.
Given the chance to shine on the world stage, you have to take that shot. So when Cameron Beaubier was asked to replace the injured Sylvain Guintoli inside the Pata Yamaha team for the Donington round of World Superbikes, I cannot imagine that he hesitated for very long before jumping at the chance.
As commendable as Beaubier’s choice is, it comes with some considerable risk. Not just to the reputation of Beaubier himself, but also to the standing of American motorcycle racing in the world.
As arguably the best motorcycle racer in MotoAmerica, the US domestic championship, his performance will be weighed on a silver scale, and used as a yardstick for the standard of racing in the US. The hopes and dreams of many a young American racer may lie fallow if Beaubier falls short.
Is it fair that the weight of responsibility should fall so heavily on Beaubier’s shoulders? Absolutely not. Yet fair or not, that is what will happen.
The reasons for this lie in the historical strength of US racing, and the important role it has had in the history of both the MotoGP and World Superbike championships.