Kawasaki Signs Rea for Two More Years in WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea will spend another two years at the Kawasaki Racing Team garage, in the World Superbike Championship paddock, with the British rider signing a two-year contract with the factory Kawasaki team this week. The news is perhaps not a surprise to the WorldSBK loyal, but Rea’s continuance with Kawasaki was by no means a sure thing, with the now three-time World Superbike champion having several competing offers in the paddock, as well as links to rides in the MotoGP Championship. Choosing to stay at Kawasaki, and likely add more race-wins and championship titles to his record in the process, Rea continues the unstoppable force that is himself and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.

MV Agusta Debuts Auto-Clutch Tech for Sport Bikes

The concept of an auto-clutch is nothing new, and for dirt bike riders, products like those produced by Rekluse are virtually common place. But, on the sport bike side of things, the use and adoption of this technology is still relatively young. We have seen scooters and other small-displacement machines use continuously variable transmission (CVT) technology before, and Honda is currently proudly touting its dual-clutch transmission (DCT) on several of its models, the latest being the new Honda Gold Wing, but what about the rest of the market? Today we see that MV Agusta is the first brand to strike back in this space, debuting its “Smart Clutch System” (SCS) – an automatic clutch designed with sport bikes in mind, making it an option on the marque’s MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso sport-tourer.

What Everyone Missed About Ford’s Lane-Splitting Patent

If you were reading other moto-news sites this week – first of all, shame on you – then you would have noticed much noise being made about Ford Motor Company applying for a patent on detection technology for when a motorcycle is lane-splitting between cars. What you didn’t notice, along with those other publications, is that this is nothing new from Ford, as the American automobile manufacturer was already granted a patent for this technology over a year ago. Much ado about nothing? Not quite, but the story isn’t remotely close to what was being reported elsewhere. In fact, this news of Ford’s lane-splitting patent strategy is much bigger, and much more important, than what has been in the media thus far.

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.

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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At its core, motorcycle racing is a war of diminishing returns, where manufacturers, teams, and riders dive ever deeper into the details in search of an advantage.

The latest battleground is in rider coaching, with riders and now teams using rider coaches / spotters / observers / analysts to help riders identify where they are strongest and weakest.

Spotters and rider coaches have been around for a while. Wilco Zeelenberg started working with Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha in 2010, and now has a similar role for Maverick Viñales. Jonathan Rea has worked with Keith Amor in WorldSBK, Amor also filming Rea to help him perfect his technique.

More recently, Valentino Rossi started working with former 250cc world champion Luca Cadalora, and has employed a rider coach for the VR46 Riders Academy, the talent pool of young Italian racers Rossi has taken under his wing.

Current Red Bull KTM MotoGP rider Bradley Smith was also a relatively early adopter. The Englishman has worked with former 500cc legend Randy Mamola since his entry into MotoGP, and is fulsome in his praise of the idea.

“I had Randy and I see that as a massive help just in terms of having eyes outside of the track,” Smith said. The Red Bull KTM spoke about rider coaches, their role and benefits, to a small group of journalists at the Sepang test.

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In many ways, the appointment of Alberto Puig as Repsol Honda team manager is both surprising, and a logical choice. Puig was both the obvious person to run the Repsol Honda team, as an experienced team manager with a long association with Honda.

But, also someone with a complicated history with the team’s existing riders, having previously managed Dani Pedrosa, and crossed swords with Marc Márquez’s manager Emilio Alzamora.

The Sepang test was the first time the Spaniard had a chance to talk to the racing press since his appointment. In a press conference with some of the assembled media who had turned up early, Puig addressed a broad range of topics.

He talked about the challenges he sees in the Repsol Honda team, and his new role as its manager. He gave his perspective on managing relationships with the riders.

But Puig also shared his vision on racing, and the key ingredients in racing success. He spoke about how he sees the rider contract situation developing.

And he also talked about Honda’s main focus at this particular MotoGP test, telling us that the main objective will be to choose an engine for the rest of the season.

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Talking to MotoGP’s Rookies: Franco Morbidelli

12/11/2017 @ 10:29 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The Jerez MotoGP test provided three of the four MotoGP rookies with a chance to get familiar with their new bikes and their new teams.

The second test is often more important than the first one, as the rookies have had a chance to think about and absorb the data from the first test directly after Valencia, and approach the test with less pressure.

Expectations are mixed for Franco Morbidelli joining the Marc VDS MotoGP team. The last Moto2 champion to move up to MotoGP with Marc VDS was Tito Rabat, and Rabat endured two long and difficult years with the squad.

Morbidelli will be hoping that the Honda RC213V will be a little easier to adapt to than it was for Rabat, and that he will be able to pick up the pace more quickly.

So far, Morbidelli’s progress has been promising. The reigning Moto2 champion ended the Jerez test as eleventh overall among MotoGP riders, 1.260 behind the fastest man Andrea Dovizioso.

Best of all for Morbidelli, he was just a few hundredths behind MotoGP regulars Jack Miller and Scott Redding. There is still much room for improvement, but things are looking positive.

We spoke to Morbidelli on Thursday, his second day on the bike. Here’s what he had to say about the test.

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Q&A: Kenny Noyes – Two Years of Recovery

07/07/2017 @ 8:53 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Today marks the second anniversary of Kenny Noyes’ crash at the Motorland Aragon circuit for the Spanish CEV Superbike championship. The crash left him in a coma, but through extraordinary perseverance and the support of his family, he has made a remarkable recovery.

I knew Kenny fairly well, both directly from his time racing in the Moto2 championship, and indirectly through his father, Dennis, who has been immeasurably kind and helpful to me throughout my own career as a journalist.

I was shocked and saddened when I heard of his accident, but I have been left with unbounded admiration for Kenny for the energy and determination he has put into his recovery. 

To mark two years since Kenny’s crash, his press office issued the following interview with the former CEV Superbike champion. It is an insightful and honest discussion of the crash, the recovery, the importance of motorcycle racing in his life, but above all, the importance of his family and friends.

Kenny has set up a GoFundMe account to help continue his rehabilitation process. I hope you will consider making a contribution.

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Being a replacement rider is never easy. Being asked to replace a factory MotoGP rider is always an honor, and one which nobody wants to turn down, but it also means being thrown in at the deep end, with a new bike, new tires, and sometimes even new tracks to learn with little or no testing.

Bearing all that in mind, experience can make the world of difference. So when Suzuki were forced to replace Alex Rins, after he broke his left arm in Austin, they turned to one of the most experienced riders around.

Sylvain Guintoli spent five seasons in 250s and two full seasons in MotoGP, before heading off to World Superbikes, where he won the title in 2014. He is currently racing the brand new Suzuki GSX-R1000 for Bennetts Suzuki in the BSB championship.

In Barcelona, I found myself alone at Guintoli’s debrief, and had a chance to spend fifteen minutes talking to the Frenchman.

We had a wide-ranging conversation, covering topics as diverse as the changes to the bikes and tires since 2008, the character of the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, and how it compares to Suzuki’s production GSX-R1000.

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It is not often that journalists get to speak to team managers at length, but test days provide the perfect opportunity to do just that. So it was that a small group of journalists attending the tests sat down with Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio to discuss progress so far.

There was a lot to talk about. There have been rumors that Andrea Iannone is not fitting in well with the ECSTAR Suzuki team, and is currently engaged in talks with Aprilia about moving there for the 2018 season. Some of Iannone’s issues are down to his problem adapting to the bike, and trying to fix his feeling with the front end.

Brivio spoke to us about Iannone’s situation, and the development of the GSX-RR. He also talked about the benefits of a satellite team, what Suzuki is doing to improve the spec electronics package, the test program at Barcelona, and the return of Alex Rins for the test.

It was a long discussion, but there was plenty to go over. We think you will enjoy it.

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Q&A: Jorge Lorenzo on Developing the Ducati

04/22/2017 @ 9:25 pm, by Andrew Kohn10 COMMENTS

This has been a challenging year for Ducati Corse, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Dovizioso. The Desmosedici GP17 is a new platform with a new aerodynamic package, sans winglets, and there have been development challenges along the way.

With a double DNF at Argentina, Ducati was definitely looking for some good news in Austin.

As it turns out, qualifying went better than expected. Lorenzo seemed quite pleased at the end of qualifying, pumping his fist in the air as he entered his garage.

This afternoon, Asphalt & Rubber had a chance to sit down with Lorenzo for a few minutes to discuss the challenges of switching from Yamaha to Ducati, and the difficulty of developing a new MotoGP machine.

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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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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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