Rumors of a New Aprilia RSV4 Begin

This is the 10th year of the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, and despite that duration, the V4 superbike remains one of the top machines that you can stick in your garage. Part of this is due to the fact that the RSV4 is an incredibly well-engineered high-tech motorcycle. After all, it was the first superbike to use an inertial measurement unit (IMU) in conjunction with traction control, and one of the first superbikes to have a ride-by-wire throttle. The other part of Aprilia’s dominance comes down to the fact that the Italian brand has consistently updated the RSV4 every couple of years, helping keep it at the sharp end of the superbike stick. Now if you believe the rumors, the 2019 model year will be no different.

Cameron Beaubier Headed to WorldSBK for 2019?

When you talk to veterans of motorcycle racing about which American could be the next champion at the international level of the sport, one name is almost always included in that very short list: Cameron Beaubier. This is not only because of Beaubier’s status as a two-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion, but also his experience abroad. A promising young rider, Beaubier impressed during the 2007 Red Bull Rookies Cup season, which found him some riders on the international stage before returning to the USA. Now a proven talent on domestic soil, along with his experience abroad, Beaubier is an easy pick to make when looking for Americans to promote to a paddock like the WorldSBK Championship. And now that is exactly the case, with the Cameron Beaubier tipped for ride in World Superbike next season.

More Details on the KTM 790 Adventure R Emerge

The KTM 790 Duke hasn’t even made it to American soil yet — though, it strangely can race in the production middleweight class at Pikes Peak… — and we are already talking about its off-roading sibling, the KTM 790 Adventure R. Built around the same 799cc parallel-twin engine found in the Duke model, the Adventure variant takes things to a whole new level for ADV riders. Promising light weight, plenty of off-road power, and Dakar-inspired chassis components, this should be the adventure-tourer that dual-sport riders have been asking for. With the production version of the KTM 790 Adventure R set to debut later this year at the annual industry trade shows, most of our appetite has been sustained by the prototype bike, which has been making the marketing rounds.

Tom Sykes, Where Will You Be Racing Next Year?

With Jonathan Rea’s future firmly set at the Kawasaki Racing Team, the focus this past weekend at Laguna Seca was on the future of his teammate, Tom Sykes. The Yorkshire man had spared few words in the media for his team and teammate in the days ahead of the California round, and he certainly wasn’t holding too much back once he was at Laguna Seca. You could almost smell the smoke emanating from Sykes, a result of the bridge that was being burned behind him. Sykes is 99.9% not riding with Kawasaki for the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, and he finds himself as one of the top picks in the paddock in the rider market. Chaz Davies is another top rider who is highly sought after in the paddock, and he is likely to remain at Ducati.

Moto2 Builders Out Testing the Triumph Triple

The 2019 Moto2 Championship is rapidly approaching, and next year’s season sees the introduction of a new spec-engine platform. Using a 765cc three-cylinder engine from Triumph, Moto2 competitors have begun testing their new chassis designs for the British triple. Out in Aragon, we get our first glimpse of the front-running race bike providers: Kalex, KTM, and NTS, as well as Triumph’s own test mule, which uses a Daytona 675 chassis. Shaking down their machines ahead of the start of next season, bike manufacturers focused on learning the new race engine and its accompanying spec-ECU. The Kalex was ridden by Moto2 racer Alex Marquez and test rider Jesko Raffin; on the KTM was Julian Simon and test rider Ricky Cardús; and on the NTS was Moto2/MotoGP veteran Alex de Angelis.

Polaris Moving Production to Europe Because of Tariffs?

President Trump’s trade war is about to see another player in the motorcycle industry jump ship from American soil, and this time it is heavyweight Polaris Industries. According to a report by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Polaris is considering moving some of its production capacity to Europe, eyeing a production facility in Poland that would build units for the European market. The move is a direct response to the retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union on motorcycle imports, which itself was a response to the Trump Administration’s taxing of steel and aluminum imports.

Here’s Why Suzuki’s New Factory Is Such a Big Deal

One of the more overlooked announcements this week is perhaps one of the bigger ones we have seen in a while, as Suzuki Motor Corp has announced the creation of a new manufacturing plant in Hamamatsu, Japan. The new factory combines engineering, development, engine production, and vehicle assembly into one location, which will streamline operations, increase efficiency, and reduce production costs on Suzuki’s Japanese-made motorcycle models. Over 40 acres in size, the new factory is massive, and it sits in the Miyakoda district of Hamamatsu. Part of a five-year consolidation plan, the new factory replaces an engineering and development facility in Ryuyo; an engine production plant in Takatsuka; and a motorcycle assembly line in Toyokawa.

Take a Look at the Norton Atlas, Another British Scrambler

Today we get another look at Norton’s 650cc project, now named the Norton Atlas. We have already seen concept sketches for this British scrambler, and now Norton is showing us some engineering renders. This is because the physical machine should debut later this year, at the NEC bike show in November. Details are still vague and light, but we do know that the 650cc parallel-twin engine will piggyback off the work done for Norton’s V4 superbike. Essentially the using the V4 engine with its rear cylinders lopped off, the parallel-twin engine shares the same head, pistons, valves, etc as the V4 bike. Several flavors of the Atlas are expected to come to market, with 70hp and 100hp naturally aspirated versions already planned, as well as a supercharged version that is said to clear 175hp.

Limited Edition Celebrates 25 Years of the Ducati Monster

This year marks the 25th year of the Ducati Monster, one of the most iconic motorcycles ever to come out of the Borgo Panigale assembly line. To commemorate this 25-year mark, we have the aptly named Ducati Monster 1200 25° Anniversario. A special edition version of the Italian naked bike, only 500 Anniversario models will be produced for the world’s market, with the highlight being the machine’s tricolore livery and gold frame and wheels. Mostly an aesthetic exercise, the Ducati Monster 1200 25° Anniversario comes with some top-shelf parts, and a number of pieces to make this a unique member of any Ducatisti’s garage. Key features include Öhlins suspension, forged Marchesini wheels, and Ducati’s up/down quickshifter mechanism.

Harley-Davidson Moving Production Because of Trade War

We have already reported on the European Union’s 25% tariff increase (6% to 31%) on American-made motorcycles, and how those import taxes are going to affect in particular Harley-Davidson. The short version: not well. Seeing that writing on the wall, Harley-Davidson has responded to Europe’s retaliatory tariffs, though it is perhaps not the response that the American government was hoping for when it began taxing aluminum and steel from European Union member states. As such, Harley-Davidson plans to shift its production for motorcycles destined to the European market from its factories in the United States to it facilities abroad.

How Far Can Talent Take You?

04/08/2018 @ 1:45 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

God-given ability can be a crutch or curse depending on the mindset of an athlete. Talent can take you all the way to the top, but eventually you'll face a challenge that can only be overcome through hard work.

Lessons need to be learned along the way to ensure success, and only a handful of riders ever make it to MotoGP on their talent alone.

Most riders marry talent with dedication at an early age in the Grand Prix paddock, and some have had to learn those lessons at a very young age. Vince Lombardi once said that “the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

In any sport, to get to the very top you need dedication as well as raw talent, but how far can natural ability get you in motorcycle racing? We set out to answer that question at the recent Qatar Grand Prix.

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After a poor start, which saw him drop from ninth on the grid to thirteenth at the end of the first lap, Jorge Lorenzo was making steady progress through the field at Qatar. His lap times were starting to come down to match, and on some laps even beat, the pace the leaders were running.

As the halfway mark approached, and less than four seconds behind the leaders, Lorenzo started to believe he was capable of salvaging a decent result from a difficult start.

That all ended on Lap 13. The Spaniard crashed out of the race at Turn 4, when his front brake failed and he had to drop the bike in the gravel. “I just felt that the level of the front brake was getting closer to my fingers and I didn’t have brake,” Lorenzo described the incident afterwards.

“I lost some meters so I tried to use less front brake and more the rear to try to delay this thing that was getting worse lap-by-lap.”

“Unfortunately when into this Turn 4 the first part of the brake was OK, but suddenly I just missed completely this brake so I had no brake and was going very fast through the gravel to the wall, and I jumped off the bike to avoid hitting the wall.”

What had caused Lorenzo to crash? “The bike came to the box without one part,” Lorenzo said. “Some mechanics went to the corner to see if they could find it and luckily they found it – it was very difficult, but they found it. One part was missing from the bike. I don’t know if it was before the crash or after the crash.”

Both Lorenzo and team boss Davide Tardozzi remained vague about the problem, referring only to “parts” in general, and not specific components. The entire braking system had been handed to Brembo for further examination.

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Once upon a time in MotoGP, the life of a journalist was easy. At the end of every day, and after every race, there were four or five riders you absolutely had to speak to, plus another couple who would be either entertaining or worth listening to on occasion.

The rest of the field could be safely ignored, unless they happened to get lucky and The Big Names would crash out in front of them.

Then, a few things happened. Dorna cajoled the factories into accepting spec electronics and providing better bikes to the satellite teams.

Michelin replaced Bridgestone as official tire supplier, and supplied user-friendly tires to the riders. And a new generation of talent entered MotoGP through the Moto3 and Moto2 classes.

As a consequence, there are no longer just three or four stories that need to be told at each race, but a dozen or more. Journalists need to speak as many of the twelve factory riders as possible, plus another half or dozen satellite riders.

Factory PR bods add to the complexity by scheduling their riders to speak to the press five minutes apart, despite the fact that each rider debrief will go for at least fifteen minutes or more. Even the lower priority riders have genuinely fascinating tales to tell.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #69 – Qatar GP

03/22/2018 @ 12:47 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 69 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and welcomes the start of racing for the 2018 MotoGP Championship. As such, David Emmett and Neil Morrison are on the mics, talking about the Qatar GP.

With close racing, there is a lot to cover, and to do so we are rolling out a new show format that covers the big takeaways and bullet points from the race weekend.

As such, the guys talk about the pace of Dovizioso, the Zarco kid, the rise of the Honda, the progress in the Yamaha garage, and much, much more (including a little silly season maneuverings for 2019 as well).

Carrying over from last season, the show ends with David and Neil picking their biggest winners and losers from the weekend’s events.

We think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.

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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Sunday MotoGP Summary at Qatar: Closer Than Ever

03/20/2018 @ 2:03 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

You might call that a good start to the new season. There were four races held on Sunday at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar: three Grand Prix classes and race two of the Asia Talent Cup.

All four would become titanic battles between riders, ending in searing duels to the line. Three of the four would be decided by less than three hundredths of a second. The fourth – Moto2 – would be decided by just over a tenth.

The combined winning margin for MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 is just 0.162 seconds. Add in the Asia Talent Cup, and that takes the grand total to 0.175 seconds.

It seems fair to say we were treated to some insanely close races at Qatar. In Moto2 and Moto3, three riders broke away to contest victory among themselves.

In both classes, an incident – a crash in Moto3, a technical problem with the rear brake in Moto2 – saw the trio whittled down to a duo, the race going all the way to the line.

The MotoGP race was even tighter, the closest finishing group ever at Qatar, with first place separated from seventh place by just 4.621 seconds, and from eighth by 7.112. The top three finished within a second, the top two by 0.027 seconds – a numerologically pleasing gap, given the race-winning machine.

This was the closest race in MotoGP that I can remember. The leaders streaked across the line to complete 22 laps on Sunday night, and on 11 of those laps, the gap between first and second was less than a tenth of a second.

On another seven laps, the gap was between one and two tenths. On the remaining four laps, the gap was always under three tenths.

There was nothing to choose between the leaders, the winner impossible to identify even up until the final corner. It looked for all the world as if someone had tried to organize a MotoGP race, and a Moto3 race had broken out.

A freight train of riders chased each other round the track for 22 laps, and at the end, two men fought it out in the last corner, with an entertainingly predictable outcome.

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It took ten years and nine days, but the last of the pole records set on qualifying tires has finally been beaten. And not just once, but three times.

On their final laps in the Q2 session of qualifying, three riders streaked across the line and dived under Jorge Lorenzo’s now ancient pole record at Qatar, set in 2008.

History was made, and the final specter of the 800 era was cast out from the all-new, utterly rejuvenated MotoGP class. The slate has been wiped clean.

That Lorenzo’s record stood for so long and that it was broken at all are both remarkable feats. The old qualifying record was set in Lorenzo’s very first MotoGP qualifying session – though in 2008, the system was a little easier for the riders, one hour of qualifying with a generous supply of both race and qualifying tires.

In the midst of the tire wars, the Michelin (and Bridgestone) qualifiers were worth well over a second a lap, and sometimes two.

Lorenzo’s pole lap smashed the previous record by 1.075 seconds. But that pole position, taken on his MotoGP debut, was Jorge Lorenzo serving notice that he was something a little bit special.

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Winter is officially over. Though meteorological winter ended on March 1st, and the astronomical winter will end next week on March 20th, the long MotoGP winter came to an end at 12:50 local time in Qatar, when Moto3 rolled out for their session of free practice.

After World Superbikes got everyone warmed up at Phillip Island in February, the advent of the Grand Prix classes means that racing is back again in earnest.

It is also back in weird way, as is to be expected at Qatar. The schedule remains a curiosity, the latest iteration merely shuffling the weirdness around. For MotoGP, the first session in the blistering heat, the second in the relatively cool of the evening.

Track temperatures in FP1 were hitting the mid to high 40s °C, whereas in FP2, they had dropped into the mid 20s. In essence, FP1 is as good as useless for finding a setup. Times dropped by a second between FP1 and FP2, a good indication of the difference in track grip.

The riders had talked about the schedule in the Safety Commission meeting, hastily scheduled for the end of the day after the riders decided against doing it between FP1 and FP2. “In my opinion, it’s a special weekend, and we know that,” Marc Márquez told us.

“Of course FP1, you ride, you feel it’s the same layout, but it’s for nothing. You cannot try the setup for the race. It’s a special weekend, and it will be impossible to find the best schedule. If you want a GP of five days, yes, because then we start on Wednesday, but for me it’s OK.”

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It has been an eventful couple of weeks for Yamaha. Apart from the expected hectic period of preseason testing, Yamaha agreed to a new two-year deal with Valentino Rossi.

There was also the surprise announcement by Jonas Folger that he wouldn’t be racing in 2018, and working with Hervé Poncharal to find a replacement for the Tech3 team.

More significantly, they also had to deal with the surprise announcement that Tech3 will be leaving Yamaha at the end of this season, and swapping to become a satellite for KTM from 2019 onwards.

So journalists had plenty of questions for Lin Jarvis, the head of Yamaha Motor Racing, and Qatar was the first opportunity to ask him. In a session with the media on Thursday night, Jarvis answered questions on all these subjects and more, offering an insight into the way Yamaha are thinking.

The departure of Tech3 could see Yamaha rethink the way they have been working in the past.

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