Ride in Peace, Nicky Hayden

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nicky Hayden today, the American motorcycle racer finally succumbing to the injuries he sustained on Wednesday, at 7:09 PM CEST. The former-MotoGP Champion was struck by a car, while he was training on his bicycle near the Rimini coast. After the incident, Hayden was ultimately treated at the trauma center at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he later passed away. While motorcycle fans around the world have been hoping for good news throughout this past weekend, and looking for signs that Nicky’s condition would improve, today Nicky’s race ended, with his family and friends at his side.

Americas Top Öhlins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Daniel Laine Kyle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California – known best for his speed shop, Kyle Racing – pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government earlier this week, after it was found that Kyle had been hiding cash-based purchases made at this business. Dan Kyle Racing is known best for being the largest Öhlins suspension dealership in the United States (if not the world), as the company offered aggressive pricing on the Swedish-born suspension, and was one of the first Öhlins dealers with an online presence in the early days of the internet. According to the plea agreement made between Kyle and the US Attorney’s Office, Kyle pleaded guilty to tax fraud and structuring currency transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements in the US Tax Code.

The 2017 Saroléa SP7 Is Ready for the Isle of Man TT

The focus for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT may center around Team Mugen’s dual entry with John McGuinness and Guy Martin, but one should not overlook this very attractive entry from Belgium. Saroléa is back for the 2017 Isle of Man TT, continuing with its state-of-the-art carbon fiber chassis goodness and retro fairing design. On board will once again be Dean Harrison, who will be gunning for a podium-finish on the 2017 Saroléa SP7. If looks alone could get you across the finish line, then Saroléa would have our vote. The Belgians have always been in the running for a strong result though, finishing 4th in 2014 and 5th in 2015. Maybe this year will be “their year” at the TT.

India Is Now the World’s Biggest Motorcycle Market

Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year). India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents

I am really excited about the Suzuki brand right now. Out of the four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the recession affected Suzuki the most, probably more than many people realize, but the Hamamatsu brand is poised to bring out some exciting machines in the coming few years. Could we finally see a turbocharged Suzuki this year though? The rumor mill is pointing to yes…but just pointing, and the reason is because of patents. Much of this internet rumors stems from a flood of patents that have been found, where Suzuki is patenting technology related to turbo-powered engines in motorcycles, or because of other patents that make reference or inference to being part of a turbocharged motorcycle.

No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.* “Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well. Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

KTM Caught Testing an Electric Street Bike

Spy photos from Austria have caught KTM testing a rather interesting motorcycle – one that does not run on a petroleum-based fuel, but rather it has an electric drivetrain at its core. This isn’t the first time that KTM has experimented with an electric motorcycle, of course, with the KTM Freeride E being available in select markets. However, the machine seen here is a pretty big step forward for the Austrian brand, from its modest electric dirt bike. Using the chassis of a KTM 390 Duke to house the battery, inverter, and motor, KTM’s electric street bike (we’ll call it the KTM E-Duke for now) looks like a rolling mess, but is what you would expect from a project in its early stages of development.

For the Geeks, Your Luke Skywalker HJC Helmet Is Here

I am a solid Star Wars geek, but not in the dress-up and go to a convention sort of way – if you know what I mean. But, this new lid from HJC might have me singing a different tune, as it mimics Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing “Red 5” fighter helmet, in a DOT legal ¾ helmet format. That’s just cool…in a really un-cool sort of way. Based off the budget-friendly HJC IS-5 helmet, this Luke Skywalker replica will cost roughly $180 when it comes out (at a date still to be determined). Additionally, 10 versions of the lid will be signed by Mark Hamill, and auctioned for charity (UNICEF and the Starlight Children’s Foundation), if your geekdom takes you in such a direction (and you have a four-figure wallet).

Hayden: “It’s Clear That There Is A Problem”

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in its search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team’s struggles will continue. Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend, but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again. Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round, the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

The Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

“Danny is probably the most talented rider I have ever worked with,” Peter Bom, Danny Kent’s former crew chief at Kiefer told me several times last year. Bom has seen plenty of talent in his time: he also worked with Stefan Bradl at Kiefer, Chris Vermeulen in World Supersport and World Superbikes, Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport. World champions all, and to this tally he added Danny Kent. Less than a year after helping him win the Moto3 world championship, Danny Kent asked the Kiefer team for a new crew chief, abandoning his collaboration with Peter Bom. Kent felt that Bom had been slow to pick up on the changes in the Moto2 class during Bom’s three years in Moto3. Stefan Kiefer obliged, and Kent started the season with a new crew chief and a Suter Moto2 chassis.

Officially Official: Ducati Corse Signs Nicky Hayden for 2013 MotoGP Team

07/27/2012 @ 12:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Confirming what we already reported yesterday, Ducati Corse has officially made it official that Nicky Hayden will officially be riding in the official factory Ducati team next season, officially. His tenth season in MotoGP, and his fourth with Ducati, Hayden has re-signed for another one-year stint with the Bologna brand. An important figure for Ducati’s North America efforts, Ducati Corse heavily mentions Hayden’s influence on American owners as its reason for retaining the Kentucky Kid in its press release.

Generally said to be the hardest working rider in the MotoGP paddock, Hayden not only is a workhorse for the Ducati Corse team, as it tries to bring the GP12 and its progeny into the competitive fold, but Hayden is also an active figure for his and the team’s sponsors. With that sort of work ethic and only eight points separating him in the Championship from teammate Valentino Rossi, Hayden’s re-signing seemed like an obvious choice, though Ducati is said to have offered the American’s seat to Cal Crutchlow earlier this season.

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Thursday Summary at Laguna Seca: Silly Season Reopened, & Edwards Entertains

07/27/2012 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

As a MotoGP rider, dealing with the press can be a lot like boxing against a stronger opponent: put in a quick attack, and then grab on and defend for dear life. At Laguna Seca, Ben Spies showed he had mastered the art perfectly. After dropping the bombshell that he would be leaving Yamaha on Tuesday — on Thursday Spies was in full defensive mode, deflecting questions and saying that he would not be discussing the situation and what had motivated his decision “until I’m ready to talk about the future.” To carry that off, and persist in your position in a room full of journalists hell-bent on wheedling the truth out of you, is quite an achievement.

Fortunately for Spies, his announcement had given the assembled media hordes – well, not quite a horde, as dwindling print sales, economic stagnation in the key markets of Spain and Italy, and a few broader issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down – had plenty of other issues to sink their teeth into. Spies leaving Yamaha opens up another seat, and with the Texan looking almost certain to switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia squad next season, an extra factory prototype, something of increasing scarcity in these days of dwindling factory involvement.

Naturally, with Spies out of the equation, the media and fans have joined in an epic game of fill-in-the-blanks to try and slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited space for available rides.

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MotoGP: Ducati Expected to Re-Sign Hayden at Laguna Seca

07/26/2012 @ 7:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Making the rounds in the MotoGP paddock today at Laguna Seca, several sources close to the matter revealed to Asphalt & Rubber that Nicky Hayden is to announce a contract extension with Ducati Corse for the 2013 season this race-weekend. Pegged to be a one-year renewal, Hayden’s place at Ducati has been in a precarious position, ever since it was revealed that Cal Crutchlow had received an offer from the Italian team.

A workhorse for the Ducati, in addition to his personal sponsors, Hayden has been an integral member of the Italian brand ever since he joined the team back in 2009. With the United States now Ducati’s most important market in terms of sales, having an American on the company’s MotoGP team has been an important consideration for Ducati Corse, and the re-signing of Hayden to the Ducati Corse squad bodes well that Bologna has finalized its 2013 plans as well.

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LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl Rides thru San Francisco

07/25/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

LCR Honda and team rider Stefan Bradl are in town early this week, doing a little promo work for US GP title sponsor Red Bull. Before heading down to Laguna Seca tomorrow (a track Bradl already scouted out with a local track day earlier this year), Bradl was in San Francisco yesterday, popping wheelies on Treasure Island and trying not to crash while going down Lombard Street (any SF motorcyclist could have told you the treachery of the iconic San Franciscan street).

MotoGP.com’s video of the event might be a little less than inspiring, but let us all just be thankful that the folks are Dorna actually made one of their YouTube videos web-embeddable for a change. Meanwhile, the photos from Red Bull are quite a treat. 23 of them await you after the jump.

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Learn to Shoot MotoGP Racing Like a Pro from Scott Jones

06/28/2012 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Before he was a fixture in the MotoGP paddock, our main-man Scott Jones had to swing a lens just like everyone else: sans a GP photo credential. Luckily for our Nikon-clad photo warrior, his home track, Laguna Seca, provides some of the best vantage points on the GP calendar for non-credential holding photographer s — a fact Scott exploited during his first forays into photographing the premier-class.

Ready to share his hard-learned lessons related to shooting around armco, trees, and chain-linked fences, Scott will be down at the San Francisco D-Store on Sunday, July 15th, leading a seminar for would-be motor sport photographers, with the Red Bull US GP round at Laguna Seca specifically in mind.

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Was LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl at Your Last Track Day?

06/07/2012 @ 9:32 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

If you were in attendance at PTT’s track day at Laguna Seca on May 28th, you may have been rubbing kneepucks with MotoGP’s sure-to-be Rookie of the Year, Stefan Bradl.  The reigning Moto2 World Champion, Bradl was at the Californian track learning the circuit’s 11 turns, the most notable of which being the infamous Corkscrew. With Moto2 skipping the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, letting AMA Pro Racing fill in as the support class, this was the LCR Honda racer’s first chance to ride the circuit outside of a video game.

With American Honda providing Bradl with a bone-stock 2012 Honda CBR1000RR in HRC colors, the MotoGP racer is said to have been lapping in the low 1:30’s as he “learned” the course, which is a fairly respectable time for an AMA Superbike mid-packer will a full race-prepped bike.

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Dorna Renews Contract with Indianapolis – Three MotoGP Races Coming to the USA

09/06/2011 @ 6:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Despite the criticisms from GP riders, the Indianapolis GP has been renewed on the MotoGP calendar through the 2014 season. With Dorna keen on having a larger US presence, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wanting to continue to host the premier classes of motorcycle racing, the biggest issue for the contract’s renewal (besides tarmac conditions), was the scheduling involved with IMS, Laguna Seca, and MotoGP.

Wanting to have the two US GP rounds back-to-back, Dorna faced two circuits with very inflexible summer schedules. Able to now schedule the Indianapolis GP for August 17th-19th in 2012, the Indy GP has effectively been moved a week earlier in the year, and will likely follow the Laguna Seca GP in 2012, with Brno to follow afterwards.

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Photo of the Week: Winless

07/26/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Scott Jones10 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi is the most photographed rider in the MotoGP paddock (and probably the most photographed motorcycle racer in the world), someone who almost always has a crowd of cameras around him. He has the most traffic when trying to ride from the box onto pit lane, the thickest crowd around him on the grid, and when he’s out on track he generates more images than any other rider. All the photographers, regardless of which clients they have and which teams they work with, photograph Rossi.

So it has become quite a challenge to create images of him that many people have not seen many times already. Photographers still do the ‘classic’ Rossi shot of putting a wide angle on the ground, pointed upward as Rossi does his foot peg ceremony before climbing aboard. We still see Rossi superstitiously picking at his butt as he exits pit lane, and so on. Because of his elaborate routine of following the same behaviors over and over, we tend to get the same images of him over and over.

At each race I try to get an image of him that I’ve not seen before. Portraits are usually the best bet, because even though he follows the same routine in the box of chest protector in, ear plugs licked then inserted and held in place with a pistol grip, helmet on with fists to the forehead, and so on, he is still a human being and his expressions are occasionally unguarded and revealing. When you catch one of those, you probably have an interesting portrait of a very interesting subject.

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Ben Spies’s Track Notes at Laguna Seca

07/25/2011 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Second Half of the Season Kicks off with US GP

07/24/2011 @ 7:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The Golden State played host to MotoGP this weekend, with the premier class racing under perfect California weather (despite a typically dreary coastal morning). With riders having to contend with the cold mornings and hot afternoons, the record gate-atteneded Laguna Seca circuit, with its roller-coaster Cork Screw turn, threw every trick it had at the GP racers.

Despite its best efforts, Seca could not get the better of Jorge Lorenzo, who had been strong all weekend and sat on pole for Sunday’s race. Despite being joined by Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner on the front row, Lorenzo looked ready to take on the Repsol Honda squad single-handedly, though teammate Ben Spies sat right behind the reigning World Champion in the fourth grid spot.

With Spies seemingly finding the extra half second he needed during the warm-up session, all eyes were on the Texan to see if he could win in front of a home crowd, find out how he and the other MotoGP riders lapped after the jumped.

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