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.

The Brno round of MotoGP turned out to be a veritable bonanza of aerodynamic developments. Honda turned up with their previously homologated fairing, and Yamaha debuted a new fairing with a modified upper half at the test on Monday.

But it was Ducati who stole the show, with a radical new design featuring a large side pod that looked remarkably like a set of wings with a cover connecting them.

That fairing triggered howls of outrage from fans. How, they asked, was this legal? The fairing appeared to have two ducts that came out at the top at right angles, then return to the fairing at right angles.

That turned out not to be the full shape of the fairing, when Danilo Petrucci sported one where the bottom half of the side duct extended lower. It seemed to be a blatant breach of the rules.

The problem, MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge explained, lay in part with framing of the rules.

When Dorna demanded a ban of the original winglets, they sat with the manufacturers to draw up a set of regulations that would limit aerodynamics and eliminate the risks, yet at the same time would allow some amount of development.

That proved impossible to do with the manufacturers so split among themselves, and so Dorna had to try to come up with a set themselves.

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The Herculean Task of Fixing World Superbike

07/13/2017 @ 10:07 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

After Laguna Seca, the future of World Superbike was once again questioned. Asking the right question may be more important than finding the right answer, though.

“I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work,” so said this intrepid reporter when faced with reports that Bart's Comet would bring destruction to Springfield. It was a time of uncertainty and peril for America's greatest city, but one from which it recovered by maintaining the status quo. 

While the WorldSBK paddock isn't standing on Mount Springfield singing Que Sera Sera, and waiting for the comet to hit, it is facing a moment of truth about where the series is heading.

It's always easier to swim with the tide, but for WorldSBK patience and thoroughness are more important than being swift and decisive and making the wrong decision.

Since Imola, the WorldSBK paddock has been filled with rumor and counter rumor about the direction that the series will take. Will there be a spec-ECU, will there be concessions for different manufacturer, will there be testing restrictions placed on the successful teams?

The list of possibilities has been the talk of the paddock with Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta even suggesting making the series into a Stock class, but what is actually best for WorldSBK?

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Just how clever has Honda been with its fairings? At Assen, Cal Crutchlow spent Friday going back and forth between bikes with and without the addition of aerodynamic side pods on the outside of the fairing.

That led to some confusion among the media. Had Honda homologated the aerodynamic fairing already? Or was this something new?

I went to see Danny Aldridge to ask what the situation was, and the MotoGP technical director explained the situation.

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After the Grand Prix Commission abolished penalty points at their meeting at Qatar, it was inevitable that they would meet the same fate in World Superbikes.

At the latest meeting of the Superbike Commission, the rule-making body for the WorldSBK series, the penalty point system was abolished in the World Superbike Championship, just as it has been in MotoGP.

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Qatar Test MotoGP Notes: The Final Dress Rehearsal

03/15/2017 @ 3:21 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Many (though not all) questions were answered at the Qatar MotoGP test. One of the most frustrating questions of the 2017 preseason has been answered at last, however.

For weeks, MotoGP pundits have been puzzling over what could be in the ‘salad box’ slung under the tail of the Ducati Desmosedici GP17. Was it a device to counter chatter (or ‘jounce’, as it is more properly known)? Was it something to do with Ducati’s patent on a variable exhaust nozzle for providing thrust?

At Qatar, MCN reporter Simon Patterson finally got a straight – though unofficial – answer from Ducati. The ‘salad box’ contains a bunch of electronics moved from the front of the GP17 to allow Ducati to use their new aerodynamic fairing.

That fairing has a much narrower nose, to allow for the large ducts and airfoil surfaces, which Ducati have used to replace their winglets. The reduced space in the nose forced Ducati to relocate the components which had previously been on a mount behind the front section of the fairing.

This revelation has allowed me to feel a brief sense of smugness. Since the ‘salad box’ first made an appearance, I had suspected that the contents of the box had more to do with relocating components from elsewhere, rather than any active function itself.

“The question may not necessarily be what is in the box,” I wrote before the Qatar test, “but what did putting whatever is in the box in there allow the Desmosedici GP17’s designers to move around elsewhere.” As it turns out what Ducati’s engineers were chasing was some empty space.

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Having missed the Jerez test, the MV Agusta squad had plenty of work to do in Portimão. Their sole rider, Leon Camier, had a tremendous 2016 campaign, but in the face of regulation changes, he faces the daunting task of trying to make the F4 into competitive package once again.

The Englishman had seven Top 5 finishes last year, and 15 Top 10s, and helped to change the perception of the Italian squad. Previously, MV Agusta had been consistent under-performers and tail-enders in WorldSBK, but their form last year gave plenty of hope of revived fortunes.

The ban of split throttle bodies, which allowed the cylinders to be opened independently when accelerating, hit the team hard in their initial tests and it appears that over the last two months little progress has been made on the issue.

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An Argument for World Superbike’s New Grid

12/12/2016 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

Did you hear the news? The World Superbike Championship has officially jumped the shark, with a new wacky formula for the Race 2 grid. At least, that is what the internet seems to think.

I understand the push-back from purists of the sport, as the new rules set forth by the Superbike Commission are nothing short of gerrymandering for the sake of the show.

My right and honorable colleague David Emmett described the changes as violating the “sporting ethos of a World Championship series,” and he’s right. The new rules for the Race 2 grid are not sporting. Not in the least.

But, the key thing here to understand is that motorcycle racing stopped being a sport the second fans showed up and TV contracts were signed. World Superbike competes for viewership, just like any other sport, which means money is made on passes and crashes.

When you look at the realities of the World Superbike Championship too, Dorna’s madness makes a bit more sense. I’m not saying I agree with it, but I at least get what they are trying to accomplish, and why they are doing it. Let me explain.

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MotoGP Rules Get Tweaked for 2017

12/09/2016 @ 11:32 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

December is a time for reflection, and for making the necessary changes to the rulebook where incidents during the season have made clear.

Last week, MotoGP’s rule making body, the Grand Prix Commission met to review the 2016 season and make a few necessary adjustments to the MotoGP rulebook. Fortunately, they decided not to do anything quite so drastic as the Superbike Commission did at the same time.

The most eye-catching change is the dropping of intermediate tires in MotoGP. Intermediates had been introduced at the request of the teams and Dorna, to allow riders to go out during sessions when conditions were not suitable for slicks.

However, the experience of 2016 showed that intermediates were rarely used, and when they were, they added little or no value over soft slicks or hard wets.

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The Superbike Commission, governing body for the World Superbike Championship, met at Madrid to introduce a number of changes to the rules for the World Superbike and World Supersport series for 2017.

There were some minor changes to the sporting regulations, as well as a couple of tweaks to the technical regulations. But there were also two major changes which will have a significant impact for next season and beyond.

The biggest change is also the most surprising and the least comprehensible. There is to be a major shake up in the way the grid for the second World Superbike race is set.

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The FIM is taking further steps to contain the cost of aerodynamics. The banning of winglets decided earlier this year was made on two grounds: removing the danger of being struck by a protruding wing, and reducing the potentially astronomical cost of an aerodynamic war beginning.

Banning winglets would prevent the first issue from being a problem, but would do nothing to address the second point. Indeed, with the aerodynamics cat well and truly out of the bag, the factories have already hinted that their focus would switch to fairing design.

The Grand Prix Commission have moved to stop that war starting before it begins. From 2017, factories will have to homologate fairing and front mudgard designs, with only one upgrade to each allowed per season.

The idea behind it is to allow factories to continue to develop aerodynamics, but to limit the amount of time and money spent in search of wheelie prevention.

The rules do leave one loophole open, however. The aerodynamic homologation rules apply to each rider separately. In theory, each rider on a Yamaha, Honda, or Ducati could start with a different fairing, the results of which could be assessed by the factory to help develop the next homologated version of the fairing for use in mid-season.

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