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.

Aprilia has today confirmed another of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock, announcing that they have signed Scott Redding to replace Sam Lowes in the Gresini Aprilia MotoGP team for the 2018 season. 

The news came as no surprise, after it became apparent that Aprilia had decide to break Lowes’ contract at the end of this season.

Lowes had been contracted for two seasons in MotoGP, but Aprilia decided to invoke an escape clause, after the Englishman had struggled at the start of the season. For the full background to the story, read the Friday MotoGP round up from Austria.

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Pramac Ducati has announced that they have signed Jack Miller for the 2018 MotoGP season. The Australian will ride a Desmosedici, alongside Danilo Petrucci next year. Miller’s contract is directly with Ducati, however, rather than Pramac.

The move had been rumored for some time, and had been expected to be announced last week at Brno. But last week, Miller was still waiting for details of the package his current Marc VDS team could offer.

Marc VDS Racing, in turn, was waiting for confirmation from HRC of exactly what equipment they would be supplying, and more importantly, which personnel would be available.

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WorldSBK Wednesday – Silly Season Begins

07/19/2017 @ 10:25 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

It looks set to be a quiet year on the rider market for World Superbike, with the leading seats already filled for 2018, but there will still be some significant deals announced in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies, and Marco Melandri are all secure in their seats for next year, but Sykes had been linked with a move away from Kawasaki earlier this summer.

Prior to winning two races before the summer break, the 2013 World Champion had been touted as a potential target of Yamaha, but with wins in the bag it looks highly unlikely that he will make a switch.

For Ducati there is little reason to change their status quo, and the only change in their ranks could be the addition of a second bike to the Barni squad.

The Italian entry has thrived with Xavi Fores in the last year, and came close to adding a second machine for this year. If there is a fourth Ducati on the grid it will likely have a rider bringing money to the table for Barni.

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The MotoGP bikes have fallen silent for over a week now, the teams and riders dispersed to the four winds, nominally for “vacation”.

And while riders relaxed on a beach somewhere for a week, before returning to their training for the second-half of the season, teams and rider managers have been anything but dormant. There has been a hive of activity in preparation for the latter half of the season, and for some of the satellite teams, for 2018 as well.

For the Silly Season That Wasn’t Supposed To Be has stepped up a gear. The summer break has so far seen extensive negotiations going on over the MotoGP seats which will be free in 2018, and in some cases, whether a seat will become available or not.

Phone calls to team staff start with pleasantries about vacation time, but quickly reveal that vacation consists of at best a day or two taken in between meetings and preparations for the remainder of the year.

The first shoe to drop in the summer edition of MotoGP’s 2018 Silly Season is the revelation by Motorsport.com that Jack Miller will be joining Danilo Petrucci at Pramac Ducati for next season.

After losing his direct contract with HRC – that contract going to Cal Crutchlow instead – the Australian had been in talks with the Marc VDS squad about a contract directly with the team. However, a failure to agree terms over money, and a better offer from Ducati, pushed Miller towards Pramac.

The deal is yet to be announced, and teams are refusing to confirm anything officially. With Miller commuting between Japan for the Suzuka 8-Hour race and his home in Townsville, the Australian has been hard to reach for comment. But an announcement is expected when MotoGP convenes again at Brno.

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MotoGP Preview of the Dutch TT

06/22/2017 @ 11:46 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

For the first ten years I spent writing previews for the Dutch TT at Assen, I would start have to start of on a tangent, with a brief summary of the schisms and splits of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Without the background to the religious topology of The Netherlands, it is hard to explain why the race was held on Saturday. Last year, when the MotoGP race was held on a Sunday for the first time, I had to recap that, to explain why it was a big deal for the race to be held on Sunday, and to be moved from Saturday.

This year, 2017, I can leave aside the history of Dutch Protestantism and its aversion to any activity on the Sabbath. This will be the second time the race will be held on Sunday, and so the novelty of the change has worn off.

It has fallen in line with the rest of the calendar, and so it is just another race weekend, same as any other. Although of course, being Assen, it is still something a bit special.

If anything, the switch from having a Saturday race to a Sunday race has been a positive boon. Though some feared the traditionalists would stay away, offended by change, visitor numbers were up last year, especially on Friday and Saturday.

More people came for the race as well, despite taking place in an absolute downpour. Over 105,000 fans packed a flooded Assen, because being Assen, it is still something a bit special.

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Friday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Unexpected Injuries, Crashes Galore, & The Tire Controversy Lives

06/03/2017 @ 8:51 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Unexpected Injuries, Crashes Galore, & The Tire Controversy Lives

Riders never really know how badly injured they are until they get on a MotoGP bike and try to ride. That was what happened to Valentino Rossi at Mugello on Friday.

He had expected to have a lot of pain breathing from the exertion of hustling a MotoGP machine around Mugello. “This track, Mugello, with a MotoGP bike, with this temperature is already very difficult physically even if you are at 100%,” Rossi said.

It turned out that it wasn’t the pain from the chest and abdominal injuries which were giving him the most problems in the morning.

“This morning, I had a problem with my arm, especially in acceleration. When I open the throttle and I had to hold onto the handlebar with all my strength, I had a lot, a lot of pain,” he said.

When you open the throttle on a MotoGP bike, though you push yourself forward on the balls of your feet as hard as you can, you still need to hang on to the handlebars with every ounce of your strength.

The battering Rossi’s body took in the motocross crash just over a week ago took its toll, and made him suffer. “Sincerely, I didn’t expect this, maybe I expected something else.”

Painkillers and physiotherapy, the paddock’s magic medical mix, made a big difference in the afternoon. Doing much more than five or six laps was still beyond him, but the improvement on Friday left Rossi optimistic.

“Usually, Friday is the worst day. After that, your body adapts to the temperature, to the stress, and we hope that I can improve.” He will almost certainly race, and he will almost certainly exceed any expectations he may have had a week ago. But it won’t be easy.

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Thursday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Rossi Draws A Crowd, & Tires Cause A Storm

06/01/2017 @ 11:55 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Rossi Draws A Crowd, & Tires Cause A Storm

The measure of a rider’s importance is the number of journalists which turn up at their media debriefs, held every day over the course of a MotoGP weekend. There is more than one to define importance, of course.

Factory riders garner more media attention than satellite riders. Riders battling for the championship draw bigger crowds than riders at the tail end of the title chase. And sometimes, an incident can create a lot more interest in a rider than they usually draw.

All of these factors came together on Thursday afternoon to draw a huge pack of journalists, photographers, and TV crews into the Movistar Yamaha hospitality unit.

They came to hear, and more importantly, see Valentino Rossi speak publicly for the first time since he was hospitalized by a motocross crash a week ago today. The sport’s biggest star, battling for the championship, risking serious injury while training. No wonder the place was heaving.

Rossi wandered into the hospitality through the back door as always, and walked across to stand in front of the sponsor backdrop used for TV interviews (in the world of MotoGP media, TV is king. The TV always goes first).

He moved a little more stiffly than usual, not as supple around the waist, clearly still not fully recovered. But when he sat down to talk to us mere mortals of the written word, he was fairly optimistic.

“I’m not so bad,” Rossi started, using a phrase he employs to cover a range of meanings, most of which are positive.

“I feel quite good. Especially in the last few days my condition improved, fortunately, because it was a bad crash. Very painful. Especially in the stomach and all the front. I stayed one night in hospital because it was difficult to breathe, but also when I came home I had two or three days that were very painful. I was quite negative about the race.”

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If you wanted proof that MotoGP fans are smarter and more engaged than most people think (and arguably smarter, more engaged, and better informed than half the journalists in the paddock), then look no further than the section added to the press conference by Dorna featuring questions submitted by fans via Social Media.

The questions submitted so far have been funny, interesting, and thoughtful (though of course, it helps that the hardworking Dorna Social Media staff carefully separate the wheat from the chaff beforehand).

They have managed to be revealing, coming at riders from unsuspecting angles and forcing them to let slip things without realizing it.

Or sometimes, it just gets them talking in a broader context, which helps provide a greater insight into the way the sport has changed, and the direction it is heading. And sometimes, they have just made us all laugh.

The question to Valentino Rossi, asking which of his rivalries should be made into a movie to match Rush, the dramatization of the rivalry between James Hunt Niki Lauda.

There is no obvious answer to that question – Rossi’s rivalries have been many, fierce, and bitter, with Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez, Sete Gibernau – but Rossi settled on his rivalry with Max Biaggi. “It was funny, because we also had a lot of funny stories out of the track,” Rossi quipped.

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MotoGP Preview of the Americas GP

04/20/2017 @ 2:13 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

The most remarkable statistic about the Grand Prix of The Americas is surely this: Since his ascent to the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has won every single race he has competed in, at a circuit in the United States of America.

He won both US races during his two years in Moto2 as well. In fact, you have to go back to 2010, and Márquez’s final year in 125s to find the reigning world champion’s last defeat on US soil. America agrees with Marc Márquez, though that does not automatically include all Americans as well.

So after a decidedly mediocre start to his defense of the 2016 MotoGP title, the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas is the right place to get his season back on track. He comes to COTA knowing he can win, and knowing he can win on an uncompetitive machine.

That knowledge alone will be worth a tenth or two in Austin, perhaps enough to give him the edge over the all-conquering hero of the hour Maverick Viñales.

Why does COTA suit Márquez so well? It is really hard to say. Perhaps because it offers so many opportunities to make up time on the brakes. First, there’s the uphill monster of Turn 1, perhaps the weirdest first corner of the season (fittingly keeping Austin weird).

Then there’s Turn 11, the hard, sharp hairpin before the long back straight, at the end of which there is Turn 12, another spot requiring hard braking. And at the end of the lap, the two final corners, Turn 19 and Turn 20, which are shorter, but just as fierce.

Perhaps it’s not so much the braking, but more the strange section of combination corners stretching between Turn 2 and Turn 10. They are the kind of corners that reward the ability to turn on a dime, and the all-front-end, all-the-time Honda deals well with those.

Or perhaps the corners through the Stadium Section, and around the Grand Plaza.

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MotoGP’s weird and wonderful Argentina trip continues to confuse, with qualifying turning out as topsy turvy as ever. Or perhaps not quite as topsy turvy as yesterday: though the front of the MotoGP grid still contains more than a couple of surprise names (more on that later), there are the first signs that some semblance of normality is starting to creep back. 

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be 2009 again any time soon, when the grid basically predicted the finishing order, bar accidents, but bookies everywhere are worrying less about the chance of a rank outsider staging an upset. On Friday, all bets were off. On Saturday, they were hedging their bets again.

Oddly enough, part of that was down to the weather. It was a peculiar day in terms of weather, the morning starting cool and dry, but rain starting to fall at the end of MotoGP FP3. 

It dried out again after that, allowing Moto3 to start their qualifying session on a dry track, before the rain returned with a few minutes to go. MotoGP FP4 took place on a wet track, but the rain lifted and the track started to dry during qualifying. Q1 was wetter than Q2, and tire choice became crucial. Vacillating between the soft and the hard tires cost more than one rider passage through to Q2.

By the time Moto2 took to the track, a dry line was starting to form. Andrea Iannone had gambled on going out on slicks during Q2 but came straight back into the pits when it turned out to be impossible. 

The Moto2 riders went out on wet tires at first, but were quickly able to switch to slicks. With the track improving with every lap the riders put in, pole position was changing hands just about every time a rider crossed the line. In the last 22 minutes of qualifying, the pole time was slashed by eight and a half seconds.

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