Up-Close with the Krämer HKR EVO2 R

If I said that there was an 81hp track bike that weighed less than 280 lbs ready to race, would that be something you’d be interested in? If so, say hello to the Krämer HKR EVO2, a purpose-built track bike from Germany. Built around KTM’s 690cc single-cylinder engine, which is found in KTM 690 Duke and Husqvarna’s 701 series of bikes, the Krämer HKR EVO2 features a bespoke steel-trellis chassis, custom bodywork, and a host of top-shelf components. The real tasty part about the Krämer HKR EVO2 though is the attention to detail and the purposefulness of its design – take for instance the 12-liter XPE plastic fuel tank that doubles as a subframe, which has integrated crash sliders, and a sighting hole for easy adjustment of the rear shock damping.

Motorcycle Sales in Europe Show Strong Growth

Motorcycle sales in the United States might be tanking, but things are looking fairly positive across the pond in Europe, as the ACEM reports a 4.7% increase in motorcycle sales for Q1 2018, for a total of 203,853 units sold in the first three months of this year. The increase in sales is due to key markets like France (+9.1%), Germany (+1.9%), and the UK (+7.4%) showing good growth, compared to Q1 2017. However, not all the European countries are showing increases in motorcycle sales, with the Czech Republic (-17.3%), Poland (-28.7%), and Austria (-18.9%) pulling the sales growth figure down considerably. Not all segments are growing too. While the big bikes are seeing sales increases, European sales for mopeds are down considerably for Q1 2018 (40.2%), to the tune of a 24,996 unit sales decline over last year.

This Week’s Honda V4 Superbike Rumor

I have to admit, this rumor is more than a week old, as Japanese magazine Young Machine breathed new life into the Honda V4 superbike rumor mill about a month ago. And of course, the reality is that this rumor is much, much older than this tiny fraction of time. If you know your motorcycle news history, talk of a Honda V4 replacement for the CBR1000RR line has existed for almost two decades now…but hey, a broken clock is correct twice a day, right? So what is new from the Land of the Rising sun that we haven’t heard before? The big eye-catching component to this story is that Honda has/had a two-stage upgrade path for the CBR1000RR, of which we are about to see the second phase.

Official: Alta Motors Racing at the 2018 Erzberg Rodeo

We broke the story yesterday, but today the news is officially official: Alta Motors will race in the 2018 Ezerberg Rodeo, which is part of the Red Bull Hard Enduro series. The most grueling and difficult single-day event in motorcycle racing, the Erzberg Rodeo sees 1,500 entires whittled down into what is usually a single-digit summation of race-finishers – and not every year sees a racer cross the finish line – that’s how tough this race is. Racing for Alta Motors will be Ty Tremaine and Lyndon Poskitt, two riders with a lot of off-road experience. For those who don’t recognize those names, Tremaine is currently racing with Alta in the 2018 AMA EnduroCross series, meanwhile Poskitt has previously competed in a number of enduro events, including the Ezberg Rodeo, and most notably just soloed the 2018 Dakar Rally to completion. 

Come Drool Over SERT’s All New Endurance Race Bike

The winningest team in the FIM Endurance World Championship, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team is the standard by which other endurance teams are measured…and that is a measuring stick that has seen a lot of use in recent seasons. This is because the FIM EWC is a hot bed for competition right now, with a bevy of factory-backed teams capable of winning on any race weekend. This has made it tough for SERT, and its riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson, and Gregg Black, who currently sit sixth in the 2018 FIM Endurance World Championship standings. For this season, SERT hopes that a new racing platform will make the difference, as the French team has finally jumped onboard with the current-generation Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Johann Zarco Signs Two-Year Deal with KTM

One of the biggest dominoes of the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season has just fallen into place. Today, KTM announced that they have signed Johann Zarco to a two-year contract for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. That Zarco would leave the Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad had been widely anticipated, the only question being which factory team he would end up in. The Frenchman was an extremely hot property, after displaying blistering speed on the satellite Yamaha M1 in 2017. Zarco had offers from Suzuki, Repsol Honda, and KTM, though only Honda and KTM were in the frame for the Frenchman. Zarco and his management were still unhappy with the way Suzuki had treated the Frenchman, after the Japanese factory failed to honor a pre-contract Zarco had signed ahead of the 2017 season, choosing Alex Rins instead.

The Ducati Panigale V4 Gets Its First Two Recalls

New model teething issues are always a reality, and it seems that the Ducati Panigale V4 is no exception to the rule. Finding not one, but two issues with the Panigale V4’s fueling system, Italy’s newest superbike is being recalled in the United States. Both recalls seem to affect the full-lot of Panigale V4 models that have made it to US soil thus far this year, which means 692 units (base, S, and Special trim levels) are being recalled for two issues related to the bike’s fuel system. As such, the first recall centers around the breathing system valve plug on the Panigale V4, which might have a fuel leak if the O-ring was damaged during production. Accordingly, the second recall involves the fuel tank cap, which can spray gas when opened, because again of breathing issues within the fuel system.

Are BMW’s Heritage Models Finally Done?

Has BMW Motorrad called it quits for its heritage lineup of motorcycles? That is the rumor at least, and there is some good evidence to support the notion. This is because buried on the 60th turn of BMW’s 260-page annual report for 2017 is the headline: “R nineT family now complete” – a nod that the German brand’s lineup of air-cooled retro-styled motorcycles has reached its zenith and logical conclusion. That makes sense, since there isn’t really a category left of the R nineT family to explore. It has a roadster, a standard, a scrambler, an adventure bike, and a café racer model all in the lineup. No hipster stone has been left unturned. The post-authentic styling trend is over. It’s dead. BMW called it, right? Well…Not so fast.

Up-Close with the 2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE

At the Grand Prix of the Americas, Aprilia USA debuted a special new superbike for the 2018 model year, the Aprilia RSV4 RF LE. Limited to only 125 units for North America (100 for the USA, 25 for Canada), the big feature of the 2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE is the bike’s fairing winglets, which draw from Aprilia Racing’s aerodynamic progress in the MotoGP Championship. Getting a chance to see the new Aprilia RSV4 RF LE in the flesh while in Texas, we grabbed some up-close photos of this limited edition RSV4, for your viewing pleasure, along with some other details. Aprilia’s wings are an interesting development, and a brave new world for production superbike design. For its part too, it seems that Aprilia isn’t quite sure what to make of the development as well, offering us two narratives for the winglets.

BMW Shows Off 3D Printed BMW S1000RR Frame

Ultimately, I think we are going to come back to this story several times over the next few weeks, as there is so much going on here, from such a simple thing, that one story just won’t do it all justice. To start things off though, let’s look at the basics…as the BMW Group recently hosted what it called the BMW Group Digital Day 2018, which was basically a showcase for all the cool technologies that the Bavarians are using to create a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition. Most of the technology concerns BMW’s automotive business, but there was one little tidbit that could be of interest for motorcycle fans: the 3D printed frame for a BMW S1000RR superbike. Built using additive manufacturing technology, a chassis is created a computer file and metal dust.

Once upon a time, a post-race test would see almost a full complement of riders taking part. But in the past couple of years that has changed, as spec software has meant fewer things to do.

The spec software, the engine freeze, the aerodynamics freeze: there is less to test, and so more factories are opting out of the one-day post-race tests.

So it was at Jerez on Monday that the factory Ducati riders, the Ecstar Suzuki team, and the Gresini Aprilia squad all decided to skip the test at Jerez in favor of some private testing at Mugello later in the week.

Behind closed doors, they can work a little more freely, away from the prying eyes of the press, and especially of a contingent of photographers.

There are other reasons to be wary of a post-race test. The track is in as good a condition as it is going to get on the Monday after a race. It has been swept clean by a weekend of racing, and the last class to smear its rubber all over the track is MotoGP.

So the bikes are treated to a clean, well rubbered in circuit, allowing lap times to drop. The average improvement between the race and the test was nearly 1.3 seconds a lap.

About half the 16 permanent riders who took to the track on Monday improved their times from qualifying. It is fair to say that Monday tests can be deceptive.

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MotoGP Teams Finish Private Test at Jerez

03/29/2018 @ 8:55 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The importance of a private test can sometimes be measured by the lack of news emerging from the track. For the past three days, the Jerez circuit has resounded to the bellow of MotoGP and WorldSBK machines, as Honda, Ducati, Aprilia, and KTM have shared the track.

Yet other than a couple of social media posts on Twitter and Instagram, there was next to no news from the test. The only official source was a brief news item on the official website of the Jerez circuit.

Despite that, it was an important test for the factories involved.

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What We Learned from a Preseason of MotoGP Tests

03/05/2018 @ 3:58 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The phony war is finally over. The last MotoGP test has finished, with riders completing their final day of testing at Qatar. The next time the MotoGP grid assembles, it will be for something of real value: race wins, and world championship points.

Did the last day of the test offer any clear indications as to what might happen in two weeks’ time? Plenty, though they were as confusing as all of testing has been this year.

Johann Zarco managed to be both blisteringly fast and worryingly slow simultaneously. Danilo Petrucci managed to do exactly the same, though in a diametrically opposite manner.

Valentino Rossi managed to impress both in terms of race pace and a single fast lap, but he was still worried whether his pace would last race distance.

Maverick Viñales was terrible for the first six hours of the test, then brilliant in the last forty minutes, after basically wasting a day and a half.

Underneath the surface drama, the two biggest winners of the preseason just got on with their work. Their headline times were great but not breathtaking, but the race pace of Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez was impressive.

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There is a peculiar type of athlete mathematics. It involves a failure to grasp the concept of percentages, leading to elite athletes promising to give “110%”, or sometimes even “1000%”.

Logic dictates that an athlete putting 100% of their effort and reserves into an activity would lead them to collapse and die of exhaustion as they crossed the line.

That would deny them the joy of victory, but more importantly, it would drastically curtail an athlete’s career to just a single event, making it a rather fruitless avenue to pursue.

Of course, what they actually mean when they talk of giving 110% is of course making the maximum effort to achieve a goal.

Some, commendably, refrain from mathematic hyperbole, sticking to the 100% maxim. Marc Márquez belongs to this group, speaking of giving 100% during practice and races.

A case can be made that Marc Márquez is the rider who most closely approaches 100% while riding. The list of legendary saves the Repsol Honda rider has chalked up at tests and races seems to grow every time he gets on the bike.

Of course, he gets plenty of chances to practice: Márquez had 27 crashes in 2017, second only to Sam Lowes. Respected motorcycle guru Kevin Cameron believes that Márquez’s saves are not saves, but actually the result of a technique he studies.

With every monster save Márquez manages, that gets harder to argue with.

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The Qatar MotoGP test may be the moment of truth for the factories and riders, but the most important things we learned from the first day of the test were unrelated to the action on track, or perhaps even the 2018 season.

The biggest news of the day came when Valentino Rossi spoke to the press, telling Italian media that he is close to signing on with the Movistar Yamaha team for another two years, meaning he will race in 2019 and 2020.

Rossi’s revelation came in response to a question about whether the Sky VR46 team would be taking over the satellite Yamahas to be vacated by Tech3 from 2019.

“Firstly, I didn’t expect Poncharal to leave Yamaha,” Rossi said. “So we considered possibly having a team in MotoGP. It would have been great opportunity, but we won’t do it. For the next two years we won’t do it, also because it’s very likely I’ll be racing. I see it as a possibility for the future, once I’ve stopped but not in 2019 or 2020.”

Those are a remarkably information-dense couple of sentences. Firstly, Rossi acknowledges that he is close to signing a contract extension with Yamaha for two more seasons.

This is hardly news – he was half expected to sign a new deal at the Sepang test, but it looks likely that any new deal will be done before the season starts.

Secondly, he admits that the Sky VR46 Racing Team is interested in having a team in MotoGP. Again, this is hardly earth-shattering news.

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Preview of the MotoGP Test at Qatar

03/01/2018 @ 11:58 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The last test of the preseason is something of a moment of truth for the MotoGP factories. From the tropical heat of Malaysia and Thailand, the paddock heads to the Arabian peninsula, and cool desert evenings of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Air temperatures start in the mid 20s°C rather than the mid 30s°C, and drop into the high teens heading into the evening. That temperature difference means that air density is a couple of percent higher at Qatar. That in turn means more oxygen going into the engine, and better combustion efficiency.

Translating all that from vague engineering platitudes into real-world racing, colder air means more power all the way through the rev range. Engines run better, pick up more aggressively, and pull harder flat out in the cool Qatari evenings than in Sepang’s punishing tropical heat.

An engine that seemed docile in Sepang suddenly feels aggressive at Losail. An engine which was just about manageable in Thailand is a barely controllable beast in Qatar.

And with just two weeks to go before the start of the 2018 MotoGP season, it’s too late to fix the problem. Riders are left wrestling a wild bull for the rest of the year.

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Have we emerged any the wiser after three days of testing at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand by the MotoGP field? That is hard to say.

The test was more for the benefit of Michelin than for the teams, and the French tire maker brought some 2000 tires for the 24 riders who took part in the test.

The track itself was not particularly challenging or instructive in terms of understanding how well bike development was going. “This track is also not so easy or so difficult, it’s intermediate,” is how Monster Tech 3 Yamaha replacement Hafizh Syahrin summed it up.

Is it possible to draw conclusions about how the 2018 championship might play out on the basis of the Buriram test? “No, impossible,” Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso said, before proceeding to do just that in some detail.

“I can see Marc in a better shape than at the beginning of last year,” Dovizioso said. “I can see Dani in a good shape, I can see Zarco with a little bit more experience, so a little bit better for the championship than last year.”

It was harder to judge the Movistar Yamahas, Dovizioso said. “It’s very difficult to understand the two factory Yamahas, because they will be fast in the race, on race weekends, for sure.”

“But when you look at the riders and the teams from outside, it’s impossible to know the details, so I don’t know. I can see the Pramac riders are fast, they are happy with the bike, so I think they will be quite fast during the season.”

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It is always easy to get carried away by testing. Seeing a particular rider at the top of the timesheets, it is tempting to start constructing a narrative which sees that rider dominate the season, while writing off the rest.

That, of course, is nearly always a mistake. And in the case of the second day at Buriram, Thailand, it is definitely a mistake.

That doesn’t mean Marc Márquez won’t be fast for the rest of the year, as well as Saturday in Thailand. He has won the MotoGP title in four of his five seasons in the class, so topping the timesheets was not, as one journo joked, because Michelin gave him special tires for his birthday.

Márquez had been fast, and consistently so, through both the Sepang and Buriram tests so far. But the order behind Márquez probably doesn’t reflect the true relative strength of the field.

The reason? Tires, of course. On Saturday, Michelin brought a new rear tire for the riders to test, after the rears used on Friday had shown some signs of degradation. The original allocation of rear tires were the same as used at Brno, Argentina, Sachsenring, and Sepang.

The new tire was the rear used at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That is relatively unsurprising, given that the place everyone compared Buriram to the first time they saw it was Austria.

The different compounds in the Austria rear were better placed to withstand the stresses of Buriram, especially along the three successive straights in the tropical heat.

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The MotoGP riders have had their first laps of the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, and the reviews are in. Simple to learn, but more fun than it looks on paper, is the short version.

“The layout, I remembered it was more similar to Austria, so I was very worried,” Valentino Rossi said, summing up the general feeling. “But when you ride maybe it is more similar to Argentina. It’s good to ride, you have a good feeling, you enjoy. The track is not very difficult but anyway it’s fun.”

It was a change from what he had said at Sepang, when the Italian dismissed the Buriram circuit as “boring”. “I rode the track in 2015 with a Yamaha 300 together with [Jorge] Lorenzo and [Pol] Espargaro,” Rossi explained. “I remember that the track was similar to Austria. But in reality it’s better, have good corners. Technically it’s quite easy, but it’s not boring.”

On a side note, Rossi ended the day in eighth, less than four tenths behind the fastest man Cal Crutchlow. He finished three place and a tenth of a second ahead of his young teammate Maverick Viñales, the rider who was prematurely anointed world champion after preseason testing in 2017.

Friday was Rossi’s thirty-ninth birthday, and the start of his twenty-third season in Grand Prix racing, and nineteenth season in the premier class.

To still be racing at his age and after so many years is a remarkable enough achievement. To start the season as a legitimate championship contender – or perhaps, to still have the desire, the discipline, the ambition to do what it takes to start the season as a legitimate championship contender – is truly the mark of his greatness.

When Valentino Rossi retires (not yet, he looks certain to sign on for two more years) he will be remembered for his titles.

But to my mind, what marks him out above all other riders is the fact he is still competitive even now, when so many others have (understandably) given up on the hard physical and mental slog that racing at the very highest level demands.

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Now that the riders have seen the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, (though so far, only on foot, bicycle, or scooter) they can at last express an opinion on it.

The consensus so far is entirely unsurprising. “It’s quite similar to Austria, the layout, but it’s very flat,” Danilo Petrucci summed up the feeling of most. Petrucci did not mourn the lack of elevation, however.

“I don’t know if this is maybe a good point for me, because in Austria I always struggle a bit, even though I have a Ducati.”

Johann Zarco agreed with Petrucci. “I was watching many videos of the World Superbikes, and the first feeling is that it looks like the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg, but flat.”

But the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was broadly positive. “Finally I did many laps with the scooter, and I also ran on the track. I like it. I think it’s going to be easy to learn, but easy to learn means that all riders will be so close, and the gap between maybe the first ten or fifteen positions will be very small. So that can make the game complicated.”

When a track has fewer secrets to unlock, Zarco explained, it meant that everyone got the knack of the track quickly, leaving little to differentiate between them. No Casey Stoner at Phillip Island, no Marc Márquez at Austin.

“I think it’s easy to learn, you quickly know which line to use. I think Texas is more complicated to learn, with 20 corners. But easy means that many riders are able to be fast, but there is only one winner. That’s the difficult point,” Zarco said, before pausing and joking, “Well, in Superbike they have two winners, but in MotoGP, we have one!”

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