Nicky Hayden Photo Exhibition Opens at Imola

An exhibition of Nicky Hayden photographs, by the Italian photographer Mirco Lazzari, opened during the Imola WorldSBK round, aptly named “A Million Dollar Smile”. With 69 photographs depicting the American’s international career, it provided a reminder to fans of what made the Kentucky Kid so popular. For Lazzari, the challenge of finding the correct pictures was a trying time ,with weeks spent to ensure he struck the right chord, as the first anniversary of Hayden’s death approaches. “I wanted to create an exhibition for Nicky, and it was very emotional because Nicky was a rider that gave all of us a lot of emotions,” said Lazzari. “He meant a lot to so many fans and to the sport, so I wanted to do this exhibition because he is missed by so many people.”

The Only Motorcycle Statistic That’s Worth a Damn

Every year the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) releases data about motorcycle fatalities in the United States. The results are never that surprising, and despite some fluctuations year-to-year, the basic takeaways are always the same. Motorcyclists are way more likely to die (28x more likely per mile traveled) than automobile drivers and passengers; fatal motorcycle crashes are more likely to involve alcohol than other vehicle fatalities (25% vs. 21% for passenger cars); and motorcycle fatalities closely correlate to new motorcycle sales. The figures are of course important, but reporting the results is an exercise in playing a broken record, over and over again. Except for one statistic that caught our eye this year: motorcycle fatalities as a percentage of overall vehicle fatalities.

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.

For the past decade or so, Le Mans has been a Yamaha track, with Yamaha riders taking seven wins in the last ten races. The answer to whether that situation can continue or is simple: it depends. Maybe a Yamaha can win at Le Mans on Sunday. Or maybe another bike will take victory here instead.

That answer is generic almost to the point of meaninglessness, but beneath it lies a kernel of truth. The first four races in MotoGP have taught us a few lessons which point to who and what could do the winning on Sunday.

The more precise answer? If a Yamaha is going to win, it is more likely to be be the Tech3 bike of Johann Zarco, rather than the factory Movistar machines of Valentino Rossi or Maverick Viñales.

If a Yamaha doesn’t win, then the Ducatis are in with a much better chance than you might expect, with Andrea Dovizioso and, who knows?, maybe even Jorge Lorenzo in with a shout.

But the lesson of the first four races of 2018 is that the most likely outcome on Sunday is that a Honda will win, and probably a Honda in the hands of Marc Márquez. That is clearly what most of the riders felt on Sunday.

The one recurring theme that came back from riders on every competing manufacturer was that they were both impressed and feared how much the Honda has improved since last year.

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The announcement that the official MotoGP.com website were to stream the Thursday media debriefs of Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi live raised some hackles in the paddock. The objections to the move differed with the interests of those complaining.

The print media complained that there was no point in flying half the way around the world to cover the series if everything was going to be streamed live anyway. Rival factories complained that the media debriefs of their riders were not being streamed live.

Some fans and journalists complained that by showing the debriefs, Dorna were merely fanning the flames, where they should be trying to calm the situation down.

In the end, there wasn’t much of a situation to calm down. Sure, the media debriefs of Márquez and Rossi were streamed live. But both men went out of their way not to say anything of interest.

The feud lives on, but we didn’t notice because we lost interest in what the protagonists were saying about halfway through. There is much to be said for trite media speak.

To an extent, this is probably a good thing. Aleix Espargaro, whose media debrief really should have been streamed live, as it was a great deal more entertaining than all the other rider press conferences put together, pointed out the irony of the situation.

“Everybody is talking about the Argentina clash and nobody is talking about the tarmac of America, which is more important!” the factory Aprilia rider complained.

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Qatar is always a strange place to kick off the MotoGP season: a windswept circuit in the middle of the desert (though not for long, as the suburbs of Doha are rapidly approaching the track), racing under the floodlights, around a circuit with just a single grandstand and a VIP pavilion.

It is an odd location with a weird atmosphere. The race feels surreal, part of a science fiction spectacular, an impression reinforced as you drive back to Doha afterwards, the huge Blade Runner-esque skyscrapers awash with ever-shifting patterns of blinking lights.

You would think that the season opener couldn’t get much odder, but series organizer Dorna has found a way. In response to complaints of dew forming after 9pm in the evening, rendering the track treacherous.

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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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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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Does the absence of Valentino Rossi from the Misano race make much difference? It is too early to tell. Certainly the media center feels a little more empty, but this is a trend which has been underway for a while.

Print media has less money to spend, and non-specialist media is increasingly choosing not to report from the race track, taking their information from publicly available sources such as the ever-expanding TV coverage.

Specialist print media and websites are also suffering, though their very rationale depends on being at the track, and so they have little choice.

So maybe a more empty press room is a sign that Italian newspapers have decided against sending a correspondent because Valentino Rossi is not racing. Alternatively, it could just be a sign of a more general decline in media presence.

The paddock feels pretty busy, but then it was only Thursday, and the real frenzy doesn’t start until the bikes hit the track. We won’t really know how badly Rossi absence affects the Misano race until the flag drops on Sunday, and official figures and empty spots on grandstands tell the true tale.

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MotoGP Preview of the Czech GP

08/03/2017 @ 7:08 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

After four weeks, MotoGP is back. That four-week break is a big deal. A much bigger deal than you might expect. Having a big break in the middle of the summer made the season much more manageable.

“The problem is the pressure we have,” Aleix Espargaro explained. “MotoGP looks like it’s a lot of fun on the TV, and it is very fun, but we have a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure, so to be able to disconnect and do nothing, it’s always good.”

That comment came in response to a question about the addition of the KymiRing in Finland to the calendar in 2019, which will expand the schedule to 20 races, after the inclusion of the Chang circuit in Thailand next year.

The general feeling among riders was that 20 races was manageable, though with the caveat that Dorna ensures there is a large summer break.

Aleix Espargaro again: “For me the most important thing is to have a good break in the summer, like one month, because then you can disconnect. Really, I don’t care if we do four races in a row, I don’t care.”

“I would like to do it if possible, four races in a row or three times three races in a row, but it’s important in the middle to have a break, to just reset your mind, charge batteries. Because when you race a lot of consecutive races, it’s very very hard for the body, for the head, for everything. But if we still have the summer break, one race more is no big problem.”

The plan, as I understand it, is to cut testing to a minimum, with two, or perhaps even just a single winter test in late January/early February. The timing of the Qatar race would be changed, so the race would be at 7pm rather than 9pm, with Moto3 and Moto2 running during daylight.

That will allow Qatar to be scheduled for a much earlier start, perhaps the first week of March, or even the last week of February. The season could then be broken up into two parts of ten races each, with a month break in the middle.

Where Finland fits in with that is uncertain, but it seems clear that a change is coming.

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MotoGP Preview of the German GP

06/30/2017 @ 1:28 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

From Assen to Sachsenring, 700 kilometers in 7 days. One of the shorter hauls between back-to-back races, but a tight schedule nonetheless.

Sachsenring’s weird split paddock was full of tired looking faces on Thursday, as truck drivers and hospitality staff rushed to tear the entire paddock down in Drenthe, then build it all up again in Saxony.

It is hard to think of a greater contrast in circuits, too. Assen is flat, fast, and sweeping, the Sachsenring tight, slow, and with massive changes in elevation. There are similarities too: the bikes spend a lot of time on the edge of the tire at both tracks.

At Assen, it’s especially the right side of the tire, as riders sweep through the succession of right-handers from Mandeveen all the way to the Ramshoek.

At the Sachsenring, it’s all left-hand side of the tire which takes the punishment, as the bikes come out of the Omegakurve, pitch into Turn 4, then hustle their way all the way down and then up and over the hill before Turn 11.

Turn 11 is a vicious beast, laying in wait for the unwary, its voracious gravel trap waiting to claim anyone who flicks the bike just a little too enthusiastically right after spending so much time on the left-hand side of the tire.

The opposite right-hand side has had 40 seconds to cool off, while the right-hand side of the tire takes all the punishment. The transition from left to right, from scorching hot to cool rubber, from one of the hardest tire compounds of the year to one of the softest, is tricky.

Switching between two very different feeling rubbers catches plenty of riders out, in both MotoGP and Moto2.

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Last year, at Jerez or thereabouts, I had a chat with Livio Suppo about the insanely early start to MotoGP’s Silly Season that year.

Suppo bemoaned the fact that so many riders were switching factories so early, with contracts signed as early as Qatar (in the case of Bradley Smith and Valentino Rossi), and the ensuing hullabaloo surrounding Jorge Lorenzo, and whence he was bound.

“Normally, we start talking after a few races, in Mugello or so,” Suppo said. “You want a few races to see how strong a rider is.”

While last year’s Silly Season was nearing its close at Mugello last year, it seems that 2017 is taking a slightly more normal trajectory. This year, Mugello may have seen the early conversations, which kick off the period where riders discuss their future options.

And Barcelona was the first race where they started to discuss – or more accurately, hint at – those options publicly.

Why is this year’s Silly Season so much later (or so much more normal) than last year’s? Put simply, it’s because last year, every single factory rider was out of contract, and every factory seat was up for grabs.

This year, all the factory seats are still taken for 2018 (or at least, unless a factory boss decides that one of their riders is grossly underperforming), and there are only the satellite bikes at stake.

Fewer seats are available, and those which are available have less money attached, and less chance of competing for podiums and victories. All that combined leads to a lower sense of urgency when it comes to negotiations.

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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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