Saturday, July 25, 2009

Piaggio Ape Calessino Electric Lithium launched in Europe

The Piaggio Ape Calessino is now available with a lithium-ion battery pack instead of the regular diesel engine, even though the 'Lithium Electric' version does cost a massive $28,000

In keeping with its newfound ‘go green’ philosophy, Piaggio have launched a lithium-ion battery-powered version of its three-wheeler, the Ape Calessino. Originally designed in the 1950s as an inexpensive commercial vehicle for small businesses, the Ape three-wheeler series continues to thrive to this day, even though it’s now produced at Piaggio’s facility in India, rather than in Italy.

While the regular Ape Calessino is fitted with a 422cc DI diesel engine, Piaggio have now launched a limited-edition (only 100 units will be built) electric version, which is fitted with a lithium-ion battery pack rather than the conventional IC engine. The Ape Calessino Electric Lithium has a range of 75km and a full charge takes less than four hours. Power and torque figures are not quoted but Piaggio do claim the Calessino EV’s batteries are good for up to 800 recharge cycles and 60,000km.

The Ape Calessino Electric Lithium is priced at €19,900 (US$28,300) plus VAT. That's more than the price of a new Ducati 1198S, though for some, that may not matter... ;-))

Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo to use Dainese D-air Racing system during the British MotoGP

Rossi and Lorenzo will use Dainese's D-air system during the British Grand Prix tomorrow...

For the first time ever, Valentino ‘The Doctor’ Rossi will a racing suit fitted with Dainese’s D-air airbag system during the British GP at Donington Park tomorrow. According to Dainese, Rossi has been following the D-air project closely and has even worked with the Dainese Technology Centre, providing them with data that has helped Dainese fine-tune various aspects of its airbag system.

While Jorge Lorenzo also used a D-air equipped suit at the German MotoGP last weekend, it was actually Marco Simoncelli who was the first rider to use the system during a race. Simoncelli used the D-air system back in 2007, during the 250cc race at Valencia. Since then, Dainese have worked hard at refining and improving the airbag, resulting in the current, 2009 version which will be used by Rossi and Lorenzo tomorrow.

Among others, improvements to the D-air system include a reduction in the volume of the airbag and a 20% reduction in weight, redistribution of its protective areas, improved integration with the racing suit and increased inflation pressure for quicker activation. After inflating in the event of an accident, the D-air system also allows automatic deflation of the airbag after a few seconds, allowing the rider to get back into the race if possible.

‘I believe this to be an extremely important innovation. After my falls in Laguna Seca, I no longer had any doubt that it was time to start wearing this new suit, which certainly offers more safety than the standard suit. It takes a little time to get used to wearing the new suit, but I feel much safer with the system on and that’s the most important thing,’ says Lorenzo.

Here's how the D-air airbag system works...

Friday, July 24, 2009

2010 Sand-X 800 T-ATV: The desert raider

If you were looking for the most badass desert bike on the planet, you came to the right place. The Sand-X isn't scared of SUVs, quads or armed bandits...

Pics Sand-X, via Hell for Leather

Sand-X have announced their latest creation – the Sand-X 800 T-ATV, which they claim is the safest, fastest and most powerful ‘dune bike’ in the world. With two wheels at the front and continuous track at the back, the Sand-X all-terrain-vehicle is fitted with a liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder, 800cc two-stroke engine from Rotax, which redlines at 8,150rpm. With 160bhp on tap, the 210kg (dry weight) Sand-X 800 accelerates from zero to 100km/h in a claimed 2.8 seconds and hits a top speed of 185km/h! Range is more than 350km.

The Sand-X is equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which makes it easy to ride. The brakes are high-spec Brembo units and, according to its manufacturer, there is no way you can roll the Sand-X T-ATV because it carries all its weight down low and the continuous track doesn’t require any ground clearance. In fact, the rear track is made of high-strength Kevlar composite and is said to provide unmatched grip and traction on any surface.

For those who must modify their ride, the Sand-X can not only be fitted with extra lights, cameras, GPS navigation devices and emergency rescue kits, but also… er, machine guns. Umm… yeah, well, the Sand-X is probably being pitched to military types as a high-mobility vehicle for the desert. Probably a bit like its WW-II era predecessor here

The Sand-X is built in cooperating with Swiss Arms AG, which has a 140-year history of arms manufacturing in Switzerland. More details on the Sand-X website here

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In conversation with Nicky Hayden

The 2006 MotoGP world champ believes he might still get back on top someday...

Sometimes, we don’t really know what to make of Nicky ‘The Kentucky Kid’ Hayden. Looking at his performances in the last two years, it’s hard to believe that the American actually beat Valentino Rossi and won the MotoGP world championship in 2006. Since that high point of his life and career, things have a gone downhill for Nicky – he was more or less pushed out of Honda at the end of the 2008 season, and he’s been struggling to get results at Ducati this year.

Though he’s currently not as successful at winning races as, say, Casey Stoner or Jorge Lorenzo, we like Nicky Hayden a lot more than either of those two riders. Indeed, unlike many other MotoGP riders, Hayden doesn’t talk trash, doesn’t play games, isn’t arrogant and doesn’t walk around with a bad attitude. And for us, that means he’s one of the more likeable riders in MotoGP right now.

Ultimate Motorcycling recently caught up with Nicky for a chat, and here are some excerpts from what Nicky had to say:

On his workout regimen, which prepares him to ride the Ducati GP9

‘Cardio for sure. The Ducati is very intense to ride and you can never rest on it. Your focus on this bike must be 100% the whole time or it will bite you! It has a lot of lights and switches you must focus on, so it can be as hard mentally as physically sometimes.

On being team mates with Casey Stoner

‘Yeah, we get on well. We don't hang out a lot on personal time but if we are at an event or something together, we chat a lot about different things and have a few good laughs. We also like to team up on Livio (Ducati Race Director) and give as much grief as possible!’

On electronics in MotoGP

‘They should be left to the video games and let the riders be the ones who make the difference on the track. They [the electronics] suck and there are too many.’

On his life in the US vs Europe

‘I do enjoy my time in the States, where MotoGP is a lot less popular so it’s a little more relaxed when you are just trying to chill, but then sometimes in Europe you can milk it a bit and get some VIP treatment!’

On what he would be doing if he wasn’t racing motorcycles

‘I’m really not sure what I would do if I wasn't racing. I feel like this is what I was meant to do. It is the one thing I love to do and got some talent for. I never had a plan B. I went all in to be a racer and luckily it's paid off.’

Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000RR: We want one!

As far as we are concerned, the Yoshimura GSX-R1000RR is hotter than Megan Fox in a string bikini...
Via Hell for Leather

The Yoshimura Race Shop (YRS) has prepped the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 in accordance with AMA American Superbike rules and they’ve come up with the totally awesome GSX-R1000RR. The engine features YRS’ ST-R Type R high-lift cams, different head gaskets for increased compression, BMC air-filter for increased air flow, a quick shifter and an R77 Titanium/Carbonfibre exhaust system.

The Suzuki's suspension has also been suitably tweaked, with a new swingarm pivot insert, revised rear suspension linkage and Showa rear shock with race-spec valving. The front fork also gets race-spec valving and an extra 25mm of ride height adjustment. Other new bits include Galfer stainless steel braided brake lines and Galfer front brake pads, YRS chassis protector and Yoshimura R&D graphics.

At a recent press conference in California, Brant Russell, Vice President of Marketing for Yoshimura R&D of America Inc., spoke about the newly set up Yoshimura Race Shop (YRS). ‘The super secret days of racing are over. The fact that we are now racing production based Superbikes makes it a good time to open our doors and offer parts and services to the general public. It's time to share our success and lineage with our customers and that is why YRS was created,’ he said.

YRS will deal in engine and suspension parts and will also offer engine tuning and blueprinting services. The main thrust will be on the GSX-R1000 though YRS will also provide parts for the Fireblade, R1 and others. All parts will carry the ‘Yoshimura’ branding. ‘Although these new YRS parts are designed by the Yoshimura Racing Division and have race proven pedigrees, they are mostly moderate in price, and very accessible. All of these parts are manufactured in either the United States or at Yoshimura Japan out of the highest quality materials available,’ says Russell.

No word on pricing or availability, but we LOVE the YRS GSX-R1000RR, regardless. For more details, visit the YRS website here

This, by the way, is Suzuki's very first 'motorcycle' - the 1952 Power Free - which was fitted with a 36cc two-stroke engine. So it's probably safe to say they've made a bit of progress over the last 50 years... :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Troy Corser and Nick Heidfeld swap superbike and F1 car

BMW Sauber F1 driver Nick Heidfeld swapped his 700bhp car for Troy Corser's 200bhp S1000RR Superbike, for a lap around the Nurburgring circuit...!

World Superbikes racer Troy Corser and F1 driver Nick Heidfeld recently got an opportunity to swap their BMWs for a lap of the Nürburgring circuit. Corser got to drive Heidfeld’s 700 horsepower BMW Sauber F1 car, while Heidfeld got to grips with Corser’s 200bhp S1000RR superbike.

‘It was just awesome! The car feels so balanced, the brakes are fantastic, the tyres have unbelievable grip and the steering is very direct but still has a lot of feeling. I can’t believe how hard and late you can brake. I know I was braking too early and I really would like to have a day or two with the car to really see what I can do with it,’ said Troy, who’s a two-time World Superbikes champ.

‘It was a sensational experience! I already had lots of fun practising on the streetbike in the morning and I had expected the Superbike to be a huge leap over the production version, a bit like series cars and racers, but I was surprised in the end. The difference is huge. On the one hand the Superbike is more aggressive, builds up more grip and has the superior brakes, but on the other hand it is easier to ride because you can control it so well. The handling is very precise. Obviously I’m still miles from the limit with the superbike; I would love to have done a lot more laps,’ said Heidfeld.

We’re not really into F1 at all, but how we wish we could ride Mr Corser’s 200-horsepower S1000RR at the Nürburgring. Oooohhhh…!

Here's Corser and Heidfeld having a go in the F1 car and S1000RR WSBK racer...

Norton Commando 961 SE to be launched in September 2009

No word on pricing yet, but the Norton Commando 961 sure looks good!

Norton Motorcycles are looking at launching their first new motorcycle in many years – the Commando 961 SE – in September this year. The company will start with producing 200 units of the limited edition 961 SE and will then start making the standard version of the bike. Also, according to a report on Dealer News, the iconic British company is now looking for distribution partners outside the UK. Deliveries are expected to start by the end of this year or early next year.

The new Norton Commando will be fitted with a 961cc air-cooled fuel-injected parallel-twin that produces 80 horsepower and 90Nm of torque. Other bits include a tubular steel chassis, five-speed gearbox, adjustable Ohlins suspension (43mm fork at the front, reservoir-style twin shocks at the back), 17-inch wheels and Brembo brakes (twin 320mm carbon-steel discs with radial mount callipers at the front, single 220mm disc at the back). The bike weighs 188 kilos dry, though the SE version will come with various carbonfibre bits for reduced weight.

‘The Commando 961 SE has been engineered by a team of experienced motorcycle design engineers at Norton's new facility at the Donington Park grand prix circuit. It was felt that, to bring the Commando up to date and deliver a good value product, a 'ground up' engineering exercise was necessary. This work started in 2008 and has now progressed to completion,’ says Simon Skinner, Head of Design at Norton.

‘The biggest challenge for the UK design team was the full integration of the fuel injection and engine management systems. This needed to be done without compromising styling and the classic look of the Commando. The fuel injection system is necessary to pass modern worldwide emissions legislation but also offers other benefits such as improved drivability and reliability,’ says Skinner.

Hmm… we are quite excited about the reborn Norton and we think the Commando 961 might – just might – turn out to be a very good machine indeed. Pricing would be crucial as would be R&D budgets for continued development. But we hope Norton can take those issues in their stride, put their series of false starts behind them and make a fresh, successful new beginning. This is one motorcycle brand that definitely deserves to be resurrected!

Update: Prices for Norton Commando 961 SE have been announced - US$17,899 for the base model and US$19,499 for the higher-spec model with carbonfibre wheels.

Monday, July 20, 2009

John Surtees’ son, Henry Surtees passes away in a racing accident

From left: John Surtees with son Henry, who was racing in F2

Henry Surtees, who was just 18 years old, was killed today in what’s being called a ‘freak racing accident,’ during an F2 race at the Brands Hatch circuit in the UK. Henry was the son of John Surtees, the only man ever to win both 500cc motorcycle grand prix racing (1956, with MV Agusta) and F1 car racing (1964, with Ferrari) world championships.

‘He had shown himself to be one with the possibilities of reaching the very top. Despite his young age he had shown maturity, technical understanding and speed. Most importantly, he was a nice person and a loving son. He will be deeply missed,’ said John, speaking about Henry.

We convey our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the Surtees family.

Flossie: Castrol’s robotic motorcycle test rider is totally cool!

That's not just any old robot who's sitting on the Fireblade, it's Flossie himself!

In their quest to develop the finest motorcycle engine oils, Castrol have recruited a new test rider – Flossie, the robot. ‘He is invaluable in tests which support our core product benefits such as increased power or increased acceleration,’ say Castrol.

Flossie (who isn’t related to a certain Rossi, as far as we know…) can test any scooter or motorcycle and has a ‘self learning’ mode that allows it to learn a bike’s gear change pattern, clutch feel and throttle response etc.

Castrol claim that Flossie is the ultimate precision rider who never gets tired, isn’t troubled by engine noise at 16,000rpm, doesn’t mind riding in extreme cold or heat… and doesn’t even crave a cold beer and a hamburger after a hard session of testing. And isn’t that just brilliant…

Here's Flossie in action. You don't want to miss watching this video!

2009 German MotoGP: Pics from Sachsenring

Pics from the 2009 German Grand Prix at Sachsenring. Rossi rules...!

More MotoGP pics here