How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

Preview of the Dutch TT: Weird Weather, Tricky Tires, and Saving Italian Racing

06/23/2016 @ 8:04 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Preview of the Dutch TT: Weird Weather, Tricky Tires, and Saving Italian Racing

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So how does the first Dutch TT at Assen to be run following the normal Friday-to-Sunday schedule feel for the riders? It feels normal, is the consensus.

“I don’t think it makes a difference regarding the feeling,” Dani Pedrosa explained on Thursday. “Because when we were here on Wednesday, it felt like a Thursday, because the procedure is the same.”

The only downside about the switch from Saturday to Sunday? “The only good thing before was that when you finish the race, you still have the Sunday off! So when you return home, you had a good time with family on Sunday,” said Pedrosa. “I’m going to miss my Sunday roast!” added Bradley Smith.

Perhaps a more complex and sensitive loss was the fact that the Assen round of MotoGP now clashes directly with the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Bradley Smith bemoaned the fact that he would not be able to attend the festivities on Sunday, nor the traditional dinner on Saturday night.

The damage this clash does could be small but significant in the long run. Though motorcycles are given a lot of attention at Goodwood, it is primarily an event focused on four wheels.

Having top MotoGP riders attend the event was good exposure for motorcycle racing, and MotoGP in particular. With Assen likely to clash frequently with Goodwood, the number of riders at the event is certain to diminish.

MotoGP: Suzuki Signs Alex Rins to a Two-Year Deal

06/20/2016 @ 8:07 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The next piece in the puzzle which is the 2017 MotoGP grid has fallen into place. As had been widely expected, Alex Rins has signed a two-year deal to race with the factory Ecstar Suzuki team from next year. Rins will line up alongside Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki GSX-RR next season.

Rins had long been favorite to take the second seat at Suzuki, as his profile best suited the Ecstar Suzuki team’s strategy of having young rider with potential alongside a fast, more experienced rider to help lead development.

When Maverick Viñales left for the Movistar Yamaha team, Rins was the name most touted to take his place.

MotoGP Silly Season Update: Zarco, Rins, & Espargaro

06/16/2016 @ 12:18 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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While Johann Zarco is out in Japan, testing the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, the 2017 MotoGP rider line up is starting to solidify further. Ironically, it is looking like Johann Zarco will not be the rider that Suzuki selects to pilot its factory MotoGP bike alongside Andrea Iannone.

Team boss Davide Brivio is in Japan, along with the test team, to finalize their plans for 2017. At Barcelona, Brivio admitted to us that he would be going to discuss Suzuki’s choice of rider for next year.

The Italian acknowledged that both Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins were under discussion, and though he declined to state a preference, he did say “It’s clear what our choice is.”

The announcement that both Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins will be in the pre-event press conference in Assen is a further sign that an announcement is imminent.

Monday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: New Tires, New Chassis, Some Equivocation

06/07/2016 @ 1:36 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Monday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: New Tires, New Chassis, Some Equivocation

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On the day after the Barcelona MotoGP race, the entire grid bar the Aspar Ducatis were back at the track for a full day of testing. Conditions were ideal; so ideal that they perhaps a little confusing.

Though it was hot and dry, the fact that only MotoGP bikes are circulating and laying down Michelin rubber meant the track felt different to race day, when the MotoGP bikes have to follow Moto2, and cope with the Dunlop rubber the fat rear tires smear on the track.

The grip was also helped by the fact that Michelin had three new rear tires to test. They were three slightly different versions of construction of the current rear tire, using one of the compounds available for the race weekend.

The tires were well-received, everyone praising the added traction the tire offered. The only criticism offered was that they had a very short life, dropping off after two or three laps.

Michelin were pleased with the results of testing. The main aim of the new tires had been to proved extra traction, and that is what they had delivered. Michelin chief Nicolas Goubert was very satisfied.

“All three tires were better than the reference tires, so we just have to choose which one to make.” The tires were very much test items, used to gather data, and were to be taken away and examined back at the factory.

There, a decision would be taken on when and where the tires will be used. “Technically it’s possible to produce them for the next races, but we will analyze whether they are needed for the tracks we will be going to before the summer.”

Preview of the Catalan GP: Great Tracks, Great Cities, And Teammates Reunited

06/03/2016 @ 4:11 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Preview of the Catalan GP: Great Tracks, Great Cities, And Teammates Reunited

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If there is an axis around which every MotoGP season revolves, it has to be the sparkling jewels in the crown at Mugello and Barcelona.

From the glory of the Tuscan circuit, all high-speed and rolling hills set just an hour down the road from the heart of Italian sports motorcycles, the circuits heads to the magnificent track at Montmeló, just outside Barcelona.

A stone’s throw away from the cradle of Spanish motorcycling, and with a third or so of the grid (and the paddock regulars) having been born within an hour’s drive, Barcelona is MotoGP’s true home race.

Like Mugello, it is a track worthy of MotoGP, where the big bikes can properly stretch their legs. A massive front straight, exhaust noise booming between the great wall of a grandstand, with a tricky right-left chicane at the end of it.

Lots of long fast corners, allowing differing lines and offering up chances to try to pass. A couple of hard braking sections with more opportunities to pass.

After the chicane at Turn 1 and 2, the next favorite passing spot is into Turn 5, a tight left hander. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can have a sniff at Turn 7, though that can leave you open at Turn 9.

Turn 10 is prime passing territory, a fast approach with a long downhill braking section, before you flick it left round a long, wide corner. Care is needed, though, as it is easy to lose the front on the greasy off-camber corner, or run wide when passing.

That allows the rider you just passed to come back underneath. If the pass does not stick there, all is not quite lost, but it will require every gram of skill and bravery you can muster. Passes are possible at the final corner, as Valentino Rossi so stunningly demonstrated in 2009, but they are far from easy.

MotoGP Silly Season Update: Filling the Leftover Factory Seats & Satellite Speculation

06/01/2016 @ 11:37 am, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP Silly Season Update: Filling the Leftover Factory Seats & Satellite Speculation

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In any other year, the approaching weekend at Barcelona would see speculation around MotoGP’s Silly Season nearing its peak, with a spate of contracts signed in the weeks which follow. But this is not any other year.

Going into the 2016 Gran Premi de Catalunya at the Montmeló circuit, eight of the twelve factory seats open for next season have already been filled, while a ninth is just a matter of days away.

Of the remaining three, only the seat at Aprilia is truly up for grabs, the open seats at Suzuki and KTM already having riders penciled in. It is truly a bizarre year.

So where are we so far? The seats at the factory Ducati and Yamaha teams are all taken, with Andrea Dovizioso partnering Jorge Lorenzo at Ducati while Maverick Viñales joins Valentino Rossi at Movistar Yamaha.

Repsol Honda is as good as complete: Dani Pedrosa has already signed on for two more years, while Marc Márquez acknowledged at the press launch for the Barcelona MotoGP race that he would “definitely continue with this bike.” He will sign a contract with Honda again, but he wants it to be a “perfect” contract.

Suzuki, KTM, and Aprilia all have one rider signed already. Sam Lowes’ seat at Aprilia was settled already two years ago, when he signed for Gresini to race in Moto2 in 2016, and MotoGP for 2017 and 2018.

Bradley Smith was the next to slot into place, signing on for the first seat at KTM ahead of the first race of this year. And Andrea Iannone took over at ECSTAR Suzuki after Viñales announced he was leaving, and Ducati announced they were keeping Dovizioso.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Of Improbably Alliances, & Saving Italian Racing

05/21/2016 @ 8:12 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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Every year at Mugello, Valentino Rossi and Italian designer Aldo Drudi come up with a special helmet design for Rossi’s helmet.

They vary in originality and ingenuity: my own personal favorite by far was the helmet from 2008, which featured Rossi’s face on the top, wide-eyed with the terror he felt braking for the first corner at San Donato, one of the highest speed approaches on the calendar.

Others have varied from the obscure and personal, to the entertaining or passionate. Most people have their own personal favorite, a few curmudgeons find the whole idea rather pointless.

Rossi’s helmet for this year, features a simple design, based on a pun in Italian. His AGV Pista GP helmet is yellow, featuring an outline of the Mugello circuit, and the word “MUGIALLO” around the front.

“Mugiallo” is a play on the words Mugello, the name of the circuit, and “giallo”, the Italian word for yellow. Rossi’s tribal color is yellow, his fans call themselves “Il popolo giallo”, or The Yellow People. The press release from Dainese described it as a tribute to the circuit, and to Rossi’s fans.

Is that what it means to Rossi himself, though? On Saturday, Rossi made his helmet look more like an act of appropriation than a tribute. Rossi’s searing qualifying lap laid bare his intentions: Valentino Rossi laid claim to the Mugello circuit. He came here to win.

Preview of the Italian GP: Of Cockroaches & Contracts

05/19/2016 @ 11:38 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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For sheer, stunning beauty, it is hard to beat Mugello. ‘Nestling in the Tuscan hills’ is an overused cliché precisely because it is so very true.

The Mugello circuit runs along both sides of a beautiful Tuscan valley, swooping up and down the hillsides as it flows along the natural contours of the land. Like Phillip Island, and like Assen once was, it is a truly natural circuit.

It does not feel designed, it feels as if it was left there by the raw overwhelming natural forces which hewed the landscape from the limestone mountains, discovered by a man with a passion for speed, who then proceeded to lay asphalt where the hand of nature dictated.

It is fast, flowing and challenging. It demands every ounce of speed from a bike, and courage from a rider. It lacks any really tight corners, keeping hard acceleration in low gears to a minimum. Corners flow together in a natural progression, with a long series of left-right and right-left combination corners.

The riders call them chicanes, which they are only in the very strictest sense of the word. In reality, they are way, way too fast to be what fans call chicanes, more like high-speed changes of direction.

What they do is allow riders to line up a pass through one part of a turn, and the rider being passed to counter attack through the second part of the corner. That makes for great racing.

MotoGP Silly Season Update: Pedrosa to Honda, Viñales to Yamaha, & Who Else?

05/16/2016 @ 12:43 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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After the drama and speculation at Le Mans, it will be Maverick Viñales who will join Valentino Rossi in the Movistar Yamaha team in 2017.

The reports pegging Dani Pedrosa for the seat alongside Rossi turn out to have been wrong, despite coming from highly credible sources.

On Friday, Spanish magazine website Solomoto reported that Viñales flew to Milan to sign the contract at Yamaha Motor Racing headquarters in Gerno di Lesmo, a stone’s throw from the Monza circuit.

Solomoto’s report was followed by a deluge of other Spanish news sites reporting the same facts, though citing different sources. This makes it more likely that the news really is true this time, and that Viñales has indeed signed with Yamaha (after the time of this writing, this deal has since been confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber -JB).

The deal will see Viñales sign for two years alongside Rossi, with the announcement to be made on Thursday at Mugello.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Le Mans: On Crashes at Le Mans, & A Wide-Open Championship

05/09/2016 @ 9:40 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Three race at Le Mans, three winners, and all three displays of complete control. In the first race of the day, Brad Binder waited until the penultimate lap to seize the lead, and render his Moto3 opposition harmless.

Alex Rins took the lead much earlier in the Moto2 race, toyed with Simone Corsi a little more obviously, before making it clear just how much he owned the race.

And in MotoGP, Jorge Lorenzo faced fierce competition at the start, but in the end he did just what Valentino Rossi had done two weeks ago at Jerez: led from start to finish, and won by a comfortable margin.

Lorenzo’s victory was hardly unexpected. The Movistar Yamaha rider had been dominant all weekend, quick from the off, and peerless during qualifying.