Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Here’s Andrea Iannone Breaking into a Car with a Hammer

08/31/2016 @ 5:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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We have all been there, right? You know, that moment when you are at the gas station, accidentally lock your keys inside the car, and then use a claw hammer to smash the window…RIGHT???

Of course you have, and, now Andrea Iannone has been there too.

Two things strike us from this video: 1) the back windows on a Porsche Cayenne are impressively resilient, and 2) we are glad Iannone got a contract with ECSTAR Suzuki for next season, because he would starve if he had to resort to carpentry.

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If Yamaha Made a Sports Car, It Would Look Like This

10/28/2015 @ 2:41 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Motor Corporation is known better for its powersports offerings, but what if the tuning fork brand followed Suzuki and Honda down the rabbit hole of also making a automobiles?

Yamaha might just be considering such a path, releasing what it calls the Sports Ride concept at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

The two-seater concept is very sporty, and Yamaha is quoting a 750kg weight…that’s roughly 1,600 lbs. While we are well into Lotus territory, there is no information at this time as to what could be powering the Sports Ride concept (if it even exists outside of computer renderings).

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We Would Smog the German Right Out of this Ducati-Powered Concept Car by Jakusa Design

09/24/2015 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Tamás-Jakus-Jakusa-Design-Ducati-car-concept-01

We’re really enjoying the work of Tamás Jakus, better known as Jakusa Design. If that name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, we’re sure his recent work on the zeffed-out Triumph Tiger 800 will surely strike you as familiar. This time, Jakus has imagined a Ducati-powered car.

That concept is already in our headspace, thanks to the engineers at Volkswagen making the Volkswagen XL Sport, but Jakus’ version is far more appealing to us.

Extruding the distinctive intake of the Panigale across the trellis frame of an Aeriel Atom type oversized go-kart – complete with pigeon-toed three spoke wheels, just like the superbike – there are enough Ducati design elements to link the car to the brand to make the exercise convincing.

Leave your thoughts and your best Volkswagen emissions jokes in the comments section.

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Volkswagen Ordered to Sell Its Stake in Suzuki

09/23/2015 @ 6:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The big news this week might be about how Volkswagen falsified emissions reports on its diesel-powered automobiles – a move that today lead to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepping down from his position in the company, and VW stock dropping nearly 30%, at the time of this writing.

Less well-known though is that Volkswagen has also lost its long-fought battle with Suzuki over the Japanese company’s stock ownership. VW and Suzuki were supposed to untie the knot back in 2011, but Volkswagen did not go quietly into that good night.

Taking the case to arbitration, the London Court of International Arbitration has finally handed the two parties its verdict. As such, Volkswagen will have to sell its 19.9% stake back to Suzuki.

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Here is the Awesome Honda Project 2&4

09/09/2015 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

HONDA PROJECT 2&4 POWERED BY RC213V TO DEBUT AT FRANKFURT: A COM

We already teased you with the Honda Project 2&4 two weeks ago, and now Honda has seen fit to release its RC213V-powered über-kart for our viewing pleasure. Sure it has four wheels, but the 2&4 is a pretty impressive machine.

At its heart is the 999cc MotoGP engine, in 212hp trim and revving to 13,000 rpm. That V4 engine is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (naturally), with the total vehicle package weighing 892 lbs.

Honda says that the Project 2&4 is based off the Honda RA272, circa 1965, though the design is obviously more avant-garde than the Formula One race car.

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Honda Project 2&4 – A Honda RC213V-Powered Car

08/27/2015 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show is just around the corner, and while the event is typically a four-wheeled affair, Honda is cooking up something that piques our two-wheeled interest here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Calling it the Honda Project 2&4, the concept is simple: a futuristic and sporty car that is powered by Honda’s championship-winning, 1000cc, 90°, V4, RC213V MotoGP engine. See, it’s piquing your interest too.

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Brain Teaser: The BMW i3 Electric Car Will Have an Optional Gas-Powered Motorcycle Engine in It

01/23/2013 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Electric vehicles are finding a bit more traction in the four-wheeled world than in the two-wheeled market (see what I did there?), and as such we are starting to see more plug-in electric cars from established OEMs hitting the streets already or within a model year or two of being ready for public consumption.

One of the largest global OEMs, BMW is not keen to miss out on the next movement in people-moving, and thus  has been teasing its BMW i3 project for some time now. A plug-in electric with roughly a 100 mile range, BMW’s tests with the Mini E project show that most automobile drivers travel less than 100 miles in a day, but still a significant number of would-be buyers are put off by the low-range figures and daunting uncertainty about charging.

Following in the footpaths of cars like the Chevy Volt, the BMW has announced that the i3 will have an optional gas engine in it as well, serving as an electric generator to recharge the BMW i3’s battery pack. With BMW tipping that the engine will “come from the BMW family” and be in the 600cc range, we don’t have to rack our brains long to realize that BMW will be cross-polinating its electric car program with a motorcycle engine from BMW Motorrad.

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Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

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Spartan V: The Ducati Powered Track Car

09/17/2010 @ 11:08 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Some fellas down under have been hard at work, building what they hope is the ultimate track car. Named the Spartan V (yes, they’re only making 300 of them), the project centers around the 1198cc Ducati Superbike motor, and uses carbon fiber over a tubular space-frame chassis to reach a 661 lbs weight figure.

Powered by a 170 hp Ducati 1198S Superbike motor, boys from Oz claim that Spartan V will hit 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds, with a top speed of 173 mph. Rounding out the package is a six-speed sequential gearbox, and an optional FIA approved roll bar that replaces the street bars for racing duty. Photos and more details after the jump.

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