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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Video: Ducati 1199 Superleggera – The Power of Lightness

02/04/2014 @ 3:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

2014-Ducati-1199-Superleggera-crop

I don’t have a good excuse as to why I want to post this video up on the site, other than the Ducati 1199 Superleggera is probably the most awesome motorcycle to come out in the past decade (apologies to any Honda DN-01 owners in the crowd).

An exercise in engineering prowess, which saw Borgo Panigale drop shed some serious weight from its venerable superbike, it should come as no surprise then that the 155kg (dry) Superleggera was a model put forth by Claudio Domenicali, a man who rose from engineer to CEO at Ducati Motor Holding.

That being said, I’m not sure we need a good excuse to fawn over the Superleggera. A magnesium monocoque frame, forged magnesium Marchesini wheels, carbon fiber rear sub-frame and bodywork (with integrated R-spec aero-kit), lithium-ion battery, titanium exhaust system with stainless steel headers, titanium bolts and fasteners…I’m sorry, what was I saying?

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MotoGP Silly Season’s First Crazy Rumor: Lorenzo Agrees to Precontract with Ducati for 2015? Ducati Says No

01/16/2014 @ 10:44 am, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

jorge-lorenzo-yamaha-racing-motogp-scott-jones

MotoGP silly season this year is expected to be pretty frenetic, with just about all of the riders either out of contract or with escape clauses written into their contracts allowing them to leave at the end of 2014.

But even by those standards, the first shot in the battle sounds like madness. According to a report on the Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Ducati have tempted Jorge Lorenzo into agreeing to a precontract to race for the Italian factory from 2015 onwards.

According to the report, Ducati Corse’s new boss Gigi Dall’Igna phoned Jorge Lorenzo personally to persuade him to sign for the Italian factory. The contract on offer is reported to be tempting: Onda Cero claim that Ducati offered Lorenzo 15 million euros a season to race for them.

Lorenzo is reported to be racing for 9 million a year with Yamaha, plus a 2 million euro bonus if he wins the championship. Both Honda and Yamaha are also chasing Lorenzo’s signature for 2015, both claimed to have offered him 12 million euros a year.

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Ducati CEO Denies Scooter Plans

12/30/2013 @ 2:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

ducati-brio-scooter

With the internet buzzing yet again about rumors of Ducati planning to build a scooter model, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali has also once again had to dismiss any truth to the matter. Talking to MCN about the matter, Domenicali said simply that “A scooter is not in the foreseeable future for Ducati.”

Domenicali went on to explain that small-displacement machines were not in the cards for Ducati and the brand’s foreseeable future, with the Italian motorcycle company electing instead to focus on niches with the larger displacement categories. It is no secret that Ducati is looking to introduce a scrambler-style model for the 2015 model year, and other models are presumably in the works as well.

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“Ducati do Brasil” is Ready for Business – Argentina Next

06/20/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

2013-Ducati-Hypermotard

In October of last year, we told you about how Ducati Motor Holding was directly taking over its operations in Brazil, and was forming a subsidiary in the South American country. Nine months later now, Ducati do Brasil is officially open for business, and the company’s first showroom floor is in the Avenida Faria Lima of São Paulo.

Helping Ducati side-step the onerous tariffs that come with the Brazil market, the Italian company is continuing its relationship with DAFRA, which runs a complete knock-down (CKD) assembly plant in Manaus, and builds Diavel and Monster 796 motorcycles on Ducati’s behalf.

Ducati do Brasil will be run by Managing Director Ricardo Susini, who will in-turn be assisted by Marco Truzzi as Service & After Sales Manager.

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Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

claudio-domenicali

When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

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Confirmed: Claudio Domenicali Appointed CEO of Ducati, Gabriele del Torchio Leaves for Alitalia

04/18/2013 @ 10:43 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Claudio-Domenicali

Confirming what we already thought to be true, Gabriele del Torchio has left his position at Ducati to takeover as CEO of Alitalia. Replacing him will be current Ducati General Manager and Board Member Claudio Domenicali.

With 21 years of experience at Ducati Motor Holding, including time in both Ducati’s product and racing departments, Domenicali is perhaps the most logical successor for the departing Del Torchio, as he intimately understand’s the company’s product line as well as its racing heritage.

Following Del Torchio will be no easy task though, as the former-CEO has helped build Ducati into something that is more than just a superbike brand. Domenicali’s marching orders are surely to continue that growth into new two-wheeled sectors, as well as to take Ducati from a boutique European brand into a true global player in the premium motorcycle market — you have been warned BMW and KTM. Ducati’s press release on the transition is after the jump.

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101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/19/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Ducati-1199-Panigale-R-Circuit-of-the-Americas-53

The international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R is taking place this week, and the world’s top motorcycle-journalists are lapping Bologna’s latest bullet around the new Circuit of the Americas race course outside of Austin, Texas.

Helping make the occasion extra special, MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are in attendance, doing what they do best on two wheels. Since the two Ducati riders did not participate in the private test at Austin, that HRC and Yamaha Racing held last week, this photo-op was their first outing on the track.

Asphalt & Rubber will be swinging a leg over the Panigale R on Thursday, which means we have two painfully long days until we can see the machine in person. There are 101 hi-res snaps after the jump, taken by the great Gigi Soldano, Marco Campelli, Andrew Wheeler, and Scott Jones (yes! the Scott Jones!).

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Audi Reconfirms Gabriele Del Torchio as Ducati CEO

07/19/2012 @ 7:28 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

With the acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding by Audi AG, the German car manufacturer was bound to do some shuffling in the Italian motorcycle company’s executive ranks. Announcing that it has formed a new Board of Directors, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has unsurprisingly been name President of the Board, while Horst Glaser and Axel Strotbek (best names ever) from Audi have also been given seats on the Ducati’s Board.

Giving Audi AG a 3-to-2 controlling interest of over Ducati’s Board of Directors, the new board is also comprised of Gabriele Del Torchio and Claudio Domenicali. In an interesting move, Del Torchio has been reconfirmed by the new Board of Directors as CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, with Audi also appointing the Italian to the Board of Directors at Automobili Lamborghini SpA.

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Ducati Desmosedici GP10 MotoGP Race Bike Unveiled at Wrooom – The Big Bang V4 is Back!

01/13/2010 @ 12:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Ducati has officially launched its 2010 MotoGP race bike, the Desmosedici GP10, at its yearly press launch with Ferrari in the Italian Dolomite mountains. The Wrooom event launch comes just two weeks after Nicky Hayden accidently leaked photos of the GP10 from his camera phone, much to the chagrin of Ducati Corse. Click past the jump for more details on the GP10, launch photos and studio shots of the new Desmosedici, and also for Hayden and Stoner’s views on the new bike in a video.

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Ducati Vyper Cruiser in 2010?

03/27/2009 @ 9:23 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Could Ducati be building a street cruiser to compete against the likes of Harley-Davidson? That’s the rumor behind the so-called Ducati Vyper, which was started by a statement made by Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali, who revealed that Ducati is looking to branch out into a wider market. The 1400cc 170hp prototype is said to be already in running form, and has started preliminary tests at the Bologna factory.

The Vyper will feature a stroked version of the company’s Testastretta engine, and house it in Ducati’s signature steel-trellis frame. A 240 rear tire mounted onto a beefy hollow-section swing-arm is also believed to be on the new machine. Luca from Bar-Design has made some exclusive renders of the Ducati Vyper for Asphalt & Rubber, and if the original looks anything like this, we might just be believers in the Italian chopper concept.

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