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.

Pierobon Trellis Frame Kit for the Ducati 1199 Panigale

11/04/2013 @ 1:08 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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We already teased you with Pierobon’s newest creation, a trellis frame kit for the Ducati 1199 Panigale, and now we have the full details of this Italian firm’s work…along with some tasty photos.

Pierobon says it wanted to build a chassis kit was to build a bolt-on frame that would replace Ducati’s “frameless” design, with a steel trellis creation.

The project’s main goal was to add no further weight to the svelte Panigale, but also to bring the chassis stiffness into spec with the parameters Pierobon has shown on its previous machines (Pierobon X60R & Pierobon F042).

Using 28mm diameter steel tubing for the trellis work, Pierobon says it design meets the project’s weight criteria, and computer analysis suggests that torsional stiffness is right on point as well with the Bologna firm’s goals. Now Pieorbon just waits to go riding on the track.

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Pierobon’s Trellis Frame for the Ducati 1199 Panigale – Ducatisti Purists, Your Prayers Have Been Answered

10/17/2013 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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We have featured the work of Peirobon on Asphalt & Rubber before, as the boutique firm from Bologna makes some intriguing air-cooled Ducati-powered sport bikes for discerning buyers, among other things.

Pierobon is also one of the companies we are looking forward to seeing at this year’s EICMA show, as the firm has something special this year for its booth display: a trellis frame kit for the Ducati 1199 Panigale.

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Leaked: Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera Detail Photos

10/11/2013 @ 12:31 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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The leaks from Ducati keep coming in, and now we have our first photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera and its tasty details. Stripped of its carbon fiber fairings, we can see where all those magnesium, titanium, and carbon pieces reside on the Superleggera’s rolling chassis.

Asphalt & Rubber has gotten its hands on 16 detail photos of the new Ducati Superleggera, and they are waiting for you after the jump. Our apologies in advance for the insane watermarks, but some people just don’t understand the internet. Other publications should feel free to use our photos, provided they cite their source and link back to Asphalt & Rubber — easy, right?

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Ducati 1199 Terracorsa by MotoCorsa

10/02/2013 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1199 Panigale is a formidable machine on the track, something I witnessed first-hand with the at the international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R at the Circuit of the Americas.

Between the Panigale’s frameless chassis design, high-revving Superquadro motor, and bevy of electronics, Ducati has refined its superbike offering to consumers, and really honed in on making the best street bike possible.

But what if your calling takes you off of the asphalt? Enter the Ducati 1199 Terracorsa by MotoCorsa — yes, the same crazy bastards that made the SeDUCATIve and MANigale calendar photo shoots.

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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

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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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How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasn’t a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics

03/29/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.

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101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

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

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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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Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 Priced at €134,900

01/31/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Correction: The article originally stated that the price for the RS13 was €34,900, when it is in fact €134,900. And for the love of god, don’t call Ducati Corse trying to buy one. They won’t sell a Rs13 to you.

Unless your name rhymes with Tarlos Techa, the chances of you owning a Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 are non-existent. The professional racer-only version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, the Panigale RS13 is stripped of all the lights, mirrors, reflectors, and other assorted running gear that you would need to pass an inspection from the DOT, and becomes a motorcycle solely dedicated to the art of going fast.

Before any comparisons are made, it is important to note that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not exactly what ends up on the starting grid on any given Sunday, but instead is the starting point for each racing team’s development program, which sees the end result often being a 200+ hp monster on two wheels.

Getting one isn’t cheap though, as the price tag is pegged at a cool €134,900 ($180,500). A hefty price increase over the street-going Panigale R, though with all the added suspension, brakes, wheels, etc that come with the RS13 race bike, the price seems somewhat reasonable — if you can say such a thing about a nearly $180,500 motorcycle.

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Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles

01/24/2013 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Visual aesthetics have always been something of import and interest to me, a trait that is probably tied into the fact that I am visual learner. So it interests me when we see subtle changes having a great affect on a design.

Take the new Repsol livery on the 2013 Honda RC213V — the simple change from black to white creates a significantly different visual understanding of the MotoGP bike, though the basic idea of the livery remains the same.

We can see the same process with the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles, as the Kentucky-based Ducati shop has massaged in a bit black paint on the already stunning Ducati 1199 S Tricolore paint scheme (work by Robbie Nigl of Peach Pit Racing).

The effect? A whole new take on an already very classy looking machine. Nice work guys…now let’s talk about posting some hi-res photos next time, eh? Far too small pictures are after the jump.

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Ducati North America Posts All-Time Sales Record for 2012

01/17/2013 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Ducati North America is reporting that 2012 was its best all-time retails sales year, with the Italian brand selling 10,883 units last year. This figure means that roughly a quarter of all Ducati motorcycles sold in 2012 were sold in North America, again solidifying the market’s #1 importance to the Bologna Brand.

For an added bonus, Ducati North America is also reporting 10 consecutive quarters of increased sales, with 2012 as whole growing 21% compared to 2011. With every sales region in the US growing in volume, the United States saw 21% growth overall, with Canada (25%) and Mexico (7%) adding to the cause as well. On the non-bike side of things, Ducati North America’s line of apparel and performance parts saw 42% in growth.

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