New Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Coming for 2016

Superbike fans should rejoice to the news that Kawasaki has an all-new ZX-10R in the works for the upcoming model year. The news comes from Germany’s reliable Speedweek publication, which interviewed Guim Roda, the Team Manager of Kawasaki’s World Superbike racing effort. Talking to Speedwekk, Roda said “we will have a new Kawasaki ZX-10R in 2016. The concept will be the same but, with some details and changes, it will be even more competitive. Given that the current rules are very restricted, the motorbikes have to be developed with an eye on the sport. We are heading on a path that Aprilia, Ducati and BMW have already taken for this year by bringing out new bikes.”

SCTA Cancels Bonneville Speed Week, Again

Bad news continues from the Bonneville Salt Flats, as the SCTA has officially cancelled its upcoming Speed Week event — an event that was cancelled last year as well. As we reported earlier, Speed Week was put into serious doubt because of the conditions of the salt flats, which were shown to have a thin salt layer and wet/muddy conditions that made the historic site unsuitable for land speed racing. Spending Tuesday morning at Bonneville looking for a suitable stretch of salt for a 2.25-mile course, SCTA President/Race Director Bill Lattin & the BNI Chairman Roy Creel deemed the conditions unsafe for a race course, and thus dashed any hopes of the event being salvaged.

Rumors: Ducati 1299 Streetfighter & New Engine Coming?

If you believe everything you read on the internet, then surely you know that Ducati is allegedly getting ready to release a Panigale-based Streetfighter in the next few months. Another potent rumor making the rounds is that Ducati is working on a totally new v-twin engine, which will meet Euro 4 emission standards. The first rumor got its start from Visordown, which says that it has received an invitation for press launch in September that will consist of “a track test for a road bike.” The second rumor comes from Moto-Station, with the French site getting word from a source that Ducati has an all-new Euro 4 compliant engine that it will debut at EICMA this November. They go on to speculate that the engine could have Ducati Variable Timing (DVT), and would fit a sport-touring bike.

More Details on the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

Husqvarna is getting ready to unleash a 690cc supermoto on the world, in case you’ve missed the Swedish brand’s marketing campaign and dedicated website. Unsurprisingly, the bike is based off a comparable KTM model, though that’s not to say the folks at Husky haven’t improved on the KTM 690 Duke for their purposes. (Re-)Releasing some tech details this week, we again know that the Husqvarna 701 will feature a ride-by-wire throttle (with three engine maps), slipper clutch (because supermoto), premium WP suspension, and what Husqvarna calls “Supermoto ABS” that is really the Bosch 9.1 MP race ABS, which allows one to still lock-up the rear wheel while the front wheel engages the ABS.

MotoGP: Forward Racing Boss Arrested

The Forward Racing team faces an uncertain future. On his return from the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring, Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari was arrested by the Swiss authorities on charges of suspected corruption of a public official, and money laundering through sponsorship activities. Cuzari remains under arrest, and is expected to face a hearing on Friday or Saturday. That hearing will determine whether Cuzari will be released, or will have to remain under arrest while the investigation continues. At the heart of the case are allegations that the head of the Ticino tax inspectorate, Libero Galli, accepted bribes in return for special treatment by the Swiss tax authorities. Libero is charged with abuse of authority, passive corruption and improper application of fiscal regulations.

Three New 1,000cc MV Agusta Motorcycles Coming for 2016

We have mentioned already that MV Agusta is getting ready to make an all-new F4 superbike, and from which a new liter-displacement Brutale as well. Today, we get the first official word of these new machines, as Giovanni Castiglioni confirmed the new models at the company’s “Friends of Claudio” yearly gathering. For bonus points, Castiglioni also mentioned that a third “crossover” model would be coming from the Italian brand, making for three all-new 1,000cc models from MV Agusta for 2016. This announcement should be welcomed news for Italian motorcycle fans, as MV Agusta’s four-cylinder offerings have certainly stagnated, while its three-cylinder models have gotten all the attention from the press and riding public.

You Wish You Had Summer School with Ducati

What American child of the 1980’s didn’t dream of going to NASA’s Space Camp? Maybe my dorky self is alone on this one, but as a kid, I always wanted to go to the Kennedy Space Center, get spun around in an Aerotrim, and shoot-off rockets. But, I’m too old to go to Space Camp now (sad trombone), not to mention they closed the USSC in 2002 (double sad trombone), and now I’m also too old to go to the next best thing: Ducati’s Summer School Fisica in Moto. The concept is exactly what you think it is, high school level students learning all about science via motorcycles. For five days, the 25 selected students will enjoy classes with names like “Desmodromic distribution applied to the Panigale 1299 R engine cylinder head” — there’s even a business class taught by Claudio Domenicali himself.

SCTA Speed Week in Peril as Bonneville Loses More Salt

Conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats continue to deteriorate with each passing year, and 2015 is no different. Testing for the upcoming Speed Week, put on by the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), has been cancelled, and the salt conditions for the August 8th event are questionable, at best. Readers will remember that last year’s Speed Week was cancelled, after torrential rain flooded the salt flats. This year, the salt layer is so thin that the uneven desert floor is poking through in some spots. Out surveying the salt flats last week, Russ Eyers from the SCTA told the Salt Lake Tribune that he couldn’t find a 7-mile stretch of land suitable to land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats, with some portions still underwater and others where the salt is mixed with mud.

Spending a Morning with Eugene Laverty

Shortly after qualifying for the recent German Grand Prix at Sachsenring, Asphalt & Rubber photographer Tony Goldsmith sat down with Aspar MotoGP Team rider and class rookie Eugene Laverty, to get some insight into how a MotoGP rider prepares for a race.

On race day I also had the opportunity to photograph Eugene in the build up to the race, talk to him about his routine, and discuss the special tribute helmet he was wearing for the late Dr. John Hinds.

Ducati North America Sales Up 12% for First-Half 2015

With global Ducati sales up 22% in the first six months of the year, it comes with no surprise then that Ducati North America has some sales growth to report as well. Selling 6,961 motorcycles in the first-half of the year, Ducati North America is up 12% over last year’s same time period. Helping fuel that increase was an incredibly strong June, where 1,981 motorcycles sold — for a 106% growth over June 2014. “This record is the result of the hard work and dedication of the entire Ducati organization and our network of dealer partners who strive to deliver the most premium motorcycle ownership experience imaginable to our customers,” said Dominique Cheraki, CEO of Ducati North America.

MotoGP: Jack Miller Has Plate Removed From Shoulder

12/02/2014 @ 2:45 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Jack Miller Has Plate Removed From Shoulder

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With testing now over, Jack Miller has joined the ranks of riders undergoing surgery in the off season. Flying back from Sepang to Barcelona, Miller had an operation to remove four loose screws from his right collarbone, the aftermath of an old injury sustained at Indianapolis in 2013.

That injury was fixed with a plate, but preseason crashes on the KTM Moto3 bike caused a number of complications for the Australian.

With testing completely, Miller now has time to have the remaining screws removed from his shoulder, and allow it to heal. Miller will be unable to train for five days while the scar heals, but will be able to resume his training program after that.

Wednesday Summary from Valencia: Hard Hondas, Slick Suzukis, & Bridgestone Mythology

11/13/2014 @ 1:44 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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“This year’s machine is not easy to ride,” HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said of the 2014 Honda RC213V. “More difficult than last year.” Given the utter dominance of Marc Marquez in the first half of 2014, that seems hard to believe. It certainly left the journalists gathered for the special press conference convened by Honda to review the season befuddled.

“But Honda bikes are always easy to ride!” declared one surprised reporter. “Our bike is very easy, I can ride it, but I don’t get under two minutes,” Nakamoto said. “But to find the last one tenth, two tenths is very difficult,” he remarked.

A look at the timesheets from the test, or a chat with Marc Marquez or Dani Pedrosa about the 2015 Honda, and you understand the problem. On the last day of testing at Valencia, Marquez and Pedrosa finished first and second, but the satellite Hondas of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding were a little way off the pace.

Crutchlow was eight tenths slower than Marquez, while Redding was struggling 1.6 seconds behind Marquez. In the last race of the 2014 season, Stefan Bradl’s fastest lap was just under a second off the fastest race lap, and Alvaro Bautista a fraction slower. The Honda is obviously fast, but it is not easy to go fast on.

Too aggressive, too hard to master, a bike with a lot of potential, but extracting that potential takes insight, experience, and the willingness to push an aggressive bike to its limits. It really demands the kind of dirt track background of Casey Stoner or, well, Marc Marquez.

Monday Summary from Valencia: New Bikes, New Riders, And a Dog & Pony Show

11/10/2014 @ 10:28 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Despite being exhausted from a full weekend (make that a complete season) of testing, the entire MotoGP grid was once again out in force on Monday, turning the first laps of the 2015 preseason (full times here).

All except Nicky Hayden, that is, as Honda have brought only one RC213V-RS to Valencia, and there was no point for Hayden to spend more time on the RCV1000R, as that bike will be replaced by the new RS for next season. Hayden gets his turn on the bike tomorrow, weather permitting.

There was both old and new on display at the test, some things virtually unchanged, others radically different. New riders joined the grid, as well as two new factories, and a reshuffling of riders and crew between the garages.

The biggest change was at Suzuki, which saw Aleix Espargaro move from the Forward Yamaha team into the new Suzuki squad, where he was joined by Maverick Viñales, fresh from Moto2. Both riders were very impressed with the GSX-RR, praising its handling and the bike.

Sunday Summary from Valencia: Of Dodgy MotoGP Weather, Fuel Issues in Moto2, and Miller vs. Marquez in Moto3

11/10/2014 @ 9:02 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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It was a fitting finale to one of the best season in years. The arrival of Marc Marquez in MotoGP has given the series in a boost in the arm. Not just in the premier class, the influence of Marquez reaches into Moto2 and Moto3 as well.

Tito Rabat’s move to the Marc VDS team completed his transformation from a fast rider to a champion, but the schooling and support he received from the Marquez brothers at their dirt track oval in Rufea made him even stronger. And Marc’s younger brother Alex brought both talent and Maturity to Moto3.

It made for great racing at Valencia. The Moto3 race featured the typical mayhem, but with extra edge because there was a title on the line. Tito Rabat tried to win the Moto2 race from the front, as he has done all year, but found himself up against an unrelenting Thomas Luthi.

And in MotoGP, Marc Marquez set a new record of thirteen race wins in a single season, despite being throw a curve ball by the weather.

Marquez was the first to downplay his taking the record of most wins in a season from Mick Doohan. “Doohan won more than me,” Marquez said. “He won twelve from fifteen races. Thirteen is a new record, but not so important.”

Though it is admirable that Marquez can put his own achievement into perspective when comparing it to Doohan’s, that is not the full context. Doohan actually twelve of the first thirteen races in 1997, making his win rate even bigger. Then again, Doohan had to beat Tady Okada, Nobu Aoki and Alex Criville, while Marquez has had to fend off Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

Even Doohan’s win rate pales in comparison with those of John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini, who both had perfect seasons in 1959 and 1968 respectively. But the 1959 season had only seven races, and the 1968 ten races, a good deal less than the current total of eighteen.

What this really highlights is the futility of comparing records: different eras saw very different riders facing very different competitors on very different bikes. Trying to compare one with another requires the use of so many correcting factors as to render such comparison meaningless.

Saturday Summary from Valencia: Rossi vs. Lorenzo, Miller vs. Alex, & Marquez vs. Himself

11/09/2014 @ 7:16 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary from Valencia: Rossi vs. Lorenzo, Miller vs. Alex, & Marquez vs. Himself

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It has been four-and-a-half years, or 87 races between Valentino Rossi’s 49th pole position and his 50th. The last time Rossi started a race from the first spot on the grid was at Le Mans in 2010, where he just pipped his teammate Jorge Lorenzo into second by 0.054 seconds.

At Valencia on Saturday, he was two tenths faster than Lorenzo, but this time, he had Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa between him and his teammate.

There were plenty of parallels to the 2010 season visible at Valencia. Just as five seasons ago, Rossi is engaged in a struggle with Lorenzo for supremacy in the championship. Back in 2010, it was just the third race of the season, and a fierce battle was emerging as Jorge Lorenzo started to gain the upper hand in the team, and in the championship.

Now, the fight is over second in the championship, rather than first, but it has grown increasingly intense over the past few weeks. Signs of tension have been starting to emerge in the last couple of races, but they became a little more public after qualifying at Valencia.

The reason for the dispute is simple. On his second and final run in qualifying, Valentino Rossi made a slight mistake, and was forced to slow down to restart a final run at the pole. At that moment, Jorge Lorenzo flew past on his fast last lap, and Rossi slotted in just behind him, not so much benefiting from Lorenzo’s slipstream, but using Lorenzo as a target to aim for.

Thursday Summary from Valencia: Miller vs. Marquez, Team Orders, & New Bike Debuts

11/06/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The last race of the season is always a little bit special. They are even more special when riders are still scrapping over the spoils, battling for titles, for positions, for honor.

There is much at stake at Valencia: a Moto3 title, second place in the MotoGP and Moto2 championships, and the team championship in MotoGP. Above all, though, there is victory, the glory of joining the elite band of Grand Prix winners. At the end of the day, that is what motivates motorcycle racers most on any given Sunday.

Top billing at Valencia is the race which is first, but with the most at stake. On Sunday, Jack Miller and Alex Marquez will slug it out for the 2014 Moto3 World Championship. The race at Sepang set up a fantastic season finale, with Miller riding an intimidating race to cut Marquez’s championship lead. Just 11 points separate the two men, putting Marquez easily within reach of the Australian.

Saturday Summary from Sepang: Pole Records, The Secret of Marquez’s Speed, & Ridiculous Scenes in Moto3

10/25/2014 @ 5:09 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary from Sepang: Pole Records, The Secret of Marquez’s Speed, & Ridiculous Scenes in Moto3

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Fancy a challenge? Try finding a MotoGP fan who is surprised that Marc Marquez claimed pole position at Sepang on Saturday. It was the Repsol Honda man’s thirteenth pole of the season, setting a new record for the most poles in a season. It was a blistering lap, making him the first rider to set an officially timed lap under the two-minute mark, the clock finally stopping at 1’59.791.

That time has been bettered only a couple of times during the winter tests at Sepang, when cooler temperatures make for a faster track. But to do it now, when ground temperatures got close to 60°C, making the already slippery surface of Sepang even more greasy, is astonishing. Those kinds of track temperatures are almost, but not quite, enough to cook an egg.

Marquez’s record thirteenth pole also offers an insight into exactly what the secret of his success is. He not only holds the record for the most poles in a season, he is also the current leader in pole position frequency. Marquez has secured 50 poles from 113 qualifying session, giving him a strike rate of just over 44%.

The only rider to get near to his domination of qualifying was Mick Doohan, who started from pole from 42.3% of his Grand Prix races. The nearest of Marquez’ current rivals is Jorge Lorenzo, who has been on pole for 26.4% of his career in Grand Prix.

Friday Summary from Sepang: The Weather’s Starring Role

10/25/2014 @ 1:04 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday Summary from Sepang: The Weather’s Starring Role

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If you wanted a demonstration of just why the weather at Sepang can play such a decisive factor, you need look no further than MotoGP FP2. Fifteen minutes before the MotoGP bikes were set to take to the track, the Moto3 machines were finishing their second free practice session in sunshine and sweltering heat.

But a couple of minutes before MotoGP FP2 was meant to start, the heavens opened, producing a deluge that had first-time visitors to Malaysia hunting around for gopher wood with which to build a boat.

The downpour covered the track in several centimeters of standing water, making it impossible to ride. The session was delayed for twenty five minutes, starting after the rain had nearly eased up completely. Once the session got underway, the weather cleared up completely, the last ten minutes taking place in glorious sunshine once again.

The changes in the weather had a dramatic effect on the state of the track. It went from being fully wet, with water everywhere, to having just a thin layer of rainwater on it at the halfway mark, to being dry at most of the corners around the track once the session ended. Full wets were essential at the start of the session, but forty five minutes later, slicks were starting to become a viable option.

Thursday Summary from Sepang: The End of MotoGP’s Asian Peregrinations Beckon in the Sweltering Sepang Heat

10/23/2014 @ 11:22 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday Summary from Sepang: The End of MotoGP’s Asian Peregrinations Beckon in the Sweltering Sepang Heat

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Another week, another eight-hour flight, another race track. Sepang comes as the last of three grueling weekends chasing around the Pacific Ocean to race in Japan, Australia, and now Malaysia.

Even from the comfort of my European home (I lack the funds and, to a lesser extent, the inclination to pursue the paddock halfway around the world), it has been a tough schedule, and the riders and team members I have spoken to about it are all just about ready to come home.

Nearly a month away from home, sharing flights, hire cars and hotel rooms can be grating even for the best of friends. Add in the stresses and tensions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and a lot of people are gritting their teeth and doing their best not to punch the people they work with. Some will even make it home without doing so.

The final leg of MotoGP’s odyssey sees the circus travel from Phillip Island, nearly halfway to the South Pole, to Sepang, not far north of the equator. Yet though they are a quarter of a world away, the two have one thing in common: weather.

The actual conditions may be different, the cold, changeable climate of Phillip Island a far cry from the sweltering heat of Malaysia, but at both tracks, the weather plays a much greater role in the proceedings than at other tracks. Judging conditions, and preparing for them, is crucial.

Thursday Summary at Phillip Island: Racing for Pride, The Battle for Moto2, & Crew Chief Changes

10/16/2014 @ 10:10 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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The Grand Prix Circus has barely had a chance to catch its breath after Motegi before the next round starts in Australia. With a few exceptions, perhaps, a number of teams being forced to either take a much longer route to Australia to avoid the landfall of typhoon Vongfong, or else severely delayed until the worst passed.

Still, to call spending even more hours on a plane or at an airport for what is already a very long flight can hardly be regarded as a spot of rest and relaxation.

Still, they have now all gathered at what is almost unanimously regarded as the best racetrack on the planet. Phillip Island is everything a motorsports circuit is suppose to be: fast, flowing, and deeply challenging. There are plenty of spots for a rider to attempt a pass, or try to make up time, but every single one of them requires either exceptional bravery, or the willingness to take a risk.

The many brutally fast corners which litter the track separate the men from the boys: Doohan Corner at turn 1, where you arrive at a staggering 340 km/h, turn 3, now dubbed Stoner corner for the way the retired Australian champion would slide both ends through it at over 250 km/h, the approach to Lukey Heights, which drops away to MG, or the final two turns culminating in Swan Corner, speed building throughout before being launched onto the Gardner Straight, and off towards Doohan again. At Phillip Island, there is no place to hide.