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.

WSBK: Joan Lascorz & Kawasaki Talk for the First Time about the Crash at Imola

09/05/2012 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Recovering from the injuries he sustained while testing for Kawasaki at Imola, we learned earlier this year that Joan Lascorz was lucky to escape with his life from the frightful event, though he will never walk again. Suffering from paralysis from his abdomen down, the well-liked Spaniard is still recuperating, but has released a press release (along with Kawasaki) about the event, the months after it, and Jumbo’s coming future.

Recounting the incident, Lascorz also gives an insightful description of his current state of mind, and his thoughts about his road to a new life. The full press release is after the jump. It’s okay if you get a bit misty-eyed while reading it. We certainly did.

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WSBK: Update on Joan Lascorz’s Condition

04/20/2012 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With World Superbike in Assen this race weekend, the Kawasaki Racing Team has released an update on team rider Joan Lascorz, who broke his neck during a crash at a post-race test at Imola earlier this month. Though the press release is terse with information, it does say that Lascorz is conscious and remains in the ICU of the Hospital de la Valld’Hebron in Barcelona. Saying it could take months to know the full-extent of the Spanish rider’s injuries, no further update on his condition was given.

However, MCN is reporting that in an interview with Kawasaki Team Manager Guim Roda, Lascorz is said to have movement in his arms, but currently not in his legs. With inflammation still surrounding the injury to his C6 vertabra, the hope is that as the swelling subsides Lascorz will regain use of his legs, though nothing is certain at this point. With a lengthy road to recovery still ahead of him, everyone is being cautious about predicting the full-extent of the accident’s effects.

Everyone in the World Superbike and motorcycling community at large, including Asphalt & Rubber, is hoping for a full and speedy recovery of the well-liked Spanish racer. Carlos Checa perhaps said it best with his recent comment on Twitter: “Joan Lascorz is in another championship, a race that [he] is sure going to win and we will all be there to support you at all times. Take heart!” Press release from Kawasaki after the jump.

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Still No News on Joan Lascorz

04/10/2012 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The low-point of a great race weekend, factory Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz was airlifted out of the Imola circuit, after crashing during a post-race test at the Italian track. Flown immediately to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, Lascorz was diagnosed with a broken 6th vertebra (C6), and was reported to have suffered trauma to his spinal chord. Since the Spanish rider has been moved back to Spain, details about Lascorz’s condition have not been coming forth with regularity, though the latest update from the team is that the rider has been kept sedated to minimize his movement and because he still had fluid in his lungs.

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WSBK: Joan Lascorz Airlifted from Post-Race Test at Imola

04/02/2012 @ 8:59 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Factory Kawasaki World Superbike rider Joan Lascorz has been airlifted from the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola today, after the young Spanish rider crashed his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R during a post-race test. Treated first at the circuit’s medical center, it was decided to airlift Lascorz to Bologna when it was suspected the WSBK rider had fractured a vertebra.

Scoring a 7th and 9th place in Sunday’s two World Superbike races, Lascorz lost control of his Kawasaki in the final minutes of the today’s testing session. Unconfirmed reports say the Spaniard hit a wall on the outside of the track, fracturing either his 5th or 6th vertebra. According to the Spanish press, Lascorz is currently in surgery for his injuries. A&R hopes for the best for the young WSBK rider, and that he has a full and speedy recovery from this incident. A statement from World Superbike is after the jump.

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Kawasaki WSBK Team – Behind the Scenes at Phillip Island

03/06/2012 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

After consistently struggling in the World Superbike Championship, Kawasaki finally seems to have all its duck in a row for the 2012 season. Teething the recently updated Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R over the course of last season’s races, Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz made it clear at the season’s opening round at Phillip Island that Team Green can contend for podium finishes and even race victories against the mighty Ducati of Carlos Checa and Aprilia of Max Biaggi.

With Sykes starting at the pole position after the cancellation of Superpole qualifying, the Englishman lapped in the position in both races at the Australian track. Battling with a very strong Honda factory team, Sykes even squeaked out a great victory over fellow countryman Johnny Rea, securing a podium finish for Kawasaki on the team’s first outing of the season. Clearly excited by that start, Kawasaki Racing has put out a video of the team’s weekend at Phillip Island. Check it out after the jump.

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WSBK: Rain Causes Crash-Filled Superpole at Misano

06/11/2011 @ 7:12 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off on WSBK: Rain Causes Crash-Filled Superpole at Misano

Checa led Biaggi, Corser, Haslam, and Camier as the fastest five in the first free practice of the Misano weekend, and continued to lead through the first qualifying practice with a lap time of 1:36.024. Friday afternoon, Biaggi, Melandri, and Fabrizio completed the provisional front row after the first qualifying practice. Corser caused that session to end early, crashing just minutes from the flag. He hit his head and was taken to the medical center but was cleared to continue riding for the weekend. James Toseland did not participate in either session and would not race with a relapse in the recovery of his right wrist. He has been replaced by Italian Lorenzo Lanzi both this weekend and at Aragaon.

In Saturday’s Superpole sessions, Tom Sykes (1:55.197) held off a late charge from Carlos Checa to take pole position for the World Superbike round at Misano despite the damp conditions. Rain began falling minutes before Superpole 1 began, leading to crashes by Ruben Xaus, Leon Camier, Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Jakub Smrz. Neither Xaus nor Camier, despite being the earliest crashers, were able to complete a timed lap and were knocked out in Superpole 1. Smrz led much of the final run for pole, fighting with Sykes. In the end, Skyes, Checa, Smrz, and Marco Melandri will start from the front row for tomorrow’s races.

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WSBK: Vermeulen Preemptively Out for Miller Round

05/24/2011 @ 8:02 pm, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

Despite his perennially upbeat demeanor on Twitter, Chris Vermeulen’s recovery continues to progress slowly. The factory Kawasaki rider, who has yet to complete a race in the 2011 World Superbike season, will remain in Europe while teammates Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes travel to this weekend’s race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.Vermeulen has been attending recent races in Europe and participating in practice and qualifying sessions, but an off at Monza tore a hole in his elbow and added to the Australian’s injuries.

Vermeulen will test for the team at Motorland Aragon early next month, with a plan to return to racing at Misano for the June 12th weekend. “It is disappointing to not race in America but my injuries are still healing. The good thing is they are improving,” said Vermeulen.

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Vermeulen Tests His Knee on a Kawasaki ZX-6R in Spain

04/07/2011 @ 2:13 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

With his knee injury and subsequent recovery has taken far longer than expected, Chris Vermeulen took another step forward today in his attempt to properly return to World Superbike racing. The Australian rode Thursday at Parcmotor Castelloli in Spain, just before a Kawasaki festival being held at the circuit this weekend. However Vermeulen was not testing the WSBK Kawasaki ZX-10R, but instead riding a Ninja ZX-6R, the reasoning of which he explained on Twitter as: “Had a good ride on the supersport bike today a little less physical than my bike but did 40laps and knee did ok.”

Though Vermeulen has been plagued with a slow recovery, he did participate in some of the practice and qualifying sessions of the second round of World Superbike racing at Donington Park last month. However, he sat out both races at Donington, in addition to missing the season opening round at Phillip Island. Since then, Vermeulen has been slowly working his way back into the full-season ride he has with the factory Kawasaki team run by Paul Bird Racing.

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Vermeulen May Not Race at Donington Park

03/25/2011 @ 8:33 am, by Victoria Reid8 COMMENTS

The saga of rehabilitating Chris Vermeulen’s knee continues this weekend at the second round of the World Superbike season. The Australian will participate in the practice and qualifying sessions beginning Friday at Donington Park, but he may sit out the races on Sunday.

This news comes after Vermeulen missed the season opener and winter testing at Phillip Island because his knee has not recovered as quickly as planned, and it was hoped that skipping his home race would allow Vermeulen time to recover enough to race the rest of this season, but it seems the Australian and his factory Kawasaki team are taking this weekend one session at a time.

The former MotoGP rider spent some time testing at Motorland Aragon in Spain last week (where compatriot James Toseland fractured his wrist, forcing him to sit out this WSBK weekend) and just yesterday spent some more time on the seat riding around Cadwell Park. After this most recent outing, Vermeulen tweeted, “was great to get back on the bike but still work to do on my knee to be race fit.”

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WSBK: Kawasaki & BMW Italia Testing at Aragon

03/16/2011 @ 12:45 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off on WSBK: Kawasaki & BMW Italia Testing at Aragon

Motorland Aragon will host a private test for the factory Kawasaki and BMW Motorrad Italia World Superbike teams Thursday and Friday this week. Though Kawasaki had a good bit of winter testing both at the official WSBK test in Portugal and private testing in Sepang, the Italian BMW team suffered the effects of inclement weather and lost testing time. This private test comes just one week before the World Superbike season resumes at Donington Park in England, whose improvements have recently been approved by the FIM.

Importantly for Kawasaki, Chris Vermeulen is expected to test in Spain. After injuries and surgery kept him out of much of the 2010 season, the Australian hoped to return at his home round but was unable to pass the physical. He sat out testing and racing in Australia, remaining at home and working on his physical therapy.

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