Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2R Pricing Revealed

Even though the Kawasaki Ninja H2R debuted in October at the INTERMOT show, and the Kawasaki Ninja H2 debuted a few weeks ago at the EICMA show, Kawasaki was a bit slow to release the pricing and availability details of its two supercharged machines. Releasing now details for the US market, we can quote pricing for the H2 and H2R throughout the world. In the United States, the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R will cost $25,000 and $50,000 respectively. Interested parties will have to special order the bikes, before December 19th, from their local Kawasaki dealership, and buyers should note that the H2R comes with certain restrictions.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Biaggi Breaks WSBK Top Speed Record at Monza

05/06/2011 @ 12:10 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Biaggi Breaks WSBK Top Speed Record at Monza Max Biaggi record top speed Monza 635x423

Though provisional pole went to Leon Haslam in Friday afternoon’s World Superbike qualifying practice at Monza, reigning World Champion Max Biaggi made headlines of his own by breaking the WSBK top speed record. Despite this feat, Haslam outqualified the Italian at home by just 0.019s in a final lap dash, with Eugene Laverty and Ayrton Badovini completing the provisional front row for Yamaha and BMW Motorrad Italia.

Though there will be another qualifying practice Saturday morning and the three sessions of Superpole yet to be held to determine the pole sitter for Sunday’s race, Biaggi is looking to gain back momentum lost in the debacle that was Donington Park. “We need to recover points and we have plenty of potential to be able to do so, even the Assen round showed that,” said Biaggi. He added, “Racing in Italy in front of my supporters will obviously give me a little more charge.” That charge led to the new record of 332.5 kph (206.62 mph) set by Biaggi on Friday.

WSBK: Race 2 at Donington Shows More of What’s to Come

03/27/2011 @ 11:24 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Race 2 at Donington Shows More of Whats to Come Marco Melandri Donington Park

Donington Park remained cold for the second race of the second round of the World Superbike Championship, though there was plenty of drama both on and off the track to keep things heated up. Race 1 featured a thrilling charge through the field by one protagonist, while Superpole had drama all its own. Though Checa won pole convincingly for the second time in a row this season, it was Max Biaggi who garnered the most attention after Saturday’s qualifying. Reigning champion Max Biaggi had some traffic issues during Superpole, first holding up, and then being held up by rival and WSBK rookie Marco Melandri.

Neither James Toseland nor Chris Vermeulen participated in either race. Toseland was home recovering from a fractured wrist, injured in a testing crash last week, while Vermeulen was at Donington and participated in Fridays practice sessions, only to sit out qualifying and the races with his knee still recovering from a 2010 crash and surgery.

WSBK: Checa Breaks Lap Record at Donington Superpole

03/26/2011 @ 10:01 am, by Victoria Reid6 COMMENTS

WSBK: Checa Breaks Lap Record at Donington Superpole Carlos Checa WSBK Superpole Donington Park

Carlos Checa won his second straight pole of the World Superbike season Saturday at Donington Park, setting a new circuit record in the process (1:28.099), and he will be joined by Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, and Jakub Smrz on the front row. The testing last week at Aragon must have done wonders for the factory Kawasaki team as Sykes posted his fastest lap on a race tire, not a qualifier. Dropping back during qualifying, early weekend frontrunners Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri qualified only sixth and ninth, respectively. Melandri’s teammate Eugene Laverty crashed in Superpole 1, destroying his Yamaha, but continued on a backup bike to qualify thirteenth.

WSBK: Vets & Rookies Mix It Up for Race 2 at Phillip Island

02/26/2011 @ 9:46 pm, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Vets & Rookies Mix It Up for Race 2 at Phillip Island Marco Melandri Race 2 Phillip Island 635x417

Sunday dawned a damp Phillip Island for the opening round of World Superbike racing, after a clear week of testing and practices which were all dominated by Carlos Checa. The Spaniard won pole on Saturday, though reigning champion Max Biaggi’s improvement through the weekend brought his qualifying time to within .013s of Checa’s. Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam were next to the veterans on the front row.

Both were also fast in the damp morning warm-up, though Australian Troy Corser was fastest in the changed conditions, with Checa was tenth fastest. It was dry and sunny by race time rolled around for Race 1, though the sky had turned grey for Sunday’s second race. To see how the riders adapted to the changed weather for Race 2, continue reading after the jump.

WSBK: One Man Show for Race 1 at Phillip Island

02/26/2011 @ 6:27 pm, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

WSBK: One Man Show for Race 1 at Phillip Island Carlos Checa WSBK Race 1 Phillip Island 635x422

Carlos Checa started the season-opening round of World Superbike racing at Phillip Island on pole, having dominated testing and the weekend. Reigning champion Max Biaggi started alongside him, finally bearing his #1 championship plate, having posted a qualifying time just .013s slower than Checa’s. Completing the front row were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, both quick in the dry times from Saturday’s qualifying.

Conditions on Sunday led to some shake-ups in the order for the morning warm-up, as overnight rain dampened the track. Australian Troy Corser led those times, followed by Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Haslam, and the injured Jonathan Rea. Chris Vermeulen was unable to race at Phillip Island after failing to pass the physical due to a slow recovery from knee surgery. To find out who dominated Phillip Island Race 1, continue reading after the jump.

WSBK: Checa Edges Biaggi for Superpole at Phillip Island

02/25/2011 @ 10:31 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Checa Edges Biaggi for Superpole at Phillip Island Carlos Checa Superpole WSBK Phillip Island 635x452

Lapping by a very narrow margin over reigning World Champion Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa won the pole position for the 2011 World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island today. Though the Spaniard dominated the testing and practice sessions this week, Biaggi continued to improve his times, and was only .013s slower at the end of qualifying session. Also showing strong results were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, who complete the front row for Sunday’s races.

Jonathan Rea rallied after a severe testing crash and his second crash of the day to qualify twelfth, while Leon Camier, suffering from glandular fever, qualified sixteenth and did not make Superpole, a blow for the Aprilia factory team even as teammate Biaggi unveiled his #1 plate.

Carlos Checa Dominates at Phillip Island Test

02/21/2011 @ 10:17 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Carlos Checa Dominates at Phillip Island Test Carlos Checa Althea Racing WSBK Phillip Island test 635x391

Carlos Checa was fastest overall, with a lap time of 1:30.578, as the final World Superbike winter test ended Tuesday at Phillip Island. That time was also nearly a half second faster than the existing lap record set by Regis Laconi in 2009, and almost 1.3 sec faster than Troy Corser’s race lap record from 2007. In addition to Checa, Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea, Jakub Smrz, and Joan Lascorz completed the fastest five. Rea’s time from Tuesday morning kept him third fastest despite a crash at Turn 3 in the afternoon that resulted in an injured hand. No word is available yet on the specifics of his injury.

WSBK: Checa Fastest at First Day of Phillip Island Testing

02/20/2011 @ 11:29 pm, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Checa Fastest at First Day of Phillip Island Testing Carlos Checa Althea Ducati WSBK 635x473

Carlos Checa was fastest overall during World Superbike testing Monday at Phillip Island, nearly a second faster than anyone else during the dry running in the afternoon. Monday was a quick day for Ducatis, as Sylvain Guintoli led the morning session and was second fastest overall, while Jakub Smrz was third fastest of the day. Reigning champion Max Biaggi was fourth fastest, with Michel Fabrizio fifth overall. Notably absent was Christopher Vermeulen who will not ride during the test or his home race this weekend, and has been replaced by Akira Yanagawa at the factory Kawasaki team.

Corser Sits Out Testing After Crash at Phillip Island

02/04/2011 @ 10:23 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

Corser Sits Out Testing After Crash at Phillip Island Troy Corser Eastern Creek

Troy Corser was forced to sit out the second day of testing for BMW Motorrad at Phillip Island after a crash Wednesday left him heavily bruised. The team was testing at Phillip Island after skipping the official World Superbike test at Portimao in favor of warmer climes, first at Eastern Creek and now at Phillip Island in Australia. Though the team said the test was satisfactory, any crash major enough to force a rider to sit out a day of testing can be worrisome. He is apparently fine, but had “painful bruises” that kept him from riding effectively.

That crash left Leon Haslam to do the bulk of testing for his new team. “We were still focusing on electronics and worked on a setup for this race track,” Haslam explained. “This was important as in three weeks time we are going to have our first races of the season here. We have already found a good base to work on. I am happy; we made some good progress. My lap times were quite good for these hot conditions. Of course we still have some work to do before the season starts but I am happy with the progress we made so far. The bike improved a lot in the last month.”

WSBK: BMW Motorrad Italia Launches in Monza

01/17/2011 @ 2:21 pm, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

WSBK: BMW Motorrad Italia Launches in Monza BMW Italia WSBK team Ayrton Badovini James Toseland 1 635x422

BMW Italy launched its satellite team at Monza on Monday, which will see James Toseland partnering with WSBK rookie Ayrton Badovini, on BMWs that are only barely removed from the factory effort. According to Bernhard Godmayer, Head of BMW Motorrad Motorsport, “Now we can count on two teams, and we want to establish an excellent relationship between them, allowing for a constant exchange of data.

The German engineers will have a chance to compare themselves to the Italian engineers, and vice versa.  The first step in development will be given to the factory team, and once it is tested and approved, it will be passed on to the Italian team.”

As such the major engine development for the BMW Superbike effort will fall on factory riders Troy Corser and Leon Haslam. Toseland is on his second season back in WSBK after a failed effort in the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech3 MotoGP squad. His experience and double world championships should help BMW in its effort to improve beyond what Godmayer called the team’s “not satisfactory” 2010 season.

BMW approved this Italian arm of the BMW Superbike effort on September 21st, according to team director Andrea Buzzoni, in an effort to improve the company’s overall standings in World Superbike.