Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Ducati’s 2017 World Superbike Team Debuts

02/08/2017 @ 1:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Race teams continue to debut their 2017 liveries and riders, and this time around we feature the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike squad that will race in the World Superbike Championship.

Chaz Davies of course returns to the team, and this season he will be joined by Marco Melandri. The duo will be an interesting pair to watch this season, with Davies holding onto his impressive form from the last-half of the 2016 season, and Melandri making his return to motorcycle racing, after sitting out last season.

With 2017 to be the penultimate season for the Ducati Panigale R in the World Superbike Championship, the v-twin superbike has shown itself to be an extremely mature machine on the race track.

Couple that to some of the rule changes that have affected the inline-four machines the most, and this season could be Ducati’s for the taking, having both the riders and the machine to tackle Kawasaki’s dominance.

As such, 2017 should make for an extremely interesting season, and all eyes will be on Phillip Island to see if Ducati can draw first blood in the championship standings. These photos are redonkulously large, by the way.

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Ducati Corse Looking to Make Big Gains in WorldSBK

02/01/2017 @ 3:32 pm, by Kent Brockman17 COMMENTS

Far from sitting on its laurels after winning seven of the last eight World Superbike races of 2016, Ducati came out of the blocks swinging at Jerez with a busy testing program. As such, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri had a host of upgraded parts in the Spanish sun.

Davies spent the majority of his time working on chassis development with Melandri focussing on the engine. Afterwards, the Welshman gave a revealing insight into the makeup of the mindset of one of the world’s top racers when at one of these pre-season tests.

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#RideHVMC Freeman Racing Pays Tribute to the FDNY

09/07/2016 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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This weekend is the final round of the MotoAmerica Championship, being held at the New Jersey Motorsports Park. This weekend also marks the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93.

We all know the sacrifices that were made by New York’s first responders, though admittedly sometimes we take those sacrifices for granted. The sacrifice hasn’t been lost on the #RideHVMC Freeman Racing Ducati team though, who are based out of Ossining, New York.

As such, Corey Alexander and the #RideHVMC Freeman Racing Ducati Panigale R will be wearing a special livery that commemorates the men and women of the New York City Fire Department. As you will see in the photos after the jump, “Engine 23” is a fetching motorcycle, with a touching message.

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Rumor: Is Ducati Working on a Four-Cylinder Superbike?

08/26/2015 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler58 COMMENTS

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We have a love/hate relationship with unverified rumors here at Asphalt & Rubber. On the one hand, we strive to break timely and accurate stories for our readers, which means getting the best information as possible, and sharing it with you as soon as possible.

On the other hand though, some wild rumors are worth repeating, not so much for their accuracy, but for how fanciful and romantic it is to think of them being real. Today’s news falls into the latter category, though it comes from the reliable Carlo Baldi of Moto.it.

According to the Italian publication, Ducati is working on a four-cylinder superbike platform, which is likely being developed with World Superbike competition in-mind.

We know, we know, the very concept of a Ducati superbike without a v-twin platform borders on heresy. The rumor isn’t that crazy though, if you think about it, which is probably why it is so delicious to share with you.

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Recall: Ducati 1199 Panigale S, R, & Superleggera

06/11/2015 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Recall: Ducati 1199 Panigale S, R, & Superleggera

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The effects of the Öhlins suspension recalls continue to amount, and to no one’s surprise it has finally come to affect the Italian superbikes of Ducati.

As such, Ducati North America is recalling certain 2014 model year Ducati 1199 Panigale S, Ducati Panigale R, and Ducati Superleggera motorcycles for faulty rear shocks.

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2015 Ducati Panigale R Mega Gallery

05/18/2015 @ 8:03 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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I was recently corrected by Ducati as to the proper naming of its pinnacle Superbike model, now that it does not share the 1,299cc displacement with the other models of that name.

Officially the 2015 Ducati Panigale R, the 1,199cc v-twin superbike is the top of the line model from Bologna, and it has some major differences from its “S” and base model siblings to fit that special designation.

For starters, the Panigale R is not equipped with the electronic suspension that is found on the Panigale S. This helps keep the Panigale R’s wet weight to a paltry 406 lbs wet (the other models tip the scales at 420 lbs).

However, the 2015 Ducati Panigale R is equipped with an IMU, cornering ABS, and Ducati’s GPS-using data acquisition system — making it a very tech-savvy package.

Of course the super-trick parts, the ones that will force you to part with your hard-earned $34,000, are the tungsten-balanced crankshaft and two-ring pistons, which come straight off the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, and are present for WSBK homologation purposes.

Rounding out the race-ready package is mechanical Öhlins suspension, a lithium-ion battery, and a complimentary Akropovič full-titanium competition exhaust.

While we were fairly unmoved by the 2013 Ducati Panigale R, mostly because it didn’t seem to offer enough exotica to justify its added price, the 2015 model certainly fits the bill. We have 92 high-resolution photos of it, after the jump. Enjoy!

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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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Coming Soon: Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera

10/04/2013 @ 1:24 am, by Jensen Beeler65 COMMENTS

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Ducati has gone to great lengths so that you won’t know this, but our sources have confirmed to us that in about a month’s time, the Bologna Brand will debut perhaps the most ostentatious machine ever to come from the Borgo Panigale factory, the Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera. An ultra-exclusive version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, the Superleggera edition is exactly what its Italian name suggests, a super-light version of the Panigale R.

With the Panigale R already the lightest sport bike to ever come from Ducati, the Panigale R Superleggera goes even further, employing titanium, carbon fiber, and magnesium throughout the machine to drop its curb weight by an additional 40 lbs. Ducati isn’t stopping there though.

Heavily reworking the 1,199cc Superquadro engine, the engineers at Bologna have bumped the bike’s peak horsepower figure, somehow finding a way to shoehorn 220hp into the Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera.

It’s ok if you need to take a minute to readjust yourself in your chair before reading further — we’ll wait.

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Ride Review: Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/24/2013 @ 11:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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New for 2013, Ducati has added another model to its Superbike range, the long awaited Ducati 1199 Panigale R. Asphalt & Rubber was first to break the news on the “R” version of Borgo Panigale’s namesake, so it is fitting that we were one of the first publications to ride this homologation-special — taking part in Ducati’s international press launch at the new, and very technical, Circuit of the Americas race course outside Austin, Texas.

A purpose-built facility for the Formula 1 Championship, the Circuit of the Americas also has a ten-year contract with motorcycling’s premier class, the MotoGP Championship. This means three races will be held in the United States of America this year, which makes America MotoGP’s second-most visited countries in 2013. That distinction seems fitting, as the United States has also officially become Ducati’s number one market, not just for superbike sales, but in overall bikes sold.

Seeing a shift not only in the Italian company’s DNA, as it explores lines like the Hypermotard, Multistrada, and Diavel with great sales success, Ducati is also moving beyond being just a boutique Italian brand, into a truly global motorcycle company — being recently acquired by the Audi Group doesn’t hurt things either.

With so much change occurring at the foundation of the Ducati brand, bikes like the Panigale are extremely important to the Bologna Brand, as they anchor the company’s racing and performance heritage. Worry not loyal Ducatisti, the race-ready Ducati 1199 Panigale R lives up to the high-expectations, and is quite simply the finest machine to come from Ducati Motor Holding. We review it, 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

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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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