Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Trackside Tuesday: Hang Loose

08/14/2012 @ 6:09 pm, by Daniel Lo16 COMMENTS

The corkscrew is widely considered to be the masterpiece of Laguna Seca, and few would argue that there is a more iconic turn in all of motorsports. For race fans from around the world, a pilgrimage to the world-famous California track doesn’t truly end until they have reached the corkscrew.

However, Turn Five is what holds a special place in my heart, as that is where I first stumbled off a bus five years ago as a starry-eyed first-time race attendee. Having only experienced motorcycle racing on various television and computer screens up to that point, I will forever remember my jaw dropping to the ground as I finally witnessed firsthand the awesome and terrifying presence of MotoGP machines.

Trackside Tuesday: Scisma

08/07/2012 @ 11:20 pm, by Daniel Lo11 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi had just come off a relative high from Mugello having finished fifth at the Italian GP and less than twelve seconds behind race winner Jorge Lorenzo. Toss in the [admittedly somewhat cryptic] “let’s stick together” theme of his helmet and the seemingly positive talks with Audi, it appeared that the Italian legend just might be happy with where he was at Ducati Corse.

Fast-forward to the Thursday at Laguna Seca, where the pre-race press conference had just ended, the riders had all scattered about the room to answer additional questions. The small band of journalists crowded around Valentino were mostly speaking in Italian so I wasn’t able to understand much of what was being talked about but the number 46 was indeed mostly smiles, which I attempted to capture in my press room photos.

Trackside Tuesday: Third Time’s the Charm?

07/31/2012 @ 6:33 pm, by Daniel Lo5 COMMENTS

Only a select few men in the world can say they have defeated Valentino Rossi in a last lap duel in a MotoGP race. On that very short list is one Toni Elias, who bested the Italian legend to the checkered flag for his first and only premier class victory at Estoril in 2006, on a satellite machine no less. Championship-deciding repercussions aside, the win granted Elias a contract extension at a time when his GP career was in doubt.

However, the onset of the 800cc era, coupled with the introduction of control tires the following year, would prove to be the start of a rough roller coaster ride for Tiger Toni. Five seasons, a Moto2 World Championship title, and two MotoGP exits later, Elias was given an extremely rare third shot at a premier class ride this past weekend as a replacement rider for the Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera. True to the up and down nature of his career in recent years, this opportunity came just a week after he parted ways with the Mapfre Apspar Moto2 team at the previous round in Mugello, after being unable to replicate his title-winning form back in the GP middleweight class.

Unfortunately, his latest attempt at challenging the fastest motorcycle racers in the world came to an abrupt and disappointing end after crashing out of the US GP on only his second lap. With no further confirmed top class appearances on the horizon, Toni’s tenure at the pinnacle of the sport appears to have ended in the gravel trap at Laguna Seca. However, a MotoGP race win will always be on his curriculum vitae, and that’s no small feat.

Hitchhiker.

07/30/2012 @ 5:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Photo: © 2012 Rick Grayston – All Rights Reserved

Trackside Tuesday: The Summer of Our Discontent

07/24/2012 @ 3:42 pm, by Scott Jones36 COMMENTS

The view from pit lane into Ben Spies’ garage has been fairly grim in 2012, and today’s announcement that Ben is leaving the factory Yamaha team at the end of the season sheds some new light on this gloomy situation. If you have watched Ben since his AMA days, where he learned from, and then triumphed over, the formidable Mat Mladin, you may not have been surprised by Spies’ rookie season WSBK Championship, or his success at Tech 3 when he entered MotoGP, or his being the first non-alien to win a dry race since the Rossi-Lorenzo-Pedrosa-Stoner lockout. His move to Rossi’s spot alongside Lorenzo made perfect sense, as did Ben’s good results last season.

Surely after a season of adjustment, in 2012 he would repeat his success at Assen, by adding more wins and taking his rightful place among the elite riders. His difficulties in 2012 could be chalked up to the pressure of being at the very top for the first time in his career. Or could they?

Trackside Tuesday: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

07/17/2012 @ 3:43 pm, by Jules Cisek13 COMMENTS

The somewhat thin crowds at Mugello this past weekend were in a way reflective of the lack of Italian domination in Grand Prix racing over the last few seasons. With Spaniards taking all 3 GP Championships in 2010, three non-italian nations doing the same in 2011, Valentino Rossi unlikely to win a race for the second season in a row, and inconsistent results for Italians in the lower classes, things look bleak for Italia in 2012 as well.

And while this didn’t stop those present from showing the energy and passion that this racing mecca is so well known for, it shouldn’t be too surprising that despite the incredible Moto2 win by Andrea Ianonne and the endearing swagger and impassioned ride to 2nd of Romano Fenati in Moto3, I pick a non-Italian rider to spotlight after attending the Gran Premio D’Italia TIM.

That rider is the reigning Moto2 World Champion, and MotoGP rookie sensation Stefan Bradl.

Trackside Tuesday: A Requiem for Better Days

07/03/2012 @ 3:28 pm, by Scott Jones49 COMMENTS

We could write a long list of what those involved in the Valentino Rossi-Ducati partnership have lost. Money, reputation, time, all have been lost in large quantities and on behalf of some of the most important people in motorbike racing. Smaller losses of various kinds have been incurred by many more people whose livelihoods are tied to Rossi’s success. But a huge number of people have lost something intangible but nonetheless important because of the inability of Rossi and Ducati to produce a winning package.

As fans of motorsport, we have been fortunate to be present to watch and participate in, even if only as spectators, the career of a truly remarkable sportsman. World Champions gain entry into an elite club, but multiple World Champions whose careers span many years, formulas, and sets of rules, are rare indeed. And among those few individuals, the even rarer sort who not only win and win and win on the track but also inspire millions of fans across boundaries of nationality, gender, brand loyalty, and so on are even more remarkable.

Rossi is one of those supremely rare people, and he holds that distinction regardless of having his detractors. Whatever a minority chooses to feel about him, he has accomplished more as a motorcycle racer than anyone since Agostini, and in some ways he has accomplished much more. One of those ways is in his ability to charm millions of people via his skills in the media.

Agostini raced before the internet, before today’s massive TV audiences, and simply didn’t have the opportunity to reach as many people as Rossi has. Those many people who were attracted to motorcycle racing because first they felt an attraction to Valentino Rossi have lost something since his switch to Ducati. They have not felt much of the joy that his style and success thrived on during the Honda and Yamaha years.

Trackside Tuesday: Patience is a Virtue

06/27/2012 @ 10:44 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

One of the great things about the support classes in Grand Prix motorbike racing is the depth of the competition. While there are a handful of favorites in each class, we generally don’t have the Three Alien situation of MotoGP. Once a rider leaves that broader talent and equipment pool for the premier class however, his potential results are limited by the bike he lands on.

Alvaro Bautista paid his dues for two years on an 800cc Suzuki, finishing in lucky thirteenth spot for both the 2010 and 2011 championships. If Suzuki hadn’t folded up and gone home for 2012, Bautista might still have been on an uncompetitive bike with a crowd of fans who could only think fondly back to what an exciting 125cc and 250cc rider he had been.

Trackside Tuesday: Seeing is Not Always Believing

06/19/2012 @ 2:13 pm, by Scott Jones17 COMMENTS

For the first quarter of the British Grand Prix, there was a Ducati racing at the front  in a dry race, something we’ve not seen for some time. Almost as soon as Nicky Hayden crossed the line with 15 of 20 laps to go, his GP12 changed from something that could match the pace of the leaders into something else entirely.

Hayden lost fourth place to Lorenzo, then fifth to Dovizioso, both times going wide as his bike suddenly wouldn’t turn like it had been doing for the previous four laps. Hayden said in his post-race media scrum that the bike had been great until it destroyed the soft rear tire.

Earlier, when I’d walked onto pit lane and headed for the grid, we felt sprinkles in the air and wondered if the volatile weather was about to change from cool-but-dry to wet-and-even-colder, as it had several times over the weekend.

It seemed unlikely that it would start raining hard enough to begin the race on wet tires, but up and down pit lane crew chiefs appeared from their boxes, looking up at the skies, wondering what to do. Soft or hard tires? Dry, cool, warm, damp, what would the track be like over the course of twenty laps?

Trackside Tuesday: Good Man

06/12/2012 @ 12:14 pm, by Daniel Lo6 COMMENTS

The stage was set for Guy Martin to take his first ever TT win in 2012, with the popular fan favorite returning with the same team with which he scored four podium finishes in the previous year’s contest. Top-level crew, competitive machinery, and one of the fastest men to ever lap the Mountain Course teaming up again for another assault. Reaching the top step of the podium should be all but a forgone conclusion — or at least in theory.

What resulted instead was truly a week to forget, starting with Guy getting nudged off the podium in the opening Superbike race when his crew was unable to change his rear tire for the final two laps. The first Supersport race ended prematurely after his engine gave out, forcing a retirement into the pits, after just a single lap. The Superstock race that followed was barely an improvement, with Guy taking an anonymous eighth place finish, after being off the pace from the start. Further engine problems in the second Supersport race again saw him off the podium, finishing down in fifth. To cap it off, a final shot at a good result was thwarted by the first ever cancellation of the Senior TT race. Things did not go according to plan, to say the least.