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.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

Saturday Summary at Aragon: Can the Weather Save the Championship Lead?

09/26/2015 @ 7:26 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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The last two races have followed a familiar pattern. On Friday and Saturday, Jorge Lorenzo has laid down a scorching pace, which his rivals – and more importantly, his teammate and rival for the 2015 MotoGP title, Valentino Rossi – have been unable to follow.

Lorenzo’s name was penciled onto the winner’s trophy, and his grip on the MotoGP class looked secure.

Then on Sunday, everything changed. The weather gods intervened, rain lashed down at Silverstone, then started and stopped at Misano, throwing the race into disarray. Both times, Valentino Rossi handled the conditions better than Lorenzo, gaining big points in both races.

At Silverstone, Rossi won comfortably, while Jorge Lorenzo struggled home in fourth. At Misano, Rossi rode a tactically poor race, but still managed to come home in fifth. Lorenzo got caught out by the pace of Scott Redding, failing to understand that the Marc VDS rider had already been out for several laps and had his tires up to temperature and his brain up to speed.

The Movistar Yamaha rider tried to stay with Redding, and paid the price when he turned left after a long series of rights, crashing out and scoring zero points.

What do we have at Aragon? Another weekend where Lorenzo is dominating, Marc Márquez his only clear rival, with Dani Pedrosa there as a dark horse.

Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, is struggling with tire degradation, the performance of the tires dropping in the heat. Rossi could lose a big handful of points to Lorenzo on Sunday, if he is unable to match the pace of the top three.

He really needs a bit of a miracle, either in the shape of rain, or in the form of colder temperatures.

MotoGP: An Update to the 2016 Silly Season Happenings

09/22/2015 @ 8:48 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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With the flyaways fast approaching, MotoGP’s silly season for 2016 is reaching its climax. All of the factory seats are taken – including the seat at Aprilia vacated by Marco Melandri – and the top satellite rides are filled as well, either officially or unofficially.

A few pieces of the puzzle remain, but fitting those together is more or less complex, depending on the team and the rider involved. Here’s a look at where we stand so far.

Saturday Summary at Misano: The Prospect of a Furious Fight, Mind Games That Weren’t, & Three-Stop Strategies

09/12/2015 @ 11:22 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Misano: The Prospect of a Furious Fight, Mind Games That Weren’t, & Three-Stop Strategies

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Remember Brno? A scintillating qualifying left Jorge Lorenzo on pole, with Marc Márquez beside him and Valentino Rossi filling out the front row. Race pace for the three was very similar, and the fans were left with the mouthwatering prospect of a thrilling race on Sunday. They were disappointed.

Jorge Lorenzo surged to the lead off the line, shook off Marc Márquez, disappeared into the distance, and won comfortably. The battle royal promised by free practice never materialized, and we were all left with a hollow feeling of disappointment, no matter how brilliant Lorenzo’s victory was.

Hence my reluctance to play up the prospect of a good race at Misano. The ingredients are the same. The same three riders on the front row, in the same order.

Preview of the San Marino GP: The Home Field Advantage?

09/09/2015 @ 6:17 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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The key to success in motorcycle racing is in finding advantage wherever you can, and exploiting it to the fullest. If you are stronger in acceleration than your rivals, then you make sure you get out of the corner first and leave them for dead down the straight.

If you are stronger in braking, then you wait, not just until you see God, as the old racing adage has it, but until you have seen every deity imagined by humanity since the dawn of time before slamming on the anchors.

If you can turn tighter, you grab the inside line and push the other guy wide. You take what is on the table, and seize it with both hands.

So what about when you are racing in front of your home crowd? Do the cheers of your home fans push you to even greater heights? Does being willed on by tens of thousands of adoring fans spur you into taking more risks, trying harder, riding faster?

Going on the number of times that an Italian has won at Mugello or Misano, or a Spaniard at Jerez, Barcelona or Valencia, that is a tempting conclusion to draw.

Until you look at the other races on the calendar, and see that Spaniards and Italians have won in Australia, Japan, Britain, Holland. And that Spaniards have won in Italy, and Italians in Spain.

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

08/29/2015 @ 10:59 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

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Predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is hard. Scratch that, predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is downright impossible. We scour the sector and lap times, talk to as many riders as possible, try to make sense of what they tell us, and take our best guess based on all we have learned.

And inevitably, we get it wrong. Because there was something we missed, or because some random factor intervened, or because we didn’t pay enough attention to what the riders were telling us, or perhaps paid too much attention to it. Which is why you should probably take the following with a pinch of salt.

After qualifying and practice at Brno, we confidently predicted one of the best races of the year, with Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez setting almost identical pace during free practice.

The chase lasted for five laps, before Lorenzo picked up his heels and disappeared, riding a perfect race to an unstoppable win, and killing any burgeoning excitement stone dead.

Silverstone looks like being very similar. There are two riders who are clearly a step ahead of the rest, and on the basis of practice times on Saturday, their pace is very similar indeed.

Though you wouldn’t say that just based on the headline numbers: in FP3, Jorge Lorenzo destroyed the rest of the field, beating Márquez by nearly half a second.

In the afternoon, during FP4, Márquez returned the favor, laying down a withering pace to put over eight tenths on everyone else, and posting a string of ten laps, the slowest of which was faster than fastest lap set by any other rider on the field.

The difference between Lorenzo’s FP3 lap and Márquez’ FP4 lap? Just 0.062 seconds, in Lorenzo’s favor.

Tires are what made the difference. Lorenzo put a brand new tire on for the last two laps of FP3, and obliterated the rest of the field. Márquez put a brand new medium tire in FP4, and blew the field away, then slapped in a new hard tire, and was fast with that too.

In FP3, Márquez was working on getting the best out of old tires, in FP4, Lorenzo was doing the same, as well as trying out a setup change that simply did not work.

Two riders, similar pace on new tires, both much faster than the rest. Who will come out on top? At this point in time, it is impossible to say. What it will come down to is who manages tires the best.

MotoGP: Brno Michelin Tire Test a Washout

08/17/2015 @ 5:42 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Brno Michelin Tire Test a Washout

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The post-race Michelin tests have been something of a frustration for journalists following MotoGP. With riders barred from speaking publicly about the tires, and no official timing for the tests, it has been hard to make sense of the events.

Today’s Brno test was even more frustrating. Rain all day, alternating between heavy downpours and a very light drizzle meant that the track was more or less wet all day. The riders stayed in their garages and race trucks, for the most part, with a handful of riders putting in a handful of laps.

Though the test was mostly a washout for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer did get some useful data from the test. Riders went out on three types of tire: slicks, wets, and intermediates, in varying conditions.

Friday Summary at Indy: Marquez vs. Lorenzo, The Mystery of Tires, & Weird Silly Season Rumors

08/07/2015 @ 9:20 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Every race track has something special, but each is special in a different way. There are the tracks which are notable for the speed, such as Mugello, Termas de Rio Hondo, or Phillip Island. There are tracks which have a spectacular setting, such as Phillip Island, Mugello, or Aragon.

There are tracks which are notable for their layout, either fast and flowing like Assen or Brno, or tight and treacherous such as the Sachsenring. And then there are tracks which are so unlike anywhere else that motorcycle racing goes to that they have a character all of their own. Like Indianapolis.

What makes Indy such a unique challenge? “The special thing about this track is that during the weekend, the grip is improving a lot, so this is one point you must understand during the weekend how the grip improves,” Marc Márquez said.

Understanding this, that the track you roll out onto on Friday morning bears no relation to the track you will be racing on come Sunday, presents a very specific challenge.

It rewards riders and teams who understand how a track matures and changes, can anticipate what is coming without getting ahead of themselves and paying the price for overestimating the available grip. A number of riders did that on Friday morning, especially in Moto3.

MotoGP: Pol Espargaro Re-Signs with Yamaha for 2016

08/07/2015 @ 9:48 am, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Pol Espargaro Re-Signs with Yamaha for 2016

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The first part of MotoGP’s truncated silly season has fallen into place. As expected, Yamaha today announced that it has extended its deal with Pol Espargaro for another year.

As such, Espargaro will race a factory-backed Yamaha M1 with the Monster Tech 3 M1 season in 2016.

The news had been widely trailed, and is a sensible choice for the Spaniard. Though Espargaro is rumored to be taking a significant pay cut for next season, signing a one-year deal puts him in step with the factory riders, whose contracts are all up for renewal at the end of 2016.

Thursday Summary at Indy: Improved Hondas, Favored Yamahas, & The Silly Season that Wasn’t

08/07/2015 @ 6:32 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday Summary at Indy: Improved Hondas, Favored Yamahas, & The Silly Season that Wasn’t

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The summer break ended fittingly, in a downpour. Rain engulfed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the riders gathered for the start of the second half of the season, but it failed to dampen their spirits.

Most of them were raring to go, having had three weekends away from racing. The only exceptions were the men who raced the Suzuka 8-Hour race, Pol Espargaro telling reporters he was ‘a little tired’ after missing out on some much needed downtime.

As for the rest? “Looking forward to getting back to riding,” was how Cal Crutchlow summed up the general feeling in the paddock. Fortunately for all concerned, Thursday’s rain is likely to be the last for a few days. The MotoGP weekend should take place under clear skies and with good weather.

Preview of the Indy GP: One Last Time at the Brickyard?

08/04/2015 @ 7:45 pm, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

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Depending on who you ask, MotoGP’s summer break is either too short, or too long. For the fans, three full weekends without MotoGP is a painfully long time, though both World Superbikes and BSB have done a pretty good job of making MotoGP’s absence much more bearable.

For the teams, riders and staff, the four weeks between the Sachsenring and Indianapolis pass in an instant, seeming way too short to qualify as a break.

In between PR appearances and negotiations for 2016, riders are lucky to grab five days R&R before getting back to training for the remainder of the season.

Team staff, on the other hand, spend their time catching up with all of the stuff they didn’t get done in the first half of the season, and try to get a head start on the second half.

What were supposed to be 23 days away from it all get eaten up by a myriad of minor tasks that had been neglected, and before they know it, they are on a plane again and heading for the next race.

Not that they mind: for 99% of the people involved in MotoGP, they are driven by a passion for racing, and being at a race track is their idea of heaven. That is why they are paid so poorly, and what makes the paddock such an inspirational place to be.

Indianapolis is a pretty good place to get back to racing, too. Downtown has a real motorcycle buzz, with bike-related activities going on throughout the weekend. Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains one of the most special motorsports facilities in the world, drenched in legend and racing history.