WorldSBK Approves the Use of Winglets*

The World Superbike Championship released the latest decision from the SBK Commission today, which clarified a few rules for the 2018 season, most notably the new rev-limiter and parts cost rules, which have been discussed already at great length here on Asphalt & Rubber (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3). There was another interesting rule change of note though, which is likely to get over-looked by the racing community, and that is the World Superbike Championship permitting the use of winglets, although there is a catch. In its rules update, the SBK Commission decreed that teams and manufacturers may fit aerodynamic components (e.g. winglets) to their superbikes so long as the winglets are fitted to the homologated motorcycle.

Crunching the Numbers: Rea vs. MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike” season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi’s side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured. How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes?

Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX Priced at $19,000 for the USA

Kawasaki’s newest supercharged motorcycle is also its most affordable supercharged motorcycle, with the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX coming to the USA with an MSRP of $19,000. Even the better-equipped 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE is an “affordable” $22,000, when compared to the more sport-focused H2 models. Featuring a 200hp version of Kawasaki’s supercharged, four-cylinder, 998cc engine, the Ninja H2 SX is a fully faired sport-tourer, with an emphasis on the sport side of the equation. The base model comes in any color you want, so long as it’s black, while the Ninja H2 SX SE comes in the traditional Team Green color scheme of Kawasaki.

Oh Yes, The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Is USA Bound

Good news sport bike fans, Kawasaki USA in its infinite wisdom has decided to bring the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE to the United States for the 2018 model year. Debuted at this year’s EICMA show, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE takes the potent superbike and most notably adds Showa’s new semi-active suspension to the package. Other perks include the seven-spoke forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, found already on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, as well as an up/down quickshifter. Like what you hear? Well brace yourself…If you want a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE in your garage, you are going to need to shell out $21,899 MSRP for it. That sticker price represents quite the premium over Team Green’s race homologation machine, the ZX-10RR, which goes for $18,899.

PJ Jacobsen Racing in WorldSBK for 2018

Patrick ‘PJ’ Jacobsen will be stepping up to the big show for the 2018 season, with today’s announcement that the American will be riding with the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Moving off of the World Supersport grid and into the World Superbike Championship, Jacobsen will be riding the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 with the satellite Honda team effort that TripleM has put together. “I’m very excited to be making my World Superbike debut with TripleM Honda WSBK Team,” said PJ. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be finally racing in this class and I want to thank the team and Honda for making this possible. Both the team and I will be rookies in the WorldSBK championship so there’ll surely be a lot to learn, but it’s a challenge that stimulates me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Yamaha Selling Shares in Yamaha Motor to Raise Money

The Yamaha Corporation announced today that it will be selling 8 million shares of its holdings in Yamaha Motor Co., a movement of shares that will see roughly 2.3% of the voting power in the powersports company changing hands. This deal is expected to close on December 4th, and the Yamaha Corporation says that it will be selling its position to various unnamed securities companies, presumably to then be sold on the open market. At the current market price for Yamaha Motor stock, this deal should be worth close to ¥26 billion, and ¥18 billion after tax expenses have been factored. The news means that while the Yamaha Corporation will remain the single largest shareholder in Yamaha Motor Co., its ownership position as a shareholder will drop from 12.22% to 9.93%, as a result of the divestiture.

Valentino Rossi’s Winter Test Helmet Gets Mexican Flair

It is another winter testing period for the MotoGP riders, and that means that Valentino Rossi has another special “Winter Test” AGV helmet design for us. This year, The Doctor takes his inspiration from Huichol bead art, after he visited the region on a recent vacation to Mexico. As such, Rossi’s winter test AGV Pista GP R helmet features a hand-painted bead design that plays on the winter motif, with the Italian’s usual affinity for symbols. “Huichol art immediately intrigued me, because it uses many of my symbols, like the sun and moon or the turtle,” explained Valentino Rossi. “We have tried to recreate the effect of the beads that the Mexicans use to bring color and shape to these objects, but to do so with a Valentino Rossi twist.”

Jonathan Rea Talks About New WorldSBK Rules

Three years of unparalleled success has seen Jonathan Rea notch up 39 victories, 70 podiums, and 3 WorldSBK titles. To put those numbers into context, only Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, and Noriyuki Haga have won more races in their WorldSBK careers. It truly has been a historic run of form for Rea and Kawasaki. For WorldSBK though the achievements have been outweighed by the reaction of fans to these results. Feeling that significant changes were needed to ensure a more competitive balance for the field, WorldSBK has introduced a wide range of new regulations to curtail the Kawasaki dominance. The goal isn’t to stop Rea and Kawasaki winning but simply to allow other manufacturers to get on an even keel.

The “Smart” Approach to Writing the WorldSBK Rulebook

Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet. The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes. “There’s a lot of benefits to these changes, but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart. “With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike.”

Ben Spies Returns to Motorcycle Racing…On Dirt Bikes

Ben Spies fans will be happy to hear that the Texan is returning to racing motorcycles, announcing the news while talking to Matthew Miles at Cycle World. However, the news might not be as expected, as Spies isn’t returning to the superbike paddock, but instead will compete in the AMA National Enduro series next season. As such, Spies will take part in several rounds on the Full Gas Sprint Enduro calendar, in the mid-level “Pro2” class; as well as an ISDE qualifier, with an eye on making the squad for Team USA. Certainly not the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship bid that was reported earlier, though Spies confirmed that he had been in talks with Ducati about racing a Panigale, and had also spun some laps on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at a track day in Texas.

Hopefully you have done the laundry since our absolutely raunchy post that showed the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale without its clothes on, because we have got some more hardcore and explicit photos for you on this Friday afternoon. A reminder that everything new and exciting has probably been done before by someone else, we can see that Ducati could easily have had some inspiration with the Panigale’s design if they looked at the MotoCzysz C1 990, circa 2006 (and the Britten V1000, circa 1991, etc.). After all, it’s said that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Housing a VR4 motor instead of the 1199’s Superquadro v-twin, Czysz & Co. employed a similar design that incorporates the frame, airbox, and headstock into a single component. While the MotoCzysz C1 uses a carbon fiber monocoque chassis design (as does the company’s electric superbike: the MotoCzysz E1pc), Ducati has of course made a more practical choice with its use of an aluminum frame (how long will it take for an aftermarket carbon fiber solution to hit the streets?).

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MotoGP: Yamaha Loses Petronas Sponsorship

12/30/2011 @ 10:47 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Calling it the “natural conclusion” of their partnership, Yamaha’s MotoGP team and Malaysian oil giant Petronas have split ways after three years of racing sponsorship. Concluding a deal that is reportedly worth $8 million a year to the factory MotoGP team, Yamaha’s loss of Petronas will surely be felt in the team’s pocketbook, assuming of course that the Japanese manufacturer cannot replace the company with another on its sponsor roster.

After losing title sponsor Fiat for the 2011 season (due almost entirely to Yamaha’s inability to retain Valentino Rossi), Petronas and Yamaha Motor Kenkana Indonesia (Yamaha’s Indonesian arm) were left as the team’s main backers and official sponsors. Now with the loss of Petronas, many of the names on the side of the Yamaha YZR-M1 are those belonging to the tuning fork brand, leaving the financial burden for Yamaha’s MotoGP racing effort to come squarely out of one Yamaha coffer or another.

Surely to be taken as a sign of the decreased value of racing in MotoGP to race sponsors, this news has to be especially troubling for Yamaha, as it continues to lose its biggest sponsorship accounts, one after another. While it would appear that the Japanese manufacturer will have to foot another $8 million a year out its internal budget, the only silver lining to the situation could be the hope that the loss of Petronas is making way for a more lucrative sponsor. We wouldn’t hold our breath on that one though.

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Nicky Hayden’s 2012 is going to get off on the wrong foot, as the American MotoGP racer has reportedly broken his left scapula and fractured two ribs, while training near his home in Owensboro, Kentucky. The news is a bad break for Hayden (no pun intended), as the incident occurred while the Ducati Corse rider was training at a private indoor flat track facility, and was the first time Hayden had been on a motorcycle since breaking his scaphoid at the Valencian GP on November 6th.

Undergoing x-rays, CAT scans, and an MRI, doctors have ruled out the need for surgery at this time for Hayden, though his injuries will be assessed next week by Dr. Arthur Ting out here in sunny Fremont, California. Based on his rate of healing the next few weeks, Hayden may or may not be fit for MotoGP’s first 2012 winter testing session, which is slotted for January 31st. Knowing the Kentucky Kid though, he’ll likely just grit his teeth and git-r-done when the time comes.

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Spy Photos: 2013 BMW R1250GS Caught Testing

12/29/2011 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

The bike that made the brand, the BMW R1200GS is about to get updated for the 2013 model year, and the Bavarians have been busy testing their new adventure bike. As such the ever questionable “spy photos” have made their way onto the interwebs, and we diligently give in to the new trend in motorcycle marketing to bring you some very clear photos of the 2013 BMW R1250GS. While the new BMW R1250GS looks ready for prime time, and is expected to be a liquid-cooled version of the now iconic GS, we imagine BMW is still surely stepping carefully with the R1250GS’s final design.

One of the best-selling motorcycles worldwide, the BMW GS has defined the now lucrative adventure-touring market segment. Accordingly, BMW must be keen on making sure the new 2013 BMW R1250GS doesn’t alienate its core constituency of GS riders. However, the German brand is surely also feeling the pressure to update its air-cooled line with water-cooled motors, as well as bringing other modern features to its motorcycles.

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KTM RC4 690R Supermono by Mototech

12/28/2011 @ 12:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A two-wheeled speeding ticket made in Austria, I’m still bitter that the 2012 KTM 690 Duke isn’t coming to American soil. With all the dressings of a bare-knuckled hooligan machine for the street, the new Duke will surely live up to its heritage of angering elderly women, but a German company has thought up a more refined role for the big-displacement thumper. Adopting the bike into a more superbike trim, German suspension tuners Mototech have created what they call the KTM RC4 690R…and I like it.

We’ve seen KTM Supermono’s before, with perhaps one of the best examples coming from some KTM engineers who built a SuperDuke 690 sport bike on their own time. Don’t let those words discourage you from Mototech’s work though, as the team’s RC4 690R looks like it rolled out of the KTM factory floor this morning. You’ll either love or hate the dual-projector headlight setup, while the tail section remains very true to the lines of the original Duke 690. Everyone will be a fan of the 125kg (275 lbs) quoted weight figure

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Marco Simoncelli Foundation Created

12/27/2011 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Talking to some friends the other day, who had recently watched Mark Neale’s latest MotoGP documentary Fastest, it was clear to me that the loss of SuperSic still runs deep with fans and the GP paddock alike. Gearing up for the 2012 MotoGP season, it would appear to be a done-deal that Rossi will use his Simoncelli Tribute helmet at least one or more times next season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Italian included a special tribute to SuperSic on his bike somewhere (along with his dogs of course).

While it will take sometime for the wounds of his passing to heal with his closest friends and family, the efforts to immortalize Marco Simoncelli have progressed well so far in this off-season. After the untimely death of Marco, it was announced that the non-profit Marco Simoncelli Foundation would be created to honor the lovable MotoGP racer. At the time, details of the organization, and its mission were vague, but now with its official formation, details about the charity are starting to come together.

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XXX: Ducati 1199 Panigale Naked

12/27/2011 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale represents a huge step in motorcycle design, mostly due to its frameless chassis or monocoque design. Using the engine as an integral component to the Panigale’s chassis, Ducati’s hallmark achievement was building an integrated headstock/airbox off the front cylinder. With the seat and subframe built off the rear cylinder, and the swingarm bolting directly to the motor, the Ducati 1199 Panigale was able to not only shed 22 lbs of its predecessor’s design, but also continues the Italian company’s new design trend of having components that take on multiple functional roles.

Being sure to keep the fairings on the Ducati 1199 Panigale fastened at all times, we have very little insight as to what Ducati’s new chassis looks like underneath its clothing, and after hounding Bologna for the past few weeks over the issue, these four renders of the Panigale’s frame are the best we can muster for our readers. The black background makes the black frame components hard to see, but the CAD drawings do provide at least some insight as to how the 1199 comes together. If the Panigale goes as well on the track as it does on the spec sheet, you very well could be looking at the future of production motorcycle chassis design.

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Happy Holidays from Asphalt & Rubber

12/25/2011 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Seasons Greetings from A&R. While we stoke the fires on the yule log, everyone at Asphalt & Rubber would like to wish our readers a Happy Holiday. We’ll be taking the day off as we sip some cider and gorge ourselves on delicious nom noms (yeah…nom noms), but we should be back in the swing of things on Monday. Whatever your denomination, we hope it is spent with good friends and family, and that the two-wheeled vehicle in your garage gets some seasonal merriment as well.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

12/22/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

Talking to a colleague the other day, we came to a frank discussion about how the European motorcycle brands weathered the recession better when compared to their Japanese counterparts.

While there are many factors at play in this statement, there is at least a component of truth to the idea that strong brand integration helped spur the Europeans into setting record months, quarters, and years during a global economic downturn, while companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha saw their businesses virtually collapse.

It is not that the Japanese manufacturers don’t have strong brands, it is just that their brands stand for something fundamentally different from those being forged by the Europeans.

While companies like Ducati, KTM, and Triumph are building entire communities and lifestyles around their motorcycles (hat tip to Harley-Davidson for showing them how), the Japanese continue to hang their hats on the attributes of their products.

Well-engineered, bulletproof, and relatively cheap, Japanese motorcycles tick all the right boxes when one is objectively measuring a motorcycle, but they are sufficiently lacking when it comes to creating lasting ties to their owners.

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FIM Releases 2012 e-Power Championship Calendar

12/22/2011 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The FIM has released its 2012 calendar for the e-Power Championship, the motorcycle racing authority’s electric racing series. Disappointingly, though perhaps not surprising, the five-stop schedule is very Euro-centric, with only the Laguna Seca breaking the e-Power Championship out of the Europe. Similar to last year, e-Power will piggyback off other FIM events, and will share its race weekends with the FIM Endurance World Championship, FIM Sidecar World Championship, and MotoGP.

Finding a way to justify double-dipping in France, at the start and end of the series, there was hope that the FIM would bring more events to the US for 2012, especially considering how many potent projects are underway in the United States, especially on the west coast. With two MotoGP opportunities and one World Superbike stop in 2012, it is a shame that the FIM did not add another event at either Indianapolis or Miller Motorsports Park for the e-Power Championship.

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