The High Fives Heard in Milwaukee

There were high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week. Reading the headlines and stories that came from Harley-Davidson’s Mega Monday announcement, one could only conclude that the American icon was back. They did it. They were showing signs of life again. Boomshackalacka. No one saw an adventure-touring bike with knobby tires coming from the Bar & Shield brand, and the idea of a sport bike from Harley-Davidson seemed inconceivable just over a week ago as well. Milwaukee even impressed with its more “core” offerings, with the Harley-Davidson Custom being perhaps the first cruiser we would want sitting in our garage. It looks gorgeous, and is just sporty and modern enough to be “a real motorcycle” in our eyes…we think.

Ducati’s Project 1309 Reveals a New Diavel Coming

We didn’t hear too much about “Project 1309” from World Ducati Week 2018, which is surprising considering what the past has shown us about Ducati’s secret reveals, but the Bologna brand was once again giving a teaser to fans in Misano. In the past, World Ducati Week has been the place where Ducati showed us the first Scrambler model, and last year the event debuted the return of the Ducati SuperSport. This year, it is another new bike. A new Diavel, to be precise. Set to compliment the current XDiavel model, the new Diavel features the same 1,262cc DVT engine with variable valve timing, but puts it into the more sport Diavel riding platform. This means tucked in feet on rearsets, rather than the XDiavel’s foot-forward controls.

VW CEO Outlines Two Possible Futures for Ducati

The Clash’s hit song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” might perhaps perfectly fit the business situation for Ducati, within its parent company, Volkswagen AG. The Italian motorcycle brand’s status in the German conglomerate has for the past few years been held on a tenuous string. Rumor about its divestiture, its selling to another company, are constantly dogging the iconic brand. Talking to Bloomberg TV after Volkswagen’s quarterly earnings report, VW CEO Herbert Diess explained that there are two paths forward for Ducati, and one of them includes selling Ducati to the highest bidder. “We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati,” said Diess to Bloomberg.

KTM’s Counter-Rotating MotoGP Engine Debuts at Brno

Ever since Jerez, when the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team debuted a new engine with a counter-rotating crankshaft, fans and journalists have been asking when factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith would be able to use the new engine on a race weekend. KTM test rider Mika Kallio had been very positive about the engine during the Jerez weekend, and Smith and Espargaro had spoken in glowing terms about it after the Jerez test. KTM’s response was always that it would not be ready until at least after the summer break. Reversing the direction of crankshaft rotation is not as simple as sticking an intermediate gear between the crank and the clutch, to allow the crank to spin in the opposite direction while maintaining forward thrust.

Retro Livery Pops on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike

We are big fans of the creations that Team Classic Suzuki has been churning out. Stop what you’re doing right now, look at this Katana race bike, and try to disagree with our enthusiasm. It cannot be done. Taking their touch to the current Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike, we see what this tire-shredder would look like in a retro-mod livery that is inspired by the bodywork found on the original GSX-R750. So far it sounds like the bike is a one-off, done by our friends across the pond, but we think Suzuki should seriously consider some throwback paint schemes in its lineup. Until then, items of note include a number of tasty Giles-made bits, straight from the Suzuki performance catalog, otherwise the bike shown here is pretty much stock.

BMW Plans To Launch Nine New Motorcycles

It might be still be summer, but our eyes are looking ahead to the new bike season in the fall and winter, where the major motorcycle manufacturers will debut their new motorcycles for the future. The big trade shows to watch are INTERMOT and EICMA, as these have traditionally been the venues of choice for new model unveils, prototype teasers, and concept debuts. One brand that is certainly going to be showing us some new motorcycles is BMW Motorrad, with the German company saying that it plans to launch nine new models in 2018. What those nine models will be is up for conjecture, though we have some good ideas, and some bad ideas, on what they could be. Let’s take a look.

Up-Close with the 2018 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R Suzuka 8-Hours Race Bike

In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation. This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands. Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike. This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race. What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm. As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.

Up-Close with the Suzuka-Winning Yamaha YZF-R1

This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport. And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary. I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it. That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.

Harley-Davidson Outlines Its Future Electric Lineup

The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much). The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed. All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future. I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.

Episode 76 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we mix things up. Recorded at the Laguna Seca WorldSBK round, on the mics are Steve English and Jensen Beeler, and the duo covers the World Superbike Championship season thus far.

The show is the first part of a two-part series look at the WorldSBK paddock, which is currently on a two-month summer break. 

Starting with the opening round at Phillip Island, we look at what has happened thus far in production racing. We then move to the WorldSBK silly season, as the rider market for next season is just starting to get interesting.

Lastly, we make some predictions for the rest of the season, and take some quick looks at what is to come for the 2019 season in terms of riders, teams, and machinery.

All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info on the World Superbike Championship, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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The Magic of Misano Strikes for WorldSBK

07/11/2018 @ 10:53 am, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

Five riders from four manufacturers stood on the Misano podium to show the strength and depth of WorldSBK.

“This is the real Superbike racing” was how Marco Melandri assessed the Sunday’s racing at Misano, and it was hard to argue with the Italian.

Under blue skies and a burning sun, the action on track was just as hot with Jonathan Rea, Michael van der Mark, and Melandri all fighting it out for the win.

With Chaz Davies keeping a watching brief following his Saturday podium, and Eugene Laverty having stood on the Race 1 rostrum, it was clear this was the best race weekend of the 2018 season.

Five riders spraying Prosecco on the podium, and four manufacturers able to see their riders on the box, it was a fantastic weekend to bring a close to racing before the summer break.

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The Wild, Wild West of WorldSBK

06/29/2018 @ 1:29 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

The American Frontier was about finding a way to survive. To do this, people from all over the world had to work together and find a way to coexist on the open plains and in the mountains. They did this because they knew the rewards could be massive.

Unimaginable wealth was underneath the rivers and mountains of the West Coast, and everyone believed they would find it.

Every racer in the world also believes that their trophies and points are at their fingertips once they have the tools at their disposal. Finding a way to work with a group of people from all over the world, and making them believe in you, is crucial.

The American Dream was founded on the ideal that anything was possible, and Racer's Dream is based on the belief that you're the best in the world and any issues you're having are just a temporary delay of the inevitable.

At Laguna Seca, we had proof once again that the Racer's Dream is real.

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The US Round of the 2018 WorldSBK season highlighted, once again, the importance of hard work in motorcycle racing.

Last year, it was hard to imagine Milwaukee Aprilia standing on the podium on merit; on Sunday Eugene Laverty made his long-awaited return to the rostrum.

We have seen in recent rounds Yamaha win three races with the R1, but last weekend’s races arguably did more to prove the potential of the bike.

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The return of WorldSBK to the Czech Republic proved to be a race weekend to remember. Tensions between Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes overflowed, Alex Lowes delivered on his long-held promise, and we saw flashes of brilliance from else on the World Superbike grid.

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Kenan Sofuoğlu, A Rider’s Measure

05/24/2018 @ 12:47 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

To be the best, you've got to beat the best. Going up against Kenan Sofuoğlu was no easy matter for the top riders in World Supersport, but it was necessary if you were going to move on from the feeder class.

Kenan Sofuoğlu was the benchmark upon which every WorldSSP rider was judged. If you wanted to move from the class to race a superbike or a grand prix machine, you needed to prove you could beat Sofuoğlu.

As the dominant force of the class his rivals never underestimated the challenge they faced. To mark Kenan's retirement from motorcycle racing, we reached out to his fiercest competitors to see what they had to say about competing against the Turkish rider.

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Eugene Laverty Guides Us Around a Lap at Imola

05/10/2018 @ 2:56 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

Imola is one of the most historic circuits in the world. Tamburello, Acque Minerali, and Rivazza are corner names etched into the fiber of the sport, and with the circuit named after Enzo Ferrari’s son, the emotion of Imola is always bubbling away just under the surface.

For a long time, Eugene Laverty didn’t feel at home at this twisting and technical circuit, but over the last ten years he has been able to scratch at the surface and unlock the key to a fast time around this 4.936km circuit.

“Imola is a very technical circuit and it’s a real challenge to learn it,” said Laverty. “It took me a long time to figure out some of the secrets of it, and even when I was racing here on the Yamaha Superbike, after a few years of Supersport, I was still struggling.”

“The most important thing is to be white line to white line because there’s no ‘natural corners.’ The straights are so short that everything leads into one another and it’s a real challenge to learn the details of Imola.”

With two Supersport podiums and a WorldSBK rostrum, Laverty understands what’s needed, but for this weekend, recovering from an injury, he’ll face an uphill task.

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The Italian round of the WorldSBK season marks the end of the opening third of the season, but it’s hard to see how it marks the end of Chaz Davies’ dominance at the Imola circuit.

The Welshman has been a wizard around the technical circuit in recent years, and been unbeatable. Having fallen 30 points adrift of Jonathan Rea in the standings, he will know that this weekend it is crucial to chip into the Northern Irishman’s title lead.

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The opening WorldSBK round of the year showed that the regulations have helped to shake up the order but the real test will be in the coming rounds.

Buriram, host of the Thai Round of WorldSBK, has been a Kawasaki stomping ground in recent years, and while the green machines will be favorites once again, the effect of the changes could see their wings clipped.

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For the 2018 WorldSBK season, we are changing up our coverage format a little bit from last year, in order to provide more useful content for our racing fans.

First up, we are pleased to have Steve English providing coverage from the World Superbike paddock. Regular Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize Steve’s name from a number of stories here on A&R, and he is also a regular host of our Paddock Pass Podcast.

With his day job being the voice of WorldSBK on the commentary feed, Steve’s expert insight will provide for us a preview of each WorldSBK round, as well as a debrief at the end of each race weekend, which will highlight the major takeaways from the racing action.

Additionally for our A&R Pro readers, Steve will be providing us with added racing analysis, as well as interviews with the WorldSBK riders, team members, and paddock fixtures, which you won’t want to miss. -JB

With that out of the way, let’s get to the opening round of the 2018 WorldSBK season, which is now in the books and certainly provided us with plenty of excitement and plenty to talk about. 

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