“Ducati 959 Panigale Corse” Spotted in CARB Docs

If you dumpster dive through filings with the California Air Resources Board, you will find that Ducati has a new variant of its “middleweight” superbike ready for us, as the paperwork reveals a Ducati 959 Panigale Corse is on the way for the 2018 model year. The Ducati 959 Panigale Corse has the same emission figures, and is on the same filing as the current Ducati 959 Panigale, so we don’t expect any radical mechanical differences between the two motorcycles. But, looking at Ducati’s past with “Corse” models, there are a few pieces of information that we can glean from the news. The first piece of information is pretty obvious: the Ducati 959 Panigale Corse will be a special edition version of the 955cc sport bike, likely fitted with special parts (suspension, brakes, electronics) and a unique livery (bold new graphics).

Ducati Debuts New Aero “Hammerhead” Fairing at Brno

Ducati Corse has returned to using aerodynamic fairings, after packing up its “Hammerhead” design (as fans like to call it, Ducati not so much) at the preseason Qatar Test. As such, fans at the Czech GP were treated to the debut of a new fairing design at Brno. Featuring on the Desmosedici GP of Jorge Lorenzo during free practice, the new aerodynamic fairing design is an evolution of Ducati’s original winglet shape and its preseason attempt at replicating the winglets efficacy, while still adhering to the set of rules in MotoGP, which ban winglets. While the Hammerhead debuted to disappointing results, and thus has left Ducati Corse without an aerodynamic fairing so far this season, the new fairing design appears to be getting the nod from Lorenzo.

BMW HP4 Race Engine Life Set at 5,000km

If you’re in the market for a BMW HP4 Race – the carbon fiber clad superbike from Bavaria – the $78,000 price tag might not be all that you’re spending on, as BMW Motorrad has a few items in the fine print that you might want to be aware of – the first being the engine life. According to documents sent to BMW Motorrad dealers in the United States, the 212hp inline-four engine for the BMW HP4 Race comes with an expiration point of 5,000km (roughly 3,100 miles), at which point the entire engine will have to be replaced. There is no word yet what a new HP4 Race engine from BMW Motorrad will cost, but we do know that it will come from the factory with performance certification and already broken-in for immediate use.

Check Out This Aprilia RSV4-Powered Race Car

If you are in the market for a track-only race car, might we suggest the Griip G1. Though featuring double the wheels that we’re used to, this carbon fiber clad Formula 1000 cart is powered by a very familiar power plant: the Aprilia RSV4 superbike’s V4 engine. The RSV4 engine on the Griip G1 remains fairly stock, though it uses a drive shaft, instead of a chain drive, as it would on a motorcycles. As such, it makes roughly 201hp in this form, though the real value of the Griip G1 is the weight of the vehicle, which tips the scales at 860 lbs wet and fully fueled. Designed in Israel, and built in Italy, the Griip G1 will set you back a cool €52,900 if you are interested in owning one. To frame the figure on that price tag, the cost of a G1 is about the cost of three Aprilia RSV4 RR superbikes, over in Europe.

Bonnier Closes Sport Rider Magazine

It has been speculated in the motorcycle community for quite some time now, and the day has finally come, as the Bonnier Motorcycle Group (BMG) announced today that it is ceasing production of Sport Rider Magazine. The news about Sport Rider comes wedged into a larger announcement, which involves BMG restructuring its motorcycle publishing and sales departments “in order to deliver more specialized content and provide better solutions for the motorcycle industry to engage with enthusiasts.” There is a lot to be said with how Bonnier is “restructuring” media, marketing, and editorial amongst its brands – perhaps better left for an article of its own – but the big shock today is how the closure of Sport Rider ends a 25-year tradition of covering the sport bike market in the United States.

Ducati V4 Superbike to Debut in September?

Italian media is reporting an invitation to a Ducati event at the Misano circuit, the Thursday before the MotoGP race weekend held on the Adriatic Coast. The event has surely something to do with Ducati’s new V4 superbike, with Ducati claiming it will be “the sound of a new era” for the Italian manufacturer. That sound surely will be of the new V4 powerplant, which will not only replace the company’s iconic v-twin superbike lineup, but also power future large-displacement sport bikes from Ducati – something Claudio Domenicali told A&R at the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition launch. What we will see at Misano is up for speculation, however. A strong guess would be that Ducati only unveils its 90° V4 engine, teasing for us the interesting technical bits that Domenicali hinted at during the Laguna Seca WorldSBK weekend.

Lucky Strike Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro by MotoCorsa

Though it is known better for its exploits on race tracks, many two-wheeled enthusiasts should know that Ducati’s history extends well into the sand dunes of the Dakar Rally. Nestled in the Ducati Museum in Borgo Panigale, there is proof of Ducati’s racing history in the Dakar Rally. And while the bike says “Cagiva” on the outside, it was an air-cooled Ducati engine that powered Edi Orioli and his Elefant to two Dakar Rally wins. That machine was painted in one of the most iconic paint schemes ever to grace a racing motorcycle: the Lucky Strike cigarette company’s red, white, black, and gold livery. So, to pay homage to Ducati’s off-road racing history, the folks at the MotoCorsa Ducati dealership have taken the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro and linked it to its racing pedigree, creating a unique motorcycle in the process.

Speed vs. Stamina, For 220 Laps at the Suzuka 8-Hours

The day is done and the battle is won. Yamaha claimed its third-consecutive Suzuka 8-Hours on Sunday. The victory put a stamp on their dominance of the one race each year that the Japanese manufacturers place more emphasis on than any other. As such, Asphalt & Rubber takes a look at the winning machine, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s YZF-R1. It’s often said that endurance racing is the last bastion of design and technological freedom in motorsport. Whether it was Audi’s decision to use a diesel engine on four wheels, or the current breed of two-wheeled endurance bike, i i’s clear that there is plenty of innovation on the grid.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Priced at $78,000 for USA

Before the machine officially debuted in China, we got our first taste of the carbon-clad BMW HP4 Race at the 2016 EICMA Show in Milan. At that time, all we knew about this track-only motorcycle was that it would be built in limited quantities, and thus would not be cheap. In China, we learned that pricing across “the pond” had been set at £68,000 / €80,000 for the UK and EU markets, respectively. And now, we finally get word regarding how much the BMW HP4 Race will cost American buyers, as BMW Motorrad USA has set an asking price of $78,000. Only 750 units will be made worldwide, so it’s hard to say how many will even make the trip to the United States, but for that price tag you get quite the machine.

Volkswagen Lacks the Votes to Sell Ducati

The hits keep on coming, in terms of Volkswagen’s plans (or non-plans) to sell its Italian motorcycle manufacturer, Ducati Motor Holding. According to the latest report from Reuters, the votes are lacking on supervisory board for Volkswagen, when it comes to selling Ducati and transmission-maker Renk. The lack of votes at the Volkswagen board isn’t a new problem, of course, with the German company’s labor unions accounting for half of the board seats, and reportedly very unenthusiastic about selling either brand. “The employee representatives on Volkswagen’s supervisory board will neither approve a sale of Ducati, nor one of Renk or MAN Diesel & Turbo,” a spokesman for VW group’s works council told Reuters this past weekend.

The weather is looking up at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and that is a good thing. First of all, it provided a fascinating day of practice and qualifying, with more than a few surprises and plenty of data to chew over.

But secondly, and far more importantly, it meant that riders were out on track riding, and returning to the pits safely after doing so. If the weather had turned, and rain had fallen, that might not have been the case.

The reason for that is simple. The Red Bull Ring is not safe in the wet. That was the consensus of the riders at Friday night’s Safety Commission. It is not particularly safe in the dry either, but in the wet, it is so bad that everyone said they would not ride if it rained.

“Everybody yesterday in the Safety Commission said they would not ride in the wet,” Aleix Espargaro said. It was a point which Cal Crutchlow had made on Thursday, even before practice began. He reiterated it on Saturday. “If it rains I ain’t riding,” he told the media.

“I have no interest, because there are barriers everywhere. As you saw, everyone was crashing in a complete straight line and they were going to the left at a right hand corner. It was just ridiculous. Until they move the barriers back, I have no interest to ride here in the wet.”

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If the weather has been the bane of MotoGP this year, then Saturday at Brno made up for an awful lot. The day started out with clear blue skies, and stayed that way just about all day.

It was still bone dry and warm when we left the track as darkness began to fall, though the occasional cloud could be spotted here and there. It was a great day for racing motorcycles.

It was apparently also a great day for crashing motorcycles. In the first session of the day, 40 minutes of free practice for the Moto3 class, 15 riders crashed, all going down like skittles.

Next up it was FP3 for MotoGP, and a further 7 riders hit the deck. Moto2 followed, and 6 more went down. By the end of the day, there had been a grand total of 48 falls.

To put that number into perspective: on Friday, in much dicier conditions, there were only 9 crashes. Over all three days of the 2014 event at Brno, there were 46 crashers.

If there are three more crashes on Sunday – and it’s race day, when risks offer better rewards – then the Automotodrom Brno will seen more crashes than in the previous seven years. They really were going down like flies.

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Saturday at Laguna Seca, I spent my time working the fence line from Turn 1 to Turn 2, catching the World Superbike riders as they came down the harrowing fast T1 section, before hitting the double-apex that is T2 – also known as the Andretti Hairpin.

Turn 1 is easily the fastest part of the Californian track, and it is a section of tarmac where the MotoGP riders would get both wheels off the ground…at nearly full lean. The WorldSBK machines don’t quite hit the same speeds at the GP bikes, but don’t be fooled – this is a corner that separates the men from the boys.

Turn 2 on the other hand is one of the slowest places at Laguna Seca, as riders make a double-apex turn out of the left-hander, and then accelerate to Turn 3 – often popping a wheelie in the process.

If T1 shows a rider’s mettle, T2 shows a bike’s prowess, and it is plain for everyone to see who has their electronics dialed, and who does not.

The juxtaposition of these two turns was my playground for FP3, while I spent both Superpole sessions in pit lane, shooting the front straight and team pit boxes. Meanwhile for the race, I chose to shoot the grid, as it meant I could still watch the racing action from the media center.

I hope you enjoy these high-resolution shots from my Saturday at Laguna Seca.

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Motorcycle racing is an outdoor sport. The riders are at the mercy of the elements. Not just the riders, but the teams and factories too. A bike that works well in the dry may be terrible in the wet.

A bike that is strong in the wet may struggle when conditions were mixed. Finding the right balance when conditions change can throw the best laid plans into disarray.

All of these questions were multiplied by the weather at Assen. With nothing between the circuit and the North Sea but a row of sand dunes, the odd high rise office block, and a hundred kilometers of pancake-flat farmland punctuated by the occasional tree, the wind, sun, and rain blow out just as quickly as they blow in. The weather at Assen is as fickle as a pretty teenager in a crowded disco.

That made it tough for MotoGP at the Dutch circuit. Searching for the right setup was both perilously difficult and ultimately futile, for as soon as you found something in the right ballpark for the conditions, the rain would come or the track would dry out, and you would have to start all over again.

Add in tarmac which has fantastic grip in the dry but diminishing grip in the wet, and you had a recipe for, if not chaos, then at least a fairly random mix of riders topping qualifying.

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There are a lot of reasons to visit Barcelona. It is one of the greatest cities in the world, a triumph of the architectural movement known as Modernisme, a vibrant center of culture, a place where you can eat, drink, and sleep well, after a day spent gazing mouth agape at some of the most remarkable buildings created by human hands, and human minds.

Once upon a time, the Montmelo circuit was also a good reason to visit the city. A track full of fast, sweeping corners challenging riders and bikes in equal measure.

That was before the aging asphalt turned the track greasy in the summer heat, and the repeated abuse from fat F1 tires left the surface rippled and bumpy, cracked and patched.

Tragedy struck with the death of Luis Salom – probably the victim of a wayward bump sending him flying towards a patch of gravel-free run off – and the Safety Commission (consisting of MotoGP riders, Dorna, and the FIM) decided to neuter the second half of the track, removing one of the fastest and most furious final sections on the calendar. There is little left to love about Montmelo.

I asked several riders whether it would be possible to race in Montmelo next year if the track had not been resurfaced. The response was unanimous. “No.”

Worse than that, Bradley Smith explained how the Safety Commission had grown impatient with the circuit, which has been singularly unresponsive to their requests to adapt the track to make it safer. Hopefully, MotoGP would not return, Smith told us bluntly.

“That’s finally what it comes down to. This is the only track on the calendar that’s not actually reacting to Safety Commission / rider / organizer’s requests. So at some point, you have to give them an ultimatum, and I think that this is the last year that they’ll be in that situation. We have enough people that want us to go race there, we don’t have to come here.”

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Imagine you find yourself at the start of a 40-minute session of track time, at one of the greatest racing circuits in the world, sat astride one of the most sophisticated racing motorcycles in the world, with the Tuscan sun beating down from clear skies, and the hillsides echoing to the roar of tens of thousands of delirious fans. What would you do?

If you’re a Moto3 rider competing at the Italian Grand Prix, then the answer is simple: you sit in your pit box for five minutes, then pootle out into pit lane, spending all your time looking backwards.

You are finally persuaded to head out of pit lane over the crest and down towards one of the most challenging corners of the season, so you potter around at a miserable 30 km/h, constantly looking behind you in the hope of finding a faster rider coming up behind you at speed. You repeat this for the full session, interspersed with the odd hot lap.

The situation got so bad that in one of the hospitality units after the day was over, one person came over to us and asked if the Moto3 qualifying session had been red-flagged. They had been working through the session, and had noticed that the track had gone completely quiet.

But it was not red flags that stopped the action, it was the desperate search for exactly the right tow. The trouble is, when all 31 Moto3 riders are waiting for a tow, there is no one left to be giving them.

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Saturday MotoGP Summary at Le Mans: Zarco’s Brilliance, Rossi’s Non-Retirement, And Miller’s Mental Fortitude

05/21/2017 @ 1:40 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Le Mans: Zarco’s Brilliance, Rossi’s Non-Retirement, And Miller’s Mental Fortitude

It has been a tough weekend for a lot of people at Le Mans. The weather has done just about everything to confound and perplex the riders, conditions changing every session.

Friday went from wettish to very wet, Saturday went from drying to almost completely dry. There hasn’t been a single session of stable weather with a consistent and unchanging track.

That has caused a lot of problems, especially in MotoGP, shaking up the qualifying system based around the combined times through all three free practice sessions. For the fans, though, it’s been fantastic, producing two of the most exciting qualifying sessions we have seen for a while.

Tricky conditions in free practice put Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and local hero Johann Zarco into Q1, producing fireworks in the battle for who gets through to Q2.

Then, in Q2, the battle happened all over again, this time in a straight up slugfest for the front row. That went right down to the wire, the first three safe only once the dust had settled.

The weather reignited the debate over MotoGP’s qualifying system, a common complaint among several riders, and also a regular topic at the Safety Commission, the meeting where riders and organizers gather to discuss how to make racing safer.

Andrea Dovizioso voiced the concern on Saturday, despite having made it through Q1 and into Q2. “It’s really stressful, these rules for everybody because every practice has to be a qualifying,” the Ducati rider said. “You have to be in the top 10 because the weather can change.”

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Saturday MotoGP Summary at Jerez: Fast Hondas, Deceptive Yamahas, Losing Winglets, & Orange Elation

05/07/2017 @ 11:09 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Jerez: Fast Hondas, Deceptive Yamahas, Losing Winglets, & Orange Elation

Coming into the weekend of Jerez, we knew several things to be absolute certainties. 1. Jerez is a Yamaha track. 2. Ducati always does terribly at Jerez. And 3.

The Hondas will struggle against the might of the Yamaha. After qualifying, a swift dose of reality has flushed those preconceptions out of our systems, showing them up for the fallacies that they are.

After qualifying at Jerez, we have an all Honda front row. Two Yamahas start from the second row, but their performance during both qualifying and free practice was far from convincing.

The first Ducati sits on the third row, but during practice, Jorge Lorenzo made the Desmosedici GP17 fly, finishing second in FP3 and fourth in FP4.

Where did this shake up come from? The issue is mainly one of grip. After the rain on Friday, there is very little rubber on the track, and the warmer track temperatures have made Jerez its normal, greasy self.

The Yamahas perform well when grip is high, whether that be in warmer or cooler temperatures. Extra grip merely helps the RC213V want to wheelie, something for which it needs little encouragement anyway.

Robbed of its winglets, the Ducati needs extra rear grip to get good drive out of corners, and exploit its strongest point.

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Saturday MotoGP Summary at Austin: Explaining Crashes, And New Rivalries

04/23/2017 @ 11:03 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Austin: Explaining Crashes, And New Rivalries

There is a move afoot among MotoGP riders to have qualifying changed. Or rather, to have the way the selection is done for Q1 and Q2. A lot of riders have complained about the current system of prequalifying using combined times from FP1 through FP3.

The riders complain that they lose too much time to trying to set a fast lap in each session, just in case conditions change. The current counter proposal from the riders is to use just the FP3 times to select which riders go through to Q2 directly, and allow the teams to spend Friday focusing on setup.

Saturday morning exposed the weakness of such an idea. A combination of cold tires, strong wind, a bumpy track, poor tire selection on Friday night, and the narrow temperature working range of the Michelins saw eight riders crash a total of ten times in FP3.

Alex Rins crashed so heavily he broke both the radius and ulna in his left arm, and put himself out of action for Austin and Jerez, and possibly for Le Mans as well. The rest escaped relatively unscathed, but with many a temper blazing.

Basing passage into Q2 solely on FP3 results was not without risks of its own, Valentino Rossi told the Italian media. “Today, that would have been a stupid idea, because we would have had to take a lot of risks in difficult conditions,” Rossi said.

If there had been a total of ten crashes in a session in which most riders hadn’t pushed to improve their time, how many would have fallen if they had all been pushing to get through to Q2?

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Saturday at Austin with Scott Jones

04/22/2017 @ 6:04 pm, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT