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.

The Japanese automotive industry is being rocked by an emissions and fuel efficiency scandal right now, and it involves the Yamaha Motor Company motorcycle division as well.

All told, five of the eight automotive companies in Japan have been found incorrectly testing and reporting the emissions and fuel mileage of their vehicles.

The scandal started in 2016 with Mitsubishi, which lead to findings last year where Nissan and Subaru were found manipulating the results of their emission results. These findings then caused the Japanese government to require other automotive companies in Japan to check their testing operations.

Upon this internal review, Mazda and Suzuki found and reported that their cars had been improperly tested, with Yamaha finding similar results with its motorcycle standards testing.

Continue Reading

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.

The winningest team in the FIM EWC – by a considerable amount – SERT struggled during the 2017/2018 season, finishing 6th overall in the championship. Surely as they sort out the new GSX-R1000R, SERT will once again be on top of the game.

In the hunt at Suzuka, it was the Yoshimura Suzuki team that was carrying the banner for Suzuki, finishing 10th – of note, behind the Suzuki team of S-Pulse Dream Racing – IAI, which finished 4th.

A man on a mission, Steve was able to get a bunch of shots of the Yoshimura Suzuki bike before it took to the track. You should check them out, and if you haven’t already, you should see his captures of the Suzuka race bikes from Red Bull Honda, Yamaha Factory Racing Team, and Kawasaki Team Green.

Continue Reading

Paddock Pass Podcast #78 – Suzuka 8-Hours

08/02/2018 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 78 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Steve English and Jensen Beeler on the mics, as they discuss both this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.

Perhaps the most important race to the Japanese manufacturers, the Suzuka 8-Hours is seeing a return to its former glory, with several manufacturers putting together truly factory teams.

The show covers this new dawn for the Suzuka 8-Hours race, as well as the action on the track, of which there was plenty. It may have been eight-hours long, but this was a proper sprint race, with only 30 seconds separating first and second place.

On the show we are also joined by Jonathan Rea and Michael Laverty, who shed a ton of insight into what it’s like riding the Suzuka Specials, the differences in tires at the Japanese track, and what it takes to win this iconic race. You won’t want to miss those conversations.

All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the Suzuka 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!

Continue Reading

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

08/01/2018 @ 4:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race was the biggest effort that we have seen from Kawasaki, which enlisted the help of its future WorldSBK team (Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, and part of the KRT pit box), to join the Japanese engineers and All Japan Superbike rider Kazuma Watanabe.

Part of the effort involved honing the specially prepared Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR race bike for the Suzuka 8-Hours, and this included a considerable amount of pre-event testing, with WorldSBK crew chief Pere Ribe overseeing the bike’s development.

Continue Reading

After Suzuka

08/01/2018 @ 11:06 am, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the books, and it was one to remember. In a lot of ways, this was Suzuka back in its heyday. Factory bikes, world-class riders, and a flat-out sprint race between the best of the best.

It was a shame that the weather interrupted what had looked set to be a classic 8-Hours. With Jonathan Rea hitting the deck in the treacherous conditions, it took a potential race-winner out of contention, and ended three and a half hours of toe-to-toe, bar-to-bar between Kawasaki and Yamaha.

For the first time since 2015, Yamaha was challenged, but Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark weren't rattled.

Prior to the race Van der Mark joked that “I don't get scared on a bike, I scare the others!” and on Sunday the two-time WorldSBK race-winner certainly wasn't scared of the reputation that Rea brings as a three-time world champion.

The Dutchman's opening stint was superb, and his fight with Rea was something unlike any seen we have at the 8-Hours in recent years. When they pitted, it was up to Lowes and Leon Haslam to continue the fight and that's exactly what happened.

Over the course of those opening hours, we were treated to the full spectacle of motorcycle racing, and it was everything it should be. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest talking points of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

With the Suzuka 8-Hours completed, it is time to crown a winner in the FIM Endurance World Championship, and that winner is the F.C.C. TSR Honda France team.

The Japanese outfit went into the FIM EWC series finale just 10 points ahead of its nearest rival, the GMT94 Yamaha squad, which meant the series crown was still up for grabs heading into the Japanese round.

Suzuka isn’t a normal Endurance World Championship round, however, as there are a number of one-off teams that can steal points from the FIM EWC regulars, which made the 10-point deficit a tough challenge for the French team to overcome.

With circumstances playing into F.C.C. TSR Honda’s hands quite well, and the endurance team having the added benefit of being on Bridgestone tires, the tire of choice at Suzuka (eight of the top ten Suzuka finishers were using Bridgestones), victory was nigh.

Finally getting to taste the bubbly at Suzuka, F.C.C. TSR Honda became the first Japanese team ever to win the FIM Endurance World Championship, thanks to the riding of Josh Hook, Freddy Foray, and Alan Techer. 

Continue Reading

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

07/31/2018 @ 12:02 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

You may not have known it, but things didn’t quite go Yamaha’s way this year at the Suzuka 8-Hours though, with Katsuyuki Nakasuga having to sit out the race because of injury.

This left Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark to carry the load between the two of them, a tiring job at Suzuka.

Winning by only 30 seconds in an eight-hour race is still called winning though, and in doing so the Yamaha Factory Racing Team showed the depth and talent of its team. This is a high-level, high-functioning, endurance racing outfit, and it comes straight from the factory in Iwata, Japan.

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.

Continue Reading

Race Day Photos from the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours

07/30/2018 @ 12:03 am, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

Winning the Pride of Japan, Eight Hours at Suzuka

07/29/2018 @ 5:42 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

Yamaha Factory Racing made history at the Suzuka 8-Hours today, claiming their fourth consecutive victory in the great race.

This Japanese endurance race has become one of the biggest spectacles on the motorcycling calendar, and there were moments of today’s 199 laps that would have felt like an eternity for Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes.

With Katsuyuki Nakasuga ruled out with a shoulder injury following a crash in yesterday’s practice session, the burden fell on his teammates to deliver success.

They duly did, but not until they had overcome a huge challenge from Kawasaki.

Continue Reading