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.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #60 – Diet Pepsi & Milk

08/24/2017 @ 7:53 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 60 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we cover some of the newsy items from the motorcycle industry that have caught our eyes recently.

But before we get to the news, Quentin and I break a pretty big story concerning a certain turbocharged motorcycle, which you won’t want to miss.

We then turn our attention to the plethora of recalls that have beseeched BMW Motorrad, and we also talk about the company’s halo bike, the BMW HP4 Race, and its 3,100-mile engine life.

We also talk about Triumph’s partnership with Bajaj, and how that will affect both brands’ futures, before we talk about Ducati’s software performance upgrade for the 2015/2016 Ducati 1299 Panigale owners.

Before the show ends, Quentin also gives a really insightful talk about plug chops, which unless you have ridden an older two-stroke machine, you have probably never heard of, until now.

There is a lot going on in this episode of the podcast, so you don’t want to miss it. And, if we have and Diet Pepsi and milk drinkers in the audience, please identify yourselves and explain this madness.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #59 – Leticia Cline

08/10/2017 @ 11:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 59 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it sees a special guest joining the crew, Ms. Leticia Cline (of the internetz). One of the biggest social media influencers in the motorcycle industry, we spent almost two hours talking to Leticia about a number of subjects.

The big bullet points of the discussion revolve around Leticia’s time in the AMA paddock (she used to date some guy named Ben Spies), the state of the motorcycle industry, marketing to women, and how brands are leveraging social media to reach new audiences, like millennials.

Not only does Leticia bring with her a bounty of insight and knowledge, but she is pretty fun to talk to as well. As such, we think you are really going to enjoy this episode.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Welcome to the A&R Superbike Deathmatch

08/04/2017 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Hello and welcome to Asphalt & Rubber’s 2017 Superbike Deathmatch – our take on the motorcycle media’s superbike shootout review format, and the solitary path for a motorcycle to become A&R’s Superbike of 2017. Booyah!

What makes the Superbike Deathmatch different from other shootouts, you might ask? Well for starters, instead of renting a track out for a day, and spending only a limited amount of time on the plethora of machines available, we decided instead to take a lesson from college basketball’s very own March Madness.

That’s right, we are using a single-elimination head-to-head bracket system to find out which superbike is the best of the best, and thus worthy of being our Superbike of 2017. Think of it like a two-wheeled Thunderdome: two bikes enter, one bike leaves.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #58 – California Dream

07/19/2017 @ 12:36 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 58 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast chronicles a busy week in California, as we head down to Laguna Seca for the World Superbike and MotoAmerica racing rounds.

The weekend involved getting the first glimpse of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, the last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand. We also got to talk to Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali about the company’s new V4 superbike, with more than a few surprises being told about the new machine.

Of course there was the on-track action, which includes yours truly getting a some seat time the Monday after the races, riding at a no noise restriction track day (something that almost never happens) with the good folk at Pirelli tires.

While there, we sat down with Giorgio Barbier, the Director of Pirelli’s Motorcycle Racing program. We talked a bit of shop while at the track day, and have included that conversation towards the end of the show, for your listening pleasure.

The audio isn’t perfect, since we’re right on the track – did I mention there was no noise restriction for the bikes? – but you should be able to hear Giorgio with no problems.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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I’ve just spent the last three days shuffling around in my car, so apologies for the delay, but here is my final installment of photos (don’t miss Friday & Saturday too) from the World Superbike round at Laguna Seca, which were taken during Sunday’s warm-up session.

I caught the riders at Turn 11, the slow left-hander that brings them onto the front straight, hoping to get a particular shot where their bodies would be in transition back into the saddle, while the bike would also be power-wheeling out of the turn.

In other words, I have quite a few different takes on the same scene, which might be visually a bit boring. What is interesting though is the subtle details from rider to rider. 

For instance, it was noticeable to see Jake Gagne struggling with the bucking Honda CBR1000RR SP2, which seemed much more apt to loft the front wheel, due to having more rudimentary electronics. Conversely, the Ducatis and Kawasakis were well in control, slowly lifting and never getting out of shape.

How the riders deal with these differences is of note as well, so take notice of the body positioning, especially with where their butts are in the saddle. Interesting stuff. Until next year, and thanks for viewing.

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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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I should call this the “going left” gallery, as there isn’t much diversity in perspective, as all of the photos attached here were taken from the same vantage point: the inside portion The Corkscrew (Turn 8) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

A popular feature to this coastal Californian track, The Corkscrew provides plenty of spectacle for fans, but it finds its true zenith when World Superbike riders are in circulation.

The approach to Turn 8 is a fast uphill stretch, about as much of a “back straight” as Laguna Seca has to offer, and the crest of the hill sees the faster rider’s lofting the rear wheel ever so slightly, as they begin to get on the brakes.

As they get closer to the entrance of the iconic turn – a mostly blind approach I should point out – the late-brakers will again bring the rear wheel off the ground, as they threshold brake into first apex, which only reveals itself at the very last moment.

Hitting the left-hander at the top of the hill, and the right-hander on the way down, there really isn’t a chance for the suspension pieces on these bikes to react, add in a quick downshift during the left-right transition, along with some trail-braking at the top of hill, and it is easy to see why this corner is so highly regarded.

Seemingly proving the point, in just the single session I shot here, we had two red flag moments, as both Red Bull Honda riders threw their bikes down The Corkscrew’s drop in elevation. For newer riders, the challenge is even greater.

Apologies in advance for the late posting, as I spent the better part of Saturday battling an uncooperative Adobe Lightroom. I hope you enjoy these high-resolution shots from Friday at Laguna Seca.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #57 – Chocolate Rain

07/04/2017 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 57 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast helps us celebrate America’s birthday, by talking about some freedom-loving motorcycles.

Our first topic of interest is a teaser to a project that we are working on here at Asphalt & Rubber. If you’ve been following us on social media, you might already have an idea about what it is.

That conversation quickly moves into a rabbit hole about racing though, and how closed-circuit motorcycle racing can evolve for the 21st century.

Our attention then turns to some news items, like how Honda is getting more serious about electric motorcycles, how Harley-Davidson might buy Ducati Motor Holding, and what we can expect to see from Ducati with its Final Edition Panigale superbike.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #56 – Nicky Bobby

06/29/2017 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 56 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast gets us back into our normal format of talking about motorcycles, and whatever rabbit holes present themselves along the way.

Before we get to that part though, we take a somber moment to remember Nicky Hayden, who passed away just a couple weeks before the recording of this episode.

We had recorded a special episode just about Nicky, the day that he passed, but it didn’t feel right to publish it. Our emotions were too raw.

Modestly philosophical during the show now, we also discuss the passing of Davey Lambert, who on the day of this recording succumbed to his injuries sustained at the Isle of Man TT. Two more racers would later die at the TT, Jochem van den Hoek and Alan Bonner. We hold all these racers in our thoughts.

Getting back to our normal selves, we discuss a bit of news, namely Harley-Davidson’s new factory in Thailand, and what that says about the state of the motorcycle industry. We also talk some racing action, as Andrea Dovizioso had just won the Italian GP at Mugello.

The show wraps up with some discussion about supermoto racing, as I participated in the Cascadia Supermoto round held here in Oregon, near Portland.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #55 – The Aprilia Show

06/19/2017 @ 3:11 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 55 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is another special show, and it concludes our adventures in Austin, Texas. For this show, we talk a whole lot about some Aprilia motorbikes, as we rode a total of four different machines around the Circuit of the Americas.

In total, we road the new RSV4 RR, RSV4 RF, Tuono V4 1100 RR, and Tuono V4 1100 Factory, and then sat down for a discussion with Piaggio’s head of design, Miguel Galluzzi.

Our talk with Galluzzi covered a host of issues in the motorcycle industry, which we think you will find very interesting, as he provides a unique insight. Similarly, our thoughts on the bikes are also of note, as Aprilia has produced two very potent model ranges with its V4 engine design.

At nearly two hours long, there is a lot to listen to here, but we think you will find our discussion about the new Aprilia models to be pretty interesting, especially if you are in the market for one. 

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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