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.

History was made in the FIM World Supersport 300 class this weekend in Portugal, as Ana Carrasco became the first woman ever to win a World Championship (solo) race.

Her victory didn’t come easy though, as three riders had a hand on the winner’s trophy, as they came down the front straight away for the final time.

Expertly gauging the draft to the finish line, Ana Carrasco put herself in front of Alfonoso Coppola (+0.053) and Marc Garcia (+0.062), narrowly beating the two Yamaha YZF-R3 riders with her Kawasaki Ninja 300.

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The FIM and Dorna have agreed on a new entry class for the World Superbike championship. A Supersport 300 series has been created to house the burgeoning market of lightweight sports machines, such as the Yamaha YZF-R3 and the KTM RC390.

The concept for the class came about after consultation with manufacturers. Motorcycle manufacturers have seen sales of 600cc supersports bikes plummeting, while sales of lightweight machines have been booming.

More and more manufacturers have been entering the class, though each with slightly different machines and different engine capacities.

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Kawasaki ZX3-RR Concept by ICON

08/22/2014 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Icon might not be the first brand you think of when you talk about road racing apparel, but the Oregonian company is certainly trying to evolve from its Stunt Life roots, into other aspects of two-wheeled culture.

Pushing into the more lifestyle, adventure, and sport segments of the industry, we have already seen Icon’s penchant for concept bikes, which I can atest haven’t really resonated with our sport-bike focused readers. I think today will be a little different though.

Teaming up with Kawasaki, Icon has built what it calls the Kawasaki ZX3-RR concept. Based off the Kawasaki Ninja 300, the Kawasaki ZX3-RR sees new bodywork and a slew of performance parts added to make a spec-series cup bike for young riders. It looks the business.

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Masafumi Nakagawa Named Kawasaki USA President

02/24/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

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According to a press release issued by Kawasaki Motors Corporation U.S.A. (KMC), Effective April 1st, Masafumi Nakagawa will be assuming the position of company President, replacing Takeshi Teranishi, as he takes command of KMC Japan.

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Happy 30th Birthday to the Kawasaki Ninja

02/12/2014 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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The Kawasaki Ninja line began life with the Kawasaki GPZ900R (the Ninja 900 to its friends) in 1984. Now 30 years later, Kawasaki is celebrating three decades of Ninja motorcycles, a model name that has become synonymous with the sport bike segment.

While the Ninja 900 began as Maverick’s daily ride in the movie Top Gun, the model sparked what would later become the superbike wars amongst the Japanese manufacturers.

The Ninja name has grown in time to become the Ninja ZX-10R superbike, refined itself to become the Ninja ZX-14R sport-tourer, and also grown into the small-displacement offerings of the Ninja 250R and Ninja 300, with many models in between.

A Ninja also just recently won the World Superbike Championship — not bad for a Gen-Xer. So we bid Happy Birthday to the Ninja, and hope for another 30 years of awesome green bikes with the Ninja name emblazoned upon them. Got a story about your Ninja? Leave it in the comments.

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According to TMCBlog (more photos on their site), Kawasaki may be planning to release a new entry level sport bike as a cost effective option for the Southeast Asian market. Rumor has it that this 250cc, single-cylinder bike is under construction and would be the more economical cousin to the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and its parallel-twin engine, while providing more competition for the Honda CBR250R.

While none of this can be confirmed, for time being it is a safe bet that if Kawasaki wants to remain competitive in its Asian markets, and it would be a good business strategy for Kawasaki to produce a bike that is comparable to many of the other single-cylinder bikes in the region, which are being produced by Honda, Suzuki, and KTM.

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Recall: 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300

08/12/2013 @ 3:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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It would seem that even the popular Kawasaki Ninja 300 isn’t immune from the plethora of recalls we have seen the past few weeks, as Kawasaki Motors Corporation is recalling certain 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 and 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS motorcycles manufactured between July 16, 2012 and April 27, 2013.

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A wave of recalls are reaching the shores of motorcycle manufacturers, as brake maker Nissin has had to recall a number of its ABS units for a misaligned inlet valve, which could allow foregin particles into the fluid of the braking system, which could cause the ABS functionality to fail.

Triumph first discovered the defect, and reported it to Nissin, which in-turn notified its other affected OEMs. So far  5,766 motorcycles have been affected by the recall, comprising a total of four manufacturers (a list of the models is after the jump, with a link to the appropriate NHTSA posting). We will update this list if/when more model recalls are announced.

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There is not much that we don’t already know about the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300. It looks pretty much exactly like the re-designed 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 250R that broke cover in Indonesia earlier this year. The EPA already spilled the beans on the Kawasaki Ninja 300’s 296cc displacement and 40hp, and we know that the Ninja 300 is the peppier fuel-injected cousin to America’s dreadfully under-developed Ninja 250R…and now we know that the bike will come to the American market for next year.

Tipping the scales at the curb with 387 lbs, with its 4.5 gallons of fuel, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 isn’t a featherweight, but it isn’t a slouch either. In fact, when it comes to a sporty learner-class motorcycle for the American market, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 may very well be the bike of choice.

In a category where prospective buyers are raiding the couch cushions for a down payment, price is king. And with its $4,799 starting MSRP, the Ninja 300 is an expensive option, but is it still a bargain?

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Confirming what we already knew, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 broke cover today, and is Team Green’s newest small-displacement sport bike in its motorcycle lineup. 296cc’s of twin-cylinder fury, Kawasaki the Ninja 300 boasts 40hp, twin-butterfly valves, fuel injection, a slipper clutch, a 140mm rear tire, and has optional ABS. A part of a larger movement within Kawasaki, the Ninja 300 exemplifies the “no replacement for displacement” school of thought, and will sell along-side the recently updated (and virtually visually identical) Kawasaki Ninja 250R in more than a few markets.

While we know that the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 is set to debut for our European readers, the big question mark will be whether the small sport bike will come to the North American markets. A spreadsheet from the EPA seems to suggest that will be the case, though it points to a carbureted Kawasaki Ninja 205R and fuel-injected Kawasaki Ninja 400R coming to the US as well, making for one impacted learner-bike market. Meanwhile, reports from Canada confirm that their 250R will also be of the carbureted variety.

The news confirms out suspicion that the Ninja 250R will remain the under-powered, and standard-styled, carbureted learner-bike it has always been in North America, while the Ninja 300 becomes the peppy small-displacement sport bike that we haven’t realized that we will lust over later this fall. Presumably then, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 will go head-to-head with the CBR250R and upcoming KTM Moto3-inspired street bike, among other models.

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