Ben Spies Making a Return to Motorcycle Racing?

Could we see the return of Ben Spies to motorcycle racing? That’s the talk of the paddock right now, and the former MotoGP racer is helping fuel the fires with his social media posts. Our sources point to Spies gearing up for a return to domestic racing, as he looks to ride in the MotoAmerica Championship (presumably on a superbike), and possibly also as a team owner as well, fielding his own entry. This should come as a surprising but welcomed bit of news to motorcycle racing fans, as the 33-year-old seemingly retired from motorcycle racing after the 2013 MotoGP Championship season, after extensive damage to his shoulders seemed to rule him out of a future of racing motorcycles.

Ducati Will Stay as a Part of Volkswagen

Reports out of Italy are confirming the news that Ducati will remain as a part of the Volkswagen Group, with the German company ceasing its pursuits of divesting the Italian motorcycle company from its ranks. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following Ducati’s business situation, as reports of the divestiture stalling out were circulating this time last month. The news seems to come with a bonus, with Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali reportedly confirming the news internally (other reports quote Audi CEO Rupert Stadler doing the same as well). With that, Evercore Partners – the investment bank that was hired to solicit bids on Ducati Motor Holding – will stop pursuing brands that may want to see Ducati within their corporate holdings.

Rumor: Street-Touring Version of the Kawasaki H2 Coming?

I like this rumor. I like what this rumor says. And, I like that this rumor doesn’t seem to go away. The scuttlebutt of the motorcycle industry right now is suggesting that the street-shredding Kawasaki Ninja H2 might be joined by a sport-touring variant. This Kawasaki Ninja H2 GT – as some are calling it – takes the potent supercharged liter-bike, and makes it a little bit better suited for long-distance riding…well, as better suited to touring that a 200hp+ fire-breathing motorcycle can be. It remains to be seen how Kawasaki plans to expand its supercharger lineup of motorcycles: whether these rumored new machines will vary slightly in form-factor to accommodate different kinds of riding (using the current H2 as a platform for new models), or if Kawasaki will debut an all-new chassis design for these rumored motorcycles.

Solid-State Batteries, A Game-Changer for EVs?

This week’s big news is that California is looking at how it can join China, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in the banning of internal combustion engines in the coming decade(s), a move that will surely be a shot in the arm for electric vehicles. While the social and political pressures are coming into alignment for electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the technology for these next-generation vehicles is still not fully baked, and the biggest rate-limiter for EVs are their batteries. That is about to change, however, with solid-state batteries (a battery that has both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes) looking like the silver bullet that could make electric vehicles comparable in performance and price to their internal combustion counterparts.

Investigator Releases Report on Nicky Hayden Crash

On May 17th, 2017, Nicky Hayden was out training on his bicycle, near the Adriatic Coast, when he was struck by car in an intersection very close to the Misano World Circuit. The incident would prove to be a fateful one, and send ripples through the motorcycle industry, as Hayden died five days later in a hospital outside of Rimini, Italy. Since then, the accident has been under investigation by the local prosecutor, and the results of that forensic investigation have now been released to the public. Reconstructing the incident through statements made by the driver, eyewitnesses, and CCTV video footage, the investigation has found fault on both sides of the crash – assigning 30% of the blame to Nicky Hayden, for running the stop sign, and 70% of the blame to the driver, for excessive speed.

California Considers Killing Internal Combustion

Bloomberg is reporting that California Governor Jerry Brown is considering ways to ban the sale of vehicles that use internal combustion engines – a move that could have massive implications not only for vehicle sales, the environment, but potentially the motorcycle industry as well. Still in the early days of consideration, the news comes from remarks made by Mary Nichols, who is the Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and her remarks and relaying of thought from Gov. Brown don’t make it clear if the ban would apply only to passenger vehicles, or if it would include modes of transportation like trucks, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles. However, the move mimics similar bans that we have already seen in places like China, and follows a trend that is catching on in European countries as well.

MV Agusta F4 LH44 Limited Edition Debuts

Italian motorcycle maker MV Agusta, and Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton have re-upped their contract for collaboration, and one of the first fruits of that labor is a limited edition MV Agusta F4 superbike. Confirming our story from earlier today, the MV Agusta F4 LH44 picks up where the MV Agusta Dragster RR LH44 left off, adding Hamilton’s “unique” tastes and stylings to MV Agusta’s tapestry of motorcycles. Like with the MV Agusta F4 RC, the exercise is primarily visual, though like on the RC edition, MV Agusta adds its race kit to the package, which is good for a claimed 212hp. The big technical change of note is the titanium race exhaust from SC Project, which does away with the beautiful four-pipe undertail exhaust that Massimo Tamburini made famous.

Eugene Laverty Explains His 2017 WorldSBK Season

A return to World Superbike, with the bike that he came so close to winning the championship on – it all appeared like a dream opportunity for Eugene Laverty, to put himself into a position to win the title. The dream quickly turned to a nightmare, and from the start of winter testing it was clear that major work needed to be done to return the RSV4 to the front. Moving to the Milwaukee Aprilia squad understandably led to heightened expectations. In their second year in WorldSBK, the former British Superbike champions were expected to make a leap forward. Teething problems were expected with the switch from BMW to Aprilia, but not the struggles that lay ahead. “During the winter you can go in the wrong direction with the bike,” commented Laverty. “Unfortunately, that was the case for us.”

Superbike Deathmatch Round #1: Aprilia vs. Ducati

Hello and welcome to the first installment of 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 the A&R Superbike of 2017. For those just tuning into the Superbike Deathmatch, the rules are easy. In each round, two bikes enter the race track, but only one bike leaves. We have six motorcycles from the eight superbike manufacturers on the market. For our first round, we have started things off with a special treat, and a battle for the right to call a bike the “Best Italian Superbike” on the market. That’s right, we are going to pit the Ducati 1299 Panigale S against the Aprilia RSV4 RF.

Photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Leak Online

What you see here are early leaked photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing – one of the most successful and important motorcycles for the Western markets. Honda is expected to debut this new model at a media event in October, but our friends at MaxxMoto and Oliepeil managed to get their dirty Dutch-speaking mits on these low-res gems, ahead of time. Beyond the styling refresh, the most obvious change that we can see for the Honda Goldwing is the new front-end, which appears to be a Hossack-styled design – similar to what BMW uses on its K-series motorcycles. The engine continues to be a flat-six, from the view in the photos, though we can expect some changes to the massive block – likely with fewer emissions, maybe with more torque/power.

Jonathan Rea is the 2017 World Superbike Champion

09/30/2017 @ 6:36 pm, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

History was made at Magny-Cours today, when Jonathan Rea claimed an unprecedented third WorldSBK championship in a row. It was a momentous day for the Northern Irishman, who also notched up the 50th victory of his career.

“To be honest I can’t sum up my emotions,” said the triple champion. “I just feel super proud of my team and Kawasaki.”

“It has been such a team effort, and even though I’m the guy who rode it over the line, there have been so many people involved to make it possible. Every season is different and special in its own individual way.”

Continue Reading

WorldSBK Race Results from Magny-Cours – Race 1

09/30/2017 @ 6:02 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Swapping Rea for Iannone – An Idea Abandoned

09/21/2017 @ 1:36 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Andrea Iannone has been something of an enigma since joining Suzuki. The Italian was blisteringly quick last year on the Ducati, which is one of the reasons Ducati took so long to choose between him and Andrea Dovizioso, after they signed Jorge Lorenzo to the factory team.

He was fast when he jumped on the Suzuki GSX-RR for the first time at the Valencia test, then carried that speed to Sepang, where he finished as second quickest overall.

Things have gone downhill since then. The Italian slipped down the order at the Phillip Island, then trailed further behind at the Qatar test.

His season has gone from bad to worse since racing started: he has five DNFs from 13 races, and when he finishes, he usually ends up around tenth. His best result so far has been a seventh place in Texas, but that was the exception, not the rule.

He currently sits in sixteenth in the championship, with a paltry 33 points. Iannone, race-winner in Austria last year, sits behind both Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rookies, and behind a total of seven riders on satellite bikes.

His rookie teammate, who has spent most of the season banged up with injury, is threatening to beat him more and more regularly. How to solve an issue like Andrea Iannone?

There has been one possible solution floating around since early summer. The basic concept is a surprising, yet surprisingly logical, swap.

The idea was that Andrea Iannone would be shipped off to World Superbikes to ride the Kawasaki of Jonathan Rea, while Rea would take Iannone’s place on the Ecstar Suzuki in MotoGP.

Continue Reading

Tom Sykes had to sit out the Portimão round for World Superbike this past weekend, after the Kawasaki rider had a fiery crash during Saturday’s FP3 session.

The crash saw Sykes fracturing his little finger and ring finger on his left hand, and it required him to have surgery on Sunday, at the Clínica Mi Tres Torres in Barcelona.

Sykes’ recovery isn’t expected to take long, as the Doctors in Spain fitted a plate on his finger, and he could be back on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR race bike as early as the next round, at Magny-Cours.

Continue Reading

Portimão WorldSBK Debrief – Sunday

09/18/2017 @ 12:36 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

Jonathan Rea took another step towards retaining the World Superbike championship, after a dominant weekend at the Portuguese round of the series. In Race 2, the Northern Irishman took longer to hit the front, but the end result was the same: 25 points.

The victory saw Rea extend his title lead to 120 points over his Kawasaki teammate, Tom Sykes. With the Englishman sitting out this weekend due to injury, Rea’s path to the title was given an unexpected boost, but overall it was business as usual for the 30-year-old.

In claiming his 34th Kawasaki victory, Rea became the Japanese manufacturer’s most successful rider of all time, but it wasn’t plain sailing for Rea.

Continue Reading

WorldSBK Race Results from Portimão – Race 2

09/18/2017 @ 12:13 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Portimão WorldSBK Debrief – Saturday

09/17/2017 @ 1:16 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

Race 1 in Portimao may have produced a lights-to-flag victory for Jonathan Rea, but Saturday also produced plenty of drama.

Rea’s teammate, Tom Sykes, has been forced to sit out the weekend after fracturing a finger in a nasty crash during FP3. The 2013 WorldSBK champion highsided over the top of Jones’ Leap, was thrown from his Kawasaki, and left battered and bruised from the crash.

Having been given some strong pain medication, it was ruled that Sykes would be unfit for the rest of the weekend. The Englishman was in low spirits after the incident but should be back in full fitness in the year future.

Continue Reading

WorldSBK Race Results from Portimão – Race 1

09/17/2017 @ 12:55 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Paddock Pass Podcast #59 – WorldSBK Update

09/15/2017 @ 8:23 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 59 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Steve English on the mics, as they catch us up on the happenings in the World Superbike Championship paddock.

There has been a bit to cover since our last WorldSBK episode, but the boys take a mile-high view of the production racing class, with Steve adding tremendous insight from his work in the WorldSBK paddock the last two seasons.

The show starts with a discussion about the have’s and the have not’s in the paddock, which obviously includes the two big manufacturers, Kawasaki and Ducati, who are dominating the series.

While talking about how the other OEMs can catch up to the red and green bikes, there is a good comparison that can be made between World Superbike and MotoGP, as both series have to deal with transition in modern racing, which David is able to expand upon with his current status in grand prix racing.

Getting into some rumors, there is discussion of who will be riding where in 2018, as well as which teams will be expanding their efforts in WorldSBK, and which manufacturers could be re-joining the series (*cough* Suzuki *cough*).

It’s another great show from the Paddock Pass crew, and you won’t want to miss it.

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

Jonathan Rea Talks About His Success in WorldSBK

09/12/2017 @ 4:19 pm, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

At the British Grand Prix, two-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea sat down to talk about his standing in racing, and if he thinks he could cut it in MotoGP.

“It's been a great weekend here at Silverstone, and I've been made to feel very welcome by everyone,” said Rea. “It was a nice feeling to have team managers, riders, journalists that I respect say 'you should be here.' It's nice to hear that and it's been great to see that the journalists here are really interested in WorldSBK.”

Sitting down with media from the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia, the interest level in the double-WorldSBK champion was clear from the outset.

For 20 minutes Rea held court and offered his thoughts on his own career path, the strength of production-based racing and the challenges facing WorldSBK.

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.