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.

Superstock TT & Lightweight TT with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2017 @ 10:55 pm, by Tony GoldsmithADD COMMENTS

IOMTT: Bennetts Lightweight TT Results

06/07/2017 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Wednesday’s second race for the day saw the small bikes of the Bennetts Lightweight TT take to the Mountain Course for the 2017 Isle of Man TT.

The four-lap race saw Michael Rutter finish on the top step of the podium, giving Italian marque Paton its first manufacturer win ever at the Isle of Man TT. In the process of that victory (Rutter’s fifth total), Rutter set a new Lightweight TT record, posting a 118.645 mph lap.

Rutter lead the entire race, from the starter’s flag to the checkered flag, with Martin Jessopp finishing second, and Peter Hickman finishing third.

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Michael Dunlop had a new engine flown in by private jet, and was up till gone 4am on the morning of the race fitting the engine.

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Ivan Lintin, the winner of the Lighweight TT, was spectacular over Ballaugh Bridge.

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William Dunlop was 2nd in the TT Zero on the Victory.

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IOMTT: Bennetts Lightweight TT Race Results

06/09/2016 @ 7:46 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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Last to go on Wednesday for the Isle of Man TT, the Bennetts Lightweight TT features “super twin” four-stroke machines, of up to 650cc in displacement.

The weapon of choice in the class has been the Kawasaki Ninja 650, but that is slowly changing. Gary Johnson, for instance, has made a good show of things with the Chinese CF Moto.

Though any rider can compete in the Lightweight TT category, the class is seen by many as a stepping stone onto a supersport or bigger bike. As such, many of the TT’s upcoming stars feature in the Lightweight TT.

A four-lap race this year, the Lightweight TT in the past has been a three-lap contest, which brought a bit of strategy into play on when to take a pit stop. Now four laps, that intrigue has been removed, but given riders a more difficult contest on machines not designed for racing.

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2016 Isle of Man TT Schedule Revised

07/07/2015 @ 2:33 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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It’s been 2015 Isle of Man TT since the Isle of Man TT, but preparations are already underway for the 2016 event.

Announcing a new timetable of events for the 2016 Isle of Man TT, the Manx organizers have made it so the solo class and sidecar class champions crowned on the same day.

Accordingly, this means that the Senior TT will remain on the final Friday (June 10th) of racing, capping the fantastic road racing event, but now it will be joined by the second Sidecar TT race as well, which will lead the final day’s activities.

Making way for the sidecars, the Lightweight TT will be moved to the now vacant racing slot, on Wednesday (June 8th). Additionally, the TT race organizers have made the Lightweight TT a four-lap race, so as to reflect the growing popularity and stature of the class.

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For the final day of racing at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, and I headed to the north of the Island, as I had a brief to photograph the Lightweight race from the Ginger Hall section in Sulby. Just after the Sulby Straight, the Ginger Hall is very popular with fans, mainly due to the pub that gives the section its name.

After the Lightweight race, I drove the few miles to Ramsey and to the spectacular Milntown jump. From there, it was a brief stop at Parliament Square in the center of Ramsey before driving back to the Grandstand for the podium celebrations.

Above: John McGuinness plants a kiss on the Senior TT trophy.

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IOMTT: Bennetts Lightweight TT Race Results

06/12/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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The final day of racing at the Isle of Man TT is usually set by two extremes: the “beginner class” Lightweight TT and the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.

The rules for the Bennetts Lightweight TT are pretty simple, bikes with two-cylinders, no bigger than 650cc, and the riders must perform at least one pit stop during the three-lap race.

This means that pit stop strategy is king for the Lightweight riders, and the shuffling of positions adds a bit of drama to the usually tight racing already found on the course.

The man to beat in the Lightweight TT class is Ryan Farquhar, one of the top privateer riders at the TT (if not, the top privateer). Farquhar is responsible for tuning and building many of the top Kawasaki race bikes on the Lightweight TT grid as well, though other brands and builders have started to find competitiveness in the class.

Not to spoil the results for the Senior TT, but Friday would see records drop at the Isle of Man, and we start that trend off first in the Bennetts Lightweight TT.

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IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge with Richard Mushet

06/08/2014 @ 5:13 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

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For what was to be the final day of this year’s TT races, I decided to stick to habit/tradition and shoot the Lightweight and Senior races from Ballaugh bridge, around 17 miles into the Mountain Course.

After passing through Kirk Michael and the famous Rhencullen jump, the riders quickly find themselves approaching the famous humpback bridge. With a variety of lines and methods of taking this unique obstacle, there are plenty of thrills for the gathered spectators.

From the measured approach of Bruce Anstey, who takes very little air and lands the front wheel down before the rear, to the balls out air time of Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes and newcomer Phil Crowe, there is such a difference in styles between the field.

For a photographer at Ballaugh, there are a couple of main challenges. The shadows created by the trees at the side of the bridge make it quite tricky to expose the bikes and background correctly because it can leave the dark tarmac looking washed-out and far too bright when the sun is stronger. This leaves you constantly altering the settings on your camera to keep the images as evenly lit as possible.

The second issue to deal with is keeping track of approaching riders – like most places on the course you can hear the screaming engines begin to ease off and shift through the gearbox, but when multiple riders approach it always helps to spot the order they are in to shoot the leaders or other specific riders. By following the top of approaching helmets through the hedges, you have a fighting chance to capture the right rider.

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IOMTT: Bikenation Lightweight TT Race Results

06/06/2014 @ 4:05 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Friday’s Isle of Man TT racing started off with the Bike Nation Lightweight TT, where the field is comprised of two-cylinder four-stroke machines that cannot have more than 650cc in engine capacity — as such, the field is dominated by Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport bikes.

A race fit for grooming the future talent of the Isle of Man TT, the Lightweight TT sees the big name stars in its ranks as well, though the field is comprised mostly of greener riders. One man noticeably absent from the Lightweight TT grid was Michael Dunlop, who decided to sit out the race and focus on the day’s later race, the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.

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After an impressive four victories at the 2013 Isle of Man TT, Michael Dunlop has announced his entry into the Lightweight TT race for 2014, and thus a bid to win six solo races in 2014.

Although Dunlop has admittedly not been concerned with the Lightweight TT in the past, when you’re on a mission to take six podiums in one week, you take wins wherever you can get them.

Having already tied Phillip McCallen’s 1996 mark of four wins, Dunlop is seeking to dethrone Ian Hutchinson from his five-win campaign of 2010.

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