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.

Is MotoGP Right About WorldSBK as a Talent Pool?

12/07/2017 @ 7:40 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

In my article analyzing the Jerez private tests, which took an in-depth look at the times set by the WorldSBK bikes and the MotoGP bikes, I set out several reasons why I thought Jonathan Rea would not be moving to MotoGP, despite obviously being fast enough.

Though Rea has good reasons of his own to prefer to stay in WorldSBK, a good portion of the blame lies with MotoGP team managers, I argued.

That argument was based in part on a press conference held during the last round of the season at Valencia. In that press conference, the heads of racing of the six manufacturers in MotoGP gave their view of the season.

During that press conference, On Track Off Road’s Adam Wheeler asked Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis, Ducati’s Paolo Ciabatti, and KTM’s Pit Beirer whether they regarded WorldSBK as a viable talent pool, or whether they were looking more towards Moto2 and Moto3 as the place to find new riders.

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Don’t Call It a Comeback: Suter Back in Moto2

11/29/2017 @ 2:00 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Five days after they announced they would be pulling out of Moto2 for the 2018 season, Forward Racing are dragging them back in.

Today, the Forward Racing team officially announced that they have signed a deal to race Suter chassis for 2018. Forward will be fielding Eric Granado and Stefano Manzi for the coming season.

The deal came about after Forward tested both Suter and Kalex chassis at the Jerez Moto2 test a couple of weeks ago. Granado and Manzi were fast on the Suter, and after supply problems with Kalex and KTM, the decision was made to proceed with Suter.

This took some persuading though, as Suter had to be convinced to change their mind. But after discussions between the company founder Eskil Suter and CEO Maurizio Bäumle, Suter decided to step back into the series.

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Suter Withdraws from Moto2 Championship for 2018

11/27/2017 @ 8:32 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Suter is to withdraw from the 2018 Moto2 World Championship. The Swiss chassis manufacturer was only able to attract a single team for the 2018 season, and have decided that it makes no commercial sense to continue its participation.

The Dynavolt Intact Team, which will field riders Xavi Vierge and Marcel Schrotter for 2018, will make the switch to Kalex instead. Though the decision still comes as something of a surprise, it is entirely understandable.

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The time schedule for the 2018 round of MotoGP at Qatar is to undergo a radical shake up. As we have previously reported, from next season, the time slots are to be moved up much earlier, with most of the action taking place during the day, and only the MotoGP race to take place completely at night.

The change has been made to address a range of problems at Qatar. The 2017 race came under threat when rain started falling between the end of the Moto2 race and the planned start of the MotoGP race.

Fortunately, the track dried sufficiently for the race to start with a 45 minute delay, but the later start pushed the race right into the time period during which the dew usually starts to settle on the track, rendering it treacherous. 

The dewpoint at the track has caused problems ever since the race switched to being held at night. As temperatures drop during what is the most humid (a relative term, admittedly) part of the year in Qatar.

That part of the year is also the time at which rain is most likely to fall, despite still being relatively rare. In 2017, rain caused the loss of qualifying for all three classes.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #63 – Valencia GP

11/15/2017 @ 11:22 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 63 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees Steve English, David Emmett and Neil Morrison on the mics in Spain, as they cover the final race of the MotoGP Championship season – the Valencia GP.

Of course, a big portion of the show is about the race between Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso to win the championship. Both riders put in a masterclass season of racing, though only one could be crowned World Champion at the end of it.

It also goes without saying that the show covers the very obvious team orders that Ducati Corse issued to Jorge Lorenzo, both at Valencia but also at Sepang. Would that change the course of the championship? The guys seem to think not.

Conversation is also made about the rise of Johann Zarco, Yamaha’s troubles within its factory teams, some rumors for KTM’s future, and the progress made at Aprilia and Suzuki.

Naturally, the show ends with our hosts’ biggest winners and losers for the Valencia round. Another great show from the Paddock Pass Podcast crew, so 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!

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Paddock Pass Podcast #62 – The Flyaways

11/09/2017 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 62 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison on the mics, as they cover the three flyaway races for the MotoGP Championship: Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang.

MotoGP’s stops in Asia and Australia have proven to be pivotal to the championship standings, as Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez have been battling during the latter half of the season.

Now going into the final round of the season, Marquez leads Dovizioso by 21 points, creating a do-or-die scenario for the Ducati rider at Valencia. There are only a few ways that Dovizioso can win the Championship, but during this episode, we focus on how that came to be.

Examining the results of the top riders in MotoGP, and the highlight of the flyaway races, Neil gives his insights from being at the races, while David provides is usual analysis.

The focus then turns to the Moto3 and Moto2 classes, with the show wrapping up with our winners and losers from the flyaway rounds. 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!

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GP Commission Restricts MotoGP Testing from 2018

10/18/2017 @ 3:37 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

MotoGP testing is to be further restricted from next season. At the meeting in Motegi of the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, the teams, factories, FIM, and Dorna agreed to limit the amount of testing which can be done next year and in 2019.

The 2018 testing season will look largely familiar, with a two-day test at Valencia on Tuesday and Wednesday after the race, then three three-day tests at Sepang, Thailand, and Qatar ahead of the start of the MotoGP season, and one-day tests after three of the European rounds (Jerez, Barcelona, Brno).

In 2019, the number of preseason tests will be reduced, with testing taking place only at Sepang and Qatar before the start of the season.

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When they come to write the history of the 2017 MotoGP season, one of the largest chapters is going to bear the title “Weather”. The weather continues to play an inordinately large role in the 2017 championship.

Not always on race day, perhaps, but the amount of time wasted during practice because conditions were so utterly different to Sunday has made a significant difference to the course of the championship.

Aragon was a case in point. Wet conditions on Friday meant one less day of practice for the teams. For some, that meant never finding a solution to problems which would come to plague them on race day.

For others, their first guesses at setup were pretty much spot on, the benefit of years of experience allowing for an educated guess. For the race winner, failing to find a decent setup leading to a lack of feeling was no obstacle to success. Sometimes, the will to win can overcome remarkable odds.

This lack of setup time may be the bane of the teams’ lives, but it is a boon for fans. It adds an element of unpredictability, helping to shake up the field and make the races and the championship more interesting.

The championship ain’t over till it’s over: there has been too much weirdness this year to take anything on trust.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #60 – San Marino GP

09/19/2017 @ 5:33 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 60 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison on the mics, as they cover both the San Marino GP at Misano.

Despite the absence of Valentino Rossi, who injured himself just before the race weekend, the coastal race was a busy one, as MotoGP once again saw a new championship leader emerge from Sunday’s results, Marc Marquez.

Further back in the finishing order showed some big changes for the championship title as well, with Dovizioso settling for third, Viñales getting fourth, and Pedrosa struggling just to finish a lap with his ever-cold tires.

Analyzing what this all means for the end of the season, Neil and David provide some great insights, and also discuss what is going on in the Moto2 and Moto3 categories.

After a quick talk about Moto2 and Moto3, the conversation turns to the big winners and losers of the last two rounds. 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!

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Will MotoGP survive the loss of Valentino Rossi? From the evidence of Misano, the answer is yes. According to the official figures released by Dorna, the attendance over all three days was down just 133 fans.

Not bad, when the three-day attendance was over 158,000. The Sunday numbers – a better measure, as the three-day figures are mostly derived by double and triple counting – were down a little, from 100,000 to 96,000.

Disregarding the official numbers (justifiably, as there are plenty of good reasons to suspect the books are well and truly cooked at some circuits), judging visually, the grandstands and grass banks were pretty full, almost as full as last year.

Despite the horrendous rain, which was heaviest as the fans were making their way to the circuit, and continued all the way up until the flag dropped.

Valentino Rossi is irreplaceable as an icon of the sport, known both inside and outside motorcycle racing. But the cast of characters, heroes and villains, which the sport now has, and the intense and close racing we see is enough to keep the overwhelming majority of the fans watching.

There will undoubtedly be a drop in attendance and TV figures, but on the evidence of Misano, it will be nearer a survivable 10%, not a disastrous 40%. MotoGP will survive the loss of Valentino Rossi, once he goes.

All three MotoGP classes gave the fans a reason to keep watching. The rain created a spectacle of its own, with crashes shaking up the outcomes. The early leaders crashed out in both Moto2 and MotoGP, with major consequences for the title in the Moto2 race.

Though the winner checked out early in Moto3, the battle for the podium – and as a result, for the championship – heated up behind. And both MotoGP and Moto3 were decided in the last few laps, as riders launched attacks and either saw them rebuffed, or got through to seize glory.

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