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.

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In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc MarquezValentino RossiJorge LorenzoDani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, and Pol Espargaro.

7th – 126 points – Aleix Espargaro

After being the best CRT rider two years running, all Aleix Espargaro wanted was to get a chance to test himself against the best riders on the world on equal machinery.

In 2014, he came very close to doing just that. Riding the Forward Yamaha – basically a 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1 with bodywork, triple clamps, linkage, and other peripheral parts built by FTR – in the Open class put the elder Espargaro brother on a bike which was fast enough to scare factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo into demanding that Yamaha seriously consider switching to the Open class.

As the season progressed, it would become apparent that there were still serious performance differences between the Forward Yamaha and the factory bikes. Yet Aleix Espargaro still ended the year having impressed a lot of people, and earning himself a factory ride for 2015.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Espargaro generated a lot of excitement during preseason testing, consistently elbowing his way into the top five, and topping the Qatar test when the factory riders were absent.

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It seems the rumors out of Indianapolis were true, as Colin Edwards’ role at the NGM Forward team has come to awkward end. Officially “retiring early” Edwards will continue to ride for the team by “doing some wild cards,” according to the team press release. The only round confirmed by the team is Silverstone, though Edwards says he will ride at Valencia as well.

“It has been a great weekend here at Indy with lots of support from the family, the friends and the team,” said Edwards. “I’m not 100% certain about how many races I will do till the end of the season but for sure I will be in Silverstone, weather [sic] I will be racing or not.”

“I have a big fans support there and I cannot miss this appointment. I am thinking about my future, the different possibilities. I’m happy and I look forward to the second part of my life,” concluded the Texas Tornado.

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For Sale: Colin Edwards’ CRT MotoGP Race Bike

05/29/2014 @ 4:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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A failed experiment, it may have been, but one good thing to come from the Claiming Rule Team (CRT) regulations in MotoGP was the ability for private teams to own the GP machines they were racing, rather than be victim to the lease programs imposed by the factories.

As a result, from time-to-time we get to see these truly special motorbikes come on the market, and today is one such occasion. Listed for sale on eBay is the Forward Racing’s Kawasaki-FTR race bike that was campaigned by Colin Edwards during the 2013 MotoGP season.

For those who don’t know, the Kawasaki-FTR MotoGP bike uses an engine from a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, which has been built out by France’s venerable Akira tuning house, as well as a custom chassis that has been built by the UK’s FTR-Moto.

With a dry weight of 157 kg (346 lbs), and a peak horsepower figure of 245+ horsepower at the crank, this might be the ultimate Kawasaki on the market.

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With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 – barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment – battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes – the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries – are all taken, the privateer machines – using Dorna spec-ECU software and extra fuel – are still mostly up for grabs.

The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda’s production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are a heavily modified version of Aprilia’s RSV4 superbike.

Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.

The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec-ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams.

Given just how good the 2013 M1 is – Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums – it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.

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With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.

In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.

For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.

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With the available seats at the teams with factory prototypes all now full with the exception of the final satellite Honda – most likely a toss-up between Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista at Gresini Honda, though rumors persist of Marc VDS Racing taking the Honda RC213V from Gresini and fielding Redding in their own team – attention has now turned to the CRT grid, and the available seats being filled there.

At Misano, two teams announced their plans for 2013. On Thursday, the NGM Forward squad announced they had persuaded Colin Edwards to stay for another season, meaning that the Texan will remain in MotoGP for another year. The team is to finish the 2012 season on the Suter BMW, before making a decision on which bike to use for 2013. The team had been considering a switch to the Aprilia ART machine, but promises of an expanded testing program and more development have kept Forward on board for the rest of the season.

The Cardion AB team will be using the Aprilia ART, however. Today, the team officially confirmed that they would not be continuing with Ducati and would be switching to an Aprilia ART machine. The team will work in partnership with Aprilia and the Aspar team to help develop the Aprilia, in preparation for the new rules in 2014, which will see a rev limit and spec ECU imposed. Karel Abraham will remain the rider for the team.

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Q&A with Colin Edwards & Nicky Hayden

08/13/2012 @ 3:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Late last week, Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a teleconference with MotoGP riders Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden, helping gear us up for this coming weekend’s Indianapolis GP. We couldn’t make the call, since I was busy freezing my ass off on some mountain in Colorado, but the good folks at IMS were kind enough to transcribe the interview, and share it with us.

With the teleconference taking place just before the announcement that Valentino Rossi would be leaving Ducati at the end of the season, and joining Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha, Hayden had to field a couple questions regarding the 2012 MotoGP Silly Season and his teammate for next year.  Of course, Hayden also fielded questions about Audi’s Lamborghini’s acquisition of Ducati, and how that would affect Ducati Corse’s MotoGP efforts.

The interview sheds some good insight into what is happening with Colin Edwards at the NGM Forward Racing team, which has struggled with its BMW/Suter CRT package all season. Forward Racing is expected to make a switch to an Aprilia ART bike at Indy, which so far has been the most competent CRT package on the 2012 grid, and the topic the CRTs vs the Prototypes is one Edwards talks about at length. Perhaps most interesting is Edwards’ take on the American road racing landscape, and the geopolitical issues within the MotoGP paddock.

Continue after the jump for the full transcript of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway teleconference.

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Silly Season has hit full swing in Germany, not just for the MotoGP class but for the support classes as well. And while movements in MotoGP are mainly about what is happening next year, in Moto2 and Moto3 – and even among the CRT machines – there is some serious rider swapping going on for the rest of this season.

In MotoGP, the next two key movements just got a lot closer. Dani Pedrosa is now very close to staying with the Repsol Honda team, telling Spanish journalists that he would sign a new two-year contract with HRC either here in the Sachsenring or at Mugello at the latest. His priority had been to stay on a bike he felt he could win with, telling the Spanish newspaper ABC earlier this week that Honda and Yamaha had been his only realistic options. The Ducati, he said rather pointedly, was more something a rider might consider before their retirement.

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MotoGP: Vermeulen in for Edwards at Le Mans

05/09/2012 @ 8:30 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Chris Vermeulen has been named as the replacement for Colin Edwards in the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team for the Le Mans round of MotoGP. Edwards broke his left collarbone in a crash during free practice at Estoril, and has decided after surgery to skip the French Grand Prix, and return at Barcelona in early June.

Vermeulen has been named as replacement for Edwards because of the Australian’s prior experience on a MotoGP bike. Vermeulen spent four years in MotoGP with the factory Suzuki team, and spent all that time using Bridgestone tires. Vermeulen also has form at Le Mans: he won his only Grand Prix at the circuit, albeit in the pouring rain in 2007. After losing his ride with Suzuki in MotoGP, Vermeulen returned to the World Superbike series to race with Kawasaki.

A series of bad crashes left the Australian struggling with a serious knee injury, and having problems racing. Just as it looked like Vermeulen may have returned to full fitness, he was left without a ride in WSBK. To return to MotoGP, on a bike still in the midst of development, places a rather heavy load on the shoulders of one who has not raced for nearly 10 months.

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Colin Edwards has broken his left collarbone in a crash during qualifying for the Portuguese MotoGP round at Estoril on Saturday. The NGM Forward rider was knocked off his bike in the latter part of qualifying practice, as he cruised around off the racing line. Randy de Puniet lost the front of his Power Electronics Aprilia machine, which slid along the track and hit Edwards’ Suter BMW. Edwards fell heavily, suffering a mild concussion and injuring his collarbone in the fall. De Puniet was taken to the medical center, where he was diagnosed with bruising to his finger, and general soreness.

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