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.

Up-Close with the Suter MMX 500

07/10/2017 @ 9:55 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Up-Close with the Suter MMX 500

By my nature, I am a critical person. This isn’t exactly a desirable personality trait, but it serves me well in my chosen profession. Accordingly, I rarely ever use words like “perfect” or “flawless” when describing something. It’s just not in my nature.

From my lens, there is always room for improvement. But, when it comes to seeing the Suter MMX 500 up-close and in person, I had to rethink my usual choice of words. I will sidestep superlatives and simply say that the Suter MMX 500 is a true rider’s motorcycle.

On the Suter MMX 500, there are no electronic rider aids, no ride-by-wire throttles, no kickstands, mirrors, or lights. There is nothing on this machine that doesn’t serve a purpose, and the only acceptable purpose is to go as fast as possible.

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Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Saturday by Jensen Beeler

07/10/2017 @ 12:31 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Saturday by Jensen Beeler

Saturday at Laguna Seca, I spent my time working the fence line from Turn 1 to Turn 2, catching the World Superbike riders as they came down the harrowing fast T1 section, before hitting the double-apex that is T2 – also known as the Andretti Hairpin.

Turn 1 is easily the fastest part of the Californian track, and it is a section of tarmac where the MotoGP riders would get both wheels off the ground…at nearly full lean. The WorldSBK machines don’t quite hit the same speeds at the GP bikes, but don’t be fooled – this is a corner that separates the men from the boys.

Turn 2 on the other hand is one of the slowest places at Laguna Seca, as riders make a double-apex turn out of the left-hander, and then accelerate to Turn 3 – often popping a wheelie in the process.

If T1 shows a rider’s mettle, T2 shows a bike’s prowess, and it is plain for everyone to see who has their electronics dialed, and who does not.

The juxtaposition of these two turns was my playground for FP3, while I spent both Superpole sessions in pit lane, shooting the front straight and team pit boxes. Meanwhile for the race, I chose to shoot the grid, as it meant I could still watch the racing action from the media center.

I hope you enjoy these high-resolution shots from my Saturday at Laguna Seca.

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Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Friday by Jensen Beeler

07/09/2017 @ 1:51 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Friday by Jensen Beeler

I should call this the “going left” gallery, as there isn’t much diversity in perspective, as all of the photos attached here were taken from the same vantage point: the inside portion The Corkscrew (Turn 8) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

A popular feature to this coastal Californian track, The Corkscrew provides plenty of spectacle for fans, but it finds its true zenith when World Superbike riders are in circulation.

The approach to Turn 8 is a fast uphill stretch, about as much of a “back straight” as Laguna Seca has to offer, and the crest of the hill sees the faster rider’s lofting the rear wheel ever so slightly, as they begin to get on the brakes.

As they get closer to the entrance of the iconic turn – a mostly blind approach I should point out – the late-brakers will again bring the rear wheel off the ground, as they threshold brake into first apex, which only reveals itself at the very last moment.

Hitting the left-hander at the top of the hill, and the right-hander on the way down, there really isn’t a chance for the suspension pieces on these bikes to react, add in a quick downshift during the left-right transition, along with some trail-braking at the top of hill, and it is easy to see why this corner is so highly regarded.

Seemingly proving the point, in just the single session I shot here, we had two red flag moments, as both Red Bull Honda riders threw their bikes down The Corkscrew’s drop in elevation. For newer riders, the challenge is even greater.

Apologies in advance for the late posting, as I spent the better part of Saturday battling an uncooperative Adobe Lightroom. I hope you enjoy these high-resolution shots from Friday at Laguna Seca.

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IOMTT: The Final TT Race Day with Tony Goldsmith

06/11/2017 @ 1:10 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: The Final TT Race Day with Tony Goldsmith

Superstock TT & Lightweight TT with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2017 @ 10:55 pm, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on Superstock TT & Lightweight TT with Tony Goldsmith

IOMTT: Supersport TT & Sidecar TT with Tony Goldsmith

06/06/2017 @ 12:48 pm, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: Supersport TT & Sidecar TT with Tony Goldsmith

IOMTT: Handley’s Corner, Gorse Lea, & The Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith

06/03/2017 @ 10:14 pm, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: Handley’s Corner, Gorse Lea, & The Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith

A Shooter’s Guide to the Isle of Man TT

06/02/2017 @ 1:31 pm, by Steve EnglishComments Off on A Shooter’s Guide to the Isle of Man TT

Asphalt & Rubber readers have been enjoying Tony Goldsmith's work for years, but how does the Manxman approach his home race?

The Isle of Man TT is a race unlike any other, and for A&R's Tony Goldsmith, it provides a unique challenge. Having grown up on the island, Tony has only missed a couple of TTs in his life, and for those he has a good excuse, “I was doing my exams in school so I had to miss a TT when I was a kid.”

Other than that, his experience offers him a massive benefit during a fortnight of practice and racing, where his native land becomes the centre of the motorcycling world.

With a 37.73-mile circuit, one lap of the TT circuit is more than half the distance of a MotoGP race, and that places a real challenge on the photographer.

“I don't really prepare for TT, by saying what days I will shoot at different sections,” says Goldsmith. “Maybe a lot of that is because I spend most of the year talking to my friend Stephen McClements about places that I've not been to before, and where he's been that's good."

"I do try and not go to the same places every year, because I want my library of photos to be as complete as possible for the whole TT."

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IOMTT: Ballagarey & Gorse Lea with Tony Goldsmith

06/01/2017 @ 1:34 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: Ballagarey & Gorse Lea with Tony Goldsmith

Sunday at Donington Park with Tony Goldsmith

05/29/2017 @ 11:29 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on Sunday at Donington Park with Tony Goldsmith