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.

Leon Camier, MV Agusta’s Secret Weapon

10/11/2017 @ 11:55 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

It has been over four years since Leon Camier last stood on the WorldSBK podium, but since Silverstone 2013 the Englishman has been able to do something remarkable; rebuild his reputation without having the silverware to show for it.

Having raced for Aprilia and Suzuki following his 2009 British Superbike title success, Camier was left high and dry for 2014 and had to take on the role of super-sub for the season.

It must have been a humbling experience for Camier, but it has certianly made him a stronger and more rounded racer, and since joining MV Augusta in 2015 he been the focal point of their WorldSBK programme.

“The bike has evolved from when I first rode it,” said Camier. “It was not a very good race bike at the start and now it is really quite competitive."

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Jake Gagne, About Getting the Call

10/06/2017 @ 11:22 am, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

In our latest look at road racing in the United States, we talked to Jake Gagne about the challenges facing an American rider trying to make his way to Europe. Previously we talked to Wayne Rainey, about how MotoAmerica is nurturing talent. You should give that a read too. -JB

Motorcycle racing needs its next American star. The lineage of world-class US riders has been long and storied over the years. That well of talent has dried up in recent years and the nation has been left waiting patiently for their next star.

From the days when King Kenny Roberts first left the US and went to Europe, there has been a constant torrent of talent from the West, but that torrent became a stream and most recently a shuck.

With the flow of racing talent having been directed off-road over the last ten years, it seems as though MotoAmerica might have once again given American riders a setting upon which to build their careers.

“I grew up racing motocross, and I was able to win some amateur championships,” said Jake Gange prior to the Magny Cours round of WorldSBK.

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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.

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Ducati Panigale V4 – What’s More Than A Name?

09/05/2017 @ 6:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Over the long weekend, we got our first real glimpse of Ducati's new V4 superbike - just a few days ahead of the company's debut of its new V4 engine, which has been named the Desmosedici Stradale.

This is not the name of Ducati's new superbike, as some outlets have been reporting, instead we learned the name of the actual motorcycle, at the same time the spy photo dropped. It will be called the Ducati Panigale V4.

Though the letters are blurry, and the photo is disappointing of low-quality, just knowing this new superbike's name tells us a great deal about Ducati's new superbike program, and where the brand is headed for the future.

When spy photos of the Panigale V4 first debuted, it was obvious that the machine captured by photographers took a number of visual cues from its predecessor.

This wasn't a test mule in sheep's clothing however, with there being enough key differences in the bodywork shape for it to be obvious that Ducati was keeping the general look and feel of the Panigale for its V4 successor.

Now with Ducati recycling the Panigale name, it is clear that the Bologna factory isn't quite ready to do away with its namesake. This is an interesting development for the Italian brand.

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Triumph’s Bid to Take Over the World with Bajaj

08/09/2017 @ 11:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I'm not sure that the news of Triumph partnering with Bajaj quite made the impact on the motorcycle industry that it deserves.

Maybe it is because we have seen Triumph misstep with smaller displacement machines in the past (with an Indian partner, no less), or perhaps it is because the press release penned by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor was utterly incomprehensible, and devoid of any concrete facts.

Either way, the news is worth spilling some more pixels over, because there is a bit at stake in the coming years for the motorcycle OEMs, and Triumph just made a bid for sizable land grab for it.

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The Herculean Task of Fixing World Superbike

07/13/2017 @ 10:07 am, by Kent BrockmanComments Off on The Herculean Task of Fixing World Superbike

After Laguna Seca, the future of World Superbike was once again questioned. Asking the right question may be more important than finding the right answer, though.

“I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work,” so said this intrepid reporter when faced with reports that Bart's Comet would bring destruction to Springfield. It was a time of uncertainty and peril for America's greatest city, but one from which it recovered by maintaining the status quo. 

While the WorldSBK paddock isn't standing on Mount Springfield singing Que Sera Sera, and waiting for the comet to hit, it is facing a moment of truth about where the series is heading.

It's always easier to swim with the tide, but for WorldSBK patience and thoroughness are more important than being swift and decisive and making the wrong decision.

Since Imola, the WorldSBK paddock has been filled with rumor and counter rumor about the direction that the series will take. Will there be a spec-ECU, will there be concessions for different manufacturer, will there be testing restrictions placed on the successful teams?

The list of possibilities has been the talk of the paddock with Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta even suggesting making the series into a Stock class, but what is actually best for WorldSBK?

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Peter Hickman, The Makings of a Future TT Star

06/19/2017 @ 8:05 am, by Steve EnglishComments Off on Peter Hickman, The Makings of a Future TT Star

Four years ago, Peter Hickman was a mid-pack British Superbike rider whose career was looking for a spark. He found that spark at the Isle of Man TT. Fast-forward to current time, and Peter Hickman has already established his road racing credentials prior to this year's Isle of Man TT.

With victories at the Ulster Grand Prix and Macau Grand Prix, Hickman had shown that he has the speed, but five podiums at this year's TT has cemented his reputation as a front-runner on the roads.

Success hasn't come easy to the three-time British Superbike race-winner though, and after claiming a second place finish in this year's Senior TT race, he made it clear how much this TT had meant to him.

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Paul Phillips Talks About The Isle of Man TT Revival

06/09/2017 @ 12:16 am, by Steve EnglishComments Off on Paul Phillips Talks About The Isle of Man TT Revival

The Isle of Man TT has gone full circle. From the biggest race in the world, to a struggling to survive annual, and now it is back on top seeing record numbers of fans worldwide.

In this story, Asphalt & Rubber talks with Paul Phillips, the TT & Motorsport Development Manager for the Isle of Man Government, about the revival of this iconic fortnight of racing.

At the turn of the century, the Isle of Man TT was at a crossroads. The most unique and historic event on the motorcycle racing calendar was under pressure with a lack of coverage and dwindling interest in the event.

With the TT now back at the height of its power, the event has drawn in a new generation of fans and the future looks brighter than ever.

Paul Phillips has been largely credited with being central to the renaissance of the Isle of Man TT, as the Manxman has overseen the revival of the TT to the biggest fortnight of the British biking calendar.

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Josh Brookes – The Mentality of a TT Racer

06/08/2017 @ 1:05 am, by Steve EnglishComments Off on Josh Brookes – The Mentality of a TT Racer

One of the most common questions about the TT is “how does it feel?” Asphalt & Rubber sat down with Josh Brookes at the 2017 Isle of Man TT to find an answer to that question.

Josh Brookes is as experienced as any short-circuit rider currently plying their trade. As a former Australian and British Superbike champion, World Supersport race winner, Suzuka 8-Hour podium finisher, and WorldSBK race winner, his CV is impressive, but it counted for very little when he made his debut at the Isle of Man TT in 2013.

That year, the Australian left the island with a lap record for the fastest newcomer, and his reputation enhanced as the most exciting up and coming rider at the TT.

He also left with an itch that has continued to require scratching. His return in 2014 saw him ride a Yamaha and claim a Top 10 finish at the Senior TT, but since then circumstances have forced him to the sidelines.

“I love the TT,” beamed Brookes. “I can now remember clearer just now much of a disappointment it was when I wasn’t able to come back in 2015. Having a year off as well, it meant that I fell back into my old ways of just focusing on short-circuit."

"Last year being in WorldSBK meant that all my focus was on that, and it took away some of the disappointment of missing the TT. I did come over last year during the TT, and we went trial riding across the island to watch the races."

"When we were watching all the other riders on track, it really started to sink in that I’d rather be riding than watching. Just riding the event isn't enough for me; I need something more.”

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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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