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There is no challenge like Buriram on the WorldSBK calendar. It is the hottest round of the year, and it places huge physical and mental demands on riders. With temperatures expected to be in the high 100°F’s, the sun and heat will sap the power from riders.

Leon Camier has described racing in those conditions as “brutal” in the past and he’s not wrong. To get an idea of what the riders will go through this weekend, try sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes and then imagine doing that while your heart is racing and you’re wearing leathers and a helmet.

Before travelling to Thailand, I tried to put myself into a rider’s frame of mind and the results were interesting to say the least. We’ve all heard that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s a lie. I didn’t die, but I definitely wasn’t strong afterwards!

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“There’s no replacement for displacement” in racing but what about power? In particular what about peak power and where a bike reaches it?

For WorldSBK purposes, the peak power of an engine is defined as the rev limit on the production machine, plus 3%.

Calculating this takes a little bit more math, as it requires you to average the rev limit from both the third and fourth gears, and then once this has been established, the FIM typically add an extra 3% to that RPM figure.

The rev limits are defined at the start of the championship season, but they aren’t set in stone for the duration of the championship. They can be changed at the discretion of organisers as the year progresses.

Having been introduced to much fanfare 12 months ago, the new limits are of interest again in 2019 because we have new bikes on the grid. The most newsworthy new machine is the headline grabbing Ducati Panigale V4 R, but it should be noted that  Kawasaki, BMW and Honda also have newly homologated bikes, and thus also new rev limits.

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If Tiger Woods needs a swing coach it stands to reason that even a world-class motorcycle racer needs a coach too.

Gone are the days where riders eschewed coaching - now they are embracing it. In paddocks, like in any walk of life, keeping up with the Joneses is a factor of life. When one rider makes a change, it forces others to do the same.

When world class racers got to the point of diminishing returns, like when it comes to fitness training, their focus turned to having more bike time with flat track or supermoto riding taking on extra significance.

Now it’s coaching that is taking center stage.

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“We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati. Either we find a way forward for Ducati, which provides some growth, some probably additional brands, or we have to look for new ownerships...I wouldn’t exclude that.”

Ever since Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said those words, I have been perseverating on their meaning. Many in the industry have taken Herr Diess to mean that Ducati is once again for sale, and that Ducati's time within Audi AG is coming to an end.

As Diess says himself, we can't exclude that possibility. But, what about the part of his statement that proceeds that notion?

How does one make Ducati Motor Holding more profitable? More sustainable? Better suited for the trends we are seeing in the motorcycle industry? In the changing world that transportation is facing?

How does the Italian company fit into all those questions marks, and more? This is the thought that has been burning a hole on my notepad recently, and I keep coming back to Diess' thought that Ducati should have some additional brands.

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Ducati's announcement that it is making its final production run of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition got me thinking this week. This could be the very last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand, making it a true "Final Edition" motorcycle? It certainly appears so.

Right now, the Italian marque is betting its superbike future on the V4 platform, which means it could be another 5 years or longer (10 years could be a reasonable number, even) before Ducati debuts its next superbike platform.

What do we imagine that motorcycle will look like? Where do we imagine the motorcycle industry will be in the next five to ten years? That future isn't too far away, but the answer is still hard to fathom.

Can we really see a future where Ducati builds another v-twin engine? Understand, the Superquadro motor is the pinnacle of v-twin design, and pushes the limits of what kind of power such an engine configuration can create.

This is the very reason that Ducati abandoned the Superquadro v-twin design for the Desmosedici Stradale V4. That is a big deal in Ducatista land, but it is a notable move for the motorcycle industry as a whole.

So, the thought experiment evolves from this, and we begin to wonder what is not only in store for a brand like Ducati, whose history is rooted in a particular engine design, but also what is in store for the other brands of the motorcycle industry, who have been tied to thermic engines for over a century.

For the Japanese brands, the hand that holds that future has been tipped, with turbocharged and supercharged designs teased by three out of the Big Four manufacturers. We have even see Kawasaki bringing its own supercharged motorcycles already to market already.

But, is this really the future? Or, is this resurgence of forced induction for motorcycles dead on arrival?

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In our round-ups of the EICMA show of Milan, I am not sure if we have saved the best for last, but we certainly have saved the most important for last. There has been no shortage of news from MV Agusta this month already, and the Italian brand ran a skillful guerrilla campaign in Milan this year - a show that takes place in the company's own backyard.

In this month alone, MV Agusta has announced a €40 million investment, a new CEO, a new four-cylinder platform, and a bevy of special edition models. Recently too, the iconic motorcycle brand has entered into the Moto2 World Championship, withdrawn from the World Superbike paddock, and positioned itself as the ultra-premium offering in the two-wheeled space.

So, what does this all mean? Well...we certainly have a lot to talk about.

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Next up on our analysis of the EICMA show in Milan are the Japanese brands: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.

You can usually count on the Big Four to bring out some popular new bike launches and intriguing concepts to EICMA, and this year...well...the Japanese brands phoned it in, for the most part.

Before we get into Jensen's complete feeling of disappointment, I first have to apologize because I failed you as a publisher. Much of the disappointment that comes from the INTERMOT and EICMA shows comes from the implications of the Euro5 emissions standards. As a publication, we should have prepared you  better for this reality, and we didn't.

There is very little incentive right now for a motorcycle OEM to release a new model. Euro5 comes online for new models in 2020, and for existing models in 2021, which means that many of the motorcycle brands are holding onto their new bike launches for those model years.

As such, the 2019 model year is very much a "development year" for the industry. This doesn't change the fact that the Japanese brands had a weak showing in Milan, especially compared to the Europeans, but at least it explains why...for the most part.

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Sometimes, I wonder why brands debut their machines at the EICMA, or any trade show for that matter, but especially the one in Milan.

Asphalt & Rubber published close to 50 new bike stories from Milan, and we still have a few more minor announcements to get out the door, so imagine for a minute that you are the marketing manager for a brand which  is trying to stand out in that crowd.

This EICMA marked the first year where we really saw some brands abandoning the rat race of EICMA, choosing to release their new models ahead of the show, in order to generate some buzz, and dominate the headlines for a day or two. 

And, no one executed this strategy better than Aprilia.

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Done and dusted, the EICMA show in Milan is the biggest trade event in the motorcycle industry, and each year we see dozens and dozens of machines debut in Italy, with much fanfare.

With the bevy of new model releases that occur though, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. So, we are going to break down the big headlines and moments from this new bike season for you, starting with one of our most talked about brands: Ducati.

Ducati traditionally starts off the EICMA festivities, hosting a pre-event somewhere in Milan days before EICMA. The day of this launch seems to get pushed back further and further each year, as other brands have jockeyed for position, and so this year's pre-event event was held on the Sunday before EICMA.

To its credit, Ducati does EICMA right, and the Italian company has honed to perfection the balance between of hosting a live event for gathered press and VIPs that is also suitable and entertaining enough to be broadcast live on Italian TV and across the internet.

The EICMA show unveiling might be geared now for mainstream consumption, but for those in the industry there are still some valuable inferences to learn from what is said...and what isn't said.

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Over the course of 228 races, Tom Sykes made himself into a Kawasaki legend. It's easy to look at the last four years and to only see the success that Jonathan Rea has achieved on the green machine, but before 2010 the Japanese firm was struggling. Chris Walker's win in the wet at Assen was a bright spot that punctuated ten years of failure.

From the turn of the millennium, until Sykes joined, the team had three wins, a home double at Sugo in 2010 by wildcard rider Hitoyasu Izutsu and Walker's famous result. These weren't lean times for Kawasaki - this was a famine. With only 19 podiums in the ten years prior to his arrival, it's remarkable what the Englishman has achieved with the team.

“It’s the end of a great era,” reflected Sykes. “It’s been a great time, and I feel that we’ve done a great job together. We've all grown up a lot together. We had the chance to be three-times world champions and I’m very, very fortunate to be able to say that I’m a world champion.”

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The INTERMOT show is done and dusted, and we have had some time to chew on the models that we saw in Cologne, Germany...or didn't see, as the case might be. The second largest trade show in the motorcycle industry, one can wonder though whether the INTERMOT show is the second most important.

Having two major shows on European soil, with INTERMOT coming every other year, creates a Sophie's Choice for motorcycle manufacturers. EICMA might draw the crowds and the press, but it is also a maelstrom of new models, and it is easy for a bike's launch and debut to be lost in the chaos.

To that vein, INTERMOT provides an opportunity for manufacturers to see the forest for the trees. It is less pressure, with most manufacturers choosing to debut more minor releases at the German show, but this makes it ripe for some surprises as well. For 2018, things were no different.

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