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.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #67 – Piano Tuners

12/05/2017 @ 1:16 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

In Episode 67 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast we cover some big news in the industry. We start by talking about the MAG Group’s recent bankruptcy announcement, and Yamaha’s recent stock buyback, both of which came within a week of each other and are rather complicated to explain.

Our focus then moves to racing, as Ben Spies announced that he will be returning to motorcycle racing, though now on a dirt bike. This launches us into a discussion about bringing up talent to the top levels of motorcycle racing, and how yesterday’s formula for making a champion doesn’t apply to today.

This then spurs a conversation about the changing landscape of the motorcycle industry, and how two-wheeled brands will have to adapt from baby-boomer focused strategies to a focus on younger generations.

The show is pretty interesting and covers a wide-range of topics that are percolating in the industry right now. We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address: twoenthusiasts@gmail.com

One last note for our Californian listeners, we will be doing a live show at the Dainese D-Store in San Franciscoon December 13th, at 6:30pm (the show mentions an incorrect time, as schedules have changed since we recorded the show). We hope to see you there!

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between.

Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable.

An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

Kenny Roberts Sr., Jeff Ward, and many others battled on the track to show who was the best all-around motorcycle racer on the planet. Of course, this multi-disciplined form of racing was the precursor to modern supermoto racing.

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MotoAmerica Looking for Track Volunteers

03/30/2017 @ 4:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

MotoAmerica needs some good men and women to help support its racing efforts this, and you can do your part by volunteering for various roles at MotoAmerica Championship series events. The list of duties ranges from track marshals, to registration staff, and even marketing volunteers.

“Those who volunteer their time to MotoAmerica races add to the safe and efficient running of our events,” said MotoAmerica Race Operations Manager Niccole Cox.

“Like MotoGP and World Superbike, we use volunteers to help our staff, and our volunteers are a great group of people who are passionate about motorcycle racing in the US.”

“The riders also enjoy being able to meet the people who donate their time to our events, and it’s led to some great conversations that most fans never get the chance to participate in,” she added.

“Our volunteers get closer to the racing action than any other fans, and learn what it takes to put on such a large event. The program continues to grow each year, and we are thrilled at the progress and the impact it has made on our organization.”

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An Argument for World Superbike’s New Grid

12/12/2016 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

Did you hear the news? The World Superbike Championship has officially jumped the shark, with a new wacky formula for the Race 2 grid. At least, that is what the internet seems to think.

I understand the push-back from purists of the sport, as the new rules set forth by the Superbike Commission are nothing short of gerrymandering for the sake of the show.

My right and honorable colleague David Emmett described the changes as violating the “sporting ethos of a World Championship series,” and he’s right. The new rules for the Race 2 grid are not sporting. Not in the least.

But, the key thing here to understand is that motorcycle racing stopped being a sport the second fans showed up and TV contracts were signed. World Superbike competes for viewership, just like any other sport, which means money is made on passes and crashes.

When you look at the realities of the World Superbike Championship too, Dorna’s madness makes a bit more sense. I’m not saying I agree with it, but I at least get what they are trying to accomplish, and why they are doing it. Let me explain.

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Sissis, Qatar Moto3 2013

It’s tough at the top, but it’s a lot tougher the further down the grid you go. Every rider has tales of missed opportunities, but few have fallen as far off the radar as Arthur Sissis.

Four years ago, the 21-year-old Australian was standing on the podium of his home Grand Prix, but his dream quickly turned sour, and he turned his back on road racing and moved to Speedway.

Looking back on this decision Sissis says that he was “young and stupid” and that facing up to the fact that he hadn’t met his own expectations in two and a half Moto3 seasons was the reason that he ran for the exit door.

“I went into Speedway basically because I was young and stupid,” said Sissis as he reflected on his Moto3 career. “When I left Moto3 I was just young, I was an 18-year-old kid who’d just been sacked, and you think you’ve got nothing to do in the paddock and that nobody likes you. I was young and I didn’t know what to do, so I thought, stuff it all I’m going to race Speedway.”

“This was the first time that I had really been in a situation like that because up until then everything was pretty good. The first time that I’d raced on the roads was when I did the Rookies Cup and it went well.”

“I went from there into the KTM team in Moto3 and did all right as a rookie. Even in my first race in Qatar I finished 7th.”

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #31 – Oedipus Wrecked

09/06/2016 @ 8:48 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Another week, and so another episode of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is up, for your listening pleasure. Episode 31 sees Quentin and myself with a new recording time, which is earlier in the week, so the show is less about current events, and more an exploration of topics, this time around.

As such, we share some stories from the track, focusing mostly on bike safety and track preparation. No topic is left uncovered, which means a healthy discussion about the time-honored topics of motorcycle oil and tires. Spoiler alert, Quentin has some interesting practices when it comes to motorcycle lubrication…

We finish the show with some listener questions, all of which we think you will find highly engaging, so give it play (or two).

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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2003-Honda-CBR600RR-yellow

British magazines MCN dropped a bombshell on the motorcycle world today, reporting that Honda was set to discontinue the Honda CBR600RR, with no supersport replacement in sight.

According to their reports, the main impetus for the Honda CBR600RR being discontinued is the Euro 4 emission standards, which the Honda CBR600RR does not meet.

Honda feels too that the demand for a 600cc sport bike is too low to warrant updating the CBR600RR to meet Euro 4 regulations, let alone building an all-new machine for the market that would be Euro 4 compliant.

Of course, Euro 4 emissions only apply to bikes sold in the European Union; but there too, MCN says that Honda seems to feel that the world demand for the Honda CBR600RR is too lacking to continue with the machine.

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EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

04/18/2016 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events.

The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts.

Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

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Interesting things are afoot with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as the governmental body is seemingly under the impression that it can regulate the modification of racing vehicles that were originally made for on-road use. As such, the EPA is looking to update legal language to solidify that opinion.

If granted, this would mean that any production-based racing series, both cars and motorcycles, would be subject to EPA emissions regulations, and as such aftermarket modification to those machines would be greatly reduced.

In essence, that sport bike that you take to the race track, whether or not it ever spins a wheel on the road, could be deemed illegal if you modify it from its EPA-certified form, i.e. add an exhaust, intake, etc. Needless to say, this is causing quite the stir.

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alstare-bimota-bb3-wsbk

When Alstare split from Ducati Corse in World Superbike, there was some speculation as to where the Belgian-based racing team would land, and it would seem the trip hasn’t been a far one.

Linking up with the recently acquired Bimota brand, Alstare has signed a five-year agreement to collaborate with the Italian brand, and will serve as the worldwide racing department for Bimota — with a key focus on developing Bimota’s Moto2 and WSBK racing platforms, the latter centering around the recently launched Bimota BB3.

Alstare’s technical expertise will also be responsible for developing Bimota’s future sports and supersport models, while the firm’s communications and marketing experience will serve as Bimota’s race marketing department.

In total, the essence of the deal sees Alstare playing a vital role in Bimota’s business plans, from developing new models, honing race bikes, finding sponsors, and working with the press. With so much of Bimota’s business being outsourced to the Belgian racing firm, one has to wonder what duties are left for the brand’s Italian base.

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