KTM’s Counter-Rotating MotoGP Engine Debuts at Brno

Ever since Jerez, when the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team debuted a new engine with a counter-rotating crankshaft, fans and journalists have been asking when factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith would be able to use the new engine on a race weekend. KTM test rider Mika Kallio had been very positive about the engine during the Jerez weekend, and Smith and Espargaro had spoken in glowing terms about it after the Jerez test. KTM’s response was always that it would not be ready until at least after the summer break. Reversing the direction of crankshaft rotation is not as simple as sticking an intermediate gear between the crank and the clutch, to allow the crank to spin in the opposite direction while maintaining forward thrust.

Retro Livery Pops on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike

We are big fans of the creations that Team Classic Suzuki has been churning out. Stop what you’re doing right now, look at this Katana race bike, and try to disagree with our enthusiasm. It cannot be done. Taking their touch to the current Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike, we see what this tire-shredder would look like in a retro-mod livery that is inspired by the bodywork found on the original GSX-R750. So far it sounds like the bike is a one-off, done by our friends across the pond, but we think Suzuki should seriously consider some throwback paint schemes in its lineup. Until then, items of note include a number of tasty Giles-made bits, straight from the Suzuki performance catalog, otherwise the bike shown here is pretty much stock.

BMW Plans To Launch Nine New Motorcycles

It might be still be summer, but our eyes are looking ahead to the new bike season in the fall and winter, where the major motorcycle manufacturers will debut their new motorcycles for the future. The big trade shows to watch are INTERMOT and EICMA, as these have traditionally been the venues of choice for new model unveils, prototype teasers, and concept debuts. One brand that is certainly going to be showing us some new motorcycles is BMW Motorrad, with the German company saying that it plans to launch nine new models in 2018. What those nine models will be is up for conjecture, though we have some good ideas, and some bad ideas, on what they could be. Let’s take a look.

Up-Close with the 2018 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R Suzuka 8-Hours Race Bike

In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation. This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands. Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike. This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race. What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm. As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.

Up-Close with the Suzuka-Winning Yamaha YZF-R1

This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport. And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary. I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it. That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.

Harley-Davidson Outlines Its Future Electric Lineup

The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much). The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed. All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future. I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.

Harley-Davidson Livewire Gets Closer to Production Form

Harley-Davidson made a big push today, showing a number of bikes and concepts that it plans to bring to market by 2022. All of them were a big surprise, but one of them we already knew about: the Harley-Davidson Livewire. While not as big of a shock as the adventure-touring Pan America concept, or the Harley-Davidson Streetfighter or Custom models (to say the least about its upcoming electric lineup), Harley-Davidson has given us something to talk about with this electric power cruiser. Namely, the Harley-Davidson Livewire looks ready in production and in form, even though its official debut is still a year away. Since we first saw the Livewire concept (below), a number of things have changed for the production model.

MV Agusta’s Moto2 Race Bike Predictably Looks Awesome

After a 42-year hiatus, MV Agusta is returning to the Grand Prix Championship. This iconic Italian motorcycle brand will not be competing in MotoGP however, and instead MV Agusta will make its return in the Moto2 category. Partnering with the Forward Racing team, MV Agusta aims to take advantage of the rule changes for the 2019 season, which will see a 765cc Triumph three-cylinder engine replacing the 600cc Honda four-cylinder engine that is currently in use. This change in the spec-engine rule will likely upheave the Moto2 Championship, and MV Agusta wants to be part of that sea change. As such, the bike you see in the photos here will be the machine that launches MV Agusta’s assault on the GP paddock.

The Harley-Davidson “Custom” Is the First Cruiser We Like

In case you missed the new, Harley-Davidson dropped a number of new model concepts on us today, all which are to go into production by the 2022 model year. We have already shown you the ADV concept, as well as the Streetfighter concept. There are a bevy of electric bikes to see as well, along with an e-bike program, but right now we want to focus your attention on the Harley-Davidson Custom, a modern take on the Sportster platform. It might be the first cruiser that we have actually lusted over. For the loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers on this page, that statement should certainly say something about how much we are digging this potent v-twin concept. Using the 1,250cc version of Harley-Davidson’s new modular engine, the Custom takes a number of cues from Harley-Davidsons of the past and future.

What We Are Reading – The Up in the Air Edition

06/09/2018 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I feel like I always end up writing these posts while I'm stuck in an airport. Regardless, without further ado, here is your next installment of “What We’re Reading”.

Much has happened since our last post, so our reading list spans stories that go between the motorcycle industry and also non-endemic media outlets.

This edition focuses heavily on technology and the media, a topic that is of course near and dear to my heart...don't worry, there's still a bit of "it's loud and goes fast" articles in here too.

Part clearinghouse for stories that we will never get our full attention, and part book club for our loyal readers who are doing their best to survive the work day, say hello to the next installment of the “What We’re Reading” column series.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

This Week’s “Ducati for Sale” Rumor

04/16/2018 @ 9:19 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Volkswagen Group got a new CEO last week, and in less than seven days, that news has already sparked renewed rumors in the German automobile conglomerate divesting itself of Ducati Motor Holdings.

For those who have been following Ducati’s saga, there was much talk last year of Volkswagen selling off a number of its other brands, all under the reasoning that the German company would need to raise capital to cover its mounting Dieselgate liabilities.

The logic for that reasoning wasn’t sound, but the actions were certainly there, with Volkswagen tendering offers from a number of would-be suitors

There was a fly in the ointment though: Volkswagen’s labor unions, who control half of the VW Group’s board seats, and were vehemently opposed to any brand divestitures.

Because of the unions, any sale – including Ducati’s – was a non-starter for the Volkswagen executives, though that didn’t keep the warring factions from trying. By the end of last year though, it seemed we had put this issue to bed. 2018, however, is a new year.

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Ducati Divestiture Seemingly Stalls Out

09/06/2017 @ 10:51 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

For the past few months, talk of Ducati’s divestiture from the Volkswagen Group has grabbed the attention from news outlets and Ducatisti alike, as the future of the Italian motorcycle company seemed uncertain.

Internally, a power struggle was a play, with Audi keen to unload Ducati from its books, but lacking the support from upper management in the Volkswagen Group.

Talks reportedly hit the skids once it was realized that the Volkswagen labor unions, which control half of the seats on the Volkswagen Group management board, weren’t onboard with divesting Ducati from the holding group.

This is probably information that investors would have liked to know, before they spent the time and resources putting together purchase proposals for Audi’s consideration.

Now, with no change in the position of VW’s labor unions, and with the possibility of an internal consensus seemingly out of sight, it seems talk of Ducati’s divestiture have stalled, with little chance of them resuming this year.

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No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

05/08/2017 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.*

“Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well.

Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

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Audi Says “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”

06/16/2016 @ 3:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati-Multistrada-1200-Enduro-action-09

After much buzz and fanfare regarding the future of Volkswagen, which in-turn called into question the future of Ducati, today we finally get a glimpse into how VW is going to soldier forth from the fallout of its “Dieselgate” scandal.

Instead of announcing how the company was going to restructure itself, and review its current business holdings and ventures, as was reportedly widely in financial circles, instead today saw Volkswagen strongly staking its future in electric and autonomous cars.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, this announcement failed to impress analysts investors; but for Ducatisti, some good news does emerge, as Ducati certainly won’t be leaving its home in the Volkswagen Group.

To drive that point further, a Ducati representative confirmed and conveyed to Asphalt & Rubber the words of Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who said emphatically that “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE” which is as straight and to the point as you can get.

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More Talk of Volkswagen Unloading Ducati

06/15/2016 @ 7:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

ducati-panigale-money

It seems to come in waves, every time the news cycle picks up Volkswagen’s plight in dealing with “Dieselgate” that talk then shifts to the German powerhouse unloading its smaller holdings, one of which being Ducati Motor Holding.

This latest go-around comes courtesy of Bloomberg, which has Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller saying that the automaker’s current portfolio of companies and its overall corporate plan will be re-evaluated over the coming weeks and months.

Tomorrow (Thursday), Volkswagen is slated to make public what this new business plan looks like, but sources say that VW will put all its assets under review, which includes Ducati.

Could this lead to Ducati being divested from Volkswagen’s holdings? The answer is of course murky, but we would be very surprised by the news.

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Suzuki & Volkswagen Finalize Their Divorce

02/23/2016 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

volkswagen-tid-diesel-engine

The last we checked-in with the Suzuki/Volkswagen divorce, the German automobile maker was ordered by the London Court of International Arbitration to sell its 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer (worth $2.8 billion at the time).

That was back in September 2015, and now that ordered has finally been fulfilled, with Volkswagen completely divesting itself from Suzuki – a move that has been four years in the making.

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Tamás-Jakus-Jakusa-Design-Ducati-car-concept-01

We’re really enjoying the work of Tamás Jakus, better known as Jakusa Design. If that name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, we’re sure his recent work on the zeffed-out Triumph Tiger 800 will surely strike you as familiar. This time, Jakus has imagined a Ducati-powered car.

That concept is already in our headspace, thanks to the engineers at Volkswagen making the Volkswagen XL Sport, but Jakus’ version is far more appealing to us.

Extruding the distinctive intake of the Panigale across the trellis frame of an Aeriel Atom type oversized go-kart – complete with pigeon-toed three spoke wheels, just like the superbike – there are enough Ducati design elements to link the car to the brand to make the exercise convincing.

Leave your thoughts and your best Volkswagen emissions jokes in the comments section.

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Volkswagen Ordered to Sell Its Stake in Suzuki

09/23/2015 @ 6:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

volkswagen-das-auto

The big news this week might be about how Volkswagen falsified emissions reports on its diesel-powered automobiles – a move that today lead to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepping down from his position in the company, and VW stock dropping nearly 30%, at the time of this writing.

Less well-known though is that Volkswagen has also lost its long-fought battle with Suzuki over the Japanese company’s stock ownership. VW and Suzuki were supposed to untie the knot back in 2011, but Volkswagen did not go quietly into that good night.

Taking the case to arbitration, the London Court of International Arbitration has finally handed the two parties its verdict. As such, Volkswagen will have to sell its 19.9% stake back to Suzuki.

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Audi to Buy Ducati?

03/12/2012 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

It has been almost a year now since we broke the news that Ducati Motor Holding was up for sale, and I still can’t tell if the appropriate metaphor for the ongoing acquisition is a game of musical chairs or Russian roulette. Vying for a seat or putting the chamber to its temple, our latest contestant in “Who Wants to Buy Ducati” is Audi, the four-ringed German car manufacturer. Reported to have a right of first refusal, Audi allegedly has until mid-April to finalize a deal with Investindustrial (Ducati’s main investor) to buy Ducati from the Italian investment group.

Though Ducati sold over 40,000 motorcycles in 2011, the Italian company has roughly €800 million in debt on its books. This means that any company interested in buying Ducati would have to assume the Italian company’s debt onto its own books, which changes the actual purchase price of Ducati dramatically. For its part, Audi is rumored to be making an offer in the €850 million range, which would put the actual purchase value of Ducati at over €50 million, and could put as much as €100 million on the table for Investindustrial to take.

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