• The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth Now Available

    The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth is a new and limited edition model in the Sport Heritage range. It teams the Japanese company with a famous name from the car world. Abarth was originally founded in 1949, and has specialised in small sports cars for 60 years, including being featured as the sportier end of the FIAT brand.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Abarth already sponsors the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team and supplies a number of specialist vehicles as part of that relationship. So it seems only right that Yamaha honour them by producing a total of 695 bikes with some exclusive lightweight parts.

    Typically for a factory special, the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth features the standard 950cc three-cylinder engine with traction control and slipper clutch. But what it does gain is a full lightweight Akrapovic exhaust system with titanium double slip-on silencer. So that will help acceleration a bit, as well as making you sound faster.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Just running in the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Also helping you feel faster is a sportier riding position, thanks to swallow ‘clip-on’ style handlebars and the single racing seat. It’s finished with a suede cover and red stitching. And the seat cowl is one of the new lighweight carbon parts which feature the Abarth logo, along with the carbon front mudguard.

    Online order registrations opened on January 17th with the first 95 customers getting an invitation to an exclusive Yamaha VIP Abarth Experience, along with their choice of companion. The events will be confirmed when the new owners finish their purchase, and will take place between May 1st and June 16th 2017 at circuits in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria and the UK.

    Each event includes the chance to test drive a range of Abarth vehicles on the circuit, take a drive with a professional racing driver, and also be given the chance to visit Abarth’s Turin headquarters by prior appointment throughout 2017.

    Once the initial 95 models of the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth have gone, the remain 600 are available to order from your local Yamaha dealer from April 2017. And to be fair, you’ll have as much fun on the road or track on the XSR900 as you would in any car.

    Then again, if you do appreciate small, four-wheeled vehicles, then you might like the fact Abarth have also procuded a concept car to match the bike. The 695 Tributo XSR has the same grey and red livery, an extensive array of carbon fibre, and also gets an Akrapovic exhaust system.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth and Car

    It’s just a shame they haven’t produced a matching motorcycle trailer and made it all available as a set!

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  • Ducati Grew Motorcycle Sales In 2016

    Claudio Domenicali will be a happy CEO, as Ducati grew motorcycle sales in 2016. The total for the year was 55,451 motorcycles delivered. That’s up 1.2% on 2015, which meant 642 extra bikes. “Ending the year of our 90th anniversary with yet another record is a source of immense pride and satisfaction”, commented Domenicali. “2016 was the seventh consecutive growth year for Ducati, clearly confirming the soundness of the Bologna-based group’s strategy and skills.”

    The growth came from a mix of existing and new models. Sales of the Multistrada range were up 16%, the renewed HyperMotards were up 15%, and apparently 5,200 of the new Ducati XDiavel were also delivered.

    Ducati Multistrada 950

    2017 Ducati Multistrada 950

    The Ducati Scrambler brand gained both the new Scrambler Sixty2 and 15,500 bikes shifted.

    In terms of location, America was the biggest market for Ducati, with customers receiving 8,787 bikes. Following up is Italy, which saw 20% growth, and Germany up 8%. There were also big gaines in Spain (+38%), China (+120%), Brazil (+36%) and Argentina (+219%).

    2017 Ducati XDiavel S

    2017 Ducati XDiavel S

    For 2017, Ducati will launch seven new bikes, including the Ducati Multistrada 950, SuperSport and 1299 Superleggera. The Monster range will see the new 797 and 1200, while the Scrambler brand gets the Cafe Racer and Desert Sled. For stats fans, Ducati currently employs 1,594 people, has a network of 783 sales and assistance centres and operates in 90 countries.

    Ducati Motor Holdings Factory in Bologna

    Ducati Motor Holdings Factory in Bologna

    What isn’t clear yet is how price rises in the UK will affect sales. Since January 1st, Ducati has raised prices by an average of 4.8% due to the devaluing of the pound following the EU Referendum, which means, for example, the Ducati Monster 821 has gone from £9,150 to £9,595. The increases haven’t been applied evenly though, as the HyperMotard 939 only increased by £300, and the Ducati Panigale R actually stays the same price.

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  • The Rescogs Guide to Winter Biking

    Riding a motorcycle in Winter happens for a variety of reasons. For some of us, the lack of a car or car license makes it a necessity. Scottie went through almost 20 years relying solely on two-wheeled transport, come rain, wind, sleet and snow. For others, it’s still worthwhile to avoid the endless traffic jams and the joys of public transport. But it isn’t all doom and gloom when the days get shorter, especially if you do it right.

    Good Reasons to Ride in Winter:

    • A dry, sunny Winter day is awesome. A dry, sunny Christmas day is even better, as most car drivers (And law enforcement operatives) seem to either be in front of the TV or in the pub. Which means empty roads away from town centres.
    • You’ll still be sharp come Spring, rather than spending the first couple of weeks getting used to being back on a bike.
    • You’ll also build up a good feeling of smug superiority over fair weather riders, and endless tales of Winter riding to bore them with when you speak to them.
    • Winter Hacks: A chance to pick up something different and cheap, and then abuse it.
    • Winter kit: It gets better, and cheaper every year.
    • You might have to be a bit more careful, but you’ll still get there faster without having to worry about traffic jams.

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  • RACING’S GREATEST UPSETS: 1966 TRANS-AM ENDURO!

    Stephen Cox blogs about Shelby American’s legendary Group 2 Mustang racers, Part 3 of 3.

    John McComb ordered a new car for 1967. The choice was easy. Given his success in the 1966 Group 2 Mustang, he ordered a new notchback for 1967 to pick up where he left off with the Shelby program. The ‘67 Mustang was the model’s first major redesign and the car gained both size and weight. McComb didn’t care for either.

    “Even though the ’67 car had a wider track, it was a heavier car, so I don’t really think the wider track helped,” McComb said. “The ’66 car was just a very reliable, quick car. I always thought the ’66 was better than the ’67 anyway.“

    While awaiting delivery of the new car, McComb pulled his old mount out of the garage to start the new season. It still ran strong, competing at the Daytona 300 Trans-Am race on February 3, 1967 and in the 24 Hours of Daytona the following day. In March, McComb returned to familiar grounds and took second in the amateur A/Sedan race at Green Valley, and again participated in the Trans-Am event the following day. The car’s final race under McComb’s ownership was the Trans-Am at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 11th.

    His new racecar became available just days later and McComb sold the #12 Group 2 Mustang to Keith Thomas, a Kansas native who had shown considerable ability winning club races throughout the region. Thomas campaigned the car against stiffening competition in the A/Sedan Midwest Division, ironically finishing second in the championship hunt only to John McComb’s new car.

    This gave the #12 Group 2 Mustang a unique place in road racing history. Not only did it claim a share of John McComb’s A/Sedan championship by scoring points for McComb early in the 1967 title chase, but it also clinched second place in the same series in the hands of Keith Thomas. By virtue of Thomas’ runner-up standing in the series, the car earned a second invitation in the AARC at Daytona where it scored yet another top five finish.

    Keith Thomas continued driving the #12 Group 2 Mustang in 1968 and 1969, finishing third in the series both years. Although the car was now well past its prime, Thomas set a new A/Sedan track record while winning at Wichita’s Lake Afton Raceway. He continued to rack up wins at places like Texas International Speedway, Oklahoma’s War Bonnet Park and the SCCA Nationals at Salina, Kansas throughout the late-1960s.

    Now sporting a new livery, the car ran a limited schedule from 1971-73, after which it was retired from auto racing. The car traded hands later that year and again in 1978, each time distancing itself a bit more from its proud past while being repeatedly repainted and renumbered. Finally, in 1984, the car came into the possession of car collector Gary Spraggins. By this time its true identity had been lost and Spraggins was unsure of its provenance. He bought the car anyway.

    Spraggins recalled that the Mustang had been repainted in “school-bus yellow” with black Le Mans stripes. There were no Shelby markings to be found anywhere on the car, but still Spraggins suspected that the vehicle might be something special. He noticed several items that were unique to Shelby GT350Rs, including the Cobra intake manifold, the Holley 715 carburetor and the A-arms that had been relocated to lower the car by one-inch. Mechanically, everything about the car screamed “Shelby” although no one really knew for sure.

    The moment of truth came when Spraggins took the car home for a closer inspection. “When I raised the trunk lid up, of course, the inside of the trunk area was black, but you could see the Le Mans stripes overspray down in there,” Spraggins remembered.

    “Oh, man, I knew what those colors represented – Shelby cars. And I got some paint remover and lightly put it over the black Le Mans stripe on the trunk and wiped it off, and there was the prettiest blue Le Mans stripe there. It’s like, oh, my gosh!”

    Spraggins immediately wrote to the Shelby American Automobile Club, describing the car and asking if the VIN could be verified as a Shelby product. The response came on November 12th.

    “Looks like you’ve found one of the original Shelby 1966 Trans-Am cars,” the letter began. “Your car was originally sold to Turner Ford in Wichita, KS. I think they may still be in business…”

    SAAC national director, Rick Kopec, signed the letter. And so did Carroll Shelby.

    Spraggins could barely contain his enthusiasm and quickly set to work restoring the car to its original 1966 livery and condition, not realizing that an aging John McComb had also entertained the idea of finding his old mount. He just didn’t know where to look.

    “I was very excited at that time that I had found a needle in a haystack,” Spraggins said. “Nobody knew anything about these cars, so in order to track down the original driver – you know, John McComb – I just started calling information in the Wichita area.”

    On a hot summer afternoon in late-July 1985, the telephone on John McComb’s desk rang again. On the other end was car collector Gary Spraggins calling with the surprising news that his famous #12 Group 2 Mustang had been found. When McComb saw photos of the newly restored Mustang, he said, “My immediate reaction was, ‘That’s my car!’ What a super job you have done on it.”

    When asked to critique the restoration and help them convert the car to its precise 1966 condition, McComb confessed to a pair of secrets that he’d kept for nearly 30 years.

    “We cheated in two places on the bodywork. One was on the lower front valance where the license plate goes. We took those two little tabs off and opened it up a little. We also opened up the front fenders just a little. We rolled the inner lip around a welding rod to give it more strength for nerfing. We never got caught on either one.”

    Eventually, even Carroll Shelby was reunited with the newly restored #12 Group 2 Mustang at a car show in the mid-1990s. He recognized it instantly. “This was the last year I was really interested in racing,” he lamented to Mustang Monthly.

    “We had won Le Mans in 1966 and then the Trans-Am series came along. A lot of our good guys had moved on to other things because we had been winning for so many years.”

    When it came to North American road racing, the Group 2 Mustangs were Shelby’s last stand. Largely forgotten by car collectors worldwide, these amazing racecars won the first Trans-Am title for Ford and were among the most dominant sportscars their era. They left an indelible imprint on the American road-racing scene of the 1960s. Then they simply disappeared.

    Standing at the car’s freshly repainted rear fender, Shelby crossed his arms, took one last glance at the #12 Group 2 Mustang and gave a long sigh. “After 1966, we were concentrating on building volume. Unfortunately, the racing programs didn’t have much priority after this.”

    NOTE: All photos are courtesy of Mecum Auctions. The driver in the cockpit photo is owner/driver John McComb preparing for a race in the late-1960s.

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  • ELECTRIC PACESETTER: JAGUAR UNLEASHES LATEST CAT!

    Jaguar gives us a sneak-peak into its future. And it’s electric, blogs Road Test Editor Howard Walker.

    The undisputed star of this week’s Los Angeles auto show is an all-new, all-electric performance crossover from Jaguar, called I-Pace.

    While its official title is I-Pace Concept, this sleek, head-turning five-seater is essentially the same car that will hit the streets in a couple of years, priced – and we’re guessing here – from around $60,000.

    Despite the badge and its five seats, this new I-Pace shares zip, zero, nada with Jaguar’s recently launched F-Pace SUV. The entire car has been developed from a clean sheet of paper, using some very cool battery technology and featuring dramatic, so-called “cab-forward” styling.

    What Jaguar’s electrification gurus have done is develop in-house a battery pack featuring 36 liquid-cooled lithium-ion cells. These provide the juice to amp-up two 200-horsepower electric motors – one for each axle – making the I-Pace an all-wheel driver.

    With a total output of 400 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque – pretty much the same torque as Jag’s insanely-rapid F-Type SVR sports car – the I-Pace should be super-quick. How quick? Jaguar talks of 0-to-60 mph sprinting in just 4.0 seconds. That’s fast.

    How far will it go on a single charge? Jaguar talks about a range of around 220 miles, though plug it into a public 50kW DC charging outlet and you’ll get a 80 percent charge in 90 minutes and a full 100 percent charge in just over two hours.

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