Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

MotoGP: Alvaro Bautista Renews with San Carlo Gresini Honda for 2013 – All Prototype Seats Now Accounted For

10/13/2012 @ 9:33 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

MotoGP: Alvaro Bautista Renews with San Carlo Gresini Honda for 2013   All Prototype Seats Now Accounted For alvaro bautista san carlo gresini honda motogp motegi 635x421

The mystery of the final MotoGP prototype seat has been solved: after months of negotiations, Alvaro Bautista has finally retained the Honda RC213V ride with the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. The Spaniard will remain with the Italian team for another season.

The contract extension has come at a cost, however: Bautista has had to take a drastic cut in his salary to stay with the team. According to the Spanish website Motocuatro.com, Bautista’s wage has been slashed to five figures, with the amount of 90,000 euros being passed down the paddock grapevine.

MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso to Ducati with a Two-Year Deal?

08/13/2012 @ 9:29 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso to Ducati with a Two Year Deal? Andrea Dovizioso Laguna Seca MotoGP Scott Jones

As we mentioned last week, Andrea Dovizioso agreed to take the factory Ducati seat vacated by Rossi’s departure for Yamaha. His signature, it appears, was subject to certain conditions, though. According to reports in the Italian media, Dovizioso demanded guarantees of support and development from Audi before putting pen to paper.

Italian TV station Mediaset is now reporting that Dovizioso has now received those guarantees, and has signed a two-year deal to ride for Ducati in 2013 and 2014. Ducati’s choosing Dovizioso over Cal Crutchlow – Dovizioso’s British partner at the Tech 3 squad had earlier been offered the ride at Ducati – is an indication of the the future direction of the Bologna factory.

The deal appears to signal that Ducati has accepted that they need to focus their development on building a bike to suit a traditional Grand Prix style, as displayed by the Italian. It is perhaps a signal to Ducati’s new owners Audi that they understand the magnitude of the problem, and that the loss of Valentino Rossi is being taken very seriously indeed.

Welcome Back Baby: Yamaha Racing Announces the Return of Valentino Rossi for Two Seasons

08/10/2012 @ 2:46 am, by David Emmett35 COMMENTS

Welcome Back Baby: Yamaha Racing Announces the Return of Valentino Rossi for Two Seasons Valentino Ross goodbye baby 3 635x422

After official confirmation from Ducati that Valentino Rossi would be leaving at the end of the season, now comes the official press release from Yamaha, announcing he has been signed to a two-year deal to race for them in 2013 and 2014.

The Italian will line up alongside Jorge Lorenzo for the next two years, and the press release makes their goal very obvious: winning the triple crown of rider, manufacturer and team championships. The press release from Yamaha can be found after the jump.

Officially Official: Ducati and Valentino Part Ways

08/10/2012 @ 2:34 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Officially Official: Ducati and Valentino Part Ways Valentino Rossi Scream Ducati Desmosedici GP11 635x423

Part 1 of MotoGP’s latest worst-kept secret is out: Valentino Rossi is to leave Ducati at the end of the 2012 season. Ducati this morning issued a press release (printed below) that their working relationship with Rossi will come to an end at the end of the season. The full press release is after the jump.

MotoGP: After Rossi Moves, Who Goes Where?

08/09/2012 @ 8:22 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

MotoGP: After Rossi Moves, Who Goes Where? Ducati Corse Valentino Rossi 635x422

Valentino Rossi’s imminent return to Yamaha – to be announced on Friday morning, Yamaha and Ducati having been forced to move the schedule forward once news of the switch leaked – will accelerate the final movements in MotoGP’s silly season, with the remaining open grid slots on prototype machines likely to be filled in very short order once the Rossi announcement has been made. Rossi’s return to Yamaha will be heralded much as his departure for fresher pastures at Ducati was, only this time the roles will be reversed.

First, Ducati will issue a release thanking Valentino Rossi for his time with the factory, and shortly after – minutes, rather than hours, – Yamaha will issue a press release welcoming Rossi back to the fold. The difference, perhaps, is that this time a love letter such as the one Rossi wrote to Yamaha after he left in the middle of 2010 is unlikely to be forthcoming.

With Rossi at Yamaha, that leaves five prototype seats still open: The factory Ducati left vacant by Rossi’s switch to Yamaha; the as-yet unfilled second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat (the first seat is for Bradley Smith, who will be moving up from Moto2 as provided for in the contract he signed with Herve Poncharal in the middle of last season); the San Carlo Gresini Honda bike currently being ridden by Alvaro Bautista; and the Ducati junior team seats, in a yet-to-be-decided structure with one or more yet-to-be-selected teams. So who will be filling those seats? And where does that leave the riders left standing once the music stops?

MotoGP: Valentino Rossi to Yamaha – For Reals this Time

08/07/2012 @ 11:51 am, by David Emmett51 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Valentino Rossi to Yamaha   For Reals this Time Valentino Rossi Ducati Laguna Seca 635x423

It is a bit of a risk, announcing that Valentino Rossi will be switching to Yamaha just a couple of days after getting caught out by a hacked Twitter and email account. This time, though, confirmation is coming from multiple sourcesincluding our own. Rossi will be leaving Ducati for Yamaha at the end of this season, with an official press release expected from Yamaha on the morning of August 15th, the Italian national holiday of Ferragosto, and the day before the paddock assembles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

MotoGP: Valentino Rossi Spotted at Yamaha Europe HQ

08/03/2012 @ 11:11 am, by David Emmett53 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Valentino Rossi Spotted at Yamaha Europe HQ 2012 MotoGP 10 LagunaSeca Saturday 0738

UPDATE: Sources confirm that Valentino Rossi was not at Yamaha HQ, and the news of his appearance was a hoax caused by a hacked Twitter account.

Valentino Rossi is set to make a return to Yamaha, abandoning Ducati after two long and difficult years of failure. The Italian was spotted at Yamaha Motor Europe’s headquarters at Schiphol-Rijk, an industrial estate next to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, by former racer Niall Mackenzie, who was visiting the Yamaha HQ while negotiating a deal for his younger son Tarran to race in Superstock next season. The Scotsman posted the sighting – naming only a ‘well-known Italian’ wearing ‘a big smile on his face’ – on his Twitter page, but when contacted by Thomas Baujard of the French magazine Moto Journal, confirmed his report to the magazine.

The news of Rossi’s return to Yamaha has been slowly leaking out since last Sunday’s Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Speculative reports have appeared in leading English and Italian media, with Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that Rossi has been offered a two-year deal with Yamaha in MotoGP, with the option of making a switch to World Superbikes, to lead the development of the all-new Yamaha YZF-R1 which is expected for 2015. Yamaha pulled out of the World Superbike series at the end of the 2010 season, citing the global financial crisis and failing to achieve their marketing goals with the production-based series.

MotoGP: Rossi Decision Expected in One Week’s Time

07/31/2012 @ 3:08 pm, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Rossi Decision Expected in One Weeks Time PGP3052

Just one more week, and the biggest open piece of MotoGP’s puzzle should be slotted into place. On Saturday night, Valentino Rossi met with Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio, to discuss the details of the offer Ducati have for Rossi, and on Sunday morning, Del Torchio told French journalist Michel Turco that he expected to know Rossi’s answer within the next seven days. The money from Ducati is generous, some 17 million euros a season (this figure has since been denied by Rossi — Ed.), if the rumors are to be believed, but the money will not be the important part of the deal.

The biggest item will be what help Ducati will get from Audi, and whether the rate of progress at Borgo Panigale can be ramped up to start rolling out updates faster, and start to change some of the things which Rossi and Burgess believe are vital before the bike can even begin to become competitive. Ducati is not Rossi’s only option, of course.

The second seat at the Factory Yamaha team awaits, though that ride is not so richly rewarded, financially at least. The offer from Yamaha is rumored to be around the 3-4 million euro mark, a pay cut Rossi may be willing to take if it leaves him capable of winning and challenging for championships again. But here, too, conditions will be key: Rossi will return as the #2 rider, Lorenzo already having clinched a two-year deal with the factory, and Yamaha having made it clear to Rossi that they saw Lorenzo as the future back in 2010, which caused Rossi to pick-up sticks and go to Ducati.

Even worse, though, Rossi may have to return alone; his crew will not automatically be rehired by Yamaha, the cost of flying them around the world being a major cost factor in the equation. What’s more, Rossi will have to bring sponsorship to the table, much more than just the amount needed to cover his salary.

Officially Official: Ducati Corse Signs Nicky Hayden for 2013 MotoGP Team

07/27/2012 @ 12:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Officially Official: Ducati Corse Signs Nicky Hayden for 2013 MotoGP Team Nicky Hayden Ducati Corse 635x438

Confirming what we already reported yesterday, Ducati Corse has officially made it official that Nicky Hayden will officially be riding in the official factory Ducati team next season, officially. His tenth season in MotoGP, and his fourth with Ducati, Hayden has re-signed for another one-year stint with the Bologna brand. An important figure for Ducati’s North America efforts, Ducati Corse heavily mentions Hayden’s influence on American owners as its reason for retaining the Kentucky Kid in its press release.

Generally said to be the hardest working rider in the MotoGP paddock, Hayden not only is a workhorse for the Ducati Corse team, as it tries to bring the GP12 and its progeny into the competitive fold, but Hayden is also an active figure for his and the team’s sponsors. With that sort of work ethic and only eight points separating him in the Championship from teammate Valentino Rossi, Hayden’s re-signing seemed like an obvious choice, though Ducati is said to have offered the American’s seat to Cal Crutchlow earlier this season.

MotoGP: Ducati Expected to Re-Sign Hayden at Laguna Seca

07/26/2012 @ 7:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Ducati Expected to Re Sign Hayden at Laguna Seca Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Saturday Jules Cisek 141 635x423

Making the rounds in the MotoGP paddock today at Laguna Seca, several sources close to the matter revealed to Asphalt & Rubber that Nicky Hayden is to announce a contract extension with Ducati Corse for the 2013 season this race-weekend. Pegged to be a one-year renewal, Hayden’s place at Ducati has been in a precarious position, ever since it was revealed that Cal Crutchlow had received an offer from the Italian team.

A workhorse for the Ducati, in addition to his personal sponsors, Hayden has been an integral member of the Italian brand ever since he joined the team back in 2009. With the United States now Ducati’s most important market in terms of sales, having an American on the company’s MotoGP team has been an important consideration for Ducati Corse, and the re-signing of Hayden to the Ducati Corse squad bodes well that Bologna has finalized its 2013 plans as well.