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.

2012 MotoGP Calendar Updated

12/14/2011 @ 1:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2012 MotoGP Calendar Updated Casey Stoner Valencia Honda 635x421

Finally finalized, the 2012 MotoGP calendar hasn’t exactly seen a huge revision from last season’s schedule, though it does put to rest some outstanding issues. Previously only listing Germany as a stop for MotoGP action, the Sachsenring’s name has been inserted as the venue to host the German GP, subject to the circuit coming to terms with Dorna of course.

Also still subject to contract, Estoril has yet to come to a full agreement with the MotoGP rights holder. Other changes include the confirmation of the Spanish GP at Jerez, and that the season-opener at Qatar will come a week earlier than last season. For 2013, MotoGP’s calendar will include a stop in Argentina, as well as an additional round in the United States.

Carlos Checa Re-Signs with Althea Ducati…Finally

10/17/2011 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Carlos Checa Re Signs with Althea Ducati...Finally Carlos Checa Althea Ducati WSBK Portimao 635x441

Good news for Carlos Checa, as the Althea Ducati race team has finally extended the reigning-World Superbike Champion a contract for the 2012 season. Recently, Checa was in the precarious position of having clinched the 2011 World Superbike Championship, and yet had no contract for the 2012 season. Stuck in the tug-of-war between Althea Racing and Ducati Corse, as well as the scandal currently gripping Althea Ceramics, Checa’s future with the Ducati squad was in question to such an extent that the BMW Italia team offered the Spaniard €800,000 to ride one of its BMW S1000RRs in 2012.

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island

10/10/2011 @ 6:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island Alvaro Bautista Japanese GP Rizla Suzuki pit 635x422

Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear  from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

Dovizioso Signs with Monster Tech 3 Yamaha for 2012

10/08/2011 @ 9:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Dovizioso Signs with Monster Tech 3 Yamaha for 2012 Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda 635x421

Another seat in the silly season game of musical chairs has been snatched, as Andrea Dovizioso has signed a contract with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad for the 2012 season. Shit out of luck, in more common vernacular, Dovizioso found himself the odd-man out after Honda announced that it would only have three factory riders for the upcoming season. With Stoner and Pedrosa still under contract through that term, this news meant a tough choice between Dovi and rival Marco Simoncelli. Though consistently placing higher than his fellow Italian, Dovizioso lost out to SuperSic’s bold track moves and likable off-track demeanor.

While bad news for Dovi, the falling-out from Honda meant good news for the rest of the MotoGP teams who were anxious to retain the services of the potently quick Repsol Honda rider. Hervé Poncharal’s Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team seemingly won the battle of the offers, as it’s being reported that the French team has signed Andrea Dovizioso for the 2012 season, beating out the many other offers Dovi had on the table, including a reportedly factory-spec Honda at LCR Honda.

WSBK: Melandri to BMW Motorrad for 2012

10/02/2011 @ 4:08 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Melandri to BMW Motorrad for 2012 melandri pirelli little yamaha 635x508

Marco Melandri will join Leon Haslam at BMW Motorrad for the 2012 World Superbike season, leaving Troy Corser presumably out of the factory team. The Italian’s maiden season this year at Yamaha proved to be an excellent one, as he his Championship battle with Carlos Checa come down to this penultimate race weekend. Over the 2011 season, Melandri won one pole out the twenty-three races run so far this season, and has three race wins to his credit. Earlier in his career, Melandri won the 2002 250GP Championship, and seemed to find a home in WSBK this season. However, he and fellow WSBK rookie rider Eugene Laverty were left in the cold when Yamaha announced that they were shelving their WSBK effort in 2012.

“We are really looking forward to working with Leon and Marco. I am convinced we will have arguably the strongest rider’s line up in the Superbike World Championship field,” said Bernhard Gobmeier, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director. He continued, “We are delighted to have two riders who are both hungry and experienced for the coming season. That is the next important step for our team.” There is no word yet on where current BWM rider Troy Corser will land, nor Laverty.

2012 Provisional MotoGP Championship Calendar Released

09/15/2011 @ 7:43 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

2012 Provisional MotoGP Championship Calendar Released Rossi fan Indy GP Scott Jones

The 2012 provisional MotoGP calendar is out, and while all the basic locations remain the same, next season does see some shuffling in the order of things. While everything is still subject to some change, perhaps the biggest change on the roster for next year are the back-to-back US rounds, which sees the Indy GP moved up a week, and the Czech GP moved down the calendar to accommodate for one solitary trip to the United States. Allowing for a more streamlined supply chain for the MotoGP traveling circus, this change should be a welcomed one in the GP paddock as teams, journalists, and support crew won’t have to make two trips to the US in quick succession.

The other big change of note is the “TBC” for the venue to host the German GP. With Sachsenring reportedly out of the 2012 calendar because of event unprofitability, it remains to be seen whether Hockenheim or Nurburgring will replace it for next year. Should another German venue not be secured, it is entirely possible that we could see the German GP dropped from the MotoGP calendar in perpetuity. Speaking of dropping off the calendar, with Jerez still dealing with its creditor issues, it is also entirely possible thst we could see the Spanish round dropped from the final calendar as well, making this provisional calendar carrying a heavy emphasis on the word provisional.

Kawasaki Tightening Control Over WSBK Team in 2012 – Paul Bird Motorsport Out

09/13/2011 @ 10:20 am, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

Kawasaki Tightening Control Over WSBK Team in 2012   Paul Bird Motorsport Out Tom Sykes Kawasaki Victory 635x433

Kawasaki will not renew its World Superbike contract with Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM) for 2012, instead focusing on bringing the race team further under the control of the Japanese manufacturer. Kawasaki had invited bids for teams interested in the 2012 and beyond contract, and received as many as six offers. Just days ago though, Kawasaki European Race Planning Manager Steve Gutteridge indicated that a decision between PBM and current Kawasaki factory World Supersport team Provec would be forthcoming.

Now stating that is has made the decision not to renew PBM’s contract, Kawasaki’s announcement is also devoid of naming the Provec team as the bid winner. “We have enjoyed three valuable years alongside the Paul Bird Motorsport team and would like to put on record our sincere thanks for the time, effort and dedication they have shown to the Kawasaki World Superbike racing programme,” said Race Manager Ichiro Yoda, as he indicated that there would be no contract renewal.

Yamaha Withdrawing from WSBK at the End of the Season

08/01/2011 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Yamaha Withdrawing from WSBK at the End of the Season Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK wave 635x866

In a shocking statement made today, Yamaha has announced that it will be withdrawing its official presence from FIM Superbike World Championship at the conclusion of the 2011 season. After reviewing its marketing operations within Europe, Yamaha Motor Europe (the driving force behind the company’s WSBK effort) has decided its euros would be better spent on other events that directly engage potential Yamaha customers.

Yamaha says it remains committed to seeing Marco Melandri (3rd) and Eugene Laverty (4th) win the 2011 World Superbike Championship, though with four rounds remaining that would seem a tall order as Carlos Checa leads both Yamaha riders by 71 & 135 points respectively. Checa, of course, is on the “satellite” Althea Ducati team, which is rumored to have more links to Bologna than a sausage cook-off held in Ducati’s factory parking lot.

WSBK: Melandri Re-Signs with Yamaha for 2012

07/26/2011 @ 6:59 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

WSBK: Melandri Re Signs with Yamaha for 2012 melandi yamaha 635x422

Marco Melandri has renewed his contract with the Yamaha World Superbike team for 2012, resulting in an unchanged line-up for the factory team next season. Teammate Eugene Laverty had signed a two-year contract with the Japanese team after moving up from nearly winning the World Supersport championship in 2010. The Italian, the 2002 250 GP world champion, has fared well in his rookie WSBK season and won three races to this point.

“Next year I’ll still be here in Superbike,” said Melandri. He continued, “After changing four bikes and four teams in the last four years I am very happy to be able to build something that will last rather than having to start over again every time.” He must also be happy with his results on circuits both familiar and new, having won pole once and been on the podium nine times in so far, including recent duels at Motorland Aragon and Brno with Max Biaggi.

Pikes Peak to be Fully Paved by 2012

07/18/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Pikes Peak to be Fully Paved by 2012 PIkes Peak Gravel Pit 635x425

Probably the worst kept secret on the mountain, the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will occur on a fully-paved race course. Responding to legal and safety pressures, Pikes Peak has slowly been paving its dirt sections, which during the hill climb week made for spectacular plumes of dust and breath-taking slides from cars and bikes alike. With under 3 miles of dirt section currently remaining on the course, Pikes Peak has slowly been adding more asphalt sections over the past few years, which in-turn have been a major contributing factor to the hill climb seeing records smashed across virtually all classes each year.

While the remaining dirt section resides in a lower portion of the race course (between mile markers 10 & 13), which is relatively safer than the higher elevation sections (do NOT look over the edge), Pikes Peak has been under pressure to increase the safety of the mountain, adding guardrails and paving dirt sections. Even in its current form, our initial impression of the course was that there were seriously risky corners that we couldn’t imagine taking at speed, let alone with a dirt surface.