Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

IOMTT: Braddan Bridge & Union Mills with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2013 @ 7:44 pm, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results

06/07/2013 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The blue ribbon event of the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT is typically the most-welcomed race at the end of the TT fortnight, but after seeing the 2012 race cancelled (for the first time ever outside of World War I & II), on the account of rain, the 2013 PokerStars Senior TT has an amazing amount of build-up.

As if the running of the fastest machines on the Mountain Course wasn’t enough, there was the prospect that Michael Dunlop could sweep the five main solo-classes, a feat only ever done once before, by Ian Hutchinson.

As the flag dropped, and we held our breaths to see if John McGuinness would get his first race win this TT fortnight, if Micky D could make the clean sweep, or if another competitor would rise to the challenge (Guy Martin, anyone?), tragedy struck: a red flag on the first lap.

Jonathan Howarth went off at Bray Hill, and though he was hurt, but ok, the accident injured 10 spectators, one critically. Having already waited two years to see the return of the Senior TT, fans at the Isle of Man would have to wait a little longer it would seem.

In a statement by the ACU that was published right after the incident, “ten spectators and the rider were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from slight to serious but not life threatening. Four of the spectators have been discharged, five of the injured have been kept in hospital and one remains under observation in the emergency department.”

A racing event fraught with tragedy and real-world danger, we all breathed a sigh of relief a dodging another tragic outcome at this year’s TT. Moving onward thanfully, the 2013 Senior TT resumed three hours later, click past the jump for its race results.

IOMTT: Lightweight TT Race Results

06/07/2013 @ 5:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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A stark contrast to the Senior TT that it precedes, the Isle of Man TT’s Lightweight TT race is comprised of 650cc twins, and the field is dominated by a sea of Kawasaki race bikes. A few competitors try different machinery, Suzuki’s mainly, though a couple Chinese models can be spotted in the paddock.

To be truly competitive in the Lightweight TT though, you need to be on one of Ryan Farquhar’s race-prepped bikes, which draws a small circle on the number of true contender’s for the class’s podium spots.

This prospect left Michael Dunlop to withdraw from the Lightweight TT, prefering to concentrate his energy in securing a clean sweep of the five main solo races in the 2013 Isle of Man TT.

Should he win the Senior TT, he would accomplish a feat only ever achieved by Ian Hutchinson — so we can’t fault him for his absence. This still left a strong grid in the Lightweight TT class. Race spoilers after the jump.

Michael Dunlop Wins the Joey Dunlop TT Championship

06/07/2013 @ 3:34 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Given every year to the rider who wins the most points in the five main event solo races, the Joey Dunlop TT Championship Trophy is the not the ultimate goal for the competitors in the Isle of Man TT, but it certainly is a prestigious prize. Winning four of the five main races this week already, Michael Dunlop has locked up the trophy named after his Uncle Joey, ahead of the TT’s blue ribbon race, the Senior TT.

Michael will be keen to win the Senior, less so because of the clean sweep, but more so because it would single the true arrival of the Irish racer as a serious contender in every class. Before this TT fortnight, Dunlop had won only three races (two Supersport races and one Superstock race) at the Isle of Man, though he wasn’t considered just yet to be in the same league as the veteran Superbike class riders. We believer that distinction is no longer relevant.

IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

06/05/2013 @ 9:02 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

Dainese’s The TT Trilogy – Part 1: The Island

06/05/2013 @ 6:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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It looks like Dainese, one of the main sponsors of the Isle of Man TT, is gearing up to do a series of short videos about the famous road race (you may have seen our coverage of the 2013 Isle of Man TT thus far). The first installment, simply titled “The Island”, captures perhaps the most important, yet most difficult element to describe: the allure of the Isle of Man TT.

A little rock in the middle of the Irish Sea, the views from the countryside and mountain tops are breathtaking, the Manx people are warm and hospitable, and the racing, well…the racing is unlike anything you have ever seen. That all seems to come through here, and we can’t wait to see the rest of what the Italian company has to offer from The Rock. Good stuff.

IOMTT: Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 2 Results

06/05/2013 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Double the pleasure, double the fun, that’s the Supersport TT at the Isle of Man TT. Along with the Sidecar class, the supersport riders get two goes of things on the Mountain Course, and for Michael Dunlop that meant another golden opportunity to dominate this year’s TT.

Having three wins so far this fortnight to his name, and always one of the top picks on the 600cc machines, the Irish rider is looking on-point going into the second Monster Energy Supersport TT. With the Isle once again blessing riders with sunny skies and warm weather, the stage was set for another day of great road racing. Race report after the jump.

IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/05/2013 @ 3:28 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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You either love the technology and progress being showcased in the SES TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, or you hate the lack of sound, slower speeds, and fairly predictable outcomes that the electric race provides.

For our part, we love watching the electrics go around the Mountain Course, and if you have been following the practice and qualifying sessions for the TT Zero class, the racing is anything but a parade lap at the pointy end of the entry list.

With John McGuinness leading the field with his Mugen Shinden Ni going into the 2013 TT Zero, many wondered if MotoCzysz could make it four in a row at the 2013 Isle of Man TT.

To win though, McGuinness would have to defeat two-time TT Zero winner Michael Rutter, and the 2010 TT Zero winner Mark Miller, both of whom are on the brand new 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc this fortnight. Well, now we know the answer. Click through past the jump for our full race report 2013 SES TT Zero.

Up-Close with the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/05/2013 @ 12:54 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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In a few hours, the TT Zero race will kickoff for the 2013 Isle of Man TT, and if the practice and qualifying sessions are any indication, it should be a close-fought race between the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni of John McGuinness and the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc race bikes of Michael Rutter and Mark Miller (Update: The SES TT Zero race report can be found here).

McGuinness has been fastest so far with the Mugen Shinden Ni, posting a 109.038 lap during Monday’s qualifying session, while Rutter and Miller posted 107.817 mph and 105.806 mph laps, respectively. On the course, this means McGuinness is roughly 16 second faster than Rutter, a notable difference, but not a huge margin in this class, which sees huge (by TT standards) speed leaps from session to session.

Hoping to make it four wins in a row, it goes without saying that the MotoCzysz crew is working hard to close the gap. However, having Team Principal Michael Czysz stuck back in the US, undergoing cancer treatments, must certainly add another level of motivation for the on-island MotoCzysz crew.

Making time in their busy schedule, Asphalt & Rubber got to take some up-close photos of the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc. Check them out after the jump, you won’t see better photos of the ’13 E1pc anywhere else.

Video: Honda TT Legends Pays Tribute to Joey Dunlop

06/04/2013 @ 10:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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We would be remiss in our coverage of the 2013 Isle of Man TT if we didn’t say a few more words about Joey Dunlop. A legend of the sport, Joey is the winningest rider ever to race at the Isle of Man, and has 26 TT race wins to his name. Unfortunately, Joey died while road racing in Estonia, losing control of his 125cc race bike in the wet conditions.

The longest standing Honda rider of all time, Big Red wanted to pay tribute to Dunlop at this year’s TT, as it marked the 30th anniversary of Joey’s first win with the Japanese brand. Picking John McGuinness to ride in Joey’s livery, the current King of the Mountain started his career as a teammate to Joey, and was honored to pay homage to the racing legend.

In the video, you can hear McGuinness getting a bit choked up talking about his idol, and we think all the TT fans on the course enjoyed seeing Joey’s old colors go by. He truly is a legend of our sport. Enjoy Honda TT Legends’ video after the jump.