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.

Dakar Rally – Stage 5: Coma Leads, Despres Penalized

01/09/2014 @ 6:18 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally   Stage 5: Coma Leads, Despres Penalized marc coma dakar rally stage five ktm 635x422

Stage five of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw  riders battling  some very inclement conditions. With temperatures soaring to well above 100 degrees and poor visibility due to last week’s rain, Stage Five  took its toll on all the riders as they covered the 912 km jaunt between Chilecito and Tucumán.

“It was another tough day and it was really hot out there,” explained Marc Coma. “To get to the end of the stage I rode for 10 km lost in a river bed.” Coma and his KTM 450 Rally rode to the stage lead with Jordi Viladoms taking second nearly 13 minutes behind Coma, while Kuba Pryzgonski finished third.

Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Disaster for Cyril Despres

01/08/2014 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Disaster for Cyril Despres cyril despres yamaha racing dakar rally 635x423

Day four of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw some interesting events, as riders competed on machines that they had to prep themselves the night before, as a part of the first “marathon” stage. Racing over 353 km in Argentina, between San Juan and Chilecito, for Stage Four, riders had another tough day of racing, though favorite Cyril Despres had arguably the worst of it.

Just 9 km from the finish line, and likely to take the outright lead in the process, Despres’ Yamaha YZ450F Rally encountered an electrical short, which caused the race bike to stop working. The mechanical would cost Despres 40 minutes in time, and drop him down to sixth overall, 41 minutes behind Dakar leader Joan Barreda.

Barreda too though would have a tough outing, crashing and losing time to a very fast Marc Coma, who finished third for the day. Coma and his KTM now sit only three minutes and ten seconds behind Barreda and his Honda for the outright lead.

Winning the stage was Spain’s Juan Pedrero, with Chaleco Lopez finishing second, only 29 seconds back.

Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Honda Makes It a Hat Trick

01/07/2014 @ 10:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Honda Makes It a Hat Trick joan barreda hrc dakar rally stage three

Day three of the 2014 Dakar Rally sees the beginning of the first marathon stage, where only riders will be allowed to work tonight on their racing machines. Making it three stages in a row for HRC, Joan Barreda won his second stage of this year’s Dakar, and extended his overall lead to over 13 minutes.

Stage Three saw the return of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma to their riding pace, as the pair finished second and third for the day, respectively. The day also moved them into the same positions overall, behind Joan Barreda of course.

A tough and technical stage, the Honda CRF 450 Rally is proving itself to be a capable machine, and Barreda is showing himself to be less of an underdog, and now the man to beat on the race course.

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Sunderland Takes First Stage Win

01/07/2014 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Sunderland Takes First Stage Win sam sunderland dakar rally stage two

After Joan Barreda’s Stage One win, Honda is continuing to make its presence felt in the 2014 Dakar Rally. This time Britain’s Sam Sunderland took the stage win honors (his first stage win in his career), though the HRC rider was followed closely in time by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez of Chile, who was just 39 seconds back.

Two minutes back from his teammate, Barreda continued his pace (despite hitting a cow), and was third fastest for the day.

Noticeably absent from the front of the pack were Dakar favorites Marc Coma (9th) and Cyril Despres (10th), as they battled the 359 km from San Luis to San Rafael. Coma attributed his result to a stone that got wedged between the gearbox and the shift — as a result he is now seven minutes back overall.

Meanwhile Despres’ difficulties stemmed from the Frenchman taking a crash in what was likely the fastest stage of the rally. Unhurt from his tumble, Despres will have to overcome a six minute eighteen second deficit overall.

Dakar Rally – Stage 1: HRC Takes First Stage Win

01/05/2014 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dakar Rally   Stage 1: HRC Takes First Stage Win joan barreda hrc 2014 dakar rally stage one

The first stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally has come and gone, and while all the focus has been on multiple rally winners Cyril Despres (Yamaha) and Marc Coma (KTM), it was in fact Joan Barreda from the HRC factory team who took the first stage win.

A strong start for Honda’s rally racing program and the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike, Barreda’s stage win, though only 37 seconds quicker than Coma’s finish, solidifies Honda’s spot as a contender in this year’s Dakar — thus making the 2014 edition a true three-way battle royale.

Good money is still on Coma and Despres though, who are well within striking distance of Barreda, with 12 stages of racing still remaining. With only 180 km of timed “special” course on Sunday, the day’s racing was short and tight. It will be interesting to see how Monday’s longer 359 km special stage should sort the field out. Stay tuned.

Here is the TV Viewing Schedule for the 2014 Dakar Rally

01/03/2014 @ 2:50 pm, by Aakash Desai15 COMMENTS

Here is the TV Viewing Schedule for the 2014 Dakar Rally 2014 KTM Dakar Rally Faria 02 635x423

The 2014 Dakar Rally is about to begin, and this year the route begins in Rosario, Argentina, travels north into Bolivia, and then turns around to head down south along the coast to end in Valparaiso, Chile. The total length of the route is almost 5000 kilometers.

Founded in 1978, the original route ran from Paris, France to Dakar Senegal; hence the name “The Paris-Dakar”. However, due to political and security issues which cancelled the race in 2008, the race was transposed across the world to South America in 2009, with a focus on Argentina and Chile.

For those wanting to follow the 2014 Dakar Rally on television, coverage in the United States begins on Monday, January 6th at 5pm on NBC Sports, in both SD and HD.

XXX: 13 Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Buck Naked

12/31/2013 @ 2:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

XXX: 13 Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Buck Naked 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike 09 635x423

How rude of us. All this talk about KTM’s new 450cc race bike for the Dakar Rally, and we haven’t properly introduced the machine to you. Well, we did bring you some of the first photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike a few months ago, but they hardly do the purpose-built race bike any justice.

KTM’s goal with the 450 Rally was to build a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine than the previous machine, which was basically a 600cc-class chassis with a 450cc motor wedged into it. Now building a new bike around a brand new motor, all from the ground-up, KTM believes it has the ultimate adventure-racer in its arsenal.

More like a motocross bike in its design than the bulky 2013 model was, the 2014 KTM 450 Rally is a stunning piece of kit, and for as odd as it sounds, we have never lusted after a fairing stay / headlight housing more in our lives. Luckily KTM supplied us with 13 hi-res photos of the new KTM 450 Rally…totally naked. If you’re a gearhead, the following might not be safe for work.

Video: KTM Readies for the 2014 Dakar Rally

12/31/2013 @ 1:55 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Video: KTM Readies for the 2014 Dakar Rally 2014 KTM Dakar Rally Coma 02 635x423

Cyril Despres might be the man to beat at the upcoming Dakar Rally, but the boys at KTM aren’t going to let Despres’ defection to Yamaha Racing stop them from keeping the Austrian brand’s winning streak alive. Gearing up for the 2014 Dakar Rally, which starts January 5th in Argentina, KTM factory riders Marc Coma, Ruben Faria and Francisco Lopez talk in a video about the upcoming race and their new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Debuting the purpose-built 450cc machine, Coma et al will have a potent weapon this year, especially in the more technical stages. However, with two marathon stages (stages where the riders must perform all their own maintenance and mechanical work), as well as five separation stages (stages where motorcycles and quads will tackle a different and more technical routes of the course than the cars and trucks), the 2014 Dakar Rally is looking especially hard compared to previous years.

With Coma looking to tie Despres’ current tally of five wins, we can expect strong competition from the Spaniard. Missing last year’s event due to injury, Coma will be keen to regain his momentum, and equal his Dakar rival. Of course, the KTM Factory Red Bull Team enters this year’s rally with heavy hearts, mourning the loss of American Kurt Caselli, who died this year while competing in the SCORE Baja 1000. KTM is dedicating their race in this year’s Dakar to their fallen teammate.

Are You Ready for the 2014 Dakar Rally?

12/30/2013 @ 9:46 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Are You Ready for the 2014 Dakar Rally? 2014 dakar rally race map 635x425

In just a week’s time, the 2014 Dakar Rally will be underway in South America. Featuring a course through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, this year’s Dakar is longer and harder than years past, and will feature three OEMs vying for the top motorcycle honors: Honda, KTM, and Yamaha.

The biggest news going into the iconic rally race is Cyril Despres’ move from KTM to Yamaha, as the five-time Dakar winner is looking for his sixth race win on the new marque. The biggest man in his way is rival Marc Coma, who remains with the Austrian brand, and will be riding the all-new KTM 450 Rally race bike. HRC will be racing in The Dakar this year again, with five riders and a revised racing machine — we can expect good things from the combination.

Of course missing from the lineup is American racer Kurt Caselli, who lost his life in 2013 while competing in the SCORE Baja 1000. The popular American will surely be on the mind of every competitor as they begin the rally on Sunday, and he certainly will be in the hearts of every fan come race day.

Stay tuned for the 35th edition — it starts January 5th, in Rosario, Argentina. We’ll be updating Asphalt & Rubber with pertinent racing news, as it unfolds.

First Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Race Bike

10/10/2013 @ 6:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

First Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Race Bike 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike 02

These are the first photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally factory race bike that Marc Coma, Kurt Caselli, and Ruben Faria will ride in the upcoming Dakar Rally in three-months time (factory rider Francisco Lopez will be on the 2013 machine). The 2014 race bike is a completely new machine from the ground up, and will make its racing debut at the OilLibya Rally of Morocco.

With the goal of winning its 13th Dakar in a row, KTM has some stiff competition for this upcoming Dakar, as former-rider Cyril Despres has defected to the Yamaha Racing team, and HRC has recently debuted its brand new 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally race bike as well.