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.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati claudio domenicali 635x954

When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasn’t a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics

03/29/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasnt a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics first year ducati superbike model sales graph 3 635x412

Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/19/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R Ducati 1199 Panigale R Circuit of the Americas 53 635x422

The international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R is taking place this week, and the world’s top motorcycle-journalists are lapping Bologna’s latest bullet around the new Circuit of the Americas race course outside of Austin, Texas.

Helping make the occasion extra special, MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are in attendance, doing what they do best on two wheels. Since the two Ducati riders did not participate in the private test at Austin, that HRC and Yamaha Racing held last week, this photo-op was their first outing on the track.

Asphalt & Rubber will be swinging a leg over the Panigale R on Thursday, which means we have two painfully long days until we can see the machine in person. There are 101 hi-res snaps after the jump, taken by the great Gigi Soldano, Marco Campelli, Andrew Wheeler, and Scott Jones (yes! the Scott Jones!).

Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 Priced at €134,900

01/31/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 Priced at €134,900  Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 635x423

Correction: The article originally stated that the price for the RS13 was €34,900, when it is in fact €134,900. And for the love of god, don’t call Ducati Corse trying to buy one. They won’t sell a Rs13 to you.

Unless your name rhymes with Tarlos Techa, the chances of you owning a Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 are non-existent. The professional racer-only version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, the Panigale RS13 is stripped of all the lights, mirrors, reflectors, and other assorted running gear that you would need to pass an inspection from the DOT, and becomes a motorcycle solely dedicated to the art of going fast.

Before any comparisons are made, it is important to note that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not exactly what ends up on the starting grid on any given Sunday, but instead is the starting point for each racing team’s development program, which sees the end result often being a 200+ hp monster on two wheels.

Getting one isn’t cheap though, as the price tag is pegged at a cool €134,900 ($180,500). A hefty price increase over the street-going Panigale R, though with all the added suspension, brakes, wheels, etc that come with the RS13 race bike, the price seems somewhat reasonable — if you can say such a thing about a nearly $180,500 motorcycle.

Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles

01/24/2013 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero Commonwealth Motorcycles 04

Visual aesthetics have always been something of import and interest to me, a trait that is probably tied into the fact that I am visual learner. So it interests me when we see subtle changes having a great affect on a design.

Take the new Repsol livery on the 2013 Honda RC213V — the simple change from black to white creates a significantly different visual understanding of the MotoGP bike, though the basic idea of the livery remains the same.

We can see the same process with the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles, as the Kentucky-based Ducati shop has massaged in a bit black paint on the already stunning Ducati 1199 S Tricolore paint scheme (work by Robbie Nigl of Peach Pit Racing).

The effect? A whole new take on an already very classy looking machine. Nice work guys…now let’s talk about posting some hi-res photos next time, eh? Far too small pictures are after the jump.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Sales Record for 2012

01/17/2013 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Ducati North America Posts All Time Sales Record for 2012 Ducati Hypermotard SP 635x475

Ducati North America is reporting that 2012 was its best all-time retails sales year, with the Italian brand selling 10,883 units last year. This figure means that roughly a quarter of all Ducati motorcycles sold in 2012 were sold in North America, again solidifying the market’s #1 importance to the Bologna Brand.

For an added bonus, Ducati North America is also reporting 10 consecutive quarters of increased sales, with 2012 as whole growing 21% compared to 2011. With every sales region in the US growing in volume, the United States saw 21% growth overall, with Canada (25%) and Mexico (7%) adding to the cause as well. On the non-bike side of things, Ducati North America’s line of apparel and performance parts saw 42% in growth.

Just How Big of a Sales Hit Was the Ducati 1199 Panigale?

12/10/2012 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Just How Big of a Sales Hit Was the Ducati 1199 Panigale? Ducati 1199 Panigale 635x475

It is no secret that Ducati had high hopes for the Ducati 1199 Panigale when it debuted the machine at the 2011 EICMA motorcycle show, and the Italian superbike certainly has proven itself to be popular with new motorcycle buyers in 2012. Selling 7,500 units worldwide so far this year, the Panigale is one of Ducati’s best selling motorcycles ever, and accounts for roughly 17% of the Italian company’s sales for this year (2012 being Ducati’s best sales year ever).

A Quarter Century of Ducati Superbikes in Photos

11/19/2012 @ 9:25 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

A Quarter Century of Ducati Superbikes in Photos Museo Ducati 635x422

Ducati superbikes are a legend in their own right, with a racing career the spans much father back in history than just the past two decades. Grabbing press kits for the 2012 EICMA show though, I stumbled across these photos from the Ducati Museum at Borgo Panigale factory.

Starting with the Ducati 851, and going all the way forward in time to the newly released Ducati 1199 Panigale R, it is interesting to see the progression in design and technology among the models (if you are into this sort of thing, be sure to checkout our 33 years of Suzuki endurance road racing bikes post).

Get your history lesson on after the jump with some high-resolution motorcycle goodness, and be sure to mention your favorite Desmo in the comments.

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R – 201hp with Race Exhaust

11/12/2012 @ 9:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R   201hp with Race Exhaust 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigle R 04 635x475

We may have spoiled Christmas last month, as our predictions for the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R appear to be spot on as we get news from Ducati’s 2013 model year press launch at EICMA.

As expected, the highlights to the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R are the inclusions of titanium con-rods, a lightened flywheel, DLC-coated rocker-arms, a four-point adjustable swingarm pivot-point, a 500 rpm rev boost, and a bit more power (courtesy of a full-system race exhaust and ECU).

While the “R” spec Panigale officially makes the same power as the other models, the race exhaust included with the purchase of the machine is good for a few more ponies up top, giving the Ducati 1199 Panigale R a 201hp top figure, a modest 6% gain up top, but also a 15% increase in the midrange.

Like all Panigales, the Ducati 1199 Panigale R has ABS, ride-by-wire throttle control, traction control, engine braking control, and features all the amenities on the “S” spec model, like the DDA+ data logging system.

WSBK: Team Ducati Alstare With Checa & Badovini

11/12/2012 @ 2:21 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

WSBK: Team Ducati Alstare With Checa & Badovini 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 02 635x423

All the conjecture about Ducati’s factory World Superbike team can now come to a halt, as the Italian brand has announced that Francis Batta’s Belgian organisation, Team Alstare will take over the reigns of the company’s new WSBK effort.

At the helm of the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 will be former WSBK Champion Carlos Checa, who will be joined by Ayrton Badovini. Handling Ducati’s World Superbike campaign for the next two years, Alstare takes over from Althea Racing — a move that made headlines just a week ago.