Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2R Pricing Revealed

Even though the Kawasaki Ninja H2R debuted in October at the INTERMOT show, and the Kawasaki Ninja H2 debuted a few weeks ago at the EICMA show, Kawasaki was a bit slow to release the pricing and availability details of its two supercharged machines. Releasing now details for the US market, we can quote pricing for the H2 and H2R throughout the world. In the United States, the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R will cost $25,000 and $50,000 respectively. Interested parties will have to special order the bikes, before December 19th, from their local Kawasaki dealership, and buyers should note that the H2R comes with certain restrictions.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

Photos: 2013 KTM Rally Team

11/26/2012 @ 5:26 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Photos: 2013 KTM Rally Team 2013 KTM Rally Team 05 635x423

Gearing up for the Dakar Rally, and the start of the adventure rally season, KTM has debuted its 2013 rally team with Cyril Despres, Marc Coma, and Ruben Faria. Riding the KTM 450 Rally race bike, the three KTM riders are tipped to be the favorites at the 2013 Dakar Rally, with Despres looking for his fifth win, while Coma races for his fourth victory against his teammate and rival.

The Dakar will once again be held in South America, making 2013 the fifth time that the race has been held outside of its namesake territory. A bit of branding yoga, the famous adventure race has been right at home in the varied terrains of Peru, Argentina, and Chilé, and for 2013, the Dakar will visit those countries in that order. New to the Dakar, Honda’s factory team will be on the roster, as well factory teams from Husqvarna and Aprilia.

Because we know how much you enjoy them, high-resolution photos of the factory KTM riders doing their thing, after the jump (HD display owners will also note that A&R has gone “retina” with our post images, woot).

Husqvarna TE449 RR Dakar Race Bike by Speedbrain

11/13/2012 @ 2:50 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Husqvarna TE449 RR Dakar Race Bike by Speedbrain 2013 Husqvarna TE449 RR by Spedbrain Dakar 05 635x423

To be entirely honest, we don’t follow the adventure racing arena as much as we should, giving only a little bit of press to the world-famous Dakar Rally at the start of each year. So, we really can’t do justice to what Husqvarna and Speedbrain are doing with this factory-backed Husqvarna TE449 RR Dakar bike.

The photos are surprisingly detailed though, and are probably as close as you will ever get to a proper works rally machine, and Husqvarna gives a good accounting of the bike’s progression and current development. Rather than fake our own rewording of their story, read it after the jump. It’s pretty interesting.

2013 Honda CRF450 Rally – Big Red is Ready for Dakar

10/02/2012 @ 1:22 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2013 Honda CRF450 Rally   Big Red is Ready for Dakar 2013 Honda CRF450 Rally Dakar 04 635x475

Our first official news from the showroom floor of INTERMOT is Honda’s race bike for the 2013 Dakar Rally. Rumored, teased, and now official, the 2013 Honda CRF450 Rally is as the name implies, a CRF450 built out and specially suited for adventure rally racing. The fuel-injected off-roader will get its first outing at the Rally of Morocco, which starts October 14th.

Honda intends on fielding five riders on the 2013 Honda CRF450 Rally bike: 11-time Baja 1000 winner Johnny Campbell (USA), Helder Rodrigues (Portugal), Felipe Zanol (Brazil), Sam Sunderland (United Kingdom), and Javier Pizzolito (Argentina). Expect to see Honda CRF450 Rally on the Dakar Rally starting line come January 1, 2013 in South America, where it will take on the KTM contingency of Marc Coma and Cyril Despres.

Honda Will Race in the 2013 Dakar Rally with Factory Team

07/02/2012 @ 10:25 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Honda Will Race in the 2013 Dakar Rally with Factory Team Honda HRC Dakar Rally Concept 635x442

Honda has announced that it will field a factory entry in the upcoming 2013 Dakar Rally, which starts January 2013 and goes through Peru, Argentina, and Chile. Enlisting four riders to ride on the yet to be released HRC adventure racer, the return of HRC factory team to The Dakar is a boon for the series, which has been dominated by KTM in recent years.

Coming into the series with a pedigree of winning in the 1980’s, HRC hopes that Portuguese rider Helder Rodrigues, who came in third in the 2012 Dakar Rally, will be able to contend with KTM’s factory-backed efforts for Marc Coma and Cyril Despres.

The 2013 Dakar Rally – Peru, Argentina, & Chile

03/21/2012 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The 2013 Dakar Rally   Peru, Argentina, & Chile cyril despres ktm dakar rally 2012 40 635x421

The Dakar Rally has already released its route for the 2013 Dakar, and the famous endurance race will once again compete in South America (Africa what?). Choosing to do a reversal of its previous routes, The Dakar will travel from north to south by starting in Lima, Peru and ending in Santiago, Chile.

Though this will be the fifth time the Dakar Rally has run in South America, the 2013 edition should be a grueling one right off the bat. Since the race is starting in Lima, it means competitors will be in the sand dunes of Peru right away — the first time the race has ever started in the desert. With all eyes watching to see if Cyril Despres can defend his 2012 victory against rival Marc Coma, racing action for the 2013 Dakar Rally starts Janurary 5th and ends January 20th.

Cyril Despres Wins Fourth Dakar Rally Title

01/16/2012 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Cyril Despres Wins Fourth Dakar Rally Title Cyril Despres KTM Dakar Rally 2012 44 635x422

After battling with KTM teammate Marc Coma for the entire duration of the 2012 Dakar Rally, Cyril Despres bested the Catalan rider on the final stage, and claimed his fourth Dakar title. Despres won only four stages of the Rally (compared to Coma’s five stages), but the Frenchman was able to cling to his overall lead, despite finishing behind Coma on the last stage. With The Dakar concluding in Lima for the first time in history, Despres’ triumph brought KTM its eleventh consecutive Dakar win. After a critical time penalty was levied against Marc Coma, Cyril Despres won the rally with a 53 minute margin, though the racing was decidedly closer than that number implies.

Sunday’s final stage was only 23km long (14.29 miles) and largely ceremonial, with Saturday’s penultimate round truly deciding who would win the 2012 Dakar Rally. With only several minutes of time separating the two riders as they entered the last true round of racing, Coma unfortunately damaged his gearbox after a big jump. Getting lost in the process, Coma was able to nurse his KTM back through the stage, though he had a 45 minute time penalty levied upon him for swapping-in his third motor, which cost the Catalan his chance of a fourth Dakar win, and allowed Despres to coast to victory during Sunday’s final round.

Francisco Lopez Caught Stealing Gas During Dakar Rally

01/17/2011 @ 8:55 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Francisco Lopez Caught Stealing Gas During Dakar Rally Francisco Chaleco Lopez Aprilia Dakar Racing 635x423

In an event that’s probably more embarrassing than nefarious, Aprilia’s Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez was caught by the camera of a Dakar Rally spectator stealing gas from a parked motorcycle near the race course. Lopez didn’t get too far in the process as several local policeman were nearby and gave the Chilean rider a stern talking to…of course when you speak the language, we imagine it’s a lot easier to talk your way out of a ticket than end up in some South American jail. Check the video after the jump, and let us know if you think Lopez should have been handed a time penalty for his actions.

Marc Coma Edges Out Despres for His 3rd Dakar Rally – Brings Home KTM’s 10th Consecutive Dakar Victory

01/16/2011 @ 5:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Marc Coma Edges Out Despres for His 3rd Dakar Rally   Brings Home KTMs 10th Consecutive Dakar Victory Marc Coma wins Dakar Rally 20111 635x421

Because KTM employs some of the best adventure racers in the world, there was little debate that the Austrian manufacturer would win its 10th consecutive Dakar Rally, on this the 33rd running of the race. However which of KTM’s top riders, Coma or Despres, would take the checkered flag this weekend at Buenos Aires was a question of some contention among adventure racing fans, as going into the latter stages of the event, it was either rider’s race to win.

That debate can finally come to a conclusion thought, as after racing over more than 3,000 miles on one of the most grueling Dakars to-date, Spaniard Marc Coma edged out Frenchman Cyril Despres for the overall rally win by a mere 15 minutes, which included a 10 minute penalty that Despres incurred earlier in the racing week. Photos, results, and more after the jump.

2011 Dakar Rally Starts Tomorrow

12/31/2010 @ 12:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2011 Dakar Rally Starts Tomorrow Cyril Despres KTM Dakar Rally 2 635x422

Making its third start from South America, the 33rd Dakar Rally officially kicks off on New Year’s Day tomorrow in Buneos Aires. Making a quick trip to Victoria, Argentina (174 mils as the crow flies), the 2011 Dakar Rally competitors will have to contest with what is being considered a more difficult and technical course than last year’s route. In total there are 445 competitors (180 motorcycles, 140 cars, 67 trucks, & 32 ATVs) entering the race, but history tells us a smaller number will finish the course.

KTM’s Cyril Despres is favored in the motorcycle category, after winning the 2010 rally, but he will have to contend with fellow KTM rider Marc Coma and Francisco Lopez Contardo, whose Aprilia has been extensively improved upon over last year’s debut model, and could be a real contender this year in the Dakar. Of course rally purists will still lament the fact the race isn’t taking place in Africa, but the Dakar is getting back to its roots a bit, and has limited the use of global positioning satellites. Photos and video after the jump.

The Best of Dakar from Behind the Lens

01/14/2010 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The Best of Dakar from Behind the Lens Gerard Farres Guell Dakar Rally 2010 635x444

The Boston Globe is running a series of photos from the Dakar Rally, which we think are some of the best shots we’ve seen of the race to date. A mixture of octane and gorgeous landscape, we think you’ll enjoy these shots as much as we did. You can find the rest of them here at boston.com.

Rally racers are currently on their 12th stage of the race, heading from in San Juan, Argentina to San Rafael. After today, the riders will have to complete two more stages before the rally concludes where it began in Buenos Aires.

Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images