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.

Bimota Taps Alstare for Race Development and Support – Badovini & Iddon Will Ride World Superbike EVO Entries

01/13/2014 @ 3:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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When Alstare split from Ducati Corse in World Superbike, there was some speculation as to where the Belgian-based racing team would land, and it would seem the trip hasn’t been a far one.

Linking up with the recently acquired Bimota brand, Alstare has signed a five-year agreement to collaborate with the Italian brand, and will serve as the worldwide racing department for Bimota — with a key focus on developing Bimota’s Moto2 and WSBK racing platforms, the latter centering around the recently launched Bimota BB3.

Alstare’s technical expertise will also be responsible for developing Bimota’s future sports and supersport models, while the firm’s communications and marketing experience will serve as Bimota’s race marketing department.

In total, the essence of the deal sees Alstare playing a vital role in Bimota’s business plans, from developing new models, honing race bikes, finding sponsors, and working with the press. With so much of Bimota’s business being outsourced to the Belgian racing firm, one has to wonder what duties are left for the brand’s Italian base.

Alstare Superbike Concept by Team Alstare

05/03/2013 @ 1:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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We love us some concept bikes here at Asphalt & Rubber, and we have featured more than a few pieces of stunning design and imagination on our pages. Though, we can’t remember the last time one of these works of art were brought to us by a legitimate racing team, but that is what we have here with the Team Alstare Superbike Concept.

A nod to the former Suzuki team’s return to the World Superbike Championship as the Ducati factory squad with Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini, Alstare has enlisted the help of designer Serge Rusak of Rusak Kreaktive Designworks to ink the shape of its futuristic Superbike concept, while Tryptik Studios handled “bringing the form to life” with its 3D modeling prowess (video after the jump).

Videos: Alstare Says Goodbye to Suzuki and Hello to Ducati

02/11/2013 @ 11:00 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Ending a 14 year relationship, the 2013 World Superbike Championship season sees Team Alstare under the flag of a new manufacturer, as the Belgian squad closes its story with Suzuki Racing, and begin a new one with Ducati Corse. An adjustment for many in the paddock, the name Alstare has always been synonymous with Suzuki, though the team’s absence this last season was a noticeable one, as Team Alstare has always been one of the top crews in WSBK.

In that regard, it seems fitting then that Alstare should find a partnership with another great name in World Superbike racing, and so while the name Team Ducati Alstare sounds a bit strange to the ear, it makes sense in the head. Bidding goodbye to Suzuki, and hello to Ducati, Team Alstare has put together two videos, which have more than a touch of bittersweet to them. Clearly, this is a wound that will still require some time to heal.

WSBK: Team Ducati Alstare With Checa & Badovini

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

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.

The WSBK Saga Continues: Ducati Corse Talking to Alstare?

10/30/2012 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

It seems we won’t get through each day of the week without an update on Ducati Corse’s World Superbike plans. After first hearing that Ducati Corse and Althea Racing had parted ways, with Ducati then confirming the news, it seems now the Italian brand is being linked to the Belgian Alstare Team, previously of Suzuki fame.

Talks between Ducati Corse and Team Alstare have been confirmed by Team Principal Francis Batta, with the negotiations between the two parties set to conclude tomorrow. Interestingly enough, the conclusion of the Alstare deal is fresh on the news of Althea Racing’s split from Ducati, which only adds more fuel to the speculation about the two parties.

Team Alstare Racing an MV Agusta F3 in World Supersport?

12/16/2011 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

You can’t keep a good race team down, as talk in the World Superbike paddock this week has been swirling around the Alstare Racing team. One of several teams to be on the receiving end of Suzuki’s withdrawal from the major racing series, Alstare found its factory-support from Suzuki draw to a close at the conclusion of the 2011 WSBK Championship season. We use the words “factory support” loosely of course, as Alstare Suzuki had been developing the Suzuki GSX-R1000 almost exclusively in-house, receiving only production OEM parts from Suzuki when needed.

As Suzuki shut its doors to WSBK and MotoGP racing, in the hopes of saving money to buy its stock back from minority shareholder Volkswagen (among other things), the Alstare Team Principal Franics Batta vowed that he would race with the Japanese manufacturer, or not race at all. News then came out that linked Team Alstare to possibly taking over the Kawasaki Factory WSBK team, which would later be handed to World Supersport’s Provec Motocard Kawasaki team. Other rumors linked Batta as interested in campaigning with MV Agusta, though the Belgian team owner could not get a callback from Varese.

Progress has seemingly been made on that front though, as Alstare Racing is reportedly closing in on a deal with the Italian company to campaign an MV Agusta F3 in World Supersport, with the relationship possibly growing to include an MV Agusta F4 RR in a seaon’s time.

WSBK: If Suzuki Goes, So Does Alstare Says Team Manager

08/08/2011 @ 7:30 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

Alstare Suzuki team manager Francis Batta has announced that should Suzuki decide to follow Yamaha’s footsteps, and withdraw from World Superbike competition as a factory, his Championship winning team would also withdraw, instead of pursuing a different manufacturer for its backing. The team announced, “If Suzuki decides not to take part in the World Superbike Championship next year, Francis will also stop rather than continue with another manufacturer.”

After Yamaha announced its withdrawal from WSBK competition at the end of the 2011 season, Batta felt the need to “clarify his position regarding current speculation about 2012.” Rather than continue with a different manufacturer such as Kawasaki, which was rumored, as Team Green is currently accepting bids for the 2012 factory team, Batta “would like to continue with them [Suzuki] alone in the future.”

WSBK: Kawasaki Taking Bids for New Factory-Backed Team

07/20/2011 @ 5:05 pm, by Victoria Reid3 COMMENTS

Multiple teams have placed bids to become the 2012 factory Kawasaki racing team in World Superbike, including current factory team Paul Bird Motorsports. The five other teams include satellite Team Pedericini, the current Alstare Suzuki squad (who are less than thrilled with Suzuki’s lack of support), and the Supersonic Ducati team completing the current WSBK teams vying for factory backing. Also interested are British Superbike team MSS Colchester and factory World Supersport’s Motocard.com team.

For PBM, the process of retaining factory support is more difficult after team trucks and personnel were detained with drugs and weaponry when returning to Britian after the Assen round. Though the team said afterwards, “The team are confident that no team member has any connection whatsoever with the items discovered. No one has been detained after the time of the search and all team members are able to undertake their normal duties,” such an event certainly raised eyebrows, and likely soured with an embarrassed Kawasaki.