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.

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.

Ducati 1199 Panigale Gets Clean Slate for Weight in WSBK

09/27/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Ducati 1199 Panigale Gets Clean Slate for Weight in WSBK Ducati 1199 Panigale S Superstock 635x422

World Superbike is expected to announce after the Magny-Cours round next week that the Ducati 1199 Panigale will not incur the same 6kg weight ballast penalty as the current Ducati 1098R Superbike. A part of WSBK’s fluidic formula for Superbike racing, World Superbike rules allow for the air intake to be restricted and weight ballast to be added to twin-cylinder motorcycles on an prescribed basis, to compensate for the 200cc displacement capacity advantage the twins have over the four-cylinder machines.

With Carlos Checa handily winning the 2011 Championship, the recipe was set for Ducati to continue to incur a 6kg disadvantage this season, which has sent the Spaniard to fourth in the World Superbike Championship standings this season. Mathematically out of the hunt for the Championship in 2012, Checa is expected to re-sign with Althea Ducati for the 2013 season, where he will campaign the Ducati 1199 Panigale, which will race without the 1098R’s restrictions.

WSBK: Unfamiliar Names Thrill During Race 1 at Misano

06/11/2012 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

WSBK: Unfamiliar Names Thrill During Race 1 at Misano Misano WSBK 635x425

With many of World Superbike’s top riders finding themselves on unfamiliar grid positions for WSBK’s stop at Misano, a slew of new names were thrust into the spotlight. Getting their chance to shine at the coastal track, WSBK fans were treated to a multitude of great battles under sunny Italian skies, as veteran riders had to work their way from the bike of the field, and contend with riders they normally don’t see in racing conditions. If you didn’t catch Race 1 at Misano, your life isn’t complete. Race reults after the jump.

Carlos Checa Re-Signs with Althea Ducati…Finally

10/17/2011 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Carlos Checa Re Signs with Althea Ducati...Finally Carlos Checa Althea Ducati WSBK Portimao 635x441

Good news for Carlos Checa, as the Althea Ducati race team has finally extended the reigning-World Superbike Champion a contract for the 2012 season. Recently, Checa was in the precarious position of having clinched the 2011 World Superbike Championship, and yet had no contract for the 2012 season. Stuck in the tug-of-war between Althea Racing and Ducati Corse, as well as the scandal currently gripping Althea Ceramics, Checa’s future with the Ducati squad was in question to such an extent that the BMW Italia team offered the Spaniard €800,000 to ride one of its BMW S1000RRs in 2012.

BMW Italia Looking to Poach Carlos Checa off Althea Ducati

10/14/2011 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BMW Italia Looking to Poach Carlos Checa off Althea Ducati Carlos Checa Althea Racing 635x474

In what can only be described as an ambitious move, BMW Italia is trying to poach newly crowned reigning-World Champion Carlos Checa from the Althea Duacti racing team. Rumored to have a €800,000 offer on the table, Checa has until Saturday (tomorrow) to respond to the offer. With the 2011 World Superbike season set to end this Sunday, Checa finds himself in the precarious position of having just clinched the 2011 WSBK Championship, yet having not concrete contract for next season at this season’s conclusion.

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose

05/31/2011 @ 12:19 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose photo of the week Carlos Checa WSBK Miller Motorsports Park Scott Jones

The story of the 5th WSBK round at Miller Motorsports Park was all Carlos Checa. Last year he had the pace but not a reliable machine. This year he had both, dominating the weekend with the triple crown: Superpole and victories in Race 1 and Race 2. MMP provided a formidable challenge with wildly varying weather, from pouring rain to bright sunshine to freezing cold winds. Adaptable, patient, and just plain the fastest rider of the weekend, Checa rose above all difficulties and earned a well-deserved double victory.

A pair of Utah wins that has been long overdue since he had to retire twice out of commanding leads last year due to mechanical problems. Checa also extended his lead in the Championship, and seems well on his way to his first world title. His amiable personality and good humor will surely make him a popular champion should he reach the season’s finish line in first place.

WSBK: Landslide Win in Race 2 at Miller Motorsports Park

05/30/2011 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

WSBK: Landslide Win in Race 2 at Miller Motorsports Park World Superbike Race 2 Miller Scott Jones

The weather gods were appeased this Memorial Day weekend, as not a single drop of water rained down from the heavens on the World Superbike Race 1 and Race 2 that were being held at Miller Motorsports Park. This statement is of course only true if you’re not watching WSBK according to Oregon Trail rules, as riders still had to ford the river at the “Black Rock Hairpin” in Turn 5 of the Outer Course. While no oxen were lost in the attempt to cross the water feature, a bull was on the loose in the form of Carlos Checa. Would 2011 be redemption or disappointment for the Spaniard? Find out after the jump.

Someone Forgot to Tell Aprilia and Ducati That They Weren’t Supposed to Be Fast This Year

02/28/2011 @ 6:38 pm, by Victoria Reid7 COMMENTS

Someone Forgot to Tell Aprilia and Ducati That They Werent Supposed to Be Fast This Year Max Biaggi Phillip Island 635x427

Phillip Island proved a smashingly good weekend for Aprilia, as Max Biaggi began to defend his #1 plate by qualifying and finishing second in both races, one nearly as uncontested as Carlos Checa’s wins, and one a ray of hope for close fighting all season. Though teammate Leon Camier did not fare nearly as well, his thirteenth and sixth place finishes were remarkable for someone contending with a nasty fever.

Overall, the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike season seems to belie the suspicions that all of Aprilia’s 2010 success came down to its “unfair” gear-driven camshaft, and that Ducatis could not be competitive in WSBK’s oppressive technical formula.

WSBK Silly Season: Haslam to BMW, Fabrizio to Alstare Suzuki, & Haga to an Aprilia [UPDATED]

09/21/2010 @ 3:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

WSBK Silly Season: Haslam to BMW, Fabrizio to Alstare Suzuki, & Haga to an Aprilia [UPDATED] James Toseland Crash

UPDATE 3: Michel Fabrizio has signed-on with Alstare Suzuki team for 2011.

UPDATE 2: Leon Haslam has signed with the BMW Factory Squad.

UPDATE: It’s being reported that Noriyuki Haga has agreed to ride with the DFX team on a factory Aprilia RSV4, with  an announcement delayed out of deference to Biaggi’s impending WSBK crowning.

While the MotoGP silly season is just starting to wind down, the World Superbike shuffling of riders is apparently just getting underway. So far this silly season we’ve seen Marco Melandri make the switch into WSBK Racing, joining the young Eugene Laverty in the Sterilgarda Yamaha squad, and clearly displacing James Toseland from a job. Johnny Rea has also been in the news, confirming that he’d be with Ten Kate Honda next season, despite being only two years into a three year contract, which was a strange announcement at the very least.

After Ducati’s little spat with Infront Motor Sports last month, the Xerox Ducati Team will be no more in 2011, leaving factory riders Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki S.O.L. when it comes to gainful employment, which is where our fist batch of silly season rumors starts us. If Moto.it‘s Carlo Baldi is to be believed (he is the listed press officer for Althea Ducati after all), Haga will find himself on a satellite Aprilia ride, while Michel Fabrizio will go to Alstare Suzuki. If you’re a die-hard WSBK fan you may realize that means that current Alstare Suzuki star Leon Haslam must be finding work elsewhere, with Baldi putting the British rider in the factory BMW squad. Still with us?

Question of the Day: Should Ducati Give Factory Support to Althea Ducati and Carlos Checa?

04/29/2010 @ 8:51 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Question of the Day: Should Ducati Give Factory Support to Althea Ducati and Carlos Checa? AltheaRacingTeam Photo144319423322 560x366

Our good colleagues over at MotoBlog.it delved into this idea today, and it brings up an interesting issue. At what point does Ducati begin supporting the privateer efforts of Althea Ducati and its rider Carlos Checa?

Checa is of course already has a win under his belt this season, not to mention that he has had very strong and consistent finishes. Checa also leads the factory Ducati riders by 18 (Haga) & 50 (Fabrizio) points…all of which was accomplished on a machine that should be inferior to what Xerox Ducati has been racing, and achieving lesser results with to this point in the season.

World Superbike Favoring Four Cylinders Over Two?

04/26/2010 @ 6:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

World Superbike Favoring Four Cylinders Over Two? aprilia rsv4 motor 560x410

If you take a look through our coverage of World Superbike’s stop in Assen this weekend, you’ll notice a trend in the standings on how riders finished in relation to what type of equipment they ran in the race. The trend seems to suggest an advantage for the inline-four cylinder bikes, and didn’t go unnoticed by Carlos Checa, who found himself struggling to compete with the four cylindered machines this weekend on his twin cylindered Ducati.

As one of the privateer Ducati’s on the grid, Checa and the Althea Ducati team believe the current WSBK rules hinder the twins in being competitive with the focus in both acceleration and top speed. You make the call after the jump.