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.

Saturday Summary at Assen: Of Title Races, Lorenzo’s Engines, & Bridgestone Tires

07/01/2012 @ 5:45 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Assen: Of Title Races, Lorenzos Engines, & Bridgestone Tires Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Racing Assen 635x423

There is a danger to thinking any championship is a foregone conclusion, especially this early in the season. Just as there is a danger to thinking that a race will pan out the way you thought it would after practice and qualifying. At Assen, everyone was afraid of three things: the weather, Jorge Lorenzo, and Pol Espargaro. All three turned out differently than expected.

Best of all was the weather. After treacherous conditions on Friday, with rain falling, stopping, wetting the track just enough for Casey Stoner to bang himself up badly in the morning, though that did not stop him from blasting to pole, Saturday dawned bright and only got better: the big skies of flat-as-a-board Drenthe were mainly blue, with the occasional sighting of fluffy white clouds to provide a little cover and prevent egregious sunburn. But best of all, it stayed dry: no complications, just sunny, dry and calm weather.

Neither Lorenzo nor Esparagaro would prove too pose much of a threat either, Lorenzo through no fault of his own, but Espargaro would need no outside help in taking himself out of the equation. The crashes of Lorenzo and Espargaro – Lorenzo taken out by a boneheaded move from Alvaro Bautista, for which the Gresini Honda man will have to start from the back of the grid at the Sachsenring, Espargaro crashing on a bump at the Ruskenhoek – put an end to the domination of the two men in the MotoGP and Moto2 classes.

Espargaro had blasted every sessions of free practice, and only a blistering lap from Marc Marquez had denied the HP Pons rider pole. Lorenzo’s domination had been more subtle, his race pace clearly several tenths better than anyone else, though others on soft tires occasionally bettered the Spaniard during practice and qualifying.

MotoGP: Assen Assen They All Fall Down

06/30/2012 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Assen Assen They All Fall Down Pedrosa Stoner Assen Dutch TT race 635x421

With the Dutch weather improving from the scattered rains of Friday, to just a grey gloom for Saturdays’ Dutch TT, MotoGP had a cool, but dry race day in Holland. This would bode well for the Hondas, who gambled on the tire selection, going with the softer of the two compounds available from Bridgestone, while the Yamahas played a more conservative game on the harder compound (Ducati chose the lesser of its two evils, opting for the harder compounding, though knowing it wouldn’t last the race).

As the premier-class headed into three back-to-back races, the bids for the 2012 MotoGP Championship were certain to get heated at Assen, the first of the three stops. Sitting on pole was Casey Stoner, who put in a fantastic exhibition of speed during the closing minutes of Friday’s qualifying. Despite Stoner’s performance, teammate Dani Pedrosa and Championship-rival Jorge Lorenzo couldn’t be counted out from the hunt either.

With Alvaro Bautista sitting fourth on the grid, the satellite Honda rider has found a new form in the past two races, and of course the battle between the three remaining Hondas has been entertaining to watch, as they fight for the last remaining factory seat at Yamaha Racing for the 2013 season and onwards. So as the lights went out, and the riders headed into Turn 1 at Assen, the Dutch track revealed the next chapter of our MotoGP saga.

Trackside Tuesday: Patience is a Virtue

06/27/2012 @ 10:44 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Patience is a Virtue 2012 Silverstone Alvaro Bautista

One of the great things about the support classes in Grand Prix motorbike racing is the depth of the competition. While there are a handful of favorites in each class, we generally don’t have the Three Alien situation of MotoGP. Once a rider leaves that broader talent and equipment pool for the premier class however, his potential results are limited by the bike he lands on.

Alvaro Bautista paid his dues for two years on an 800cc Suzuki, finishing in lucky thirteenth spot for both the 2010 and 2011 championships. If Suzuki hadn’t folded up and gone home for 2012, Bautista might still have been on an uncompetitive bike with a crowd of fans who could only think fondly back to what an exciting 125cc and 250cc rider he had been.

MotoGP: British GP Gives Vital Confidence Boosters

06/17/2012 @ 6:40 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

MotoGP: British GP Gives Vital Confidence Boosters cal crutchlow silverstone british gp

With Sunday’s race having perhaps some of the best weather yet at Silverstone, the British GP started with concern, after Cal Crutchlow missed qualifying after a hard crash in FP3. Getting cleared to ride Sunday morning, the Honey Badger was relegated to the back of the grid for the start, dashing any hopes of a podium finish.

Still, the man from Man delighted British fans with his resolve to go racing, with further spectacle coming in the form of Alvaro Bautista’s first MotoGP pole-positiion start, putting his black San Carlo Gresini Honda in front of the factory machines of Ben Spies, Casey Stoner, and Jorge Lorenzo. With the British GP showing the first signs of Spies’ renewed confidence, MotoGP fans had all the makings of a good race as the sun shined through the cloud cover. To see how it all finished out, click on past the jump.

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Tire Conspiracies & Windy Tracks

06/17/2012 @ 1:33 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Tire Conspiracies & Windy Tracks Casey Stoner

The weather has been a cruel mistress at Silverstone this weekend, much as it has been every year MotoGP has paid a visit. The track is built around an airfield, and consequently sits on a plateau just enough above the surrounding area to catch any wind which may be about. On Saturday, that was a lot, with the wind blowing hard and gusting harder all day, catching many a rider out, especially on the way into Brooklands. The wind also blew in occasional showers, though it blew them back out again just as fast, a small blessing on an incredibly difficult day.

Despite the conditions, three men braved the wind to take pole in each class, to varying levels of surprise. That Maverick Vinales should take pole in Moto3 is much as expected, Silverstone being the Spaniard’s third pole position in a row. Though his advantage is relatively modest, there has been no one to mount a serious challenge to his supremacy all weekend, and if he gets a decent start he will be a very hard man to beat.

Pol Espargaro’s Moto2 pole is hardly unexpected – the Spaniard is one of the main candidates for the title this year, and is looking particularly fearsome at Silverstone this weekend – yet it is his first ever pole in the class. A front row regular this season, things have really come together with the Pons team and the Kalex chassis, the bike performing exceptionally well in the windy conditions. Mostly, though, Espargaro’s performance is down to the man himself: he has led every session at Silverstone so far, his advantage over his rivals increasing each time.

The big surprise came in MotoGP, Alvaro Bautista snatching his first ever pole in the premier class. Luck – and judgment – were certainly on Bautista’s side, the San Carlo Gresini man timing his first fast run just right, the first light showers appearing shortly after he claimed the spot atop the timesheets. Though the rain may have hampered his rivals – Casey Stoner, in particular, was confident he could have gone a lot faster than he had, his crew finding a big improvement just before the rain came down – Bautista’s time was of itself highly respectable, and came on top of strong performances throughout free practice.

MotoGP: A Touch of Rain Shakes up Qualifying at Silverstone

06/16/2012 @ 7:41 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: A Touch of Rain Shakes up Qualifying at Silverstone Bautista

With tough conditions being the week-long tradition at the British GP, MotoGP qualifying at Silverstone began with dry, but very windy, conditions. Friday’s rain saw the Ducatis of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden on the top of the time sheets, though the day proved to be the tale of two Ducatis, as once the British track dried, the Desmosedici GP12 once again showed its other personaly, and proved to be a handful in the dry.

Unsurprisingly, Casey Stoner was the fastest once the water cleared, with Yamaha-man Ben Spies showing some renewed confidence as well. Noticeably quick was satellite Honda rider Alvaro Bautista, who posted a third and fifth in FP2 & FP3 for the San Carlo Gresini Honda team, respectively. With the weather supposedly set to improve tomorrow, though the chance of rain still seems to be a coin toss of probabilities, the certainty for a wet race seems to have been reduced in the paddock, though the tough windy conditions can still be expected.

Photo of the Week: Dark Horse, New Steed

02/13/2012 @ 12:15 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Dark Horse, New Steed Photo of the week Alvaro Bautista Scott Jones

There are several MotoGP riders I count as dark horses to show their true colors in 2012, and Alvaro Bautista is one of them. Freed from the troubled Suzuki GSV-R and now on a Honda RC213V, Alvaro should have a more reliable package on which to show his stuff, and I expect to see him fighting for the “Best of the Rest” title.

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 1 at Sepang

01/31/2012 @ 10:20 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 1 at Sepang Ducati Corse Sepang Test Nicky Hayden 1 635x422

With rain the night before, MotoGP’s first day of testing in Sepang got off to a late start, with riders not taking to the Malaysian track until well into the day. Noticeably absent from the day’s test was reigning-World Champion Casey Stoner, as the Australian’s back seized during stretching before the first session. Casey is expected to ride Wednesday (Tuesday evening US time), though former-teammate Andrea Dovizioso is a question mark, as the Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider was too sick for a media debrief last night.

For the Ducati camp, initial results are looking positive, as the factory Ducati Desmosedici GP12 had its first shakedown from riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Still recovering from his broken shoulder, Hayden only put in 25 laps on the new GP12 “Phoenix” before calling it a day and letting test rider Franco Bataini finish the day’s testing for him. Rossi on the other hand had a full-day with the Ducati Corse’s GP12, and was already impressed with the bike and the progress Ducati had made with it.

“I’m happy because first impressions are important, and already in the first few laps, I could tell that I like the bike,” said the nine-time World Champion. “Ducati did a good job in a just a short time. The bike is beautiful, but more importantly, it’s nice to ride. The riding position has improved a lot, and it’s better on braking and corner entry. I can brake like I want to and take the lines that I like, and I feel comfortable in general.”

Álvaro Bautista Leaves Rizla Suzuki for Gresini Honda

11/09/2011 @ 2:21 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Álvaro Bautista Leaves Rizla Suzuki for Gresini Honda Alvaro Bautista crash Valencia 635x422

UPDATE: Álvaro Bautista has signed with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team for the 2012 MotoGP season. The Spaniard is not expect to have a factory support within the team.

Rizla Suzuki has announced today that rider Álvaro Bautista has left the factory Suzuki team for the 2012 season. It has not been announced where Bautista will race next next year, though best guesses would peg the Spaniard as headed to the LCR Honda squad. Certainly linked to this news, Randy de Puniet was given the opportunity to test the 2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R yesterday, and the Frenchman has already made some impressions.

Fourth fastest on yesterday’s time sheets, de Puniet has been keen to get out of the Pramac Ducati garage, and onto a more competitive package. With Bautista, de Puniet, and John Hopkins all playing musical chairs around LCR Honda and Rizla Suzuki, Bautista’s departure at least progresses the game forward. The big question still remains though, with Bautista leaving the Rizla Suzuki squad, does that signal another rider’s entry into the factory team, or does it mean the Japanese company’s departure from MotoGP racing?

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island

10/10/2011 @ 6:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island Alvaro Bautista Japanese GP Rizla Suzuki pit 635x422

Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear  from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.