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.

Honda vs. Yamaha: Cal Crutchlow Helps Explain Why the First Corner Decides a MotoGP Race

06/21/2013 @ 1:13 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Honda vs. Yamaha: Cal Crutchlow Helps Explain Why the First Corner Decides a MotoGP Race Sunday Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Scott Jones 051 635x423

Jorge Lorenzo has won the last two MotoGP rounds in utterly dominating style. Though his win at Mugello was by a greater margin, the victory at Barcelona was one of the most impressive of his career. Afterwards, both Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg and Monster Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow said of the Barcelona win that it was probably one of the best races he had ever ridden. Lorenzo had made only one mistake, the Spaniard said afterwards, and it was so small it did not even show up on the data.

As he had done at Mugello, Lorenzo ensured that he won the drag race to the first corner, aggressively outbraking Dani Pedrosa to take the lead. From that point, he held the Honda’s at bay until Dani Pedrosa finally broke, the Yamaha man going on to win by nearly two seconds. It was the second race in a row which Lorenzo had led from the start and gone on to win the race.

In fact, all three of Lorenzo’s wins, at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, have come in the same manner: Get into the first corner in the lead, push hard in the early laps, and ride as perfectly, and as fast, as possible throughout the entire race. There is simply no one else in the world capable of riding a motorcycle for 25 laps at full speed as well as Jorge Lorenzo at the moment.

As impressive as Lorenzo’s wins have been, the one thing they have lacked is spectacle. There has been no drama, no battles, no need to defend, and the only place Lorenzo has needed to attack has been off the line, an area perhaps aided by the new clutch Yamaha have been using for this year.

Does Lorenzo not enjoy the battle, is he incapable of holding his own in a battle, or is it down to the bike? It is a question which is debated by fans around the world, with an answer apparently hard to give.

Analyzing MotoGP’s Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test

06/17/2013 @ 10:18 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Analyzing MotoGPs Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test catalan test motogp analysis 635x419

Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn’t rained off that is.

Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top.

The Factory Yamaha man had been working on setup, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.

On the other side of the garage, Valentino Rossi was once again pursuing weight distribution changes to improve his feel with the bike, especially to help him in braking. A more radical change was planned for the afternoon, but a fast crash at Turn 3 left the bike damaged, meaning that plan had to be abandoned.

Rossi returned to the track at the end of the day to test the new rear tire Bridgestone had brought, and was positive about the feel of the tire. The new construction hard rear tire was a clear improvement, Rossi said, and it was good for the hard rear to once again be an option.

So far this year, the only tire that has worked at most tracks has been the softer option, leaving the riders with a de facto rear allocation of just seven rears for a weekend.

MotoGP: Lap Time Analysis from De Puniet’s Suzuki Test

05/26/2013 @ 1:53 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Lap Time Analysis from De Puniets Suzuki Test Suzuki MotoGP Racing Prototype

Randy de Puniet has completed his first two-day test on Suzuki’s MotoGP machine. The Frenchman flew to Japan directly after the French round of MotoGP at Le Mans, to take part in the test organized at Motegi’s Twin Ring circuit, home of the Japanese round of MotoGP, and a circuit owned by Honda.

Under the terms of his testing contract, De Puniet is unable to say anything official, his manager Eric Mahé telling the French magazine Moto Journal only that the test “went well”. Suzuki did not publish any times from the test or provide any other information, but as the MotoGP test teams from both Yamaha and Honda were present, it was inevitable that times would leak out. German-language website Speedweek claims the scoop, with times also to be published in the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, which is out on Tuesday.

According to Speedweek, the test took place in excellent conditions, with temperatures of 28°C and a dry track. The German website reports De Puniet as having posted a time of 1’47.0 on Suzuki’s new inline four MotoGP machine, though no other confirmation of that time has been forthcoming. In comparison, that is as fast as Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi on the day, and half a second quicker than Yamaha test rider Katsuaki Nakasuga.

MotoGP: Defective Tire Or Setup Error – Why Did Jorge Lorenzo Struggle at Le Mans?

05/24/2013 @ 10:05 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Defective Tire Or Setup Error   Why Did Jorge Lorenzo Struggle at Le Mans? jorge lorenzo yamaha racing motogp scott jones 635x422

Jorge Lorenzo’s disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans has been the cause of some debate. The factory Yamaha man finished a lowly seventh, his worst finish (other than DNFs) since his rookie season in 2008, and finishing off the podium for the first time since Indianapolis in 2011. To say this was an uncharacteristic performance from Lorenzo is something of an understatement.

So what went wrong? Immediately after the race, Lorenzo made it clear that he believed the problem was with his rear tire. He had had no grip whatsoever, and been unable to get any drive from his rear tire.

He told the press afterwards that the only logical explanation he could think of for his problems was a defective rear tire. Lorenzo had been fast in the morning warm up, though it was a little drier then, and the set up used was very similar to then. In 2012, Lorenzo had won at Le Mans by a huge margin, so he could not understand why he was struggling so badly in France.

Bridgestone naturally denied there had been a problem with Lorenzo’s tire. After the race Bridgestone officials told the press that they had examined the tire together with Yamaha engineers and found nothing wrong with it.

In their customary post-race press release, Bridgestone’s Motorsport Tyre Development Manager Shinji Aoki reiterated this stance. “As is always the case in these situations, his engineer thoroughly examined Jorge’s race tyres which were found to be in good working condition,” he is quoted in the press release as saying.

“In addition, I examined the tyre myself and personally discussed the matter with the Yamaha engineers and we all agreed that Jorge’s lack of rear grip was not attributable to his tyre.”

What do we know ourselves? Though nobody is saying anything other than official statements, there are still some clues we can piece together from the data available. The key fact is visible from the race footage, available to those with a MotoGP.com video pass on the official MotoGP website.

The First Steps on Ducati’s Long Road to Redemption

04/15/2013 @ 3:54 pm, by David Emmett35 COMMENTS

The First Steps on Ducatis Long Road to Redemption andrea dovizioso ducati corse qatar motogp scott jones 635x422

“This is the reality,” factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso told the media after finishing 7th at Qatar, some 24 seconds off the pace of the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. Hopes had been raised on Saturday night, after the Italian had qualified in fourth, posting a flying lap within half a second of polesitter Lorenzo.

While Dovizioso’s qualifying performance had been strong, he had at the time warned against too much optimism. The Desmosedici is good on new tires, but as they begin to wear, the chronic understeer which has plagued the Ducati since, well, probably since the beginning of the 800cc era, and maybe even well before that, rears its ugly head and makes posting competitively fast laps nigh on impossible.

The problem appears to be twofold. Firstly, a chassis issue, which is a mixture of weight distribution, gearbox output shaft layout, frame geometry, and to a lesser extent chassis flexibility. And secondly, a problem with engine response, an issue which is down in part to electronics, and in part to Ducati still using just a single injector per throttle body.

Crunching the Numbers: Lorenzo vs Rossi – Marquez, Pedrosa, & Crutchlow – The Race Pace at Qatar

04/11/2013 @ 6:00 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

Crunching the Numbers: Lorenzo vs Rossi   Marquez, Pedrosa, & Crutchlow   The Race Pace at Qatar Saturday Qatar GP MotoGP Scott Jones 17 635x422

Much has been made in the days since the thrilling MotoGP season opener at Qatar of the charge of Valentino Rossi through the field and the pace he ran to catch the group behind Dani Pedrosa.

Speculation has been rife that had Rossi got a better start – and more importantly, got a much better qualifying position – he could have matched the pace of Lorenzo, and taken the fight to him. But just how realistic is the idea that Rossi could have run with Lorenzo at Qatar, and that Rossi could have matched the pace of his teammate? Reality, or just wishful thinking?

Moto2 & Moto3 2013 Jerez Test Preview

03/18/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Moto2 & Moto3 2013 Jerez Test Preview Pol Espargaro Moto2 Valencia Scott Jones

In three weeks’ time, the 2013 season gets underway for all three Grand Prix classes, and motorcycle racing’s winter will finally be over. Before that, there is a week of testing at Jerez, where first the Moto2 and Moto3 classes get their final run out on the track from Monday through Thursday, before MotoGP takes to the track on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Testing at Jerez may be affordable for GP’s junior classes, but it does not come without risk. Moto2 and Moto3 tested at both Valencia and Jerez in February, and while conditions were sunny and dry, if a little cool at Valencia, the test at Jerez was very mixed indeed, with rain disrupting two of the three days of testing. This test looks just as likely to be disrupted by rain: while good weather is forecast for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, Tuesday looks like being a total washout.

That will leave the riders with two full days of dry testing – for some arcane reason, IRTA has decided to spread the three days of Moto2 and Moto3 testing over four days, with the test starting on Monday afternoon, and concluding on Thursday lunchtime.

There is surely method to this madness, but unfortunately, IRTA does not have a press office, and so nobody to explain it. In the absence of an IRTA – the International Roadracing Teams Association, the official body representing the teams – press officer, the media are left to scratch their heads, speculate, and all too often, concoct explanations for themselves.

Lessons from Austin: Marquez’s Star Rises, Rossi’s Wanes

03/15/2013 @ 1:50 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Lessons from Austin: Marquezs Star Rises, Rossis Wanes marc marquez elbow hrc

So the three days of testing at Austin are over, and what did we learn? That Marc Marquez is something special? We knew that, though we didn’t perhaps realize just how special. That Yamaha really needs to find more acceleration? This, too, was known, but becoming clearer every time the M1 goes up against the Honda RC213V on track. That Valentino Rossi’s return does not equate to an automatic 8th MotoGP title? We suspected as much.

The first thing that became obvious is that the Austin circuit itself is pretty decent. Valentino Rossi described it as “a typical Tilke track, with corners that remind you of Shanghai and Turkey.” Unsurprising, given that Herman Tilke, who also designed Shanghai, Istanbul, and many other race tracks around the world, was responsible for designing the track.

The input from Kevin Schwantz was helpful, though, making the track more like Istanbul than Shanghai. The circuit has a couple of highly technical sections, where you go in blind and need to have memorized which way the track goes. It is wide, giving opportunities for overtaking and braking, and has a couple of the fast, fast sweepers which motorcycle racers love.

It also has a couple of tight corners, leaving the bike in a low gear with a lot of acceleration to do. This, it became apparent, favors the Hondas, the RC213V strongest off the bottom, and capable of pulling a gap. Acceleration issues will be a problem for Yamaha this year, unless Masahiko Nakajima and his fellow engineers can find some extra grunt out of the corners.

The situation was similar in 2012, but Yamaha was helped by the problems the Hondas had with chatter. So far, the Repsol Honda men have remained silent on the issue, meaning the worst of it is over. Yamaha have their work cut out, and Jorge Lorenzo’s second title defense could be a little too reminiscent of his previous one in 2011.

Sepang MotoGP Analysis Day 3: The Surprises We Expected

02/05/2013 @ 6:55 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Sepang MotoGP Analysis Day 3: The Surprises We Expected valentino rossi yamaha motogp sepang test 635x422

It would be one of the larger understatements of the decade to say that the first MotoGP test of the year at Sepang was eagerly anticipated. After the anti-climactic washout that was Valencia, many big questions of the 2013 season had been left hanging in the air over the winter. Given that motorcycle racing fans hate a vacuum even more than nature does, they filled it, with speculation, conjecture, hyperbole, and not a small amount of vitriol.

Would Valentino Rossi prove he still has it, or was his switch to Ducati merely the start of his downhill slide to retirement? Is Marc Marquez the real thing, or were his results in Moto2 deceptive, and down only to skullduggery on the part of his former team?

Can Yamaha match the Hondas, or does the advantage which Dani Pedrosa had over the second half of the season mean it will be impossible for Jorge Lorenzo to defend his title? What of Ducati? Will Andrea Dovizioso succeed where Rossi failed, and will the Italian factory be able to claw back some of the ground they have been steadily losing to the Japanese factories since 2007?

After nearly 8 hours of track time – more than many expected, with rain forecast for the period during the test – we have answers to replace the speculation, and data to fill the gaping void created by the winter testing break. Were the answers found a surprise? That depends on your perspective. Did anyone seriously think Rossi wouldn’t get closer on the Yamaha to the front runners than he did on the Ducati? No.

But does the gap to Pedrosa – 0.427 seconds – mean he is fast enough to compete for the championship, or will it leave him running round in third all year? Was anyone surprised by Marquez running up front right from the off? Surely not. But who predicted he would get within a few hundredths of his teammate on just his second proper test? Did anyone seriously expect the Ducatis to have closed the gap to Honda and Yamaha? That would be crazy. But to be two seconds down?

Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 MotoGP Championship: A Triumph Of Consistency – Part 2

12/16/2012 @ 6:25 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 MotoGP Championship: A Triumph Of Consistency – Part 2 Jorge Lorenzo 09

In just two races, Jorge Lorenzo’s championship lead had been slashed from 23 to 13 points. From nearly a win, to a fourth place finish. Lorenzo was using his consistency – apart from Assen, he had never finished in anything other than first or second place – to grind out a path to the championship. But Pedrosa was clearly closing; Lorenzo’s Spanish rival had momentum behind him, and had become the favorite in every race he lined up at.

That pattern looked set to be repeated at Misano, with Pedrosa showing outstanding speed – once the track had dried up sufficiently to make it worth the riders’ time to actually go out – during qualifying, though Lorenzo was close behind. But the second Italian race would prove to be yet another turning point in the championship, this time through a series of bizarre incidents which started with a leaking clutch cylinder.