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.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Espargaro & Iannone

01/13/2014 @ 2:01 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Espargaro & Iannone Friday Indianapolis GP MotoGP Scott Jones 08 635x423

After rating the top ten finishers in the championship, it is time to turn our gaze to those outside the top ten worthy of note. Below is a look at the seasons of Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone, in the news in 2013 for very different reasons.

Aleix Espargaro – Championship Position: 11th – Rating: 8/10

Aleix Espargaro became the poster boy for the CRT class in 2012, beating out his teammate Randy De Puniet. The two Aspar riders showed that even with less than a year of development, a slightly modified Superbike could compete with the slower of the satellite prototypes. 2013 saw the Aprilia ART take another step forward, but it was a step only Espargaro could follow, De Puniet complaining of a lack of feeling all year, his performance plummeting.

Espargaro shone in 2013, regularly making it into Q2 under the new two-part qualification system, and even starting from the second row at the Sachsenring and Misano.

The race was always a different matter, the underpowered Aprilia no match for the prototypes, and even after the great start he got in German, running in the top three in the first few laps, Espargaro dropped back through the field as the race progressed.

Despite his disadvantages, he still bagged a bunch of top tens, consistently finishing ahead of the Ducatis. Espargaro demonstrated that the rider is still a key part of the equation in motorcycle racing.

Tuesday Summary at Valencia: Hayden’s Honda, Edwards On The FTR, & The Brothers Espargaro

11/13/2013 @ 7:09 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

Tuesday Summary at Valencia: Haydens Honda, Edwards On The FTR, & The Brothers Espargaro Tuesday Valencia MotoGP Test Scott Jones 06 635x423

The track was a lot busier on Tuesday at Valencia, after the halfhearted beginning to MotoGP testing on Monday afternoon. A group of well-rested riders took to the track to get prepared for the 2014 onslaught, and take the first steps on the road to a new season.

Some familiar faces, some new faces, but also a couple of new bikes, with the Yamaha FTR machines run by Forward Racing making their debut on the track, and Nicky Hayden getting his first taste of the Honda RCV1000R.

The times set by the brand new Open class bikes hardly set the world on fire, but that was to be expected given the fact that this was the first time either of them had seen serious use in the hands of Grand Prix riders. “Don’t forget that Casey [Stoner] did just five laps in Motegi with that bike,” Honda principal Livio Suppo told me. “It’s really just a first shakedown with the riders.”

That point was illustrated by Scott Redding, who has a problem with the wiring loom on Gresini’s Honda RCV1000R, and had to wait while they fixed that problem.

MotoGP: NGM Forward Finally Confirms Aleix Espargaro & Colin Edwards for 2014 Team

11/09/2013 @ 4:44 am, by David EmmettComments Off

MotoGP: NGM Forward Finally Confirms Aleix Espargaro & Colin Edwards for 2014 Team 2014 Friday Valencia MotoGP Scott Jones 15 635x423

Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards will race for the NGM Forward team in MotoGP next year, riding FTR-based Yamaha production machines.

The announcement had been expected for a very long time, but confirmation only came on Saturday morning at Valencia, as haggling over buying out Espargaro’s contract had continued over the past couple of months. Negotiations have finally been completed, and Espargaro has been cleared to join Forward.

Espargaro’s €600,000 Decision, Hayden Closing on Aspar

09/14/2013 @ 5:06 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

Espargaros €600,000 Decision, Hayden Closing on Aspar aleix espargaro motogp aspar jensen beeler 635x423

Though the factory seats in MotoGP are all filled, the prime seats on the non-factory entries are still open. Top favorites among the riders are the NGM Forward team, with the leased and FTR-kitted Yamaha M1s, and the Aspar team, which will be running factory-backed Aprilias, though not as an official factory team.

These four are the most competitive of the non-factory bikes, and any rider dreaming at a shot of a return to a factory ride, with Suzuki in 2015 perhaps, will want to be on board one of these bikes. At the moment, there are two lynchpins around which all of the rest of the choices revolve.

Gino Borsoi’s MotoGP Dilemma for Team Aspar

07/05/2013 @ 3:57 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Gino Borsois MotoGP Dilemma for Team Aspar randy de puniet aprilia art aspar COTA Jensen Beeler 635x423

The Power Electronics Aspar team have seized the opportunity offered by the CRT rules with both hands. By teaming up with Aprilia and employing two talented and fast riders, Aspar has helped turn the RSV4-based ART machine into a genuinely competitive machine, in every respect except for horsepower.

At Assen, Aleix Espargaro finished eighth, ahead of two factory Ducatis and three other satellite MotoGP machines. The bike is clearly good.

For 2014, however, Aspar must face a dilemma. With the introduction of the spec-electronics system, teams choosing to race the ART bikes will lose the current advantage those machines have, a highly-developed and very effective electronics package.

Teams running ART machines must choose, either to accept the Magneti Marelli developed software, and keep 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines, or persuade Aprilia to port their software to the spec-ECU Marelli, and try to race with 20 liters of fuel and either 5 or 9 engines, depending on whether the Grand Prix Commission decided Aprilia had already been competing in MotoGP as an MSMA member or not.

Lap Times: Prototypes vs. CRT vs. Moto2 at Phillip Island

10/27/2012 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Lap Times: Prototypes vs. CRT vs. Moto2 at Phillip Island Saturday Phillip Island MotoGP Scott Jones 04

For qualifying at Phillip Island, it would be safe to say that the weather conditions were tricky. Cold, cloudy, windy, with at times drops of rain, both MotoGP and Moto2 had to overcome the variable climate at the coastal Australian track.

With three turns clocking well over 200 km/h (~125 mph), Phillip Island is a fast circuit, but not necessarily a circuit dominated by bikes with a lot of horsepower. Instead, rhythm is the name of the game at PI, with the riders who are able to navigate the circuit’s intricacies benefiting the most: cue Casey Stoner.

Almost a full season now into the great CRT experiment, Phillip Island is one of the circuits where the production-motor machines can shine brighter, and none of them shine brighter than Team Aspar’s Aprilia ART.

Embarrassing some prototype machines during Saturday’s sessions, Randy de Puniet will start on the grid Sunday right next to Valentino Rossi, having qualified only 0.006 seconds behind the factory Ducati rider. Behind him will be the other prototype Ducatis, with Aleix Espargaro also in the mix.

The progress of the Aprilia ART is said to be down to Aspar getting a new set of motors from Aprilia Racing for the Australian GP, with those new motors making a sizable step in horsepower (+10hp according to Cal Crutchlow).

With the WSBK-spec Aprilia RSV4 Factory proving to be a potent machine in its own right, MotoGP’s CRT riders are clearly benefiting from getting closer to Aprilia Racing’s capabilities, but what about the Honda-powered 600cc Moto2 machines?

Aspar Racing’s Aprilia-Designed CRT MotoGP Bike

03/21/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Aspar Racings Aprilia Designed CRT MotoGP Bike Power Electronics Aspar Aprilia ART MotoGP CRT 07 635x423

One of the biggest compliments ever made regarding the Aprilia RSV4 was actual meant to be a criticism, as when it came time to homologate the RSV4 for World Superbike racing, the competition cried afoul — saying the RSV4 Factory was really a MotoGP bike in a production bike’s clothing. Said to be the leftovers from Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP effort, the Aprilia RSV4 had a meteoric rise in WSBK, and won the Championship after only the company’s second season back in the series.

It should come then with little surprise that the Aprilia and its V4 motor has been the popular choice for teams in the MotoGP Championship looking for a claiming-rule team (CRT) solution. Dubbed the ART, the Aprilia-powered CRT bike also features an aluminum chassis that is designed by the Italian company. Thus with Aprilia offering essentially a turn-key GP solution for teams like Aspar Racing, it probably shouldn’t shock us that the similarities between the production WSBK-spec RSV4 and prototype ART being almost too close to distinguish between the two, even down to the bodywork.

Given the fact that Dorna desperately needs an alternative to prototype racing machines built by Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha for its CRT gamble to work — not to mention the need for CRT bikes and teams that are competitive on the track with the bikes from the OEMs — one can only imagine that Dorna is turning a blind eye to obvious “bending of the rules” that is occurring with the ART project. If the ends justify the means, then surely none of this matters to Ezpeleta et al, and right now Randy de Puniet and the Aspar Racing team’s CRT effort are the MotoGP rights holder’s best bet at recapturing control of MotoGP racing.

That all being said, the Power Electronics Aspar team debuted its ART race bike, and as is the custom, disclosed only some of the most basic technical specifications about the machine. At the helm of Aspar’s ARTs will be Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro, and while the CRTs as a whole have been off the pace of the prototype bikes, RdP’s pace on the Aprilia has been noticeably quicker, and could give some of the slower satellite riders a run for their money. Technical details and photos are after the jump.

Aspar Drops Ducati for 2012 MotoGP Season

10/13/2011 @ 8:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Aspar Drops Ducati for 2012 MotoGP Season Hector Barbera MotoGP Scott Jones

MCN and GPone are both reporting that the Mapfire Aspar team has decided to drop Ducati for 2012 season, after being incable of coming to terms with the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Unable to negotiate an amicable lease price on the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, the Aspar MotoGP team has instead opted to cut its costs dramatically, and run a CRT machine for the 2012 season.

With close ties to Suter, which helps power the Aspar Moto2 effort, a BMW/Suter machine is at the top of the speculation list, though MCN says Aspar has also expressed interest with Aprilia (another company Aspar has close ties to) regarding using a RSV4 motor.

FTR has been working on an RSV4 CRT race bike, though there is also talk that the engineering firm has shelved that project. Idle-speculation could see the two parties linking up and reevaluating the concept, especially since many in the MotoGP paddock view the Aprilia RSV4 as a MotoGP bike built to meet World Superbike specifications.

Elena Rosell Set to Become First Female Moto2 Rider

06/21/2011 @ 8:51 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Elena Rosell Set to Become First Female Moto2 Rider Elena Rosell Mapfre Aspar Moto2 635x518

Breaking his tibia and fibula at the Catalan GP, Julian Simón will continue his recovery, and miss the next Moto2 race, which is at Assen this weekend. Replacing the young Spaniard is Elena Rosell, who currently is eleventh in the CEV Stock Extreme series (she sits third in the privateer category), and with this appointment she will be the first female rider ever to compete in the Moto2 Championship. Rosell is also the first female rider ever for the Mapfre Aspar Team, and the first woman to compete in GP racing since 2003.

Photo of the Week: Blue Fire for the Land of the Rising Sun

04/04/2011 @ 9:31 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Blue Fire for the Land of the Rising Sun Hector Barbera flame Qatar GP MotoGP Scott Jones

If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen a similar image a few weeks ago, and read the story about how many tries it took to get an instance of the blue fire. Here it is again for those who missed it.

On Saturday night of the 2011 season opener, I was working in the pit lane when I noticed something visually striking. When some bikes were revved up by the mechanics in front of the pit boxes, every now and then some blue flame would appear deep within the exhaust pipe. This blue fire was visible for a tiny fraction of a second, but I thought if I could capture one appearance it would be an interesting image. We often see unburned fuel escape from engines and flame out from exhaust pipes, but during the day this fire is orange. But there is something about the night lighting in Qatar that makes it this distinctive blue.