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.

Crutchlow To Miss Argentinian GP, Pirro To Substitute

04/21/2014 @ 6:12 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

Crutchlow To Miss Argentinian GP, Pirro To Substitute 2014 Sunday COTA Austin MotoGP Scott Jones 23 635x423

Cal Crutchlow is to miss the Argentinian round of MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. The Factory Ducati rider is still recovering from surgery on the hand he injured during the race at Austin, and is not yet fit enough to race. Crutchlow will be replaced by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro in Argentina.

After his crash at Austin, Crutchlow was originally diagnosed with just a dislocated little finger on his right hand. However, when the swelling on the hand refused to subside, Crutchlow went in for further scans on his right hand in California. There it was found that the finger was still dislocated and was also broken.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Austin

04/21/2014 @ 9:26 am, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

Living the Dream   A Photographer’s Story: Austin Living the Dream Tony Goldsmith MotoGP Austin 23 635x422

After three days at home following Qatar, it was time to pack the bags again and head west for the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas. As part of my planning for the year, I had discussed with my partner Clare which races we could incorporate into a holiday. Right away Austin jumped out, particularly when Clare realized its proximity to New Orleans, a city she had wanted to visit for years.

After a layover in Manchester, we flew to New Orleans via Amsterdam. Admittedly flying from the UK to the States via Amsterdam is not the most direct route, but it did save us money. Sadly the airline decided to punish our frugality by holding our luggage hostage in The Netherlands for 24 hours.

On the subject of luggage, one of my main issues traveling to Qatar was the weight of my camera gear. I carry my cameras, lenses, and laptop in a backpack that can be taken on as hand luggage. Fully loaded the bag weights 15 kilos, walking around airports with that on my back literally becomes a pain. I did not have time to buy a roller bag before Austin, but I will before I travel to Jerez.

After 10 busy days in New Orleans, the Mississippi River Road, the Atchafalaya Basin, and San Antonio we arrived in Austin. Having arrived in Austin at lunch time on the Wednesday I only had half a day free so we set off on a pilgrimage to visit the statue of blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.

On Thursday I left Clare exploring Austin, picked up my hire car and with a little trepidation headed to the track. In recent years, I’ve built up plenty of experience of driving in the US, but this was my first time on my own, so I was slightly nervous. As it turned out I didn’t have any problems negotiating my way thanks to the GPS. How did people find their way before GPS?

The GPS however was no help in finding the Accreditation Center. I asked one of the car park attendants, who pointed in the vague direction of a ticket office. Assuming that couldn’t be it, I drove around the car park twice. I even found myself behind the main grandstand — not sure how I managed to get there. Eventually I spotted a small sign in front of the ticket office that read “Accreditation Center.” Here we go.

Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

04/17/2014 @ 1:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Photos from 250+ Feet up COTAs Petrolsaurus Rex marc marquez aerial cota motogp jensen beeler 635x422

As a fifth-generation Californian,  I am obliged to lament the decision to drop Laguna Seca, and to focus American MotoGP racing efforts on solely Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Circuit of the Americas. That being said, while the California track is a superb race course to ride, the facilities and general location are no where close to the level that is provided by Indy and COTA.

Nothing illustrates this better than the Grand Prix of the Americas that Austin, Texas just hosted. The track is simply a spectacle, and if a certain Marc Marquez wasn’t such a child prodigy, the MotoGP race would have been just as exciting at the ones seen in Moto2 and Moto3.

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” (note the “recommended for editors” capitalization), the tower really needs a better name for casual conversation.

We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order.

Nomenclature aside, the view from the Petrolsaurus Rex platform highlights the great attention to detail that COTA went to for Formula 1 and MotoGP viewing. Drawing big red, white, and blue lines along the course, a quick straw poll from photographers sees COTA being one of the more photogenic race courses (something one could not say about Laguna Seca).

I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy the hi-res photos after the jump. There’s a certain minimalist quality to having GP bikes next to long contrasting lines.

Casey Stoner: I Miss Racing, But Not Enough To Return

04/17/2014 @ 10:40 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

Casey Stoner: I Miss Racing, But Not Enough To Return casey stoner podium hrc motogp scott jones 635x422

Casey Stoner will not be returning to MotoGP any time soon. In an interview with the Italian magazine Vogue, Stoner said that he wanted to spend more time with his family, and experience life outside the paddock.

There have been a constant stream of rumors that Stoner could return to MotoGP almost since the day the Australian hung up his helmet. They have grown in intensity at several points in time, most notably when Honda announced that Stoner would be working for HRC as a test rider in 2013.

HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto has made no secret that Honda would welcome the prodigal Australian back with open arms, and credible sources in Spain have reported that much work has been done to make a comeback possible, and to try to persuade Stoner to make a return.

News that Stoner was to attend the Austin round of MotoGP reignited a firestorm of further speculation that he could stage a comeback at some point in the future.

Trackside Tuesday: First to Last, With Nothing In Between

04/15/2014 @ 5:12 pm, by Scott Jones11 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: First to Last, With Nothing In Between 2014 Sunday COTA Austin MotoGP Scott Jones 26 635x423

When I give a talk about my work, one of the things I most often hear is how much people enjoy the behind the scenes details of what it’s like to work as a photographer in MotoGP.

Trying something a bit different for this week’s Trackside Tuesday, I’m going to tell you some of the things that happened while I was photographing last weekend’s MotoGP in Austin, Texas. First, some background facts to set the stage.

Sunday Summary at Austin: Of Cracking Under Pressure & Accidental Tire Management

04/14/2014 @ 1:20 am, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Austin: Of Cracking Under Pressure & Accidental Tire Management 2014 Sunday COTA Austin MotoGP Scott Jones 16 635x423

Normally it takes bad weather to shake things up in a MotoGP race. For most of the day, it looked like the rain was ready to start at any time, but in the end it stayed pretty much completely dry, bar a quick and meaningless shower just before the Moto2 race started.

Regardless of what the weather decided to do, we still ended up with a bizarre MotoGP race anyway. The weirdness started even before the race had started, and continued pretty much all the way to the very last corner.

Jorge Lorenzo came to Texas knowing he faced an uphill challenge. Last year at the Circuit of the Americas, Marc Marquez had run away with the race, with only Dani Pedrosa able to follow. Lorenzo had put up a valiant struggle, but had been unable to prevent a Repsol Honda whitewash.

In 2014, Lorenzo had come facing an even tougher task, if that were possible. After crashing out at the first race, Lorenzo knew he had to score as many points as he could without taking too many risks.

He would have to find a very fine balance between pushing hard to try to catch – and who knows, maybe even beat – the Repsol Hondas, and ensuring he didn’t risk ending up with a second zero to go with the crash at Qatar.

The extra tension that created may have played a factor in what happened next. Lorenzo came to the grid with more bugs collected on his visor than usual. As he sat waiting for the official holding the red flag to leave the grid, he did something he never normally did while waiting for the start.

To ensure he got the best start possible, Lorenzo decided to remove the first tear-off from his visor, to clear up his vision. While he was pulling the clear plastic strip from his visor, the official hurried off the grid ahead of the start, as the rules dictate. When Lorenzo looked back up, he saw the official gone, and in a moment of confusion, got ready to start.

The start procedure specified in the rulebook states that once the official leaves the grid, the red starting lights will come on for between 2 and 5 seconds.

Once the red lights go out, the race officially starts, and riders are free to chase into Turn 1 as fast as they can. That light change is crucial, the lights imprinted onto the retinas and brains of world championship motorcycle racers around the globe. Once the lights change, you go.

Sunday at Austin with Scott Jones

04/13/2014 @ 8:09 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Race Results from Austin

04/13/2014 @ 1:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Austin: Marquez’s Confidence, Lorenzo’s Engine, and Miller’s Charisma

04/13/2014 @ 5:55 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Austin: Marquezs Confidence, Lorenzos Engine, and Millers Charisma 2014 Saturday COTA Austin MotoGP Scott Jones 11 635x423

Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed.

Marquez’s gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez’s dominance at Austin in sight?

But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez’s four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid.

Second place man Dani Pedrosa’s fastest lap was still slower than Marquez’s slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2’03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2’04s.

During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2’03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2’03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2’04.

Where the others took eight or nine tenths off their best time during qualifying, Marquez only improved on his previous best by a quarter of a second.

“It looks like Marc always rides at qualifying pace,” Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg quipped. Given the string of 2’03s Marquez hammered out on hard tires in race trim during FP4, that bodes ill for the rest of the riders.

A measure of just how confident and comfortable Marquez is at Austin – a local journalist finally got the Spaniard to admit that the circuit favors the Honda, a small triumph in itself – came during FP4, and then again during qualifying.

In Q2, Marquez lost the front in the tight left-hander, saved it, nearly lost it again, then got on the gas again as if nothing had happened. In FP4, while testing a change to the weight distribution, Marquez found himself running straight on at the end of the back straight three laps in a row.

On one lap, the rear came up as he hit one of the few bumps on the circuit, and instead of struggling to regain control, Marquez tried to control it and carry it on as far as possible. He grinned as he recounted the experience to the press conference. This young man is in his element, which bodes ill for the competition.

Saturday at Austin with Scott Jones

04/12/2014 @ 11:10 pm, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS