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.

Friday Summary at Indianapolis: The New King Kenny, Yamaha’s Seamless Gearbox, & Returning Next Year?

08/17/2013 @ 6:53 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Indianapolis: The New King Kenny, Yamahas Seamless Gearbox, & Returning Next Year? Friday Indianapolis GP MotoGP Scott Jones 13 635x423

There’s something about America. Especially if you’re name is Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda Rookie led both sessions on the opening day of the Indianapolis Grand Prix (the last one? Too early to say) going quickest both in the tricky morning, when there was very little grip, and in the afternoon, once the bikes had laid down some rubber. Marquez has won both US rounds so far, dominating at Austin and winning comfortably at Laguna Seca, and he has picked up at Indy where he left off before the summer break.

Unsurprisingly, the parallels with Kenny Roberts are starting to be made, the only other rider to become world champion as a rookie. Those parallels are unfair yet perfectly valid: both men exceeded expectations and raised the bar, shaking up the established order with a radical new riding style. Yet Roberts and Marquez also came from totally different backgrounds: Kenny Roberts had grown up racing dirt track, switched to road racing and then came to Europe to win his the championship at the first attempt, on tracks he had never seen before.

MotoGP Engine Usage at the Halfway Mark: Yamaha Struggling, Honda Dominating, & Ducati Managing

08/06/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

MotoGP Engine Usage at the Halfway Mark: Yamaha Struggling, Honda Dominating, & Ducati Managing Dani Pedrosa MotoGP Laguna Seca Jensen Beeler 4 635x423

With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.

In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.

For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.

MotoGP: Alex De Angelis to Replace Ben Spies at Laguna – Spies Expected Back at Indianapolis GP

07/01/2013 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Alex De Angelis to Replace Ben Spies at Laguna   Spies Expected Back at Indianapolis GP alex de angelis Mugello MotoGP 2011 Scott Jones 635x422

Ben Spies’ absence due to his shoulder injury will extend to Laguna Seca. The Texan is still going through physical rehab to get the shoulder he injured at Sepang last year up to strength, and he hopes to be back to full fitness for the final US round of MotoGP at Indianapolis at the end of August.

With Spies still out for two more races, the Ignite Pramac team needs a replacement. Michele Pirro will take Spies’ place at the Sachsenring in just under two weeks’ time, but Ducati’s official test rider is not available for Laguna, as he has more testing scheduled that week at Misano in Italy.

As a result, Pramac has asked Alex De Angelis to step in for the Laguna Seca round, as the lack of a Moto2 round at Laguna means the NGM Forward rider is availabe to take Spies’ seat at the California circuit.

De Angelis already has MotoGP experience, having raced two seasons for the Gresini Honda team in 2008 and 2009, and having replaced Hiroshi Aoyama for three rounds in 2010.

MotoGP: Biaggi’s First Day of Ducati Testing

06/06/2013 @ 3:48 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Biaggis First Day of Ducati Testing max biaggi pramac ducati motogp test mugello

Max Biaggi is back on a MotoGP machine, for the first time since he lost his ride at the end of the 2005 season. The reigning World Superbike champion took to the track at Mugello today to test Ben Spies’ Pramac Ducati, and get a feel for a MotoGP machine again.

Biaggi was invited to ride the bike by Ducati, mainly just as a friendly gesture towards an old rider, but in part also to give his input on riding the bike. With Spies still absent recovering from his shoulder injury, putting Biaggi on the bike was an interesting prospect. Because of Biaggi’s Italian connections, he rode Spies bike, but with bodywork from Iannone’s Energy.TI machine.

In a series of posts on his Twitter feed, Biaggi took some time getting up to speed on the machine. An enormous amount has changed since Biaggi last rode a V5 990cc Honda RC211V back in 2005, all of which take a lot of getting used to. The spec Bridgestone tires and the amount of electronic rider aids are two of the biggest changes, though the electronics on the factory Aprilia RSV4 WSBK machine are already highly sophisticated.

Caption This Photo: The Prodigal Son

06/06/2013 @ 3:04 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Max Biaggi To Test Ben Spies’s Ducati at Mugello, Michele Pirro To Replace Spies at Barcelona

06/04/2013 @ 3:33 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Max Biaggi To Test Ben Spiess Ducati at Mugello, Michele Pirro To Replace Spies at Barcelona michele pirro ducati desmosedici gp13 lab bike motogp scott jones 635x422

Max Biaggi is to make a surprise return to riding a MotoGP machine. The former 250 and World Superbike champion will take a seat on Ben Spies’ Ignite Pramac Ducati as part of a one-day test at Mugello, as part of Ducati’s testing program, according to Italian site GPOne.

Spies was scheduled to stay on at Mugello to take part in a two-day test, but after the first day of practice at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, it was clear to both Spies and Ducati that his shoulder was still too weak to ride a MotoGP machine. With work continuing on the Desmosedici, it was important for Ducati to get as much data as possible on their bike, and so Biaggi was offered the chance to ride the machine.

MotoGP: Ben Spies Will Skip the Italian GP at Mugello

06/01/2013 @ 2:04 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Ben Spies Will Skip the Italian GP at Mugello Friday Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Scott Jones 04 635x423

Ben Spies has decided to pull out of the Mugello round of MotoGP, after struggling on the first day of practice at the track. The Texan continues to have problems with a weak shoulder, as he recovers slowly from the surgery performed to correct the damage done in his crash at Sepang last October.

This is the second time that Spies has been forced to withdraw after returning to action too early. After a short period of physical rehabilitation, Spies went straight into winter testing, and then participated in the first race at Qatar, in which he struggled.

He tried again at Austin, but was forced to withdraw from that race after developing severe strain in his pectoral muscles as they struggled to compensate for the lack of strength. Spies then decided to skip both Jerez and Le Mans, to recover from both the chest strain and the shoulder surgery, before coming back at Mugello.

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamaha’s Travails, Rossi’s Hopes, Ducati’s Dreams, & Honda’s Domination

05/29/2013 @ 4:32 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamahas Travails, Rossis Hopes, Ducatis Dreams, & Hondas Domination Cal Crutchlow Mugello MotoGP Jules Cisek

Mugello is arguably MotoGP’s crowning glory. The location is stunning, in the verdant hills of Tuscany, a few miles north of Florence, one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. The track itself is gorgeous and beautifully laid out, rolling round the valley in which the circuit is set.

It is one of the few tracks left at which a MotoGP bike can fully stretch its legs, even a 260+ horsepower fire-breathing 1000cc Honda RC213V. At the end of the front straight, as riders drift right then left for the slight kink of the pit lane exit just before the track drops off for the spectacular first corner at San Donato, the bikes approach the magical barrier of 350 km/h. An obstacle that has not yet been cleared, but one which must surely fall in the near future.

A lap of the circuit passes in under 1’48, an average of 175 km/h, or nearly 110 mph. It is verily a temple of speed.

It may seem odd, then, that the fastest bike does not necessarily win at the circuit. Of the past ten editions of the race, seven have been won by Yamahas, a bike which has never been the fastest in a straight line.

While speed is not the secret to the circuit, a glance at the list of winners over the years reveals exactly what is: Valentino Rossi has won seven times at the circuit in the premier class (as well as twice more in the support classes), Mick Doohan won here six times, Jorge Lorenzo won twice, and the list of one-time winners includes Dani Pedrosa, Kevin Schwantz, Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner.

To win at Mugello is simple: it is merely a matter of being one of the very best riders in the world.

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season

05/21/2013 @ 11:06 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season ben spies laguna seca suzuki gsv r wild card scott jones 635x423

As Randy de Puniet heads to Japan to test Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP bike, the possible availability (some won’t be convinced it’s a reality until a pair of Suzuki motorcycles appear on the grid in Qatar next April) of two new factory seats has spawned a Silly Season unto itself.

If that possibility entailed another satellite prototype team, the furor would be considerable, but that it’s a new factory team means reason and rationality are running for their lives.

So once again we have the chance to observe the unique mindset of the top level motorbike racer. To that mindset, at least in this modern era, the factory ride is the Holy Grail of motorcycle racing. It’s easy to see why this has happened.

After the days of the 500cc two-strokes, when a highly-developed formula meant a privateer team could compete with the deep-pocket teams, the four-stroke era has seen costs skyrocket, and factory-deep pockets dominate the win column. It’s for very good reasons that riders feel you have to be on a factory bike to win races. But the thing is, not all factories are equal.

Preview of Le Mans: Can Lorenzo Get Back the Momentum?

05/16/2013 @ 3:56 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

Preview of Le Mans: Can Lorenzo Get Back the Momentum? Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Racing Austin Jensen Beeler 635x423

Three races into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the Yamaha Factory Racing team have been forced to tear up the script they had written for themselves after pre-season testing. Their original goals were for Jorge Lorenzo to win as often as possible in the early part of the season, building a lead at the tracks at which Yamaha is supposed to be strong, then defend that lead in the second half of the year. Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, was to finish adapting to the Yamaha once again, and get on the podium ahead of the Hondas as much as possible, to help build out Lorenzo’s lead in the championship.

The plan worked perfectly at Qatar. Lorenzo was untouchable in the race, and won easily. Rossi showed he still had it by getting on the podium and taking second, while the first Honda was Marc Marquez in third. This worked out even better than expected, as although Marquez is clearly an exceptional talent, the real title threat, Yamaha believed, would come from Dani Pedrosa.