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.

Can We Just Let Moto Morini Die Already? – New Company Auction Set for July 19th

06/17/2011 @ 6:08 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Can We Just Let Moto Morini Die Already?   New Company Auction Set for July 19th moto morini logo 635x412

If Moto Morini was a household dog, someone would have taken it out to the backwoods and put the damn thing down already. Yet, Administrators in charge of handling the bankrupt company’s assets are gearing up for yet another attempt to auction the brand, building, anything in order to get some euros back for Moto Morini’s creditors. Set to take place on July 19th, the auction aims to sell the company and its premises for €4.65 million (down from €5.5 million), but will strike a deal on the assets for a cool €1.95 million (also down from €2.6 million). Will this make a difference? Probably not.

How Many Bids Were Made on Moto Morini Today?

04/13/2011 @ 5:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

How Many Bids Were Made on Moto Morini Today? moto morini 635x448

Zero. Nada. None. That’s the number of offers made on Moto Morni and its facilities during today’s bankruptcy auction proceedings. The beleaguered Italian motorcycle manufacturer has had a rough time of things, since its closure hit the newswires back in December 2009. Several suitors have come to the company’s door, trying to woo it into acquisition. First it was Paolo Berlusconi, who came close to finalizing a purchase of Moto Morini, before the unionized labor put the kibosh on the transaction, and Berlusconi walked from the business deal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly was the failure of any offer from Thomas Bleiner to materialize, despite the Austrain businessman’s great lengths to publicize his intentions of purchasing Moto Morini. Bleiner’s plan involved supplementing the motorcycle company’s income with a bank of solar panels, made by Bleiner’s other venture, that would be affixed to the Bologna factory’s rooftop. As was thought at the time, this announcement appears to be just a move to drum up some publicity for the photovoltic enterprise, and not a serious interest in Moto Morini.

New Buyer for Moto Morini Emerges?

03/24/2011 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

New Buyer for Moto Morini Emerges? Moto Morini 9 5 635x508

As Moto Morini marches closer to its April 13th auction date, a new potential buyer has come out of the woodwork for the troubled Italian company. Thomas Bleiner, an Austrian entrepreneur, has his eyes set on the Moto Morini facility with an interesting idea or two up his sleeve.

The proposal for the purchase is expected to be an interesting one, as Bleiner and his partner Gianni Farneda plan on making the dollar and cents of the deal work by installing a 1.1 megawatt photoelectric power system on the roof of the Bologna facility. Bleiner and Farneda have been heavily involved in the solar industry, developing a new photoelectric paint that uses nano technology.

Bleiner and his group believe they could have the factory up and running as early as June with at least eight employees returning to work. With the Granferro and Corsair lines seemingly to be ready to roll, Bleiner says the company could even make a November EICMA appearance. If this sounds a bit too good to be true, then perhaps it is, as Bleiner and his partners have yet to actually submit a bid to Moto Morini’s receiver, despite making the rounds to the Italian magazines and newspapers about their intent to purchase the brand.

The Death of Moto Morini – Acquisition Deal Falls Through as Garelli/Berlusconi Walk Away

06/14/2010 @ 12:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The Death of Moto Morini   Acquisition Deal Falls Through as Garelli/Berlusconi Walk Away Gran Passo 635x499

We were hoping to hear something definitive about the Moto Morini acquisition early this week, and the news arrived right on schedule…but just not what we thought we’d hear. Unable to reach an agreement with the trade unions, Paolo Berlusconi’s company, New Garelli, which was created specifically for the takeover of Moto Morini, has backed out of the acquisition of the historic Italian brand.

In their statement, New Garelli cites the company’s inability to reach a mutual agreement with the labor unions as it’s main reason for backing out of the deal. With no other buyers in the mix, and the trade unions seemingly an immovable object, Moto Morini seems destined for the dead pool. Find the company’s statement after the jump.

Moto Morini Purchase Almost Complete

06/09/2010 @ 8:28 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Moto Morini Purchase Almost Complete corsaro1200 635x476

After getting his first offer to purchase Moto Morini rejected by the local unions, Paolo Berlusconi looks to have overcome the setback, and could finalize the purchase of the other Bologna brand by as early as next week. This news comes after provincial administrators called an emergency meeting, which resulted in some concession by Berlusconi.

At the center of the controversy is the number of workers Berlusconi will keep on at the Bologna-based plant. According to reports, this number has been increased from 20 to 26, out of total of 57 workers who worked at the plant before it entered into receivership. This concession does not come without consequences though.

Unions Put the Kibosh on Moto Morini Acquisition

05/18/2010 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Unions Put the Kibosh on Moto Morini Acquisition Moto Morini 9.5 635x508

You have to love labor unions sometimes. Faced with the prospect of being completely out of work, the labor union negotiators have rejected a proposal from Paolo Berlusconi that would save Moto Morini from going completely out of business. Of course us Americans can relate to this plight, as we just recently watched the UAW try to pull the same tactic while the US automotive industry crumbled around them. The blocked agreement is obviously bad news for Moto Morini, but Berlesconi is likely not done pursuing the troubled Italian manufacturer.

Lambretta Returns to 125GP Racing for 2010

02/01/2010 @ 6:06 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Lambretta Returns to 125GP Racing for 2010 Lambretta 125GP racing 560x361

After a 60 year hiatus, Lambretta is finally returning back to the 125GP racing stage. Entering as Lambretta Reparto Corse, the team has already confirmed Marco Ravaioli as one of their two riders. The move seems to be primarily to help get the iconic Italian brand back into the public limelight as Lambretta is set to start production of its first new range of scooters since the 1970’s.

According to Lambretta, the team will hold a racing department in Bologna at the workshops of Engines Engineering, despite Lambretta being based out of Milan. Nicola Casadei will serve as the team’s Sporting Director, while Giancarlo Cecchini will develop the bike’s rotary valve engine, which is expected to show up in new Lambretta designs.

WSBK: Superpole Overcomes Slippery Imola Track

09/26/2009 @ 9:53 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

WSBK: Superpole Overcomes Slippery Imola Track Michel Fabrizio Superpole WSBK Imola 560x370

With track conditions at the Imola causing a near mutiny during the practice sessions, there was a panic in the WSBK paddock as to whether racing would occur at the Bologna circuit this weekend. After track officials cleaned the Imola tarmac, it became too slippery to ride upon. Whether due to the mixture of oil and water on the track, or the absence of the usual layers of rubber forming on the race line, the conditions caused riders to refuse to take to the track over safety concerns.

Commenting about the conditions, Ben Spies stated the course was slipperier than full wet conditions. Max Biaggi was also heard saying that the course was too slippery for racing, and that Sunday’s races could not take place on the course under these circumstances. Despite this, WSBK Superpole action still occurred, read on for more.

Ducati to Get New Modern Factory

04/27/2009 @ 1:24 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Ducati to Get New Modern Factory img 1150 560x420

It looks like Ducati will be moving out of their current headquarters at Borgo Panigale (just outside the old city walls of Bologna), and into a new facility down the road at Perscietana. The new facility will boast nearly 1.8 million square feet, with space included for events and exhibits for customers and visitors, along with a new restaurant and test track. 

 

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Ducati: Bear Market Winner

11/17/2008 @ 9:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ducati: Bear Market Winner ducait wheelie 560x387

The world markets may be down, and stores may dropping out of business like it’s third period French class, but Ducati is finding the economic downturn to have an upside on its balance sheet.

Ducati’s sales revenue for the first three quarters of 2008 grew by 25% compared to last year’s figures. This means to close to $417MM in revenue for the Bologna Bandits, with their bottom line looking 87% better than before, totaling in at $41MM.

Why now brown cow? Well shipments from Desmo-central to dealer floor rooms has been up by 19% for the year so far, with sales up 8% worldwide. In the meantime, worldwide industry sales are down 6%. Evidently, those cars that people aren’t buying, is not equating into motorcycle purchases (you know…for the mileage advantage) 

The Bologna Boys say they are still on track to achieve a forecast 20% growth in worldwide sales for full fiscal year, up from a predicted 15% sales growth.

How are the other European manufacturers doing? 

KTM has had a 50% drop in operating profit for the full 12 months of its fiscal year, closing the books at $21MM. The House of Orange (not Oranj) is blaming this decline on a bad Dollar to Euro exchange rate, and plans to cut motorcycle production for the 2009 season by 10%.

Piaggio (owner of Aprilia, and most of Europe’s scooters) is also cutting back on production across all its motorcycle and scooter brands after depressing results for the first 3 quarters of 2008. Overall sales were down by almost 6%, falling 10% in Europe, which accounts for about 80% of its bike and scooter sales.

BMW, while slightly more insulated, is feeling the pain too, with global motorcycle sales down by 2.5% in the same period, and profit from bikes falling by nearly 16%.

Source: visordown

In other financial news, the trade-deficit for sportbike hotness in the United States has increased another 300%. Sorry Buell.

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