Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

MotoGP: Yamaha Debuts Seamless Gearbox at Brno Test – Shift Times 58% Quicker than Conventional Gearbox

08/08/2013 @ 1:22 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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It had been widely rumored that Yamaha would have some important updates to test at its private test being held yesterday and today at Brno.

The biggest expected update to be tested was a seamless gearbox, but though Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis had hinted they might be testing the new gearbox, it was far from certain.

As the test at Brno was a private one, no media were invited who would be able to verify whether the seamless gearbox was being tested or not.

Fortunately, however, the Brno circuit was allowing visitors in to watch the test. And among those was Pavel, who runs the Czech Valentino Rossi fansite http://www.rossi-yamaha.cz/.

Pavel shot some video footage of the private test – thankfully not covered by the blanket ban Dorna has on all coverage of the official tests – and was kind enough to send us the audio from the recordings.

Armed with that audio, we were able to analyze the sound, as we have done previously (on both the Honda and the Yamaha), to try to judge whether Yamaha was indeed testing a seamless gearbox, and if it was, what advantage it was giving the riders.

Stoner, Lorenzo, Rossi, & De Puniet Back on Track – MotoGP Testing Resumes at Motegi and Brno

08/05/2013 @ 11:30 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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With MotoGP’s summer break halfway done, testing resumes later this week for some of the top names in the sport. Current and former champions take to the track at Brno and Motegi, with Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki all testing a range of material.

The most relevant test for this year’s championship will be held at Brno, where Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will be testing the factory M1s. Lorenzo’s aim will be to test his collarbone, while Rossi continues to work on set up, chasing minor improvements to the major step forward made during the Aragon test.

The Yamaha pair will also hope to be testing Yamaha’s seamless gearbox at the two-day test, the first time that the factory riders will get to try out the new seamless transmission. So far, it has only been tested by Yamaha’s test riders in Japan, working on reliability. Whether the Brno test means that the seamless gearbox will be ready for use later this season remains to be seen.

Over in Japan, Yamaha’s test team, consisting Wataru Yoshikawa and Katsuaki Nakasuga, will be at Motegi, where they will be joined for a private test by Honda’s test team and Suzuki. Motegi sees the temporary return of Casey Stoner to the MotoGP fold, where he will be replacing the injured Kousuke Akiyoshi.

Stoner will be testing Honda’s 2014 RC213V to be used by the factory team, and also continuing work on the production racer Honda is building as a replacement for the CRT bikes. Joining Stoner will be his former crew chief Cristian Gabarrini, an indication of just how seriously HRC are taking this test.

WSBK: Silverstone Confirmed & Istanbul Added to Calendar

03/07/2013 @ 2:29 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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It would appear fears that the World Superbike round at Silverstone is to be dropped are misplaced, as paddock rumors that Silverstone was back on the calendar emerged last night, with confirmation coming from Silverstone today, from the circuit’s Facebook page.

Accordingly, the race at Silverstone will take place on August 4th, and will see World Superbike, World Supersport, and the Superstock 1000 and 600 classes compete.

2013 WSBK Calendar Shake Up: Istanbul To Replace Silverstone, TBA Round To Be Scrapped?

02/22/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Despite the fact that the World Superbike series kicks off on Sunday, the provisional calendar is still very much in a state of flux. Rumors emanating from the WSBK paddock, gathered at Phillip Island for the 2013 season opener, suggest that major changes could stilll take place to the calendar.

The biggest change is that the UK round, set for Silverstone on 4th August, could be dropped altogether, and replaced with a round in Turkey, at the spectacular Istanbul Park Circuit in mid-September.

The rumors, reported by German-language website Speedweek, and confirmed by other WSBK sources, state that Silverstone is to be dropped because the circuit cannot afford to pay the sanctioning fee previously agreed with Infront, and now being demanded by Dorna.

Crowd numbers at Silverstone for World Superbikes were always low, in part because the flat nature of the circuit made viewing difficult, and in part due to relatively high ticket prices, which meant that ticket sales did not generate sufficient revenue to cover the circuit’s costs.

Karel Abraham Debuts His Cardion AB Aprilia ART

01/28/2013 @ 10:19 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Karel-Abraham-Cardino-AB-Aprilia-ART-03

The Czech Republic’s favorite rider, Karel Abraham, is ready for the 2013 MotoGP Championship, as his Cardion AB team has debuted its Aprilia ART entry. Making the jump from the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 prototype, Abraham will contest his third season in MotoGP on a CRT entry.

With not all CRTs proving to be equal, Cardion AB’s choice of the Aprilia ART seems to be the sensible approach from all the entries available. Built off the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, which itself was built off Aprilia’s failed MotoGP program, Aprilia Racing has developed the entire bike in house, including the ARTs robust electronics package.

Competitive out of the box, it should be with little surprise that leas year saw two ART machines battling closely for the top honors in the makeshift sub-class (Team Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet).

Choosing the Aprilia ART doesn’t guarantee success for young Abraham however, as we saw the ARTs of Speed Master and Paul Bird Motorsports struggle for good results against the other CRT entries.

With the likely factor being money paid to Aprilia Racing (PBM didn’t even bother testing the Aprilia ART once during the 2012 season, instead choosing to develop the bike on race weekends), Cardion AB seems at least well-situated in that regard, having already weather the prices of Ducati Corse’s lease costs on the Desmosedici.

2013 World Superbike Provisional Calendar v.3

01/15/2013 @ 10:18 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Carlos-Checa-Miller-Motorsport-Park-WSBK-Scott-Jones

The confusion surrounding the Indian round of World Superbikes looks close to being resolved. According to reports on the ever well-informed GPOne, the race at the Buddh International Circuit is to be rescheduled from 10th of March to the 17th of November, moving it from being the second race of the season to being the season finale.

The race had been facing a number of problems, including logistical and customs issues, casting doubt over whether the race could go ahead as scheduled in March. The customs issues – both the 15-day inspection period for technical equipment, and the temporary import duty charged – are not so much of a problem, according to GPOne.

The real issue, the site reports, is that the race organizers are not yet ready to put on the event. They do not have the organization in place to manage an event of this magnitude, and need a number of months to get everything arranged. The problem lies not with Buddh International Circuit itself, located not far from New Delhi, as the circuit has successfully organized two Formula One races already.

2013 World Superbike Provisional Calendar v.2

01/03/2013 @ 2:35 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

The cancelling of the Argentinian round of MotoGP has had a knock-on effect for the World Superbike series as well. The dropping of the race in Argentina caused MotoGP to push its season opener at Qatar back a week to April 7th, which then put it on the same weekend as the World Superbike round scheduled for Aragon on the same date.

To avoid a clash of the two series, the FIM has chosen to move the date of the Aragon WSBK round, moving it back a week in turn to April 14th, filling the gap between the MotoGP rounds at Qatar and Austin.

2013 MotoGP Championship Provisional Calendar v.2

10/17/2012 @ 4:45 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

The FIM has issued a revised version of the 2013 MotoGP calendar. The new calendar is only a minor update to the initial calendar issued on September 21st, with only one real change, the switching of the Sachsenring to a week earlier. That move was forced on the FIM, as Formula One had scheduled the Grand Prix of Germany at the Nurburgring for the same date. Holding an F1 race and a MotoGP race in the same country and on the same date was not a viable situation, and so the Sachsenring race was moved.

The other update to the calendar was not a change, but a confirmation. The Grand Prix of the Americas has been confirmed as taking place on April 21st, at the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. That had been widely expected, but could not be confirmed until contracts were signed. The continuing dispute between the Circuit of the Americas and Kevin Schwantz over the rights to organize the Austin round of MotoGP will not affect the scheduling of the race.

Provisional World Superbike Calendar for 2013 Released

10/08/2012 @ 11:52 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

At Magny-Cours this weekend, World Superbike released its provisional calendar for the 2013 WSBK Championship. Subject to some change, maybe more so now that Dorna is in charge of things, the big changes to the 2013 calendar over this season is the addition of a round in India, as well as the American round moving from Miller Motorsports Park to Laguna Seca.

World Superbike returns to Russia again for 2013, helping the series branch out a bit from the Western Europe centrality. Along that same vein, both Misano and Brno are absent from the 2013 calendar, with the second race in June still to be announced.

We would expect Brno to get filled-in at this slot, since the Eastern Europe circuit has the right geography, solvency, and attendance support when compared to the Italian track. However, as always, time will tell. The 2013 World Superbike Provisional Calendar for 2013 is after the jump.

Who is the Smartest MotoGP Racer in the Paddock?

08/28/2012 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

This season has been a forgetable one for Karel Abraham on the race track, but the we reckon it will be a year that the young Czech rider will remember. In a couple weeks, Karel Abraham will graduate from law school (Bachelors level), having passed his exiting exams just a few days after the conclusion of the Czech GP. Studying even during the race-weekend, Abraham says that his academic duties helped provide a distraction from the pressures of his home round.

For those who remember our sit-down interview with the Cardion AB rider, the news of Karel’s studying of the law shouldn’t be any new information. We imagine the skills he has learned in the classroom will help Abraham with next year’s contract negotiations, as there is high-degree of uncertainty surrounding Cardion AB’s plans for the 2013 MotoGP Championship. As someone who is using a law degree in a non-traditional capacity, I wish Karel the best in his future endeavors — on and off the track.