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.

Cameron Donald on the Norton SG3 at the Isle of Man TT

03/21/2014 @ 2:39 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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With the start of the qualifying rounds for the 2014 Isle of Man TT just two months away, Norton Motorcycles has confirmed that Cameron Donald will be riding for the British company in is this year’s TT. As such, Donald will be straddling a Norton SG3 for the Dainese Superbike and Pokerstars Senior TT events, starting in 19th position.

Both manufacturer and rider are looking to make a comeback as Norton has not seen a TT victory since 1992 and Donald saw his last victory in 2008. That is not to say that the Australian does not have an impressive track record with 10 career podium finishes, including second place in last year’s Superbike race, just behind Michael Dunlop.

TT Legends — Episode 7: The Oschersleben 8hr

02/26/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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We don’t know about you, but the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary is really giving us a reason to look forward to Wednesday. In fact it might even be the most popular event at the A&R office since No-Pants Fridays. Sadly, Episode Seven is the penultimate installment, but all good things must come to an end, right?

Today’s video takes us to Germany, for the Oschersleben 8hr. Perhaps not the biggest event on the FIM Endurance World Championship, it was a decisive round for the Honda TT Legends squad for the 2012 EWC title. As usually, it’s a great look into this top-level team, and your favorite TT heroes have more than enough personality to keep you entertained.

TT Legends — Episode 6: The Suzuka 8 Hours

02/19/2014 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Episode Six of the “TT Legends” documentary is out, and it has the Honda TT Legends crew leaving the Isle of Man for Japan. Taking part in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, one of the stops in the Endurance World Championship, the Honda-supported team is racing for the OEM’s glory.

Perhaps not the biggest of races here in the United States or in Europe, but for the Japanese, Suzuka is a huge deal. A place where bragging rights for the Japanese OEMs are born, in the past it hasn’t been uncommon to see OEMs stack their teams with WSBK and GP racers (even Kevin Schwantz raced at Suzuka last year).

Eight hours of racing anywhere is brutal, but at Suzuka, the intense heat and humidity is always an additional factor. Riders cool down in swimming pools, and drink their weight in Gatorade. A truly fantastic event, it should be on any enthusiasts’ bucket list — just be sure to pack a pair of shorts.

TT Legends — Episode 5: The Isle of Man TT, Part 2

02/12/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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It’s Wednesday, so that means another installment of the “TT Legends” documentary. For Episode Five, we find the boys still at the Isle of Man TT, the namesake for the Honda TT Legends team.

2012 was a particularly eventful year for the TT, as Simon Andrews escaped with his life in a harrowing crash, the Senior TT was cancelled, for the first time ever on account of rain, and John McGuinness finally won a Superstock TT race.

As usual, the episode is a great watch, and this time around things focus pretty heavily on John McGuinness (we even get a glimpse of him on his electric superbike, the Mugen Shinden).

With 20 TT wins to his name now, McPint will be looking to make further progress on Joey Dunlop’s record during the 2014 outing. Standing in his way will be a bevy of powerhouse riders, including the recently announced Michael Dunlop, who will be racing with a factory-backed BMW S1000RR.

TT Legends — Episode 4: The Isle of Man TT, Part 1

02/05/2014 @ 6:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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We are now halfway through with the “TT Legends” documentary, with today’s fourth of eight installments featuring the venerable Isle of Man TT. Part one of two, Episode Four introduces one of the most iconic races in motorcycling.

Over 100 years old, every motorcycle enthusiast should make a pilgrimage to the Isle of Man — the only downside is that once you go, you will want to go again, and again, and again…

Raced on city streets, with speeds hitting over 200 mph down the Sulby Straight, it is easy to see why Honda Pro Racing’s factory road racing and endurance squad borrows its name from the TT.

Featuring some of the best IOMTT riders on its team, to keep things honest, the Isle of Man TT is really where the Honda TT Legends team shines. Enjoy!

TT Legends — Episode 3: The North West 200

01/29/2014 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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We are back on track with the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary, which follows the racing shenanigans of the Honda TT Legends road and endurance racing squad. After finishing with the Bol d’Or endurance race in Episode Two, Episode Three finds the Honda riders at the North West 200, one of the great Irish road racing events.

Like the Isle of Man TT, the North West 200 is held on public roads, but unlike the TT, this is not a time trial format. Instead, NW200 riders leave the starting line together, and swap paint and positions throughout the course. One of the fastest road races, riders reach well over 200 mph on their machines at the Irish road race.

TT Legends — Episode 2: The Bol d’Or 24 Hour Race

01/27/2014 @ 2:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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We are a little late in bringing you this, the second installment, of the “TT Legends” documentary about the Honda TT Legends road racing and endurance team, so apologies for that.  But, we think you will enjoy this 22 minute reprieve from the non-two wheeled world, as like the first episode, this is a great look into one of the top teams in racing.

Focusing on the 2012 Bol d’Or 24 hour race at Magny-Cours, perhaps the most prestigious event on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar, episode two should be a treat for any road racing fan. Le Mans starts, rain, French fans, and Mr. McPint — there is a little something for everyone in this episode.

TT Legends — Episode 1: Meet the TT Legends Team

01/15/2014 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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As we said last week, “TT Legends” the made-for-TV documentary about Honda’s road racing and world endurance racing is coming to YouTube, and the show’s first episode is up for your viewing pleasure. The video introduces the Honda TT Legends team, and has some great footage over its 22 minute duration.

Best of all, the personalities of John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald really shine through. For the next seven weeks, we should have some treats for you as we go through the series’ eight episodes. Grab a beverage, and enjoy!

“TT Legends” Documentary Coming to YouTube

01/09/2014 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Last year, the Honda TT Legends crew worked with Britain’s ITV4 television station to produce an eight-part documentary that followed the factory Honda road racing team.

Featuring the John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald, “TT Legends” follows the team through six races: the Bol d’Or, Le Mans 24 heurs, Suzuka 8-Hour, North West 200, Isle of Man TT, and Oscherselben 8hr. The series was a delight for British racing fans, though sadly wasn’t rebroadcasted for us Yanks — unless you employed less-than-legal means, that is.

Well that’s about to change, as Honda Pro Racing will be hosting the series on its YouTube channel, one episode each week, starting on January 12th. It’s a great series, and well worth keeping up with, if you have the time. We’ll bring you each installment here on Asphalt & Rubber, as they become available. Until then, whet your appetite on the trailer.

IOMTT: Race Results from the Dainese Superbike TT

06/02/2013 @ 6:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The first solo bike race of the 2013 Isle of Man TT, the Dainese Superbike TT race features 1,000cc superbike fours (1,200cc twins), which complete six laps around the Isle of Man’s Mountain Course. A prelude of things to come during the TT’s blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT, the Superbike TT boasts all the top names on the fastest machinery, and typically is the opening race for the IOMTT.