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.

No MotoGP Rev Limit Until 2014

05/01/2012 @ 3:03 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

No MotoGP Rev Limit Until 2014 Ducati Corse Desmosedici GP12 OLED dash 3

Jerez saw another round in the game of bluff poker being played between Dorna and the manufacturers over the future of MotoGP’s rules, and both sides took another step closer to an agreement. Reports emanating from the discussions suggest that Dorna has made a concession to the MSMA over the rev limits, while the factories are pushing through a single-bike rule, and an agreement should be ready by the middle of the year.

Ever since the MSMA lost their monopoly over the rules at the end of 2011, when the contract between the MSMA and Dorna lapsed, Dorna has had the stronger hand, and Carmelo Ezpeleta has been pushing the factories hard for changes. The pressure is starting to pay off for Ezpeleta, as by a combination of cajoling, threats and promises, he has also reached an agreement over the future shape of the sport. MotoGP is to undergo a radical transformation from the pure technology exercise that was the 800cc era, and become a sport focused on entertainment, where costs are kept in check.

Aprilia ART – A Thinly Veiled World Superbike?

03/30/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Aprilia ART   A Thinly Veiled World Superbike? Aprilia RSV4 front ART back1 635x423

The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.

Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.

If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.

Dorna 90% Sure Japanese GP is a Go – Riders Disagree

05/23/2011 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Dorna 90% Sure Japanese GP is a Go   Riders Disagree Valentino Rossi stern face 635x422

Depending on whom you talk to in the MotoGP paddock, you might get a different impression on the state of the Japanese GP, set to be held at the Motegi Twin Rings circuit this coming October. As we are all aware, the tragic events sustained by the Japanese people after their country was hit by earthquake, tsunami, and then nuclear disaster have been on the minds of citizens around the world.

While Japan begins the process of rebuilding, the country still has to contend with the Fukushima plant, which continues to leak radiation. While MotoGP won’t make an official announcement about its plans to race in Japan until later this summer, the camps are clearly divided on whether the series should abstain (for a second year in a row) on visiting the island nation, or make the flyaway race to Motegi.

MotoGP: No Replacement Race if Japanese GP Falls Through

04/22/2011 @ 7:27 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

MotoGP: No Replacement Race if Japanese GP Falls Through qatar gp qualifying scott jones 2

Ever since the Great East Japan Earthquake, there’s been a great deal of speculation in the MotoGP paddock about the status of the Japanese GP. Although postponed until October, the reality that the Motegi circuit will be able to safely host a MotoGP event is still dubious in many minds, and accordingly names of alternate venues have been banded about as replacements for the Japanese round. At the top of the list has been Istanbul, which last hosted MotoGP back in 2007.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has seemingly put the kibosh on the Turkish GP taking over for the Twin Ring Circuit though, saying that if the Japanese GP cannot be undertaken, the round would be dropped altogether from the MotoGP calendar. Such an action would leave only 17 stops for MotoGP’s racing season, instead of the customary 18 rounds.

Austin GP: Yes, No, Maybe So…

02/08/2011 @ 5:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Austin GP: Yes, No, Maybe So... Austin GP track elevation 635x433

While the Indianapolis GP has been renewed for another season, talk continues to swell regarding the Brickyard, and whether it will remain on the MotoGP calendar. While a notably historic track in the United States, and a venue capable of easily handling an event like GP racing, track conditions at Indianapolis weighed heavily on riders’ minds while contending with the midwest circuit this past season.

With members of the GP safety commission audibly displeased with the track’s layout and and changing tarmac patches, and a new GP-quality track in Austin, Texas currently being built, the writing appears to be on the wall for Indy. Playing host to Formula One US GP (which ironically used to be held at Indianapolis) from 2012 to 2021, the new track in Austin has however denied talks with MotoGP, and having the series race at its venue. But don’t believe everything you hear.

Nobody F*cks with The Dorna – Ezpeleta Puts PI on Notice

01/14/2011 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Nobody F*cks with The Dorna   Ezpeleta Puts PI on Notice big lebowski jesus quintana 635x352

In the background of MotoGP, a quiet battle has been raging since the Australian GP at Phillip Island. A venue always threatened with inclement weather, the Australian track always manages to muster sunshine on race Sundays, despite the fact that they have all the makings weather-wise for a good regatta, not a motorcycle race. Despite this reality, the issue of running the Australian GP earlier in the race season comes up every time MotoGP gets a whiff of rain, wind, or kangaroos that could threaten the coastal track, as the late scheduling of the GP has historically been during the country’s rainy season.

Pressure to move the Australian GP to earlier in the season seemingly found its stride this past season, as Valentino Rossi and a number of other riders openly expressed their frustration with the circuit’s weather, and the pending safety concerns it meant for the riders. Talking during last season’s race, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta seemed all but certain that the venue would find an earlier slot in the calendar for 2011, despite the scheduling conflicts with WSBK and Formula 1 in the earlier months of this new year, and the nagging problem that Phillip Island doesn’t want to move the venue date.

Fielding questions at the Ducati/Ferrari Wrooom event, Ezpeleta again was asked about the issue with Phillip Island, and his response to the track’s position that its contract with Dorna prevents a change in the calendar positioning (PI is contracted until 2016). Talking to the assembled press, Ezpeleta fired a clear warning shot across the bow of the Australian track when he said the track’s homologation could come into question if calendar changes aren’t accepted. “We are talking with them.  It’s true, they have a contract, but their circuit is subject to homologation,” said Ezpeleta. “If it (the Phillip Island track) is not homologated, the contract will be void.”

Dorna Sports Declared “Best Spanish Business”…in Italy

12/03/2010 @ 5:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dorna Sports Declared Best Spanish Business...in Italy mediterranean map 635x408

File this one under stuff we couldn’t make up if we tried (although the fake press release would be awesome). Dorna Sports, media rights holder to our one and only MotoGP World Championship racing series, has been declared the “Best Spanish Business”…in Italy…by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce…in Italy…yeah it just got that weird.

Apparently the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, which operates in Italy and helps facilitate business operations between the two countries, has made it a habit to recognize Spanish businesses that have a substantial amount of their business in Italy, and promote the economies of both countries, which is great, if not slightly strange.

Suzuki Confirms Single-Rider Team for 2011

11/07/2010 @ 9:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Suzuki Confirms Single Rider Team for 2011 Alvaro Bautista single bike team Suzuki MotoGP 635x423

After much hemming and hawing, Suzuki has finally committed to fielding only a single rider for the 2011 season. There has been much speculation that Suzuki would have only Alvaro Bautista at the helm of the Suzuki GSV-R next year, but Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta made it very clear that he was going to keep Suzuki to its commitment to field two bikes in MotoGP.

Suzuki seems to be taking its chances with Dorna’s legal threats though, and rumors suggest that the Japanese company has struck a deal with the MotoGP rights holder that extends its MotoGP involvement in exchange for this contractual concession.

Suzuki Cutting a Deal To Run a Single-Bike Team in 2011

10/08/2010 @ 8:26 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Suzuki Cutting a Deal To Run a Single Bike Team in 2011 Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 2010 season 5 635x423

Suzuki seems to be edging closer and closer to a single-man team for the next season, despite Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta making the rounds in Japan last week reminding the Japanese manufacturers of their legal obligations. With news that a good portion of the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP crew were told they should start looking for new employment, including long-time Crew Chief Stuart Shenton, Suzuki seems to be culling its ranks for a pull-back in 2011 despite the consequences.

With Dorna already showing that it may be more bark than bite, after letting Kawasaki get away with its 2009 pull-out, the folks at MCN suggest Suzuki may have brokered a deal with Dorna for a larger involvement in 2012, when MotoGP goes back to the 1000cc format, in exchange for an allowance to run a single-bike next year in an effort to cut the company’s racing costs.

Nicky Hayden Riding the Indy Mile

09/01/2010 @ 9:03 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Nicky Hayden Riding the Indy Mile Nicky Hayden Indy Mile flat track 2 560x373

If you weren’t in Indianapolis for the Indy GP, you certainly missed one of the better side events of the weekend: The Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Flat Track Grand National. It’s hard to make riding on packed dirt at breakneak speeds with no brakes more exciting, but throw in former flat track Champion Nicky Hayden, the entire Ducati Corse MotoGP team, and a contract announcement and you have the makings for a very special event.

With Ducati Motor Holdings CEO Gabriele del Torchio on-stage to announce Hayden’s new two-year contract, motorcycle racing fans got to see their homeboy do good. Helping celebrate the event, Hayden took to the track with his steel boot, and held nothing back for his loyal followers.