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.

2015 Dakar Rally Details Revealed

11/20/2014 @ 5:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2015 Dakar Rally Details Revealed 2015 dakar rally route 635x721

The route for the 2015 Dakar Rally has been confirmed, and details have been dropped on what could be the most grueling motorcycle event on Earth. The 14 day, 13 stage Dakar will take competitors through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and back to Argentina again, making for roughly 9,000 kilometers of terrain to navigate.

The 68 motorcycle competitors will have the added challenge of two marathon stages — stages where only the riders can work on their bikes, and can receive no help from their support crews.

Marc Coma is a heavy favorite for the 2015 edition, especially with rival Cyril Despres making the career switch to race on four wheels with Peugoet. However Coma can expect strong competition from his teammate Ruben Faria, not to mention from the likes of Joan Barreda on his Honda, and Olivier Pain on the Yamaha.

Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda

01/18/2014 @ 10:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda joan barreda dakar rally hrc2

The final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Stage Thirteen was a formality for most, but proved was still another day in the office for these riders as they tackled the 157 km special. Cyril Despres was quickest across the line, but the Frenchman was caught speeding in the liaison stage, and suffered a 15 minute penalty because of it. The error tossed Despres back to fifth for the day, leaving HRC’s Joan Barreda to win his fifth stage in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Barreda would surely have been a podium finisher this year, and possible rally winner, had he not suffered a catastrophic electrical problem on Stage Twelve. Surely disappointed with his result, the Spaniard can take solice in proving the competitiveness of HRC’s Honda CRF450 Rally package.

“Today is the last day of the Dakar. For us it feels tough because I lost a lot of time with a problem after a fall at kilometer 200,” said Borreda. “But today I was back in the saddle like a pro, and I did a really good job in the special. In the end it wasn’t the result that we were working for in the Dakar. Well, now it’s time to go home and try to get to grips with what happened, how and where we went wrong and see how we can sort them out for next year.”

Dakar Rally – Stage 11: Yamaha Takes Day’s Top Honors

01/16/2014 @ 11:42 pm, by Bryan Delohery5 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally – Stage 11: Yamaha Takes Days Top Honors cyril despres dakar rally yamaha racing1 635x423

Stage Eleven, from Antofagasta to El Salvador, proved to be the most challenging stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, and saw riders pushed to their limits as they spent nearly seven hours on their bikes, battling rivers and the infamous Dunes of Copiapo.

As we enter the final stages of the 2014 Dakar rally, this is still anyone’s game as the stage and overall leaders have begun to shuffle.

The two French teammates of the Yamaha Factory Racing took today’s stage, placing first and second. Cyril Despres took first with a stage time of 6:38:59 with his teammate, Olivier Pain, following a close second at 2:37 behind.

Dakar Rally – Stage 9: Coma Leads, Problems for Duclos

01/14/2014 @ 10:22 pm, by Bryan DeloheryComments Off

Dakar Rally   Stage 9: Coma Leads, Problems for Duclos Iquique Dakar Rally

As the sun rose this morning over the Andes Mountains in Chile,  the riders of Stage Nine prepared for the long ride through the Atacama Desert. 150 km of sand dunes were followed by a three kilometer descent into Iquique, which lay ahead.

Although starting in third place behind Despres and Barreda, Marc Coma managed to pilot his team Redbull KTM 450 Rally to first place on today’s stage, solidifying his overall lead to 40:19 ahead of his closest competition, Joan Barreda.

“It was a complicated stage in the Atacama Desert. Very nice and very fast at the beginning, but we found some dunes at the end,” said Coma. “I tried to catch Joan because he started two minutes in front of me. When I caught up with him I tried to follow to ride together to the end. It was a good day for me.”

Today’s stage win for Coma not only marks his second special stage win of this year’s rally, but his 23rd special stage victory in the Dakar.

Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Despres Gives Yamaha First Stage Win

01/13/2014 @ 4:22 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

Dakar Rally   Stage 8: Despres Gives Yamaha First Stage Win cyril despres dakar rally yamaha racing 635x423

Today’s stage for the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 486 km sprint from Salta, Argentina to Calama, Chile, gave riders quite a view as they glided across parts of the largest salt flat in the world, and up the Andes Mountains as they enter the Chilean section of the rally.

After taking third on yesterday’s stage, Cyril Despres of France took today’s stage win putting up a 5:23:20 on his Yamaha YZ450F Rally, with Joan Barreda of Spain coming in second at 2:09 behind him. This pushes Despres up one position into 9th place overall.

“The idea isn’t really to go looking for stage victories but to try and get back to the front of the rally,” Despres said. “Today, by making up the difference on the tracks between myself and the first riders, I won the special and that’s always a pleasure.”

KTM Readying All-New 2014 Dakar Rally Race Bike

08/05/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

KTM Readying All New 2014 Dakar Rally Race Bike Ruben Faria KTM Dakar Rally 2013 635x423

The 2014 Dakar Rally is still five months away, but KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has tipped the Austrian company’s hand in an interview with KTM’s official company blog. With the goal of making a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine, KTM has been working on a ground-up redesign of its venerable adventure-racer.

Of course, KTM will still have to use a 450cc single-cylinder engine, per the Dakar Rally’s rules, but Pierer says the chassis will be significantly improved upon over the current iteration.

That goal seems easy enough, as the company CEO disclosed that the current 2013 race bike is essentially using the same chassis when The Dakar had a 600cc engine regulation for factory teams.

Modifying the old chassis to design simply to accommodate the new 450cc lump, KTM’s short-cut to building a new rally racing machine was crude, yet obviously effective.

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia

03/21/2013 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia 2014 dakar rally argentina bolivia chile

For the sixth year in a row, the Dakar Rally will race in South America, though the iconic rally race is mixing things up, and is dropping its route through Peru for one that includes Bolivia instead. The Dakar will keep Argentina and Chile on its 2014 course schedule, and the two countries will comprise the majority of the race’s torturous test of its competitors.

The 2014 Dakar Rally will have longer special stages, as well as several marathon stages (stages where only the competitor can do mechanical work on his/her machine, not the mechanics). Taking riders  and drivers though Argentina’s northwest canyons and sandy valleys, it should be an especially grueling edition of the historic race.

Dakar Rally — Stage 11: American Kurt Caselli Wins Again

01/16/2013 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally    Stage 11: American Kurt Caselli Wins Again Kurt Caselli Dakar Rally KTM 2013 01 635x423

It is a special thing to win a stage at the Dakar Rally, and multiple stage victories are a true accomplishment in a racer’s career. We could leave the accolades there for Kurt Caselli, but taking two stage wins, during his rookie debut at the famous rally race, now that is something truly noteworthy. Filling the very big shoes left behind by the injured Marc Coma, Caselli has proven to be a diamond in the rough for the factory KTM team, which can only bode well for the California natives return to The Dakar in the coming years.

Winning the Baja-like terrain of Stage 11 with a 4:45 margin, Caselli helped lead the way for fellow bannerman Cyril Despres to regain the outright lead of The Dakar, while Despres’ teammate Ruben Faria also consolidated KTM’s 1-2 standings in the overall time slots, 13:16 behind Despres.

Still ranked well below the other factory KTM riders, Caselli’s position moves to 29th, a figure weighed heavily by his navigational errors in Stage 8, which saw him miss several waypoint and checkpoints.

With eleven stages now completed, the 2013 Dakar Rally will head back into Chile tomorrow with the 12th stage, meaning only three stages of racing remain. A Top 10 finish may be a large challenge for Caselli, but it is undeniable that the American has made a strong first impression at his debut Dakar.

The 2013 Dakar Rally – Peru, Argentina, & Chile

03/21/2012 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The 2013 Dakar Rally   Peru, Argentina, & Chile cyril despres ktm dakar rally 2012 40 635x421

The Dakar Rally has already released its route for the 2013 Dakar, and the famous endurance race will once again compete in South America (Africa what?). Choosing to do a reversal of its previous routes, The Dakar will travel from north to south by starting in Lima, Peru and ending in Santiago, Chile.

Though this will be the fifth time the Dakar Rally has run in South America, the 2013 edition should be a grueling one right off the bat. Since the race is starting in Lima, it means competitors will be in the sand dunes of Peru right away — the first time the race has ever started in the desert. With all eyes watching to see if Cyril Despres can defend his 2012 victory against rival Marc Coma, racing action for the 2013 Dakar Rally starts Janurary 5th and ends January 20th.

Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally Cancelled

01/06/2012 @ 11:32 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally Cancelled 60346 Faria MM 050112 Dakar 7633 635x422

The world’s top adventure riders have been down in South America the past week, competing in the 33rd running of the Dakar Rally. Racing through South America since 2009, the 2012 Dakar will be taking competitors through some of the toughest terrain available in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as The Dakar continues to live up to its name as one of the toughest races in motorsport, and this year’s rally has tragically already claimed its first life, as motorcyclist Jorge Martinez Boero of Argentina died from a cardiac arrest, after crashing during the rally’s first stage.

For Stage 6 (Fiambala-Copiapo), the weather and terrain were apparently too inhospitable, even by Dakar standards. Set to cross the Andes Mountain Range for the seventh time in the rally’s history, snow and rain at the 15,420 foot Paso de San Francisco pass was too inclement for Chilean authorities to keep the crossing open. Accordingly, today’s stage will be a convoy of all the Dakar Rally vehicles, with the rally’s itinerary changed after the border crossing in Chile from Argentina.