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.

Watch Ducati Unveil Its 2015 Models Right Here

10/29/2014 @ 8:29 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Watch Ducati Unveil Its 2015 Models Right Here ducati 1199 dark 635x475

The 2014 EICMA show officially starts on Tuesday, November 3rd, though Ducati typically holds a private event the Monday ahead of the show, likely in the hope to get a little extra space on the news cycle, and to help build buzz ahead of Tuesday’s opening day for press and trade. The event is usually open to VIP and press only, but that’s about to change this year.

Setting up a live stream of the pre-EICMA unveiling on YouTube, Ducatisti around the world will be able to see Claudio Domenicali introduce the all-new Ducati Multistrada, with its new Testastretta DVT engine, as well as the 1299 superbike. We can also expect some “bold new graphics” changes to several models, and Domenicali will reintroduce the Ducati Scrambler as well.

It’s a pretty good show the few times A&R has attended, and it’s interesting that we are just now seeing OEMs embrace streaming technology for unveils like this. Of course, it has the downside of making it difficult to un-invite rogue journalists at the last-minute…maybe that’s cause enough in the slow movement for change.

Watch the live steam after the jump, starting November 3rd at 5:15pm Central European Time.

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler?

09/16/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler? ducati scrambler instagram 635x635

Bologna is readying to debut the Ducati Scrambler ahead of the INTERMOT show, in case you missed the bevy of “spy” photos, the World Ducati Week unveil to attendees, the dedicated Tumblr website, the Instagram account, and the claymation animated video series…

A more modern riff on the Ducati models of the 1960’s, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler will unveil to the public in a couple weeks’ time, and the model is another motorcycle from Ducati that speaks to outside the core Ducatisti demographic. But, is the new Ducati Scrambler a bridge too far for the Italian brand?

I have talked before about Ducati’s process of brand extension as it related to the launch of the Ducati Diavel, as the iconic Italian brand moved past being a “sport bike brand” and into a robust full-feature motorcycle marque.

Since that writing, we have seen the breakdown of the Italian dream team that was Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse in MotoGP, the floundering of Ducati’s World Superbike efforts with the Ducati 1199 Panigale superbike, a stagnation of the company’s yearly growth in terms of motorcycle sales volume, and the abandonment of Ducati’s iconic air-cooled motors (the Scrambler will likely be the last Desmo Due from Bologna).

Where Ducati Motor Holding crescendoed under the leadership of Gabriele del Torchio, growing constantly in unit sales, pushing into new market segments with ease, and debuting compelling new motorcycles year-after-year, this next stanza written by Claudio Domenicali has been more of a coda to Ducati’s symphony of progress.

Ducati 1199 Superleggera Enters Production

03/29/2014 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Ducati 1199 Superleggera Enters Production Ducati 1199 Superleggera EICMA detail 35 635x421

Word from Italy is that Ducati has begun production on the Ducati 1199 Superleggera superbike, the Italian firm’s “Super Light” version of the Panigale. Crafted from copious amounts of magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber, the Superleggera might be one of the few motorcycles that looks better naked without its fairings, rather than all buttoned up and ready for the race track.

Make no mistake, the Superleggera is an exercise of engineering prowess (it sports the highest power-to-weight ratio of any production motorcycle in history), so it makes sense then that the Superleggera is said to be the pet project of former Ducati engineer, and current Ducati CEO, Claudio Domenicali.

Creating a video to celebrate the commencement of Ducati’s production run on the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, it is no mistake then that Domenicali features heavily in it — this is one proud papa. Only 500 lucky Ducatisti will be able to share in that pride of ownership, as the Superleggera production will be extremely limited. What follows might be the closest you will ever get to one.

Analyzing Ducati’s 2014 MotoGP Launch

03/16/2014 @ 11:34 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

Analyzing Ducatis 2014 MotoGP Launch 2014 Ducati Desmosedici GP14 19 635x423

If you wanted proof that things are changing at Ducati, you need look no further than the launch of their MotoGP team.

In years past, it was an outrageously flamboyant affair, a veritable extravaganza hosted by Philip Morris to showcase their two motor sports projects, the Ducati MotoGP team and the Ferrari Formula One squad.

Held at the upmarket Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, the event even had a proper showbiz name: Wrooom. All that was missing was an exclamation mark.

Ducati’s 2014 launch was very different. Held not in Italy, but in Munich and Ingolstadt, on premises owned and operated by Ducati’s current owners, Audi.

The team presentation at the Audi Forum at Munich airport, the unveiling of the livery in the evening, at the Audi Gebrauchtwagen Plus center in Munich, then to Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt the following day, for the presentation of the Germany company’s annual report to the press.

If the Wrooom event had been flamboyant and over the top, the 2014 launch was serious, focused, yet still stylish. It felt very much like Italy versus Germany, and Germany won.

There was another difference too. Despite the media having been present at both Sepang tests and the Phillip Island tire test, there was still some real meat for journalists to get their teeth into in Munich.

Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna, MotoGP project leader Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, head of technical development at Audi Ulrich Hackenberg, even the riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow all had something new to add. It was much, much more interesting than expected.

Video: Ducati 1199 Superleggera – The Power of Lightness

02/04/2014 @ 3:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Video: Ducati 1199 Superleggera   The Power of Lightness 2014 Ducati 1199 Superleggera crop 635x424

I don’t have a good excuse as to why I want to post this video up on the site, other than the Ducati 1199 Superleggera is probably the most awesome motorcycle to come out in the past decade (apologies to any Honda DN-01 owners in the crowd).

An exercise in engineering prowess, which saw Borgo Panigale drop shed some serious weight from its venerable superbike, it should come as no surprise then that the 155kg (dry) Superleggera was a model put forth by Claudio Domenicali, a man who rose from engineer to CEO at Ducati Motor Holding.

That being said, I’m not sure we need a good excuse to fawn over the Superleggera. A magnesium monocoque frame, forged magnesium Marchesini wheels, carbon fiber rear sub-frame and bodywork (with integrated R-spec aero-kit), lithium-ion battery, titanium exhaust system with stainless steel headers, titanium bolts and fasteners…I’m sorry, what was I saying?

MotoGP Silly Season’s First Crazy Rumor: Lorenzo Agrees to Precontract with Ducati for 2015? Ducati Says No

01/16/2014 @ 10:44 am, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

MotoGP Silly Seasons First Crazy Rumor: Lorenzo Agrees to Precontract with Ducati for 2015? Ducati Says No jorge lorenzo yamaha racing motogp scott jones 635x423

MotoGP silly season this year is expected to be pretty frenetic, with just about all of the riders either out of contract or with escape clauses written into their contracts allowing them to leave at the end of 2014.

But even by those standards, the first shot in the battle sounds like madness. According to a report on the Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Ducati have tempted Jorge Lorenzo into agreeing to a precontract to race for the Italian factory from 2015 onwards.

According to the report, Ducati Corse’s new boss Gigi Dall’Igna phoned Jorge Lorenzo personally to persuade him to sign for the Italian factory. The contract on offer is reported to be tempting: Onda Cero claim that Ducati offered Lorenzo 15 million euros a season to race for them.

Lorenzo is reported to be racing for 9 million a year with Yamaha, plus a 2 million euro bonus if he wins the championship. Both Honda and Yamaha are also chasing Lorenzo’s signature for 2015, both claimed to have offered him 12 million euros a year.

Ducati CEO Denies Scooter Plans

12/30/2013 @ 2:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Ducati CEO Denies Scooter Plans  ducati brio scooter 635x425

With the internet buzzing yet again about rumors of Ducati planning to build a scooter model, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali has also once again had to dismiss any truth to the matter. Talking to MCN about the matter, Domenicali said simply that “A scooter is not in the foreseeable future for Ducati.”

Domenicali went on to explain that small-displacement machines were not in the cards for Ducati and the brand’s foreseeable future, with the Italian motorcycle company electing instead to focus on niches with the larger displacement categories. It is no secret that Ducati is looking to introduce a scrambler-style model for the 2015 model year, and other models are presumably in the works as well.

“Ducati do Brasil” is Ready for Business – Argentina Next

06/20/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Ducati do Brasil is Ready for Business   Argentina Next 2013 Ducati Hypermotard 635x423

In October of last year, we told you about how Ducati Motor Holding was directly taking over its operations in Brazil, and was forming a subsidiary in the South American country. Nine months later now, Ducati do Brasil is officially open for business, and the company’s first showroom floor is in the Avenida Faria Lima of São Paulo.

Helping Ducati side-step the onerous tariffs that come with the Brazil market, the Italian company is continuing its relationship with DAFRA, which runs a complete knock-down (CKD) assembly plant in Manaus, and builds Diavel and Monster 796 motorcycles on Ducati’s behalf.

Ducati do Brasil will be run by Managing Director Ricardo Susini, who will in-turn be assisted by Marco Truzzi as Service & After Sales Manager.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati claudio domenicali 635x954

When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

Confirmed: Claudio Domenicali Appointed CEO of Ducati, Gabriele del Torchio Leaves for Alitalia

04/18/2013 @ 10:43 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Confirmed: Claudio Domenicali Appointed CEO of Ducati, Gabriele del Torchio Leaves for Alitalia Claudio Domenicali 635x422

Confirming what we already thought to be true, Gabriele del Torchio has left his position at Ducati to takeover as CEO of Alitalia. Replacing him will be current Ducati General Manager and Board Member Claudio Domenicali.

With 21 years of experience at Ducati Motor Holding, including time in both Ducati’s product and racing departments, Domenicali is perhaps the most logical successor for the departing Del Torchio, as he intimately understand’s the company’s product line as well as its racing heritage.

Following Del Torchio will be no easy task though, as the former-CEO has helped build Ducati into something that is more than just a superbike brand. Domenicali’s marching orders are surely to continue that growth into new two-wheeled sectors, as well as to take Ducati from a boutique European brand into a true global player in the premium motorcycle market — you have been warned BMW and KTM. Ducati’s press release on the transition is after the jump.