Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler?

09/16/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 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.

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/19/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R Ducati 1199 Panigale R Circuit of the Americas 53 635x422

The international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R is taking place this week, and the world’s top motorcycle-journalists are lapping Bologna’s latest bullet around the new Circuit of the Americas race course outside of Austin, Texas.

Helping make the occasion extra special, MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are in attendance, doing what they do best on two wheels. Since the two Ducati riders did not participate in the private test at Austin, that HRC and Yamaha Racing held last week, this photo-op was their first outing on the track.

Asphalt & Rubber will be swinging a leg over the Panigale R on Thursday, which means we have two painfully long days until we can see the machine in person. There are 101 hi-res snaps after the jump, taken by the great Gigi Soldano, Marco Campelli, Andrew Wheeler, and Scott Jones (yes! the Scott Jones!).