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.

MotoGP: CRTs 14 MPH Slower Than Prototypes at Losail

04/06/2012 @ 9:40 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

MotoGP: CRTs 14 MPH Slower Than Prototypes at Losail qatar gp 2012 scott jones ApriliaDash1

Free Practice 2 for the Qatar GP has just finished at the Losail International Circuit, and the speed gap between the prototypes and the CRTs is abundantly clear. One of the faster tracks on the MotoGP calendar, everyone in the paddock knew going into the Qatar GP that the power advantage held by the Ducati, Honda, & Yamaha prototypes would be apparent down Losail’s .664 mile front straightaway. But now after getting to see how the two bike classifications stack up on the same course and on the same day, the results from FP1 & FP2 show a 13.6 mph gap between the tops CRTs to the top prototype GP bikes.

MotoGP: Steve Rapp & Attack Performance Granted Wild Card Status to both US Rounds on a CRT Entry

04/03/2012 @ 1:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Steve Rapp & Attack Performance Granted Wild Card Status to both US Rounds on a CRT Entry Steve Rapp 635x422

Roadracing World is reporting that AMA Pro Racing team Attack Performance has gotten the green light from Dorna to enter both American MotoGP rounds as a CRT entry, with AMA Superbike rider Steve Rapp slotted as the rider of the machine. Listed as the machine’s constructor on the entry, Attack Performance is presumably building its own race bike, which is almost certainly to have a Kawasaki ZX-10R motor at its core.

If the team undertakes the next steps in the process of racing in MotoGP, and it is true that Attack Kawasaki is building its own bike, then the team will have a short amount of time to put together a competent race package, as there are only four months until the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca.

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.

Interview: Lucio Cecchinello – The Man Behind LCR Honda

03/29/2012 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Interview: Lucio Cecchinello   The Man Behind LCR Honda Lucio Cecchinello Scott Jones

Former GP racer Lucio Cecchinello is a Honda man through and through. Team owner and principal at LCR Honda (the ‘LCR’ standing for Lucio Cecchinello Racing), Cecchinello started his racing career on a Honda NS125R, and worked his way up to the GP ranks, where he spent most of his time on a Honda RS125 (he finished his career on an Aprilia though). In 1996, Cecchinello started LCR, making him both the team’s rider and its principal director, an absolute rarity in the paddock.

LCR Honda slowly grew from the 125 & 250 Championships into the premier class of the sport: MotoGP. Campaigning a number of top riders, LCR Honda has seen Casey Stoner, Randy de Puniet, Alex de Angelis, Nobby Ueda, Toni Elias & Carlos Checa all ride the team’s bikes at some point in their careers. This year LCR Honda has Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl in the saddle, and the team hopes the German rider will be just as impressive on the big bikes as he was with the 600’s.

Taking some time to talk to HRC’s PR machine, Cecchinello shares his unique perspective on having both a racing and managing career. As a satellite team owner, Cecchinello’s opinions about CRTs from a business perspective are especially intriguing, as he forecasts trouble for CRT teams trying to bring in big-name sponsors.

Perhaps most significant are his comments regarding Moto2 though, as Cecchinello believes that the middle class of GP racing should go to a 500cc two-cylinder format, which would allow manufacturers to race in all three class with the same cylinder and head designs. The interview is a pretty good read for any MotoGP fan, check it out after the jump.

Aspar Racing’s Aprilia-Designed CRT MotoGP Bike

03/21/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Aspar Racings Aprilia Designed CRT MotoGP Bike Power Electronics Aspar Aprilia ART MotoGP CRT 07 635x423

One of the biggest compliments ever made regarding the Aprilia RSV4 was actual meant to be a criticism, as when it came time to homologate the RSV4 for World Superbike racing, the competition cried afoul — saying the RSV4 Factory was really a MotoGP bike in a production bike’s clothing. Said to be the leftovers from Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP effort, the Aprilia RSV4 had a meteoric rise in WSBK, and won the Championship after only the company’s second season back in the series.

It should come then with little surprise that the Aprilia and its V4 motor has been the popular choice for teams in the MotoGP Championship looking for a claiming-rule team (CRT) solution. Dubbed the ART, the Aprilia-powered CRT bike also features an aluminum chassis that is designed by the Italian company. Thus with Aprilia offering essentially a turn-key GP solution for teams like Aspar Racing, it probably shouldn’t shock us that the similarities between the production WSBK-spec RSV4 and prototype ART being almost too close to distinguish between the two, even down to the bodywork.

Given the fact that Dorna desperately needs an alternative to prototype racing machines built by Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha for its CRT gamble to work — not to mention the need for CRT bikes and teams that are competitive on the track with the bikes from the OEMs — one can only imagine that Dorna is turning a blind eye to obvious “bending of the rules” that is occurring with the ART project. If the ends justify the means, then surely none of this matters to Ezpeleta et al, and right now Randy de Puniet and the Aspar Racing team’s CRT effort are the MotoGP rights holder’s best bet at recapturing control of MotoGP racing.

That all being said, the Power Electronics Aspar team debuted its ART race bike, and as is the custom, disclosed only some of the most basic technical specifications about the machine. At the helm of Aspar’s ARTs will be Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro, and while the CRTs as a whole have been off the pace of the prototype bikes, RdP’s pace on the Aprilia has been noticeably quicker, and could give some of the slower satellite riders a run for their money. Technical details and photos are after the jump.

Interview: Fausto Gresini – The Man Behind Honda’s Satellite MotoGP Racing Effort

03/15/2012 @ 11:17 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Interview: Fausto Gresini   The Man Behind Hondas Satellite MotoGP Racing Effort Fausto Gresini San Carlo Gresini Honda 02 635x421

Press interviews that are done internally by the teams themselves are usually very one-sided, glowing, and devoid of any controversial or tough questions, so you have to give a hat-tip to HRC for producing a pretty fair shake of an interview with Gresini Honda‘s Fausto Gresini. The former-racer turned MotoGP Team Manager is heralded as the most successful team owner in the history of MotoGP, which is certainly open for debate, though Gresini undeniably has some very note-worthy notches on his belt.

Along with his successes Gresini and his squad unfortunately have also had their fair share of tragedy. Losing Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli at Sepang in 2011, the team has been at the center of two dark chapters of the MotoGP story. Running a black livery in 2012, instead of the team’s customary white color scheme, the absence of Simoncelli still percolates underneath the demure exterior of the team, though the Gresini Honda team is clearly looking forward instead of back.

Taking on the challenge of running a CRT entry for the 2012 MotoGP Championship, Gresini Honda will race with both a factory prototype and with a Ten Kate-prepped Honda CBR1000RR motor in an FTR chassis. At the helm of the CRT machine will be Michele Pirro, the same rider who gave Gresini a dramatic finish to the 2011 season, by winning the final Moto2 round at the Valencian GP. Also new to the team is Alvaro Bautista, who has been our dark horse favorite here at A&R. Fast, but underrated, Bautista’s true potential will be measured this year as he joins an all-star team, and rides “the bike” of the GP paddock: the 2012 Honda RC213V.

Photo of the Week: Fast By Any Other Name

03/05/2012 @ 4:04 pm, by Scott Jones21 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Fast By Any Other Name Photo of the week randy de puniet crt scott jones

While a handful of MotoGP riders get the lion’s share of media attention, other riders can only wonder what might have been if they had landed in the premier class on more competitive machinery. With five 250cc wins, Randy de Puniet joined the Kawasaki MotoGP team in 2006, and switched to the LCR Honda team after two seasons. In 2011 he managed a season best 6th on the Pramac Ducati, another victim of the bike only Stoner could tame.

Most folks in the MotoGP paddock acknowledge de Puniet’s abilities and raw speed, and he is also as tough as they come, riding around injuries with impressive courage and determination. De Puniet has reunited with the Aspar Team for 2012, and will explore the future of the CRT formula. If the first-year Aprilia-powered Aspar CRT bike is not competitive, it won’t be for de Puniet’s lack of trying.

Yamaha Boss Lin Jarvis Previews the 2012 MotoGP Season

02/01/2012 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Yamaha Boss Lin Jarvis Previews the 2012 MotoGP Season Lin Jarvis 635x422

If you want to get a quick feel of how the 2012 MotoGP Championship is shaping up from a very knowledgeable person in the MotoGP paddock, then today’s video from Yamaha Racing’s Lin Jarvis is your best bet. Taking some time from his duties of running Yamaha’s MotoGP team, Jarvis talks about the tests underway in Sepang, Malaysia, and is generally optimistic about the season.

Of course sometimes what isn’t said is more important than what is said, and in this season preview you won’t hear a single word about the most important change to MotoGP: the claiming rule teams. Simple omission, or are the OEMs beginning their face-off with Dorna on the future of MotoGP?

MotoGP: Michele Pirro to Gresini on a FTR Honda CRT Bike

12/06/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Michele Pirro to Gresini on a FTR Honda CRT Bike Michele Pirro Gresini Moto2 635x423

Michele Pirro finished his 2011 Moto2 season on a high note, winning the final round at Valencia for the Gresini Racing team. Coming on the heels of MotoGP’s final tribute to Marco Simoncelli, the victory was an especially emotional one for the young Italian rider and his team. Finishing seventh in the Moto2 Championship standings, Pirro’s hard work has earned him a promotion into MotoGP, where the rookie rider will campaign a CRT bike with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team.

Gresini has confirmed that the team will use an FTR chassis, which will be custom-built to use a Honda CBR1000RR motor. This brings the total number of confirmed CRT entries up to five, with several more CRT entries still expected to commit to the 2012 MotoGP Championship. This news means we should see at least 20 bikes on the grid for the MotoGP opener at Qatar, though the question remains: how competitive will they be?

Official: Randy de Puniet & Aleix Espargaró to Aspar MotoGP Team on a Aprilia-Powered CRTs

11/28/2011 @ 5:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Official: Randy de Puniet & Aleix Espargaró to Aspar MotoGP Team on a Aprilia Powered CRTs Randy de Puniet Jerez test Aprilia RSV4 635x343

To say Randy de Puniet had a tough season this year might be an understatement. Seemingly finding his groove at LCR Honda during the 2010 season, RdP found himself going into the 2011 known more for his well-raced finishes than gravel trap disappointments. The Frenchman showed a new maturity with his riding, and many thought his riding style would suit the troublesome Ducati Desmosedici GP11 well.

While the beginning of the season often saw de Puniet the fastest of the Italian bikes, it was clear that the move to Pramac Ducati was a misstep in the rider’s career. Jumping ship for 2012, and clear that he did not want to race in World Superbike or on a CRT machine, de Puniet seemingly had a number of options in front of him despite the 2011 season winding to a close: a return to LCR Honda, a factory ride with Rizla Suzuki, and ties to the well-run Aspar MotoGP team.

Those options would be limited though, as 2011 Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl was shoe-horned into the LCR Honda squad to keep the pretense alive that Moto2 prepared riders to race in MotoGP. Similarly the rug was pulled out from underneath the Frenchman, as Rizla Suzuki got its plugged pulled almost immediately after RdP tested the Suzuki GSV-R, with promising results we might add. Left with few other choices, and certainly none of them better, it comes with little surprise then that Jorge “Aspar” Martinez’s MotoGP team has announced that Randy de Puniet will be one of its two riders for the 2012 MotoGP season.

De Puniet will be joined by former-MotoGP/Moto2 racer Aleix Espargaró on the two bike team. Dropping Ducati and announcing that Team Aspar will run an all CRT effort, the Spanish team will use Aprilia-powered bikes (De Puniet tested one of these bikes at Jerez last week). While a chassis manufacturer has not been announced, paddock gossip has been suggesting that Aprilia could be supplying a custom chassis for the racing effort. If you’ve been following MotoGP and the CRT movement closely, your eyebrows should be raised right now.