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: Yamaha Debuts Seamless Gearbox at Brno Test – Shift Times 58% Quicker than Conventional Gearbox

08/08/2013 @ 1:22 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Yamaha Debuts Seamless Gearbox at Brno Test   Shift Times 58% Quicker than Conventional Gearbox yamaha yzr m1 clutch 635x425

It had been widely rumored that Yamaha would have some important updates to test at its private test being held yesterday and today at Brno.

The biggest expected update to be tested was a seamless gearbox, but though Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis had hinted they might be testing the new gearbox, it was far from certain.

As the test at Brno was a private one, no media were invited who would be able to verify whether the seamless gearbox was being tested or not.

Fortunately, however, the Brno circuit was allowing visitors in to watch the test. And among those was Pavel, who runs the Czech Valentino Rossi fansite http://www.rossi-yamaha.cz/.

Pavel shot some video footage of the private test – thankfully not covered by the blanket ban Dorna has on all coverage of the official tests – and was kind enough to send us the audio from the recordings.

Armed with that audio, we were able to analyze the sound, as we have done previously (on both the Honda and the Yamaha), to try to judge whether Yamaha was indeed testing a seamless gearbox, and if it was, what advantage it was giving the riders.

Stoner, Lorenzo, Rossi, & De Puniet Back on Track – MotoGP Testing Resumes at Motegi and Brno

08/05/2013 @ 11:30 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

Stoner, Lorenzo, Rossi, & De Puniet Back on Track   MotoGP Testing Resumes at Motegi and Brno valentino rossi laguna seca motogp scott jones 635x422

With MotoGP’s summer break halfway done, testing resumes later this week for some of the top names in the sport. Current and former champions take to the track at Brno and Motegi, with Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki all testing a range of material.

The most relevant test for this year’s championship will be held at Brno, where Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will be testing the factory M1s. Lorenzo’s aim will be to test his collarbone, while Rossi continues to work on set up, chasing minor improvements to the major step forward made during the Aragon test.

The Yamaha pair will also hope to be testing Yamaha’s seamless gearbox at the two-day test, the first time that the factory riders will get to try out the new seamless transmission. So far, it has only been tested by Yamaha’s test riders in Japan, working on reliability. Whether the Brno test means that the seamless gearbox will be ready for use later this season remains to be seen.

Over in Japan, Yamaha’s test team, consisting Wataru Yoshikawa and Katsuaki Nakasuga, will be at Motegi, where they will be joined for a private test by Honda’s test team and Suzuki. Motegi sees the temporary return of Casey Stoner to the MotoGP fold, where he will be replacing the injured Kousuke Akiyoshi.

Stoner will be testing Honda’s 2014 RC213V to be used by the factory team, and also continuing work on the production racer Honda is building as a replacement for the CRT bikes. Joining Stoner will be his former crew chief Cristian Gabarrini, an indication of just how seriously HRC are taking this test.

Effenbert Liberty Returns to World Superbike with Mark Aitchison and a Ducati Superbike 1098R

04/05/2013 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Effenbert Liberty Returns to World Superbike with Mark Aitchison and a Ducati Superbike 1098R effenbert liberty racing ducati superbike 1098R

After very publicly imploding part-way through the 2012 season with its four-rider team, which included a dust-up between the Czech team and French Rider Sylvain Guintoli, it would seem that Team Effenbert Liberty Racing is ready to give things another go, though on a much smaller scale.

Accordingly, after missing the season-opener at Phillip Island, Liberty Racing will once again compete in the World Superbike Championship, and plans to campaign the rest of the 2013 season with Mark Aitchison on a Ducati Superibke 1098R.

Karel Abraham Debuts His Cardion AB Aprilia ART

01/28/2013 @ 10:19 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Karel Abraham Debuts His Cardion AB Aprilia ART Karel Abraham Cardino AB Aprilia ART 03 635x423

The Czech Republic’s favorite rider, Karel Abraham, is ready for the 2013 MotoGP Championship, as his Cardion AB team has debuted its Aprilia ART entry. Making the jump from the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 prototype, Abraham will contest his third season in MotoGP on a CRT entry.

With not all CRTs proving to be equal, Cardion AB’s choice of the Aprilia ART seems to be the sensible approach from all the entries available. Built off the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, which itself was built off Aprilia’s failed MotoGP program, Aprilia Racing has developed the entire bike in house, including the ARTs robust electronics package.

Competitive out of the box, it should be with little surprise that leas year saw two ART machines battling closely for the top honors in the makeshift sub-class (Team Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet).

Choosing the Aprilia ART doesn’t guarantee success for young Abraham however, as we saw the ARTs of Speed Master and Paul Bird Motorsports struggle for good results against the other CRT entries.

With the likely factor being money paid to Aprilia Racing (PBM didn’t even bother testing the Aprilia ART once during the 2012 season, instead choosing to develop the bike on race weekends), Cardion AB seems at least well-situated in that regard, having already weather the prices of Ducati Corse’s lease costs on the Desmosedici.

2013 World Superbike Provisional Calendar v.3

01/15/2013 @ 10:18 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

2013 World Superbike Provisional Calendar v.3 Carlos Checa Miller Motorsport Park WSBK Scott Jones 635x422

The confusion surrounding the Indian round of World Superbikes looks close to being resolved. According to reports on the ever well-informed GPOne, the race at the Buddh International Circuit is to be rescheduled from 10th of March to the 17th of November, moving it from being the second race of the season to being the season finale.

The race had been facing a number of problems, including logistical and customs issues, casting doubt over whether the race could go ahead as scheduled in March. The customs issues – both the 15-day inspection period for technical equipment, and the temporary import duty charged – are not so much of a problem, according to GPOne.

The real issue, the site reports, is that the race organizers are not yet ready to put on the event. They do not have the organization in place to manage an event of this magnitude, and need a number of months to get everything arranged. The problem lies not with Buddh International Circuit itself, located not far from New Delhi, as the circuit has successfully organized two Formula One races already.

Who is the Smartest MotoGP Racer in the Paddock?

08/28/2012 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Who is the Smartest MotoGP Racer in the Paddock? Indianapolis GP Friday Jules Cisek 181 635x423

This season has been a forgetable one for Karel Abraham on the race track, but the we reckon it will be a year that the young Czech rider will remember. In a couple weeks, Karel Abraham will graduate from law school (Bachelors level), having passed his exiting exams just a few days after the conclusion of the Czech GP. Studying even during the race-weekend, Abraham says that his academic duties helped provide a distraction from the pressures of his home round.

For those who remember our sit-down interview with the Cardion AB rider, the news of Karel’s studying of the law shouldn’t be any new information. We imagine the skills he has learned in the classroom will help Abraham with next year’s contract negotiations, as there is high-degree of uncertainty surrounding Cardion AB’s plans for the 2013 MotoGP Championship. As someone who is using a law degree in a non-traditional capacity, I wish Karel the best in his future endeavors — on and off the track.

Sunday Summary at Brno: Of Racing Like Champions, Bad Luck, & Replacement Riders

08/27/2012 @ 10:10 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Brno: Of Racing Like Champions, Bad Luck, & Replacement Riders Dani Pedrosa Jorge Lorenzo Brno Pass 635x425

Dani Pedrosa has something of a reputation. Blisteringly fast when out on his own, but put him under pressure and he crumbles. Once passed, he is history, and he will trouble you no more.

There has never been that much truth to that accusation, and the MotoGP race at Brno should drive the final nail into its coffin, for what the diminutive Spaniard displayed on Sunday was the heart and courage of a lion. The race did not have much passing – just three passes for the lead in the entire race – but it was a genuine thriller nonetheless.

MotoGP: Last-Lap Thriller at the Czech GP

08/26/2012 @ 6:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Last Lap Thriller at the Czech GP dani pedrosa repsol honda motogp brno1 635x421

With the signing of Cal Crutchlow for another year with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad, before the Czech GP even got started it was turning the page on another chapter of the MotoGP silly season. The racing too would prove to be pivotal to the Championship. A mix of good and bad weather during the week, Brno would prove to be a dry race, despite hosting a wet warm-up session.

With Dani Pedrosa on form all through Free Practice, the Spaniard’s off in qualifying took him off a step, as he had to ride his “B” bike, which suffered from more chatter. Despite Cal Crutchlow placing second on the grid for the race, the Brit noted what everyone already knew: Sunday’s race would be between Pedrosa and Lorenzo — and he was right.

Saturday Summary at Brno: Of Small Differences Making A Big Difference & The Last Of The Contracts

08/26/2012 @ 12:46 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Brno: Of Small Differences Making A Big Difference & The Last Of The Contracts Valentino Rossi Ducati Corse MotoGP Brno 635x425

Up until the start of MotoGP qualifying, it looked like Dani Pedrosa had the race at Brno just about wrapped up. The media center joke was that they might as well start writing his name on the trophy, so much faster was the Repsol Honda man. And then he crashed in qualifying, and started going an awful lot slower, in a tale that has echoes of Casey Stoner’s time at Ducati.

The crash was relatively simple – “maybe I was on the limit too much,” Pedrosa said, and Brno with its long corners, some flat and some downhill, means the riders are pushing the front for a lot of the time at the circuit – but the consequences were serious. Pedrosa returned to the pits, got on his second bike, and immediately had much worse chatter than before. Despite the setup being identical on both bikes. This is the kind of thing that Casey Stoner used to suffer at Ducati, two identical bikes that felt different, an issue that he never suffered at Honda. But the problem with hand-built prototypes is that apparently, even tiny deviations can cause a difference in feel, especially when pushed to their very limits by riders as sensitive as Pedrosa.

The issue highlights just how close Honda are to a solution. One apparently tiny difference between machines, and the difference is massive, from a bike that is almost impossible to go fast on to a bike that has some chatter, but is still rideable. Casey Stoner told reporters at the test at Catalunya that progress had been made by switching out a “two-dollar part”. There aren’t that many two-dollar parts on the bike, which means that somewhere a bushing or a spacer or an insert could be part of the solution. It also means that small variations in two-dollar parts – not known for requiring massive precision in manufacturing – could also be part of the problem.

Cal Crutchlow Staying with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 for 2013

08/25/2012 @ 2:18 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Cal Crutchlow Staying with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 for 2013 Cal Crutchlow Laguna Seca MotoGP Scott Jones

Announcing ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session at Brno, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 has confirmed that it will retain Cal Crutchlow for the 2013 season, giving the French team an all-British rider line-up for next season, as Bradley Smith is set to move from Moto2 in the premier-class.

The re-signing of Crutchlow is an interesting move for the Brit, as he had been in the running for a factory seat within the Yamaha squad for most of the season, was also heavily linked to a ride in Ducati Corse for 2013, and there were even rumors of his return to World Superbike. With today’s news though, the speculation about Cal’s next season can be put to rest.