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.

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 10: Barreda Racks Up 4th Stage Win

01/15/2014 @ 4:50 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Barreda Racks Up 4th Stage Win joan barreda dakar rally stage 10 hrc

Stage Ten of the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 688 km ride from Iquique to Antofogasta, started with a descent down the dunes towards the Pacific, where more dunes and plenty of fesh fesh lay ahead — for those unfamiliar with Rally or Baja, fesh fesh is a sticky, talcum fine sand that has been eroded over time, leaving surfaces extremely slippery and at times, acting like a sand trap.

Undoubtedly the Factory Honda Team is celebrating today as teammates Joan Barreda and Helder Rodrigues took the first and second place victories on today’s tough stage.

Despite a 15-minute penalty yesterday for speeding, Joan Barreda continues to gnaw away at his fellow Spaniard and overall leader Marc Coma, giving him his fourth stage win of this year’s rally and closing the gap between them to 44:24.

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.”

Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Barreda Chips Away at Coma

01/12/2014 @ 11:38 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dakar Rally   Stage 7: Barreda Chips Away at Coma joan barreda dakar rally hrc

Stage Seven saw the riders of the 2014 Dakar Rally back in the saddle, after having Saturday off as their lone rest day. If the riders thought their re-entry was going to be easy, they were wrong, as Stage Seven marks the first part of another marathon stage — a stage where only the riders can service and repair their machines after the stage’s end. Today also marks the first time that The Dakar has been held in Bolivia, the 28th country to host the iconic race.

First out of the gate, Alain Duclos suffered a navigation error, and lost nearly 20 minutes on the course finding the right route. The mistake cost the Sherco rider his third overall position, as he falls to fourth overall, behind KTM’s Jordi Viladoms.

Halfway through the Dakar Rally now, and Marc Coma has a good cushion over the rest of the field. His advantage isn’t insurmountable though, and today Joan Barreda took his first chip at his fellow countryman’s lead. The HRC rider stole four minutes from his KTM counterpart, with Barreda now 38 minutes back from Coma overall. The deficit isn’t enough to concern Coma yet, but if Barreda can keep up the pressure he might stand a chance for the overall win.

Cyril Despres also had a productive day, as the Frenchman finished third on the stage. This moved him into tenth overall, and while Despres’ bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally is surely done (it would seem the Yamaha PR team has already packed things up, as their site hasn’t updated since their disastrous Stage Five), Despres’ first term on the Yamaha YZ450F Rally could still see him finish in the Top 5. Undoubtedly, a strong pace over the remaining stages on helps build his campaign for the 2015 rally raid.

Dakar Rally – Stage 6: Coma Maintains, Chaleco Withdraws

01/11/2014 @ 12:44 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dakar Rally – Stage 6: Coma Maintains, Chaleco Withdraws alain duclos sherco dakar

At the time of this writing, racers in the 2014 Dakar Rally are now officially halfway through their ordeal, but before they could lay claim to their rest day on Saturday, they first had to contend with the 400 km of Stage Six. Thankfully temperatures weren’t as hot as they were on Thursday, but that did not make the day any easier.

It was a good outing for Sherco, as another of its riders took the top honor’s for the day, this time it was Alain Duclos who finished first for Sherco; which helped the French rider move into third overall in the standings, and bring some publicity for the small French/Spanish brand.

His movement in the rankings was also helped by the withdrawal of Chaleco Lopez, as the factory KTM rider wreaked his bike, and injured himself in the process. In contention for a podium in this year’s Dakar, his presence will be missed at the front, though he is not the only top contender absent in the rankings, as its seems impossible for Cyril Despres to overcome his mistakes on Stage Four and Stage Five.

Trailing Duclos by one minute on Stage Six, Marc Coma solidified his top spot in the overall rankings, and now leads HRC’s Juan Barreda by over 42 minutes. Not an insurmountable lead for Barreda to overcome, but the Spaniard on his Honda will have his work cutout for him if he wants to bet his fellow countryman and KTM’s well established game plan.

Riders will take Saturday off, as it is their rest day, and while the day will be a much welcomed reprieve, we are sure many will have their thoughts on Eric Palante, whose body was found today on the Stage Five course. No word yet on his cause of death, but with the 100 degree whether yesterdat, heat likely played a factor.

Belgium’s Eric Palante Has Died Racing in the Dakar Rally

01/10/2014 @ 4:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Belgiums Eric Palante Has Died Racing in the Dakar Rally eric palante dakar rally

We are saddened today to report that Belgian racer Eric Palante has been found dead on the Dakar Rally race course for Stage Five. Palante, a 50-year-old veteran racer, was taking part in his 11th Dakar Rally in the amateur class on a Honda CRF450X, when he failed to make it to the stage’s finish line.

Palante’s body was found on the race course from Chilecito and San Miguel by a sweep truck that was searching for hiim, however the circumstances around his death have not been confirmed by investigators. The Dakar Rally is always a treacherous undertaking, and the loss of a competitor is a regrettable reality of the iconic rally raid.

Palante is survived by his wife and five children. Asphalt & Rubber wishes them and the rest of Eric’s family and friends our condolences. Ride in peace brother.

Dakar Rally – Stage 5: Coma Leads, Despres Penalized

01/09/2014 @ 6:18 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally   Stage 5: Coma Leads, Despres Penalized marc coma dakar rally stage five ktm 635x422

Stage five of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw  riders battling  some very inclement conditions. With temperatures soaring to well above 100 degrees and poor visibility due to last week’s rain, Stage Five  took its toll on all the riders as they covered the 912 km jaunt between Chilecito and Tucumán.

“It was another tough day and it was really hot out there,” explained Marc Coma. “To get to the end of the stage I rode for 10 km lost in a river bed.” Coma and his KTM 450 Rally rode to the stage lead with Jordi Viladoms taking second nearly 13 minutes behind Coma, while Kuba Pryzgonski finished third.

Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Disaster for Cyril Despres

01/08/2014 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Disaster for Cyril Despres cyril despres yamaha racing dakar rally 635x423

Day four of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw some interesting events, as riders competed on machines that they had to prep themselves the night before, as a part of the first “marathon” stage. Racing over 353 km in Argentina, between San Juan and Chilecito, for Stage Four, riders had another tough day of racing, though favorite Cyril Despres had arguably the worst of it.

Just 9 km from the finish line, and likely to take the outright lead in the process, Despres’ Yamaha YZ450F Rally encountered an electrical short, which caused the race bike to stop working. The mechanical would cost Despres 40 minutes in time, and drop him down to sixth overall, 41 minutes behind Dakar leader Joan Barreda.

Barreda too though would have a tough outing, crashing and losing time to a very fast Marc Coma, who finished third for the day. Coma and his KTM now sit only three minutes and ten seconds behind Barreda and his Honda for the outright lead.

Winning the stage was Spain’s Juan Pedrero, with Chaleco Lopez finishing second, only 29 seconds back.

Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Honda Makes It a Hat Trick

01/07/2014 @ 10:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Honda Makes It a Hat Trick joan barreda hrc dakar rally stage three

Day three of the 2014 Dakar Rally sees the beginning of the first marathon stage, where only riders will be allowed to work tonight on their racing machines. Making it three stages in a row for HRC, Joan Barreda won his second stage of this year’s Dakar, and extended his overall lead to over 13 minutes.

Stage Three saw the return of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma to their riding pace, as the pair finished second and third for the day, respectively. The day also moved them into the same positions overall, behind Joan Barreda of course.

A tough and technical stage, the Honda CRF 450 Rally is proving itself to be a capable machine, and Barreda is showing himself to be less of an underdog, and now the man to beat on the race course.