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 2: Sunderland Takes First Stage Win

01/07/2014 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Sunderland Takes First Stage Win sam sunderland dakar rally stage two

After Joan Barreda’s Stage One win, Honda is continuing to make its presence felt in the 2014 Dakar Rally. This time Britain’s Sam Sunderland took the stage win honors (his first stage win in his career), though the HRC rider was followed closely in time by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez of Chile, who was just 39 seconds back.

Two minutes back from his teammate, Barreda continued his pace (despite hitting a cow), and was third fastest for the day.

Noticeably absent from the front of the pack were Dakar favorites Marc Coma (9th) and Cyril Despres (10th), as they battled the 359 km from San Luis to San Rafael. Coma attributed his result to a stone that got wedged between the gearbox and the shift — as a result he is now seven minutes back overall.

Meanwhile Despres’ difficulties stemmed from the Frenchman taking a crash in what was likely the fastest stage of the rally. Unhurt from his tumble, Despres will have to overcome a six minute eighteen second deficit overall.

Dakar Rally – Stage 1: HRC Takes First Stage Win

01/05/2014 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dakar Rally   Stage 1: HRC Takes First Stage Win joan barreda hrc 2014 dakar rally stage one

The first stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally has come and gone, and while all the focus has been on multiple rally winners Cyril Despres (Yamaha) and Marc Coma (KTM), it was in fact Joan Barreda from the HRC factory team who took the first stage win.

A strong start for Honda’s rally racing program and the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike, Barreda’s stage win, though only 37 seconds quicker than Coma’s finish, solidifies Honda’s spot as a contender in this year’s Dakar — thus making the 2014 edition a true three-way battle royale.

Good money is still on Coma and Despres though, who are well within striking distance of Barreda, with 12 stages of racing still remaining. With only 180 km of timed “special” course on Sunday, the day’s racing was short and tight. It will be interesting to see how Monday’s longer 359 km special stage should sort the field out. Stay tuned.

Here is the TV Viewing Schedule for the 2014 Dakar Rally

01/03/2014 @ 2:50 pm, by Aakash Desai15 COMMENTS

Here is the TV Viewing Schedule for the 2014 Dakar Rally 2014 KTM Dakar Rally Faria 02 635x423

The 2014 Dakar Rally is about to begin, and this year the route begins in Rosario, Argentina, travels north into Bolivia, and then turns around to head down south along the coast to end in Valparaiso, Chile. The total length of the route is almost 5000 kilometers.

Founded in 1978, the original route ran from Paris, France to Dakar Senegal; hence the name “The Paris-Dakar”. However, due to political and security issues which cancelled the race in 2008, the race was transposed across the world to South America in 2009, with a focus on Argentina and Chile.

For those wanting to follow the 2014 Dakar Rally on television, coverage in the United States begins on Monday, January 6th at 5pm on NBC Sports, in both SD and HD.

XXX: 13 Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Buck Naked

12/31/2013 @ 2:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

XXX: 13 Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Buck Naked 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike 09 635x423

How rude of us. All this talk about KTM’s new 450cc race bike for the Dakar Rally, and we haven’t properly introduced the machine to you. Well, we did bring you some of the first photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike a few months ago, but they hardly do the purpose-built race bike any justice.

KTM’s goal with the 450 Rally was to build a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine than the previous machine, which was basically a 600cc-class chassis with a 450cc motor wedged into it. Now building a new bike around a brand new motor, all from the ground-up, KTM believes it has the ultimate adventure-racer in its arsenal.

More like a motocross bike in its design than the bulky 2013 model was, the 2014 KTM 450 Rally is a stunning piece of kit, and for as odd as it sounds, we have never lusted after a fairing stay / headlight housing more in our lives. Luckily KTM supplied us with 13 hi-res photos of the new KTM 450 Rally…totally naked. If you’re a gearhead, the following might not be safe for work.

Video: KTM Readies for the 2014 Dakar Rally

12/31/2013 @ 1:55 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Video: KTM Readies for the 2014 Dakar Rally 2014 KTM Dakar Rally Coma 02 635x423

Cyril Despres might be the man to beat at the upcoming Dakar Rally, but the boys at KTM aren’t going to let Despres’ defection to Yamaha Racing stop them from keeping the Austrian brand’s winning streak alive. Gearing up for the 2014 Dakar Rally, which starts January 5th in Argentina, KTM factory riders Marc Coma, Ruben Faria and Francisco Lopez talk in a video about the upcoming race and their new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Debuting the purpose-built 450cc machine, Coma et al will have a potent weapon this year, especially in the more technical stages. However, with two marathon stages (stages where the riders must perform all their own maintenance and mechanical work), as well as five separation stages (stages where motorcycles and quads will tackle a different and more technical routes of the course than the cars and trucks), the 2014 Dakar Rally is looking especially hard compared to previous years.

With Coma looking to tie Despres’ current tally of five wins, we can expect strong competition from the Spaniard. Missing last year’s event due to injury, Coma will be keen to regain his momentum, and equal his Dakar rival. Of course, the KTM Factory Red Bull Team enters this year’s rally with heavy hearts, mourning the loss of American Kurt Caselli, who died this year while competing in the SCORE Baja 1000. KTM is dedicating their race in this year’s Dakar to their fallen teammate.

Are You Ready for the 2014 Dakar Rally?

12/30/2013 @ 9:46 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Are You Ready for the 2014 Dakar Rally? 2014 dakar rally race map 635x425

In just a week’s time, the 2014 Dakar Rally will be underway in South America. Featuring a course through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, this year’s Dakar is longer and harder than years past, and will feature three OEMs vying for the top motorcycle honors: Honda, KTM, and Yamaha.

The biggest news going into the iconic rally race is Cyril Despres’ move from KTM to Yamaha, as the five-time Dakar winner is looking for his sixth race win on the new marque. The biggest man in his way is rival Marc Coma, who remains with the Austrian brand, and will be riding the all-new KTM 450 Rally race bike. HRC will be racing in The Dakar this year again, with five riders and a revised racing machine — we can expect good things from the combination.

Of course missing from the lineup is American racer Kurt Caselli, who lost his life in 2013 while competing in the SCORE Baja 1000. The popular American will surely be on the mind of every competitor as they begin the rally on Sunday, and he certainly will be in the hearts of every fan come race day.

Stay tuned for the 35th edition — it starts January 5th, in Rosario, Argentina. We’ll be updating Asphalt & Rubber with pertinent racing news, as it unfolds.

Photos: Cyril Despres & His Yamaha YZ450F Rally Race Bike

12/19/2013 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Photos: Cyril Despres & His Yamaha YZ450F Rally Race Bike Cyril Despres Yamaha YZ450F Rally studio 06 635x423

Yamaha Racing has officially debuted its 2014 Rally race team, which is being spearheaded by Cyril Despres, the five-time Dakar Rally winner who was formerly of KTM fame. Despres hopes to defend his latest Dakar Rally win, despite swapping orange for blue, and today is our first formal viewing of the 2014 Yamaha YZ450F Rally bike with his livery.

This year’s Dakar Rally goes through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile and will be a longer and tougher route than in past years. With KTM debuting a now purpose-built racing machine, the KTM 450 Rally, and HRC also fielding its refined Honda CRF450 Rally, Yamaha and Despres will have their work cutout for them in defending the Frenchman’s number one plate.

Team Blue has prepared itself though, taking many inputs from Despres and incorporating them into the 2014 bike’s design. We won’t know how it will go at the Dakar Rally course until January 5th, but from the pictures we have now, it sure looks the business.

Remembering Kurt Caselli

12/03/2013 @ 10:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Remembering Kurt Caselli in memory of kurt caselli 635x423

The motorcycling community is still morning the loss of American off-road racer Kurt Caselli, who tragically died while competing in the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000.

A beloved competitor, and rising star in the rally racing world, Kurt’s absence is felt by many, but during our time of mourning we also remember the light that he was as a person.

Paying tribute to him, KTM has put together a thoughtful video that remembers Kurt, as told by the people who knew him best at KTM. It’s cool if you cry a little. We did.

Cyril Despres Talks About Yamaha & The Dakar Rally

11/25/2013 @ 10:47 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Cyril Despres Talks About Yamaha & The Dakar Rally Cyril Despres Yamaha Racing Dakar Rally 06 635x423

While the off-road community continues to morn the loss of American Kurt Caselli, preparations are underway for each year’s big event, the Dakar Rally. At the center of that attention is Cyril Despres, who made the shock move from KTM to Yamaha’s rally team.

Riding alongside Olivier Pain, Frans Verhoeven, and Michael Metge in the 2014 Dakar Rally, all eyes will be on the Frenchman Despres, and whether he can continue his rivalry with Spaniard Marc Coma, despite now being on different machinery (and contending with KTM’s all-new rally bike).

Taking a break from filming duties for Yamaha Racing, Despres had a moment to talk about his switch to Yamaha, his first impressions of the Yamaha 450 Rally race bike, and the upcoming Dakar Rally.

Despres’ comments, as usual, are fairly candid, and the five-time Dakar winner tells a good story about how Stéphane Peterhansel (a six-time Dakar winner himself) persuaded him to try the race on a different machine — a Yamaha, the same make Peterhansel campaigned his victories upon not so long ago.

Moar Photos of the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally

10/13/2013 @ 3:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Moar Photos of the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally Metzler team 08

HRC is getting serious about this whole rally thing. After testing the waters last season, Big Red is ramping up a serious bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally. Already announcing its 2014 team of Helder Rodrigues, Sam Sunderland, Javier Pizzolito, Paulo Goncalves, and Joan Barreda, HRC debuted its new machine, the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally, to the press.

Judging from the response the bike got in our comments section, we are betting a few marriages might be on the rocks because of this beauty, but that isn’t stopping us from posting some more photos of the Honda CRF450 Rally, and this time the come courtesy of Metzler tires.

Debuting the German tire company’s new unobtainium KAROO Extreme prototype tires, Honda and its riders are hoping Metzler will help make the difference in the Dakar, and will help HRC give KTM and Yamaha a race for their money, come January 5th in Argentina.