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.

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen Concept

In addition to debuting the Husqvarna 701 supermoto, the Swedish brand had two street concepts to unveil at the EICMA show. First up is the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen concept, which is a café racer inspired model. With a 373cc single-cylidner thumper at its core, the Vitpilen (Swedish for White Arrow) sports an attractive and clean design. A modern riff on the 1953 Husqvarna Silverpilen, the idea behind the Husqvarna Vitpilen is that less is more. Making a modest 43hp, the Vitpilen weights a paltry 297 lbs (135kg). Clever details abound on the Vitpilen, and we particularly enjoy the high-tech LED meets retro-scrambler headlight design that sits prominently at the front of the bike.

2015 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto – 690cc of Street Hooligan

We perhaps over-thought Husqvarna’s first proper street bike announcement, as the firm has debuted the Husqvarna 701 supermoto at the EICMA show today. Refining its 701 concept from last year’s show, the 2015 Husqvarna 701 is a 690cc supermoto, that continues to borrow from KTM’s common parts bin. Already with a race-ready 450cc supermoto in its arsenal, the Husqvarna 701 adds another more street-oriented motorcycle to the Swedish brand’s dirt-heavy 2015 lineup. Putting down 67hp through the big four-stroke thumper, the Husqvarna 701 supermoto tips the scales at 320 lbs (145kg), and comes with an APTC slipper clutch, ABS brakes, WP suspension, and ride-by-wire with different riding modes.

Yamaha WR450F Rally by Rebel X Sports

11/03/2014 @ 3:36 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Yamaha WR450F Rally by Rebel X Sports  Yamaha WR450F Rally 635x423

If you’ve ever looked at your Yamaha WR450F enduro, and wished it was better suited for Dakar-styled adventure riding, well here is your chance. The folks at Rebel X Sports have built a kit that takes the mild-manner WR450F and turns it into their “Rally ‘Pronto’ Dakar” machine, suitable for amateur racers.

Adding a fuel cell under the rear of the seat, the Yamaha WR450F Rally has 29 liters (7.6 gallons) of fuel, giving it a range of roughly 300 km (186 miles). Other enhancements include special protection for the water pump, a larger toolbox, specially tuned exhaust, rolling roadbook holder, handlebar buttons for the navigation system, and 50w LED headlights.

Watch “Caselli 66 – Ride The Dream” Right Here

04/29/2014 @ 9:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Watch Caselli 66 – Ride The Dream Right Here kurt caselli 635x423

On that fateful day during the Baja 1000, Kurt Caselli’s life was ended far too early. At thirty-years-old and still riding an upward trajectory with his career, Caselli had already amassed an impressive resumé of race wins, and had just been announced as the newest rider KTM Racing’s Dakar Rally factory team for 2014.

While it is easy to talk about his off-road accomplishments, the thing we hear the most, from the people that knew him best, was Kurt’s amazing personality. He was the very best at what he did, and also one of the very best doing it.

It is touching then to see that the short video “Caselli 66 – Ride The Dream” has been produced to honor our lost racer. For those that didn’t know Kurt, it is a great introduction into his amazing life, on and off the race track. And for those he was close to, the video serves as an excellent vehicle in which to remember those better times.

After the jump is the 30-minute-ish film, but be sure to grab some tissues before you hit play. It’s powerful stuff.

HRC Will Provide the Honda CRF450 Rally to Privateers

01/20/2014 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

HRC Will Provide the Honda CRF450 Rally to Privateers 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally Metzler team 03

After a strong showing in the 2014 Dakar Rally, HRC says it will make the Honda CRF450 Rally available to privateer racers next season. This news has been on the wires for a while now, but it comes with added weight after Laia Sanz, the top female competitor in the Dakar Rally, finished 16th overall on the “pre-production” privateer bike – an impressive feat to say the leaset.

Like its counterpart OEMs, HRC will develop each machine to suit the buyer, with prices expected to reach into the $30,000 to $40,000 realm. Like the pricing schemes from KTM and Yamaha, we imagine that sum comes without any technical support from HRC on the race course.

Marc Coma Takes His Fourth Career Dakar Rally Victory

01/19/2014 @ 12:03 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Marc Coma Takes His Fourth Career Dakar Rally Victory Marc Coma Dakar Rally KTM 32 635x422

The 2014 Dakar Rally is finally done, after two weeks of hard racing across Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Despite a slow start to this year’s Dakar, KTM’s Marc Coma took his fourth career win of the iconic rally raid race, aboard KTM’s all new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Finishing almost two hours clear of his nearest competitor, teammate Jordi Viladoms, Coma took the lead on Stage Five and never looked back. The Spaniard’s fourth Dakar win came primarily from consistent riding, which saw Coma slowly rise in the rankings as Despres and Barreda made mistakes and encountered technical difficulties with their machinery.

“Without the right people behind me it would have been impossible to win,” said Coma. “We have worked very well throughout the race and also before. Last year I went through a very difficult situation not being able to compete because of injury and I came back to win the race. I think this says a lot about the people I have around me. I am very proud of this victory. What was key to winning the Dakar was not to make any mistakes.”

Marc Coma dedicated his win to his late teammate Kurt Caselli, who tragically died during the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000. Caselli filled in for Coma in the 2013 rally, earning himself great praise for his assention in the ranks, and two stage wins. Coma’s victory is a fitting tribute to the American rider.

Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda

01/18/2014 @ 10:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda joan barreda dakar rally hrc2

The final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Stage Thirteen was a formality for most, but proved was still another day in the office for these riders as they tackled the 157 km special. Cyril Despres was quickest across the line, but the Frenchman was caught speeding in the liaison stage, and suffered a 15 minute penalty because of it. The error tossed Despres back to fifth for the day, leaving HRC’s Joan Barreda to win his fifth stage in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Barreda would surely have been a podium finisher this year, and possible rally winner, had he not suffered a catastrophic electrical problem on Stage Twelve. Surely disappointed with his result, the Spaniard can take solice in proving the competitiveness of HRC’s Honda CRF450 Rally package.

“Today is the last day of the Dakar. For us it feels tough because I lost a lot of time with a problem after a fall at kilometer 200,” said Borreda. “But today I was back in the saddle like a pro, and I did a really good job in the special. In the end it wasn’t the result that we were working for in the Dakar. Well, now it’s time to go home and try to get to grips with what happened, how and where we went wrong and see how we can sort them out for next year.”

Dakar Rally – Stage 12: Joan Barreda Out of Dakar Podium

01/17/2014 @ 3:39 pm, by Bryan Delohery2 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally – Stage 12: Joan Barreda Out of Dakar Podium joan barreda dakar rally hrc1 635x423

As riders finished the last majorly sandy stage of the rally, the 699 km run from El Salvador to La Serena for Stage Twelve, leaders have shuffled yet again and disaster has struck, leaving some shaking their heads.

Marc Coma is breathing a bit easier today after opening up the gap between himself and his closest competitor, Joan Barreda, to 3:4:54. Barreda suffered a serious setback after having electrical problems and losing nearly two and half hours, dropping to seventh place overall.

“I had electrical problems. The bike wasn’t working well and the battery gave up. It was very difficult. I just had to try and get to the finish. All is lost. I’m going to finish the rally. And that’s all,” said Barreda.

Coma, finishing second on todays’ stage, has put nearly two hours between him and now second place overall, Jordi Viladoms of Spain, making his 15 minute penalty for an engine swap a non-issue for the overall standings.

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.”