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.

Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally

05/30/2013 @ 1:59 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally Cyril Despres Yamaha Motor France 2014 Dakar Rally 10 635x418

When it happened, we were shocked to learn that Cyril Despres was left out of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s 2013 team announcement, though we American have a silver lining in the news as the five-time Dakar Rally winner was replaced by our own Kurt Caselli. However, with that upheaval, we were left to speculate as to the fate of the Dakar master.

Would Despres retire from rally racing, finishing his career at its peak? Or, would the Frenchman defect from KTM to another team, like say Honda’s upstart rally effort? Well, now we have the answer, as Cyril Despres has been outed as having joined the Yamaha Motor France rally team for the 2014 & 2015 Dakar Rallies.

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia

03/21/2013 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia 2014 dakar rally argentina bolivia chile

For the sixth year in a row, the Dakar Rally will race in South America, though the iconic rally race is mixing things up, and is dropping its route through Peru for one that includes Bolivia instead. The Dakar will keep Argentina and Chile on its 2014 course schedule, and the two countries will comprise the majority of the race’s torturous test of its competitors.

The 2014 Dakar Rally will have longer special stages, as well as several marathon stages (stages where only the competitor can do mechanical work on his/her machine, not the mechanics). Taking riders  and drivers though Argentina’s northwest canyons and sandy valleys, it should be an especially grueling edition of the historic race.

Husqvarna Rally Team by Speedbrain – 2013 Dakar Rally

03/13/2013 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Husqvarna Rally Team by Speedbrain   2013 Dakar Rally 2013 husqvarna te449 rr by spedbrain dakar 06 635x423

With the sale of Husqvarna to Pierer Industrie AG, the 2013 Dakar Rally marks the last time that the BMW Group will collaborate with Speedbrain GmbH for its rally and off-road racing duties — a partnership that has lasted since 2006.

Helping commemorate their last outing together, the Speedbrain’s factory-backed Husqvarna team has put together a little tribute video of its final Dakar campaign. Will the team live on with another brand? Only time will tell, but it would seem BMW’s off-road racing days are over.

Cyril Despres Claims Fifth Dakar Rally Win

01/21/2013 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Cyril Despres Claims Fifth Dakar Rally Win Cyril Despres KTM 2013 Dakar Rally 10 635x422

Wrapping up two weeks of racing, the 2013 Dakar Rally concluded this weekend in Santiago, Chile. His fifth Dakar win, Cyril Despres once again claimed victory in the iconic rally race, and though he was tipped heavily to win after Marc Coma announced that he would be sidelined due to injury, Despres’s win was anything but a sure-thing as the stages progressed. Seeing strong rides from factory-backed Yamaha and Husqvarna teams, Despres even got pressure from his fellow KTM riders over the 14 racing stages.

Despite finishing the Dakar Rally with a 10 minute 43 second overall lead, Despres found himself on the wrong-side of the time sheets during several stages, and even had to replace his motor during the “marathon” weekend, where riders are not allowed any mechanical help from their support crew (Despres got more than a little help from his fellow KTM teammates though). His second Dakar Rally win in a row, and his fifth career-win, Despres now sports two-more Dakar victories than rival Coma — deficit that surely will be contested next year.

Video: Who is Kurt Caselli?

01/15/2013 @ 1:24 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Video: Who is Kurt Caselli? Kurt Caselli KTM Dakar Rally 2013 635x423

After winning Stage Seven of the 2013 Dakar Rally, the A.S.O. has started to give American Kurt Caselli a bit more love on its made-for-YouTube video updates. Replacing the injured Marc Coma on the factory KTM team, Caselli may be a rookie to The Dakar, but he is no stranger to high-achievements in some of motorcycling’s most brutal events. A WORCS, Hare & Hound, and ISDE winner, Caselli was also part of the second-place finishing KTM team that tackled the Baja 1000 in 2012.

The experience has helped the California native to adapt to the South American race, though not all the learning has been easy. Having a horrible ninth stage, Caselli dropped from 11th in the standings to 39th, with navigational errors costing him dearly. All a part of the learning process for this Dakar rookie, Caselli has several more days to overcome his time penalties and improve his finishing position.

Dakar Rally – Stage 7: American Kurt Caselli Takes First Win

01/11/2013 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dakar Rally   Stage 7: American Kurt Caselli Takes First Win Kurt Caselli KTM Dakar Rally USA 635x423

A last-minute replacement to the injured Marc Coma in the 2013 Dakar Rally, the expectations around race-rookie Kurt Caselli were purposefully modest. Filling big shoes at KTM’s factory-backed Dakar team, the Austrian brand started the two-week long race with hopes for competitive finishes from the Ameircan hare-scrambler, but today they got much, much more: a stage win in the seventh day of racing.

The fastest man through Stage Seven, Caselli finished the timed special in 1’51.31 on his KTM 450 Rally race bike, which averaged 117 km/h over the course. The stage win result leaves Caselli in eighth place overall, with second through eighth dominated by KTM riders, save David Casteu who maintains 3rd place for Yamaha. Elsewhere in the KTM camp, race-favorite Cyril Despres suffered mechanical issues, and dropped to fifth overall after his 34th place finish in the stage. He is 14 minutes behind race-leader Olivier Pain.

“Everything for me was fine. I’m learning the navigation better and I can understand it,” said Caselli. “This is my first Dakar so I’m just learning a lot. I didn’t have any idea what to expect when I first came here. It’s fun and I’m enjoying it.” Enjoy it indeed, congrats Kurt! Photos of Caselli from Dakar are after the jump.

Dakar Rally – Stage 6: Yamaha Leads KTM into Chile

01/10/2013 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally   Stage 6: Yamaha Leads KTM into Chile Olivier Pain Yamaha Dakar Rally 635x423

It has been four stages since we checked in with the 2013 Dakar Rally, and a bit has happened since Cyril Despres’s eight-minute gaffe in the rally race’s second stage. Reclaiming the lead the very next day, Despres seemed back on his form, and ready to blow away the competition — Stage Four would say otherwise however.

Shaking up the leader board, it was Yamaha’s Olivier Pain who finished the fourth day of racing roughly three minutes ahead of his teammate David Casteu and KTM’s Cyril Despres, respectively. The fifth and sixth stages had the competitors leave Peru, and make their first crossing into Chile (the 2013 Dakar will leave Chile for Argentina tomorrow during Stage Seven and then re-enter Chile at Stage Twelve through to the finish).

The change of locale proved advantageous for Despres, who gained timed on the Yamahas in front of him, and finally overtook Casteu on today’s Stage Six. Frenchman Olivier Pain remained in the lead through today though, with a 2:22 lead over Despres, and nearly five minutes over Casteu, who is running in danger of being caught by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez and Ruben Faria.

There are two more days of racing in Chile, before the riders will have their one and only rest day, which serves as the halfway mark for the Dakar Rally. Commence onward for full standings and some photos of the top competitors.

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Wrong Turn Costs Despres 8 Minutes

01/06/2013 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Wrong Turn Costs Despres 8 Minutes cyril despres ktm dakar rally 635x423

Sunday marks the second day of the Dakar Rally, and the first real day of racing. Despite completing only two stages thus far of the 2013 Dakar Rally, the racing has gotten interesting, as race-win favorite Cyril Despres has lost eight minutes to the overall leader, Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda.

Fifth fastest overall thus far, Despres’s lost time was due to navigating around a massive dune, a move that caught several other riders out as well. With Monday’s Stage Three expected to be an even more difficult day, Despres said he was happy to start from behind, and let the other riders tackle the course ahead of him, where he could learn from their mistakes.

The Dakar Rally has been settled by less than the eight minute gap that Despres currently faces, though the Frenchman’s navigational error would have been more critical if rival and teammate Marc Coma was entered in the race this year, instead of sidelined with injury.

Marc Coma Questionable for the Dakar Rally

12/20/2012 @ 3:01 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Marc Coma Questionable for the Dakar Rally 2013 KTM Rally Team 635x423

Bad news for KTM rally fans, as Marc Coma’s ability to race in the upcoming 2013 Dakar Rally is being questioned this week. According to Spanish sport news authority AS, Coma has not fully recovered from a crash he had at the Rally of Morocco.

Injuring his left shoulder in the fall, Coma is reportedly sitting out events leading up to the Dakar Rally’s start on January 5th in order to give his shoulder the maximum amount of time to recover. Coma is expected at a press conference in Barcelona this Friday, where an update on his condition is expected, as well as his final commitment to racing The Dakar.

Husqvarna TE449 RR Dakar Race Bike by Speedbrain

11/13/2012 @ 2:50 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Husqvarna TE449 RR Dakar Race Bike by Speedbrain 2013 Husqvarna TE449 RR by Spedbrain Dakar 05 635x423

To be entirely honest, we don’t follow the adventure racing arena as much as we should, giving only a little bit of press to the world-famous Dakar Rally at the start of each year. So, we really can’t do justice to what Husqvarna and Speedbrain are doing with this factory-backed Husqvarna TE449 RR Dakar bike.

The photos are surprisingly detailed though, and are probably as close as you will ever get to a proper works rally machine, and Husqvarna gives a good accounting of the bike’s progression and current development. Rather than fake our own rewording of their story, read it after the jump. It’s pretty interesting.