Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

A Prelude to MotoGP’s Silly Season, Part 2

04/08/2014 @ 3:47 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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This is the second part of our two-part series on how the silly season for next year’s MotoGP rider line up may play out. If you missed the first part, you can catch up with the situation in the Honda and Yamaha factory teams here.

Up until late in the 2013 season, changes in the rider lineup for Yamaha and Honda’s MotoGP squads looked to be limited. Though all four riders will technically be on the open market at the end of 2014, the most likely scenarios for 2015 and beyond looked fairly settled.

Either the lineups of the Repsol Honda and Movistar Yamaha teams would remain identical, or Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa might swap seats. The biggest question mark, it appeared, hung over whether Valentino Rossi would continue racing after 2014.

Two major shake ups changed all that. For Valentino Rossi, the replacement of Jeremy Burgess with Silvano Galbusera – and the increased role for electronics engineer Matteo Flamigni – has helped him find at least some of the time he was losing to the three Spaniards who dominated MotoGP last year, making it more likely he will stay on at Yamaha for another couple of seasons. That leaves the situation at Yamaha look more stable than before.

The biggest change, though, came at Ducati. The top of the entire Ducati Corse department underwent radical change. Gigi Dall’Igna was brought in to replace Bernhard Gobmeier as head of Ducati Corse, while Davide Tardozzi joined Paolo Ciabatti and Ernesto Marinelli to help manage the MotoGP and World Superbike teams.

The arrival of Dall’Igna and Tardozzi has had a major impact, and will likely become even more significant as the season progresses. Dall’Igna has greatly improved communications between staff at Ducati’s Bologna headquarters and the race teams at the track, making for a much more efficient organization.

Davide Tardozzi Back with Ducati in MotoGP

01/13/2014 @ 8:57 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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It was a move which had been rumored since the middle of last year, but today, Ducati finally confirmed that Davide Tardozzi will return to the Italian factory to manage the MotoGP team.

Tardozzi has a long and successful career with Ducati in World Superbikes, before leaving to run the BMW World Superbike program. After BMW pulled its factory program, Tardozzi was left sitting at home, leading to widespread speculation of a Ducati return.

Tardozzi’s signing reunites several key players from the most successful period in Ducati’s past, with Tardozzi working alongside Paolo Ciabatti. Tardozzi will be taking over the role vacated by Vitto Guareschi, who left to run the Team Sky VR46 Moto3 squad.

Ducati Corse Confirms Carlos Checa & Panigale RS13 in WSBK – Hints at Factory Team for 2013

10/29/2012 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

After the shocking news this weekend that Ducati and Althea Racing would go their separate ways, the Bologna Brand has issued its own press statement about the break-up. Confirming that it has contracted former World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa to its payroll for next season, Ducati Corse also reaffirmed its commitment to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale in the series.

Ducati Corse has yet to release its official plans to race in the series, but the writing on the wall hints towards a factory team for 2013. Citing its strong ties and good relationship with the Althea Racing team, Ducati’s press release mentions the possibility of a “cooperation between Ducati and Team Althea” that could still be “found in the future,” which suggests that Althea could come on as a satellite team for 2013, or again takeover as the factory-backed effort at a later point in time.

While Ducati’s WSBK racing effort is still very much in the air, names like Liberty Racing and Davide Tardozzi are being banded about, and it is certain that Ducati Corse is exploring every option available. What is perhaps most intriguing in the news is Ducati Corse’s reconfirmation of its plan to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 next season.

WSBK: Althea Racing and Ducati Corse Part Ways

10/28/2012 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

In a surprise move, Althea Racing and Ducati Corse have parted ways in their World Superbike collaboration. The news sees Carlos Checa remaining with Ducati Corse and on the Ducati 1199 Panigale, though the Spaniard has no team behind him. Meanwhile, Althea Racing will retain #2 man Davide Giugliano, but will have to begin a search for a new manufacturer.

The issue under contention is the level of support Ducati Corse was willing to give the team, as Team Principal Genesio Bevilacqua has said to several Italian publications that Ducati was willing to give about as much support in 2013 as it did in 2012, which wasn’t a lot.

Left to develop the Ducati 1199 Panigale on its own, a large feat given the rumors that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not up to par for racing duty, Althea Racing is said to have balked at the idea of having to do all the heavy-lifting while Ducati reaps all the reward, and rightfully so.

BMW Continues Changes in WSBK Team Structure

12/18/2010 @ 7:26 pm, by Victoria Reid11 COMMENTS

After rumored and real strife at the end of the WSBK season, BMW Motorrad continues to rearrange their team structure. The team, according to a recent press release, has continued on with the restructuring. BMW Motorrad Motorsport announced Thursday that Rainer Bäumel is the new Head of Race Operations, after being the Technical Director, with Stephan Fischer Head of Development, and Josef Hofmann the Managing Director of the factory.  After leaving Ducati at the end of the 2009 season and signing on as team manager for BMW for the 2010 season and producing something a turnaround for the team, Davide Tardozzi either left or was forced out due to “different ideas regarding the structure of the team,” leaving Bernhard Gobmeier to named as BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director in October.

According to Gobmeier, Thursday’s announcement might just be the end of the restructuring, “In filling these three key positions we are concluding the restructuring of the team management.” He also noted that this “new formation is leaner and the division of labour more clearly delineated,” which is either a statement of the obvious or a bit of a slap to Tardozzi’s management style, since “All three report directly to…Gobmeier.”

Tardozzi Fired from BMW WSBK Team – Mechanics May Strike at Magny-Cours

09/29/2010 @ 3:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

According to our good friends at MotoMatters, Davide Tardozzi has just been handed his pink slip from the BMW World Superbike Team. The Italian manager has been instrumental in helping BMW get its house in order, but Tardozzi and the rest of BMW’s non-German crew are being purged from the team regardless. Tardozzi had apparently been banned from the BMW garage, as World Superbike heads to Magny-Cours this weekend, but the team’s mechanics are expected to work through the end of the season. Apparently not pleased with the idea of being replaced, the non-German mechanics are rumored to be planning a strike for Magny-Cours.

Melandri to Yamaha WSBK – Tardozzi to Blame?

09/06/2010 @ 6:01 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Surprise! After being 99% certain to go to the factory BMW World Superbike team, Marco Melandri has head-faked the entire motorcycle industry, and landed himself a ride at the factory Yamaha camp instead. Announced at Nurburgring this weekend, Melandri will ride for Sterilgarda Yamaha in the 2011 season. Originally linked to BMW for a WSBK ride, Melandri’s shift in direction could be related to rumors that Davide Tardozzi, current team manager to BMW’s WSBK squad, is taking over the role of Yamaha’s Mario Meregalli, who is in-turn rumored to be going to the Factory Yamaha team in MotoGP.

Marco Melandri All But Confirmed to Replace Xaus in BMW World Superbike Team

08/29/2010 @ 6:43 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Rumors are intensifying about Marco Melandri’s possible switch to World Superbike next season, as BMW Team Manager Davide Tardozzi told Italian news site GPone, “we don’t have the signature, and that is the most important part, but I received a very positive impression from Melandri.”

As is the case with many riders leaving MotoGP for WSBK, money seems to be less of an issue, than returning to a racing format where non-alien riders can be competitive again. Continuing in his statement, Tardozzi said, “We never talked about money, only about how competitive we would be. Marco wants to win and show that he is still a top rider, and I think this is the right philosophy for Superbike.”

Rumor: Marco Melandri Linked to BMW/WSBK for 2011, BMW/MotoGP for 2012?

06/01/2010 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Silly season isn’t just an event localized to the MotoGP paddock, and rumors are starting to surface in the World Superbike paddock as well. According to the paddock gossip, Marco Melandri could end up on a factory BMW ride in World Superbike next season, but the intrigue doesn’t stop there.

Part of BMW’s plan is then to have Melandri be their rider of choice when the team makes their predicted jump to MotoGP for the 2012 season. BMW team boss Davide Tardozzi is supposedly the mastermind behind the deal WSBK/MotoGP deal, although nothing seems to be set in stone at this point in time.

More Troubles For Ruben Xaus in the Paddock Gossip

04/29/2010 @ 6:14 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We’re only four rounds in for the 2010 World Superbike season, and already there’s increased “talk” about the possibility of Ruben Xaus getting canned by at least the end of the season. After a stellar showing by the BMW crew at Assen (at least for Troy Corser) all eyes are again on Xaus who managed to crash four times (we feel like we’ve heard this before) at the Dutch track.