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.

Ducati Corse Testing a New Engine at Mugello Next Week

06/17/2012 @ 2:40 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

Ducati is to test the latest version of their Desmosedici GP12 engine next week at Mugello. Ducati team manager Vitto Guareschi said that Franco Battaini is to start testing the bike, complete with the new engine, next week, in preparation for handing the machine over to Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi for a final test on the Monday after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello. If that test is successful, then both factory Ducati riders will have the new engine available as part of their allocation from Laguna Seca, the race directly after Mugello.

Ducati Corse’s OLED Dash

04/09/2012 @ 7:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It is sort of a weird accolade, but Ducati has been at the front of motorcycle dash technology and innovation implementation. Introducing a TFT liquid crystal display (LCD) on the Ducati Diavel, the Italian has continued its progression forward with an OLED dash on the Ducati 1199 Panigale.

Delivering a noticeably brighter and crisper display over its TFT counter-part, the Ducati OLED dash is one of those items that doesn’t necessarily do a job better than its predecessor (it reads the bike’s speed and other vitals just the same as the pervious unit), but the added quality and user experience is one of those touches that makes a Ducati, well…a Ducati.

Ducati Desmosedici GP12 Technical Specifications and Development Video

03/19/2012 @ 12:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Unveiling the 2012 Ducati Desmosedici GP12 online today, Ducati not only gave us our first glimpse at the Ducati Corse team livery, but the Italian race team also “disclosed” the technical specifications of its MotoGP race bike. Of course the details are rather plain and vague, as not to give too much away, but there are some interesting things to point out. Producing 230+ hp and weighing 157 kg (346 lbs) dry, the GP12 is no slouch on paper.

Retaining the same 90° piston configuration, the V4 desmodromic motor has clearly been rotated backwards, as was rumored. This change is evidenced by the singular and solid radiator grill at the front of the fairings, and would allow Ducati Corse to move the engine’s center of mass back and forth in the chassis to a greater degree. Speaking of chassis, the 90% new factory GP12 features an aluminum twin-spar frame, which was designed by Ducati Corse and rumored to have been built by FTR.

This Desmosedici GP12 “Phoenix” chassis design will be exclusive to the Ducati Corse factory team in MotoGP for several races, with satellite teams likely to get the updated chassis design about a third of the way into the season. This means that satellite Ducati riders, like Karel Abraham, will use the Desmosedici “GP0″ design that debuted at the Valencia test after the conclusion of the 2011 season. It has certainly been a long road for Ducati in MotoGP this past season, and now we will see if all the hard work will pay off for the Italian company. Technical specifications and a couple videos are after the jump.

No, This is the “90%” New Ducati Desmosedici GP12

01/30/2012 @ 8:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

You may have been misled by some eager journalists today and yesterday, if you saw a Ducati Corse livery-clad Ducati Desmosedici GP12 that some sites were passing off as the first shots of the “90% new” GP12. With the alleged new GP12 looking surprisingly similar to the aluminum-framed “GP0″ that was tested at Valencia, Valentino Rossi’s mechanic has now Alex Briggs confirmed that the photos taken were not of the all new “GP12 Phoenix” that the factory team will race this season. While the Ducati lords can taketh away, they can also giveth, and Valentino Rossi himself has posted the first photo of the factory Desmosedici GP12, and the bike is clearly different.

New Ducati Desmosedici GP12 is 90% New Says Preziosi – But Will It Be an L-Four?

01/11/2012 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

On what typically would be the formal unveiling of Ducati’s next GP race bike, Ducati Corse General Manager Filippo Preziosi stood alone on the stage at Madonna di Campiglio, and instead talked briefly about the “totally new” GP12, while fielding questions from the assembled press. Releasing very little information about the team’s off-season progress, Preziosi shared very few concrete details about the new Ducati Desmosedici GP12 (you could also read that sentence to mean that the assembled press failed to press for more detailed information concerning the GP12…it really could go either way). From what information could be gleaned from Preziosi, we now know that that the new GP12 is comprised of roughly 90% new parts when compared the previous iterations of the MotoGP contender.

Expected visually to look similar the GP12’s of the past, the finalized GP12 will have an aluminum perimeter-style frame, carbon fiber swingarm, and a better balance with the motor placement. Declining to state the angle of the cylinder heads, Preziosi added some more fuel to the fire and speculation that the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 will not have a 90° cylinder arrangement. At the very least, the GP12 will allow for greater adjustment with the engine placement specs, as well as the overall geometry of the motorcycle. This should help Ducati Corse develop the GP12 over the course of the season, and set it up better for each race circuit. However, Preziosi did caution that the team was trying to compress two years worth of R&D into three months, a daunting task to say the least.

Rossi Gets Deliciously Cryptic after GP12 Test at Mugello

09/08/2011 @ 8:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

After the secrecy concerning Ducati Corse’s test of the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 at Mugello this week, we were surprised to see that the Italian racing team even bothered to submit a press release for the event, which saw both Franco Battaini and Valentino Rossi take laps on a new version of the GP12. Speculated to have an aluminum twin-spar chassis (courtesy of FTR), the photos from the event do suggest a change in the chassis design, though what is actually under the fairings will be debated heavily over the rest of the week.

Making no mention of an aluminum chassis, improved front-end feel, or improved lap times, the statements (press release after the jump) from Ducati Corse and Valentino Rossi are incredibly vague, though perhaps they leave some interesting things to be read between the lines.

The fact that Rossi tersely described the test results without mentioning any improvements to the Desmosedici’s front-end is an interesting point to consider, especially after the nine-time World Champion had a crash on his third lap, binning the GP12 in the exit of the Scarperia-Palagio section of the Mugello track.

Considering that the feel from the GP11/11.1 has been the center-point throughout the 2011 season, we would have expected some indication on how the “good fight” was been waged in the Corse camp. Though spartan in  his words, one can discern some meaty notions from what Rossi didn’t say in his statement after riding 82 laps on the new GP12. Check the press release out after the jump, and leave your conclusions in the comments.

Photo: 2012 Ducati Superbike 1199’s Headlights

06/27/2011 @ 3:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Motociclismo.it continues to be Ducati’s favorite channel to leak teasers of its upcoming Superbike, the 2012 Ducati Superbike 1199. Promising to be a revolutionary design for the Italian brand, we know already that the bike will shed roughly 20 lbs from the 1198 model, while adding 20hp to its peak horsepower figure. This astonishing power increase comes from the “Superquadrata” v-twin motor, which features an overly-square cylinder design, that should rev to peaky power delivery delight (if you’re into that sort of thing).

From this latest photo we see that the new 1199 (we’ve been enjoying the rumors that the new Superbike would be called the Xtreme) borrows from the 916’s squinty highlight design, while adding the 1098/1198’s more pronounced air intake structure. The Ducati Superbike 1199 will be fed that healthy dose of oxygen through a stressed aluminum airbox/headtube design, à la its MotoGP frameless technology, and for which we’ve already seen patents of the design.

MotoGP: Ducati Racing with 2012 Chassis Starting at Assen

06/20/2011 @ 6:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse continues to battle a war on two-fronts: both by trying to market itself out of an otherwise disastorous MotoGP season, and also to rapidly develop and search for answers to the lackluster Ducati Desmosedici GP11. The latest news out of Bologna now leans more towards this latter effort (or is it the prior?), as Ducati Corse has announced that it will bring a version of its 2012 chassis to Assen for Valentino Rossi to use in the Dutch TT.

The Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, as they’re calling it, features a modified motor, and will debut Ducati’s next-generation gearbox: the Ducati Seamless Transmission (DST). Ducati hopes bringing out the new chassis, which has already been given the nod by both Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden, will not only help turn around the season’s results, but also expedite development for the Ducati Desmosedici GP12. Along with a new carbon chassis, the GP11.1 features an inverted swingarm design, which sees the rear shock mounted higher-up with a special rear-subframe assembly.

First Shots: Nicky Hayden on the Ducati Desmosedici GP12

04/09/2011 @ 11:17 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

To considerably less fanfare, Nicky Hayden took the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 today at Jerez, which for MotoGP fans means more photos of Ducati’s 1,000cc class prototype motorcycle. Ducati didn’t make a video of Nicky’s adventures on the GP12, but the race team got some valuable input from the American racer, who put in 61 laps for Ducati Corse once the circuit dried from high humidity. “When I woke up this morning, the sky was really gray and the track was completely wet,” said Nicky Hayden. “I was pretty disappointed. I didn’t think we’d be able to do anything because it wouldn’t have made sense to waste a day testing in those conditions.”

“The situation got better and better though, and after lunch, I was able to put on my leathers. I couldn’t wait to ride, and it was worth the wait. It’s an honor to be able to participate in the first track test of the GP12 because it doesn’t happen very often that you get to ride a bike on the track for the first time: it’s a special feeling. Everything went well, and we didn’t have a single problem: the motor is really nice to use, and I had a lot of fun riding the bike. I hope I gave some useful feedback to Filippo and the boys. I know they’ll be working on this bike while we go back to focusing on the next race, because this season just started.”

First Shots: Rossi Rides the Ducati Desmosedici GP12

04/08/2011 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Under some sunny and warm skies at Jerez, Valentino Rossi got to meet the Desmosedici GP12 for the first time today. In total Rossi slagged the GP12 across the Andalusian circuit for a total of 50 laps saying, and was seemingly pleased the the new machine.

“I’m happy,” said Valentino Rossi after the test. “I like the GP12. In my opinion, it’s more enjoyable, more fun to ride. It was the first time we had it on the track, so we had some work to do, but the engine is nicer. It’s a lot of fun, and you can do some nice slides. It’s the bike we’ll ride next year, so it was very important—and also very nice—to be among the first to take it on the track.” Photos, video, and more are awaiting you after the jump.