Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

MotoGP Will Race in Austria, Starting in 2016?

11/09/2014 @ 7:07 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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MotoGP looks set to head to Austria from 2016. Today, Red Bull co-founder Dieter Mateschitz and Dorna reached an agreement to host an Austrian round of the series at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. The agreement is merely preliminary, and subject to the track gaining FIM homologating the track and granting it a license to stage a MotoGP race.

The Red Bull Ring – previously known as the A1 Ring, before being bought by Mateschitz – has been upgraded and this year hosted both a round of Formula 1 and a round of the Red Bull Air Race. It was also the scene of the last Austrian Grand Prix, held back in 1997. The race was dropped after that year due to poor spectator attendance.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

11/05/2014 @ 3:44 am, by David Emmett25 COMMENTS

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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.

Q&A: Corrado Cecchinelli – MotoGP’s Director of Technology

09/23/2014 @ 12:00 am, by David Emmett33 COMMENTS

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From 2016, the entire MotoGP class will switch to a single, spec software for the electronics on the bikes. Development of the software is to become a collaborative process, with the factories competing in MotoGP supplying code and requirements through a single website.

This much we know. But what we don’t know is much more interesting. Which technologies will be supported? Which functions will be available? How sophisticated will the software be? Who will lead the software process, the factories or Dorna?

To get answers to all of these questions and more I spoke to MotoGP’s Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli at Silverstone. He is the man in charge of the process of making the switch to the spec, or unified software, as it is now being called. Cecchinelli will manage the development process, and define the goal of the unified software, trying to create a level playing field for all of the competitors.

It was a long and interesting interview. We covered many subjects, from the logistics of the development process, to the technologies which will be allowed, to what Cecchinelli sees as the objective of the software, and the goals it should achieve.

Cecchinelli described in some detail how the development process for the unified software is to work, and how the process will be managed. It will be a collaborative process, but it will not, as some fans had hoped, be a fully open process, with fully public access to the code.

Cecchinelli then set out his vision for the unified software, both in terms of implementation at the track and its application in production bikes. The goal is that any MotoGP-level electronics engineer should be able to extract the maximum performance from the software, rather than requiring mastery of an arcane and excessively complex piece of software.

It should be fully usable by the engineers in the independent or non-factory teams, allowing them to use the software to its full potential. This is one of the complaints made by the Open teams at the Sepang test at the start of the year, when they were handed an extremely powerful, but extremely complex software update. The update was soon dropped, in favor of an evolution of the existing software.

Cecchinelli’s vision of how the unified software should be applicable to road-going machines makes for interesting reading. The aim is for technology developed at the track to be directly transferrable to production bikes. That does not mean restricting technology, but rather focusing it on making it usable for all riders.

The idea is not to remove traction control and engine braking, but to keep them relevant to production bikes, and improve rideability. Though the software will still allow turn-by-turn settings, Cecchinelli made a strong case for why it should be removed, and the focus switched to other technology areas.

The aim, Cecchinelli was keen to emphasize, was to prevent factories getting into a spending war over extreme performance, and make them focus instead on providing the rider with a more rideable package.

Cecchinelli admitted that the unified software would not stop factories from spending money, but his aim was to limit the return on throwing ever larger resources at the field of electronics which had no direct relevance to MotoGP. We started on the subject of the development process, and where it stands at the moment.

MotoGP: Grand Prix Commission Agrees to Lower Bike Weight & Freeze Software Development for Factory Option

09/14/2014 @ 1:47 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The Grand Prix Commission met at Misano to agree a couple of steps on the long road towards creating a single, unified MotoGP class from 2016.

The four parties to the GPC agreed that the minimum weight in the MotoGP class would be reduced from 160kg to 158kg, and agreed to freeze development of the software for all Factory Option class bikes from 30th June 2015.

From that point on, work will switch to the spec, or unified software, ready for the start of 2016.

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

09/04/2014 @ 2:07 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM.

It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

Long-serving staff were replaced, circuits were dropped, classes were dropped, rejigged and renamed, and the manufacturers – or rather, the national distributors of the Japanese manufacturers – were either chased out of the series, or left over disagreements over the technical regulations.

The series reached a low point this year, when the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series held a grand total of just six races. Making things worse was the fact that just one of those rounds was in California, traditionally a very strong base for motorcycle racing in the US.

To alleviate the situation, Roadracing World’s John Ulrich stepped in to organize the Superbike Shootout, a three-race series held in California and Utah, to offer road racers something approaching a fuller season. However, DMG did not have a deal to televise the Superbike series, relying instead on live internet streaming of the events.

The decline of the series cannot be laid completely at the door of the DMG. They took over the AMA Superbike series at the start of 2008, a few months before the global financial crisis hit. That crisis had a massive impact on all forms of motorsports, and saw a great deal of sponsorship money evaporate.

MotoGP: Donington Park Will Host British GP in 2015

09/02/2014 @ 11:18 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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Donington Park is to host the British round of MotoGP in 2015. The Leicestershire circuit has reached agreement with the Circuit of Wales to host the British Grand Prix while the Welsh track is being built.

The Circuit of Wales was in talks with both Donington, which hosted the British Grand Prix from 1987 until 2009, and Silverstone, which hosted the race from 2010 until this year, but agreed more favorable terms with Donington.

The deal is a little more complicated than most contracts with racetracks. Dorna has a contract with the Circuit of Wales to host the race for the next five years, but the Circuit of Wales is yet to be built. Construction on the ambitious project has yet to be started, and the project is still a long way short of the money it needs for completion.

No Compensation for Lost World Superbike Rounds

08/28/2014 @ 10:14 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The loss of the South African round of World Superbikes, when the safety improvements to the Welkom circuit could not be completed in time for homologation, meant that the WSBK calendar had lost two rounds from its 2014 calendar, with both South Africa and the Moscow Raceway event having been scrapped.

Two rounds meant the loss of two World Supersport races and four World Superbike races, a total of 50 points for WSS and 100 points for WSBK.

The loss of those points left both championships much closer to being decided. Tom Sykes leads the World Superbike championship by 44 points with 150 points still at stake, while Michael van der Mark is even closer to the World Supersport championship, leading Jules Cluzel by 53 points with just 75 points left.

The teams, but most especially the riders, felt that they had had a chance to try to reopen the championship races taken away from them.

Bimota Fails to Meet Homologation Quotas, Out of WSBK?

08/19/2014 @ 2:00 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Despite the small size of the company, Bimota has shown itself to be a strong contender in the EVO class of the World Superbike Championship. And though none of the company’s results have counted to date, as the Italian brand had failed to meet the initial 125 quota by the start of the 2014 season, Bimota has kept forging ahead.

This is because Bimota got a special dispensation to race the first part of the 2014 WSBK season, as the FIM allowed the company four months from its first race day to meet World Superbike’s initial homologation standards, which is 125 street bikes.

Unfortunately however, even with that extra time, Bimota has been unable to meet the 125 unit volume (only 40 or so machines have been built), and thus is not expected to continue racing the rest of the season.

MotoGP: Brno Will Host Czech GP for 2015 & Beyond

08/17/2014 @ 8:14 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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MotoGP looks certain to be returning to the Brno circuit for 2015, after the local region of South Moravia guaranteed financing for the race for next year. In addition, talks are continuing to extend financing for the race beyond the 2015 season.

The race in Brno had been in doubt for some time now. The circuit, owned by Karel Abraham Sr., father of the Cardion AB rider, has struggled to pay the sanctioning fee demanded by Dorna, despite being the best-attended round of the series (over 142,000 turned up to watch the race in 2013 at the spacious, wooded Czech circuit).

The circuit has previously received funding from the Czech government, but that has been withdrawn.

The Quartararo Rule – Moto3 Minimum Age Limit Changed

08/17/2014 @ 7:45 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The minimum age limit for the Moto3 class is to be dropped for the winner of the Spanish CEV Moto3 championship. In a meeting at Brno, the Grand Prix Commission approved a proposal for the winner of the CEV Moto3 to be allowed to compete in the Moto3 world championship the season after winning the CEV.

The rule change will mean that Fabio Quartararo, the young Frenchman currently leading the CEV Moto3, will be allowed to start in Moto3 in 2015. The Frenchman is currently 15, and does not turn 16 until 20th April. If this rule had not been changed, then Quartararo would have been forced to miss the first two races of the 2015 season.