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.

Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

04/04/2012 @ 7:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47% KTM Company Mattighofen 635x512

Slowly but surely, Bajaj Auto continues to gobble up pieces of KTM’s stock. Taking its investment position now to just over 47%, Bajaj has acquired another 6.3% of the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, and is projected to continue acquiring stock in the company.

The second-largest motorcycle manufacturer in India, Bajaj is also the second-largest shareholder in KTM, with KTM’s largest controlling position belonging to Stefan Pierer (KTM CEO) and Rudolf Knuenz (KTM Chairman of the Board), whose combined holdings come to just more than 51% of the company.

Audi Buying Only Part of Ducati? Daimler Bows Out

04/03/2012 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Audi Buying Only Part of Ducati? Daimler Bows Out ducati superquadro 635x475

More reports are starting to surface about Audi’s pending purchase of Ducati Motor Holding from Investindustrial. Said last month to have offered the private equity firm somewhere in the neighborhood of €750 million, Reuters is now reporting the figure to have been closer to the €870 million to €875 million range, which is closer to the original rumored offer of €850 million by the German automaker. What is most interesting in the report by Reuters is the notion that Audi is not making an offer to buy all of Investindustrial’s financial position in Ducati Motor Holding, which accounts for about 70% of the company.

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Purchasing Ducati? Erik Buell Racing?

03/05/2012 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Purchasing Ducati? Erik Buell Racing? hero motocorp logo 635x423

Two weeks and two separate rumors about Hero MotoCorp’s acquisition warpath. Last week the Indian motorcycle manufacturer was said to be eyeing a minority equity stake in Erik Buell Racing. Having already hired the American sport bike maker to help innovate on some of Hero’s upcoming small displacement machines, the two companies sweetened the deal with Hero becoming the title sponsor to EBR’s AMA Pro Superbike racing effort.

This week the spotlight shines on Ducati Motor Holding, which has quietly been for sale for almost a year now. Originally wooing an acquisition from Mercedes-Benz, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has been linked to a variety of other companies, as well as a public offering on an Asian stock index. With our sources telling us that Ducati has been trimming the fat from its books in order to make its earnings more attractive, Hero MotoCorp is the latest potential buyer to enter the fray and to talk to bankers about a Ducati acquisition.

November BMW Sales Up 3.9% – Husqvarna Down 28.4%

12/14/2011 @ 8:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

November BMW Sales Up 3.9%   Husqvarna Down 28.4% husqvarna strada concept motor 635x952

BMW Motorrad’s November sales numbers are in, and they show that the German company is still chugging away at a very strong sales year in 2011. Already surpassing the company’s figures from 2010 by 6.1% (which was no slouch of a year for BMW, we might add), BMW has 100,054 units already under its belt for this year. Moving 6,112 units in November, BMW’s sales are up 3.9% over those from November 2010, which continues the German brand’s strong growth in 2011.

BMW Motorrad, along with most of the European motorcycle brands, have enjoyed relatively positive figures throughout 2011 and in the previous recession. One of the more glaring exceptions to that statement however is Husqvarna. Selling 1,181 units last month, Husqvarna is down 28.4% when compared to November 2010. And for the year as a whole, Husky is down 22.5% compared to 2010, selling only 7,956 units YTD.

Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen

11/21/2011 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen volkswagen motor 635x476

Back in 2009 Suzuki and Volkswagen made some headlines, as the German automaker took a 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer. The basic points of the agreement were that Volkswagen would get access to Suzuki’s small-displacement motors and Indian presence, while the latter would benefit from Volkswagen’s larger-vehicle technologies, etc.

Seemingly however doomed from the start, the partnership in motorcycle circles erroneously spurred some interesting thoughts of a Volkswagen motorcycle coming to fruition. While industry journalists spun gold out of hay, the two behemoth manufacturers failed to come to terms on any of their proposed partnership goals, leaving both parties to wonder why they were interested in each other, let alone financially intwined.

Harley-Davidson Q3 Sales Up 5.1% Worldwide

10/19/2011 @ 3:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Q3 Sales Up 5.1% Worldwide Harley Davidson urban 635x423

Harley-Davidson has reported its third quarter sales and earnings to its stockholders, and the Bar & Shield brand is showing a modest up-tick in its Q3 sales. Growing 5.1% globally (61,838 units) for Q3, compared to 2010, Harley-Davidison has had similar growth in the US, where sales were up 5.4% (42,640 units). Year-to-date (YTD) sales globally were up 4.9% (194,829 units), continuing the bottoming-out trend in 2011 (up 4.7% in the US, or 127,930 units). Despite the modest sales increases, Harley-Davidson’s financials are significantly stronger than before, with the company posting a 95.9% increase in income from continuing operations.

Trouble Brewing for the MV Agusta F3?

08/30/2011 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Trouble Brewing for the MV Agusta F3? mv agusta f3 635x423

All is not well regarding the new MV Agusta F3, several sources have now told Asphalt & Rubber. Teasing the F3 motorcycle for almost two years now, the three-cylinder supersport has been on the radar of two-wheeled enthusiasts since well before its 2010 debut at the EICMA show. While the latest creation from Varese is undisputedly a stunner, and promises some more than peppy performance and features, eyebrows within the industry were raised with its very pre-mature debut in Milan, and its accompanying lack of any real concrete technical specifications.

With products traditionally launched at the November EICMA show going on sale immediately the next model year, MV Agusta made a shocking announcement in 2010 that the F3 would be a 2012 model. Obviously launched with the intention of generating immediate buzz about the newly re-acquired MV Agusta brand, and its goal of becoming a larger volume producer (and actually a profitable company for a change), the F3 and its progeny like the MV Agusta Brutale B3 are supposed to usher in a new era for the Italian brand.

Apparently teased early to help prove demand for MV’s new product offering, this new ethos unfortunately has apparently done little to sway creditors and investors on the viabiliy of the brand, especially since the names associated with driving MV Agusta into the ground are still associted with the decidedly not-so-new regime. Though the Castiglionis were able to negotiate a stellar deal with Harley-Davidson regarding the purchase of MV Agusta (they bought the company for one euro, and got an operating cash flow of 20 million in the bank), according to our sources that are close to MV, the Italian company has had a hard time raising additional working capital, and has also found negotiations with parts suppliers to be difficult, with the outside firms demanding to be paid up-front for their wares.

Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus

08/17/2011 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus Mission Motors team Laguna Seca 635x422

News comes to us from across the Bay this morning, as Mission Motors has announced that it has closed a $9 million Series B financing round led by Warbug Pincus. A global private equity firm with $30 billion in assets under management, Warbug Pincus invested $7.5 million in Mission Motors (with room up to an additional $41 million), while Infield Capital, one of Mission’s original investors, doubled-dipped back into the company, presumably with the remaining $1.5 million for the series.

The use of funds will go towards Mission Motors’s continued venture of supplying OEM customers with electric and hybrid drive train solutions — an exclusive endeavor the company has been undertaking for over a year now, but apparently something the less-informed motorcycle press is only now taking notice of today.

Rumor: Ducati Considering Selling Its Stock?

08/15/2011 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Rumor: Ducati Considering Selling Its Stock? Ducati Superbike 1198 SP 635x475

According to the Dow Jones Newswire, Investindustrial, the private equity firm behind Ducati Motor Holding SpA, is considering putting the Italian motorcycle company’s stock up for sale in a private offering next year. Investindustrial bought the Texas Pacific Group’s 45% share in Ducati back in 2006, becoming the company’s largest single investor. Later in June 2008, the private equity firm lead by Carlo and Andrea Bonomi increased its stake in Ducati, controlling 84.6% of the company’s stock.

If today’s rumors are true, Investindustrial would be dumping some, if not all, of its shares in Ducati, likely into other investment groups. Though other motorcycles news sites are quick to call this an IPO, there is no indication at this time that Investindustrial plans on making the stock offering public (the Dow Jones Newswire in fact specifically says that the offering is private), meaning that Ducati’s stock will not be available to regular stock purchasers, but will instead be bid on by banks, investment groups, and other large corporations.

Analyst Report: Bajaj May Take a 49% Stake in KTM

07/28/2011 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Analyst Report: Bajaj May Take a 49% Stake in KTM KTM 125 Duke Stunt 635x421

Bajaj Auto has an insatiable appetite for KTM, and the Indian company has slowly been gobbling up KTM stock, and now is just under a 40% shareholder in the Austrian motorcycle company. With Cross Industries AG holding 51% of the company in its control, the Austrians have made it clear that they will not give up majority control of KTM, especially to the Indian automotive company. However, analysts are predicting Bajaj could take its partnership with KTM to its limit, purchasing up to 49% of the company’s stock.