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.

Gas Gas Acquires Husqvarna Engine Designs

03/01/2014 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Gas Gas Acquires Husqvarna Engine Designs husqvarna two stroke engine 635x396

It was nearly a month ago that we heard that Spanish firms Gas Gas and Ossa had merged their operations in order to take on the difficult economic climate in Spain. The firms’ business position should be even stronger now, as Gas Gas has acquired the IP from Moto Italia, the holding company of Husqvarna’s remains.

When KTM’s Stefan Pierer acquired Husqvarna through his Pierer Industrie AG company, he did not buy all of the once Swedish motorcycle brand from BMW Motorrad. What wasn’t transferred into the Austrian company’s control was left behind as a new company, Moto Italia, which now will find a new home in Spain with Gas Gas.

The Lineage of Honda’s Grand Prix Motorcycles

11/18/2013 @ 6:37 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

The Lineage of Hondas Grand Prix Motorcycles honda rc211v 635x418

For the past twenty years or so, there is one manufacturer who has been above all others in the premier class of grand prix motorcycle racing, and that manufacturer is Honda.

Winning 12 of the last 20 World Championship titles, Honda’s recent domination in 500GP and MotoGP has been a sea change for the series, and the company’s winning total in this modern era of four-stroke and two-stroke machines is double the next nearest OEM, Yamaha (MV Agusta still holds the outright record, with 18 championships from the 1956-1974 period of four-stroke racing).

Part of Honda’s success has been the fact that the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has been able to attract some of the best riders ever to come to a Grand Prix race’s starting line, champions like Mick Doohan (1994-1998), Àlex Crivillé (1999), Valentino Rossi (2001-2003), Nicky Hayden (2006), Casey Stoner (2011), and now Marc Marquez (2013).

But also part of the equation has been the superb equipment that HRC, Honda’s racing department, produces for its riders, bike likes the Honda NSR500, RC211v, RC212V, and RC213V, which have widely been regarded as the best machines on the grid in each of their respective eras.

Looking down the pipe, as MotoGP adopts new rules and regulations, the RC213V and RCV1000R appear set to dominate their respective classes as the factory machines will be reduced to 20 liters of fuel for next year, and the open class machines are forced to use both the Dorna-supplied ECU hardware and software.

It would appear that Honda has a firm grasp on the next few years of MotoGP racing, and as a bit of an homage to this company’s fantastic two-wheeled craftsmanship, along with the racers who rode them, we give you wallpaper-sized photos of Honda’s Grand Prix motorcycles, from the 1995 to 2013 seasons.

KTM’s Pit Beirer Talks Moto3 Production Bikes, Cooperation With Kalex, & Two-Stroke Racing

07/12/2012 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

KTMs Pit Beirer Talks Moto3 Production Bikes, Cooperation With Kalex, & Two Stroke Racing pit beirer ktm 635x456

At the Sachsenring, after the introduction of KTM’s Moto3 GPR production racer, we spent five minutes with KTM’s Head of Motorsports Pit Beirer. We spoke to him about a number of subjects, including the evolution of the factory’s Moto3 chassis, the company’s cooperation with Kalex, and whether two-strokes would be better than four-strokes for racing.

Listen to the KTM Moto3 Race Bike Purr

02/21/2012 @ 11:46 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Listen to the KTM Moto3 Race Bike Purr KTM Moto2 Khairuddin 1 635x444

The KTM Moto3 racer is a thing of beauty, and for bonus points, it comes in two varieties. One is the orange-trellis framed factory-built KTM, which will be campaigned by the three-rider factory team of Sandro Cortese, Danny Kent, and Arthur Sissis for 2012.

The other variety is the one engineered by Kalex Engineering, which features the same 250cc KTM motor as the factory version, but takes the German company’s prowess at chassis design, and uses a twin-spar aluminum frame instead of the factory team’s trellis variant. The venerable Team Aspar is one of the teams signed on to use the Kalex/KTM, and will have riders Alberto Moncayo & Hector Faubel aiming to beat the factory KTM squad at their own game.

With no Americans in Moto3, the entry-level GP series won’t get too much attention here in the US, but the machinery certainly looks pretty good to our eyes. Still clad in carbon fiber for the testing season, the KTM and KTM/Kalex machines are like tiny pieces of motorcycling art.

Though some are lamenting the passing of the two-stroke era, and its unmistakable buzzing sound on the track, we think the newest four-stroke GP class will please motorcycling’s audiophiles. Listen to the KTM Moto3 race bike warm up after the jump, and enjoy some eyecandy.

KTM Developing Two Moto3 Bikes with Kalex Engineering

06/03/2011 @ 8:56 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

KTM Developing Two Moto3 Bikes with Kalex Engineering KTM Moto3 motor 635x759

KTM has announced it will be entering the Moto3 Championship, building a 250cc single-cylinder bike in what the company is describing as an 100% in-house operation. This statement is a bit confusing though, as KTM will also be partnering with Kalex Engineering on a second bike, where KTM will help the German company by supplying their race motors. No riders have been confirmed on either the KTM or KTM/Kalex machines.

KTM’s return to international road racing is certainly a welcomed sight, and it’s interesting that the Austrian company is both building its own bike, and supplying motors to other outfits. Both the KTM and KTM/Kalex machines will have to compete against the Honda NSF250R race bike, which Honda debuted at the Catalan GP just yesterday.

HRC NSF250R Moto3 Race Bike to Debut at Catalan GP

05/20/2011 @ 3:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

HRC NSF250R Moto3 Race Bike to Debut at Catalan GP Honda NSF250R Moto3

Honda has done a pretty good job of teasing out its HRC NSF250R, which is set to race in the Moto3 Championship in 2012. Replacing the 125GP, Moto3 class is based around four-stroke 250cc race bikes, and should be a more affordable and leveling playing field for new riders to enter into GP racing. HRC has teased us with images and videos of the new NSF250R, which takes its core cues from the its RS125R predecessor (both current factory Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso won their lower Championships on the Honda RS125R).

Honda NSF250R Moto3 Race Bike Breaks Cover

02/18/2011 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Honda NSF250R Moto3 Race Bike Breaks Cover Honda NSF250R Moto3

Honda has finally given us an unshaded photo of its 250cc four-stroke Moto3 race bike, dubbed the Honda NSF250R. Despite the clearer view, there are no real surprises here (this actually looks like the same photo as used before, sans photoshopping), as the majority of the bike is still covered by the primer-painted fairing. Honda says the new NSF250R is designed to be like the RS125R it replaces: high-performaning, lightweight, and compact. This should make the switch from two to four-strokes easier for young riders, and limit the need to adjust riding styles for the new machine.

KTM Commences Moto3 Racing Program

12/10/2010 @ 8:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

KTM Commences Moto3 Racing Program KTM motor quality assurance 635x653

With the demise of 125GP coming down the pipe, it comes as no surprise today that we learn that KTM has begun working on a Moto3 racing program. According to GPOne, work began on the project a few weeks ago, and is still in the early stages of its design. With all the 250cc MX, enduro, and supermoto four-stroke singles in KTM’s arsenal, the Austrian company has a surfeit of experience in making potent small displacement machines, and could be an early favorite in the 2012 opening season. The news also balances out well with the recent confirmation that KTM is working on a 250cc+ version of its KTM 125 Duke, which is destined for the American market in the next 18 months or so.

Bakker RM-Z250R Moto3 Contender

12/02/2010 @ 8:16 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Bakker RM Z250R Moto3 Contender Bakker RMZ250R moto3

The guys at Bakker have been busy this year, first bringing us a re-imagining of the Suzuki TL1000R, and now a turnkey Moto3 class contender. Noting that two-stroke race bikes are going the way of the dinosaur, the master frame builders at Bakker set out to make a four-stroke package that would fit into MotoGP’s Moto3 series and other 250cc single-cylinder racing classes.

Able to accomodate any manufacturer’s motor, Bakker has a Suzuki-powered model (the Bakker RM-Z250R) that’s been proven in the Open Dutch Championship (ONK) 125cc, the German IDM 125cc, and the UEM Supermono Cup. The Dutch company also has a Honda-powered unit that is ready to go for Moto3 competition when the rules switch in 2012.

2011 Aprilia RS4 125 Comes to America

11/02/2010 @ 5:16 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

2011 Aprilia RS4 125 Comes to America 2011 Aprilia RS4 125cc 635x506

American youths can rejoice to the news that the 2011 Aprilia RS4 125 will be coming to the United States for 2011. The four-stroke 125cc beginner bike may only have 15hp, but it has been done-up to look like the RSV4, and that’s what matters right? Replacing the RS125, the RS4 125 is supposedly just a Derbi in sheep’s clothing, but considering both brands come from the Piaggio mother ship, we fail to see why that would be an issue to a 16-year-old who has somehow managed to convince his/her parents to buy them a motorcycle. The liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC motor comes with electric fuel-injection, and is mated to a six-speed gearbox. Weight is 264 lbs with a full 3.8 gallon tank of gas. Technical Specifications after the jump.