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.

The 2012 Isle of Man TT with Daniel Lo

06/14/2012 @ 7:59 am, by Daniel Lo5 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Good Man

06/12/2012 @ 12:14 pm, by Daniel Lo6 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Good Man guy martin 635

The stage was set for Guy Martin to take his first ever TT win in 2012, with the popular fan favorite returning with the same team with which he scored four podium finishes in the previous year’s contest. Top-level crew, competitive machinery, and one of the fastest men to ever lap the Mountain Course teaming up again for another assault. Reaching the top step of the podium should be all but a forgone conclusion — or at least in theory.

What resulted instead was truly a week to forget, starting with Guy getting nudged off the podium in the opening Superbike race when his crew was unable to change his rear tire for the final two laps. The first Supersport race ended prematurely after his engine gave out, forcing a retirement into the pits, after just a single lap. The Superstock race that followed was barely an improvement, with Guy taking an anonymous eighth place finish, after being off the pace from the start. Further engine problems in the second Supersport race again saw him off the podium, finishing down in fifth. To cap it off, a final shot at a good result was thwarted by the first ever cancellation of the Senior TT race. Things did not go according to plan, to say the least.

IOMTT: John McGuinness Strikes First with a 130 MPH Lap

05/30/2012 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

IOMTT: John McGuinness Strikes First with a 130 MPH Lap John McGuinness the Nook 635x425

Mr. McPint continues to raise the bar at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, as the #1 plated Honda TT Legends rider was the first, and so far the only, rider to bust the 130 MPH barrier at this TT fortnight. Doing a 130.079 mph lap on his second time around the Mountain Course for the evening, John McGuinness is looking well on the pace to raise the outright lap record of 131.578 mph (a mark he himself set) during the race week.

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT

05/24/2012 @ 5:43 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT Mark Miller Ballaugh Bridge pass Isle of Man TT 635x425

For those who have never attended, the Isle of Man TT is truly a special race. I will concede the point that saying that the TT is merely “a special race” is a bit trite, as there is so much that encompasses the full experience one gets during the TT fortnight, that it becomes hard to explain to someone who has never attended the TT, even veteran motorcycle race journalists, what it is that makes the TT so special.

Part of this equation is the racing spectacle itself. Set on a small island in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man’s quaint few towns serve as the venue for tens of thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, while the roads between these villages are connected by the island’s lush countryside. It is hard to travel around the Isle without the island’s beauty striking you — something that is captured extremely well with the race’s many aerial shots via helicopter, but not fully grasped until it is witnessed in person.

The fan experience is truly unique as well. Inside the paddock in Douglas, the atmosphere is campy, an almost carnival affair, and while virtually any other racing venue would sequester the teams and riders from the fans, the TT’s paddock is wide-open, with the team garages setup rows, and constructed in an open pavilion layout that encourages passersby to stop, lean on the waist-high barriers that are maybe 10 feet from the mechanics’ bike lifts, and strike up a conversation with any team member that doesn’t seem to have a task at hand.

The experience is tenfold when one of the riders is present, which they often are, and even the greats of the sport are approachable and genuinely engaged with their fan base. Try getting that same experience at the next MotoGP or WSBK event you attend, and even in the AMA paddock you would be hard-pressed to get so much access and interaction to what goes on behind the scenes.

Then there is of course the racing, which all occurs on city streets and mountain roads. In the Superbike classes, the average speeds of the top riders exceeds 130 mph, with top speeds in the fastest sections cracking past 200 mph with regularity. Again I reiterate, this is all occurring on city streets, littered full of telephone polls, houses, trees, and of course fans. Speaking of fans on the course, imagine watching a race from the side of a hedgerow, at worst only 10 feet from the action, and in some cases only a few inches away. Experiencing motorcycle racing at such propinquity will take your breath away, if not figuratively then literally.

In my short time running Asphalt & Rubber, I have had the opportunity to cover motorcycle racing on four continents, and as I travel to my second Isle of Man TT, I know the next two weeks of racing will be unlike anything I have covered before in MotoGP, World Superbike, or AMA Pro Racing.

Is It Time for the Isle of Man TT Yet?

11/05/2011 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Is It Time for the Isle of Man TT Yet? isle of man tt relentless suzuki video 635x356

Put together by the TAS Relentless Suzuki squad, this short video about the Isle of Man TT is already getting me pumped up for next year’s races. Beautiful Manx scenery, the clever wit of Guy Martin, and of course true road-racing footage is a trifecta for anything good in the world. I could wax poetic a bit more, but then that would keep you from watching the video after the jump.

What Do IOMTT Riders Talk About After a Red Flag?

08/25/2011 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

What Do IOMTT Riders Talk About After a Red Flag? Michael Dunlop Supersport Creg Ny Baa Isle of Man TT 635x425

Rewind back to the 2011 Isle of Man TT and the Monster Energy Supersport 2 race, where a very soggy set of TT riders nearly mutinied against Race Direction for wanting to start the race under torrential conditions. With only the fastest of the riders making it onto their second lap, better discretion prevailed as the red flags came out and called the race cancelled due to weather (aiding that decision was the retirement of Gary Johnson and injury-free crash by Keith Amor).

With the top riders collected at Ballacraine, there were more than a few live cameras on the gathered motorcycles, which brings us to this video of Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Cameron Donald, Bruce Anstey, Michael Dunlop, Dan Kneen, and Chris Kinley of Manx Radio discussing the day’s ride. Trading stories on how racer nearly killed themselves on the past lap and a quarter, what surprise sus in this video isn’t the content, but instead the carefree attitude each rider has towards how close they came to meeting their maker. A funny breed these TT racers are (don’t even get us started about the Dunlop brothers).

IOMTT: Come From Behind Win on Delayed Senior TT

06/10/2011 @ 10:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: Come From Behind Win on Delayed Senior TT John McGuinness Ballaugh Bridge Isle of Man TT 635x444

The weather reared it’s ugly head again for the Isle of Man TT, this time showcasing the island’s unusual propensity for microclimates. While the lowlands baked in the sun (yes, this author got a nice sunburn on Friday), the Mountain saw rain clouds, standing water, and even hail at one point. This caused the main event of the fortnight, the Senior TT, to be delayed for several hours, which put-off many of the sun-blasted fans, but by the time the final TT race got underway, it was under perfect Manx afternoon conditions.

With all of the top riders showing to be in top form for the 2011 TT, good bets could have been placed on any of them. John McGuinness looked again on form after last week’s Dainese Superbike TT race win, noticeable more comfortable in the paddock. Contrast that with Guy Martin, who always a bridesmaid and never a bride, had just one more opportunity in the 2011 Isle of Man TT to find his first ever race win. With eyes on them, and the other top riders, the Pokerstars Senior TT got underway.

Movie Review: TT3D: Closer to the Edge

06/09/2011 @ 11:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Movie Review: TT3D: Closer to the Edge Guy Martin TT3D Closer to the Edge 635x357

Before one starts a review on the new TT3D: Closer to the Edge movie, one should note the film’s underlying purpose. Funded by the Isle of Man government, the hour and a half long movie is designed to promote the Isle of Man as a tourist destination, to promote the controversial fortnight-long TT racing event in a favorable light, and to cultivate potentially new fans of the TT by providing a primer to this year’s racing action. Part documentary, part advertising, there is accordingly an agenda with this film.

Now with that caveat of information brought to light and understood, I can go on to say that TT3D: Closer to the Edge is an enjoyably great film that makes you range the gamut of emotions as it follows John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson, and Guy Martin through the 2010 Isle of Man TT. Though the use of 3D filming is gimmicky at best, the short version of this review is that this is a movie that will end up on my DVD shelf as soon as it becomes available.

IOMTT: First-Time Winner in Supersport Race 2

06/09/2011 @ 3:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: First Time Winner in Supersport Race 2 Gary Johnson IOMTT Supersport Race 2 635x444

After getting rained out on Wednesday, the Isle of Man TT took advantage of one of its contingency days, and set to racing on a cold but fairly sunny Thursday. Keith Amor surely was enjoying the better weather, as he found himself sliding down the tarmac before the first running of the second Supersport race was red flagged yesterday.

A handful of riders were favored for the top step on the podium in the 600cc class, and they would have four laps to sort out who it would be: King of the Mountain John McGuinness, win-less Guy Martin, or Race 1’s winner Bruce Anstey, just to name a few.

IOMTT: Popular Victory in Superstock Race

06/06/2011 @ 6:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

IOMTT: Popular Victory in Superstock Race Michael Dunlop Superstock Isle of Man TT 635x461

The early morning warm sunshine gave way to cold cloud cover for Monday’s second race, the Royal London 360 Superstock race. Four laps of grand TT racing, the Superstock class is essentially street legal bikes with bolt-on pieces (along with race trim obviously), and thus a fairly analogous representation of what one could do around the Mountain Course…provided of course you have the mettle of a true TT racer. With a number of riders showing promise for the race win, all eyes were on the clock as the green flag dropped.