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.

MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 1: CRTs Meet Magneti Marelli

02/03/2013 @ 12:18 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

MotoGP Sepang Test   Day 1: CRTs Meet Magneti Marelli motogp logo 635x423

The first day of the extra two-day test for the CRT teams laid on to allow the teams using the new Magneti Marelli spec-ECU has been almost entirely wasted. A lack of parts and above all, a lack of data with the new system meant that the day was spent mostly in the garage, with very few laps turned out on the track.

Only CAME Ioda’s Danilo Petrucci got in any serious track time, the Italian posting a total of 27 laps. All of those laps were set without any assistance from the electronics, however: with no data, the team had no base set up to work from, and Petrucci was lapping without any electronic aid.

“It’s really hard to ride a bike without any electronic controls,” Petrucci posted on Twitter afterwards, a fact that is borne out by his times. Petrucci’s fastest lap was a 2’06.841, two seconds slower than his best time from the race weekend at Sepang, and four seconds behind the best CRT time set back in October of last year.

Hiroshi Aoyama Back in MotoGP for 2013

11/09/2012 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Hiroshi Aoyama Back in MotoGP for 2013 Hiroshi Aoyama MotoGP Scott Jones

Forced to go to World Superbike for the 2012 season, Hiroshi Aoyama will return to the big show for the 2013 season, with the Avintia Blusens team. Trading his Honda CBR1000RR superbike for a Kawasaki-powered CRT entry, Aoyama will perhaps miss the days when he was on a Honda RC212V prototype, but certainly won’t miss the Pirelli-shod production machine, which he only managed to race to a 18th place championship points finish.

Entirely unimpressive in WSBK, Aoyama has something that many CRT riders do not: experience on the tricky Bridgestone tires. That fact alone should make Aoyama a potent weapon for the Avintia Blusens squad, which has struggled to develop its CRT entry — due partially to the talent on the machine. With the help of Aoyama’s MotoGP experience, and 250GP Championship title behind him, the BQR team might find some more traction and direction with its work — having Hector Barbera along for the ride as a teammate won’t hurt either.

MotoGP: Aoyama in for Hernandez at Valencia…And After?

11/04/2012 @ 2:22 am, by David EmmettComments Off

MotoGP: Aoyama in for Hernandez at Valencia...And After? Hiroshi Aoyama HRC WSBK 635x421

Yonny Hernandez looks set to miss the final round of MotoGP at Valencia, as the Colombian continues his recovery from injury. Hernandez suffered a dislocated collarbone in a crash during the race at Motegi, an injury which forced him to miss both the Malaysian and the Australian rounds of MotoGP.

The place of Hernandez in the BQR Avintia team is to be taken at Valencia by Hiroshi Aoyama. The last ever 250 World Champion suffered a difficult 2012 season in World Superbikes with the Ten Kate Honda squad, Aoyama never getting comfortable with the Pirelli tires used in WSBK.

Aoyama has been looking to return to MotoGP since the latter part of this season, the Japanese rider spotted in serious talks with a number of teams at the Aragon round of MotoGP at the end of September. Aoyama now looks set to take the place of Hernandez in the BQR Avintia team permanently in the 2013 season, according to Spanish website Motocuatro.com.

Honda WSBK Switches to 2013 Livery for Magny-Cours

10/04/2012 @ 4:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Honda WSBK Switches to 2013 Livery for Magny Cours 2013 Honda CBR1000RR WSBK 04 635x423

We’re not sure who is behind the liveries for Honda Europe’s racing department, but they do a damn fine job of creating simple, understated, and gorgeous race graphics. Channeling some more of that Honda RC30 goodness, HRC is also the second team to adopt the faux-headlights that World Superbike will mandate for bikes in the 2013 season.

While the graphics might be different for 2013, the machine certainly isn’t. Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will have their work cutout for them next season, especially since we hear that the WSBK-spec Honda CBR1000RR is a bit of handful, as Hiroshi Aoyama can attest to (his bike is pictured above).

With Rea said to have opted to stay in WSBK, instead of a move into MotoGP, the Ulsterman has really been the only rider that can decipher the CBR’s code, and after seeing his performance at Misano and Aragon, we think that’s more of testament to Rea’s skill, than a fluke match between man and machine.

Hopefully things will get better in 2014, when Honda’s V4-powered homologation special hits the streets.

SBK Classic Corners: Turn 12 at Phillip Island

08/14/2012 @ 1:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

SBK Classic Corners: Turn 12 at Phillip Island Jonathan Rea Turn 12 Phillip Island

Our apologies for being a bit late to getting with the program, as we should have started HRC’s SBK Classic Corners webisodes much earlier than this. While we play a bit of catch-up with the World Superbike team’s short videos series that focuses on the famous corners of the WSBK calendar, we treat you to the first circuit up in our queue, which is also the first race of the season: Phillip Island.

It doesn’t matter what you call Turn 12 at famous Australian track (e.g. Swan Corner if you abide by the marketing), because whatever name you use, the corner is one of the most important turns on the circuit, as the long left-hand sweeper is your entry onto the Phillip Island’s massively long front straight that seemingly drops into the Bass Strait, until you cross the start/finish line.

I have been fortunate enough to ride a track day at Phillip Island, and I can say that the circuit is easily my favorite course to ride with a motorcycle as it has a bit of elevation, gorgeous surroundings, and a good mix of technical turns and flowing bends. One of the Top 3 fastest corners on the track, Turn 12 is certainly harrowing to enter full-tilt as your tires are fading. Of course, you don’t want to hear me talk about it, so we’ve got Johnny Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama after the jump.

San Carlo Honda Gresini Will Race in Valencia

11/01/2011 @ 9:00 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

San Carlo Honda Gresini Will Race in Valencia marco simoncelli motogp scott jones

Immediately following the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli, Fausto Gresini of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team was quoted saying that he wasn’t sure if his team could finish the Championship in Valencia without Simoncelli. With an outpouring of fans at Simoncelli’s funeral, and words of encouragement from around the world, the Italian team has decided that it will honor Marco’s memory and race in Spain this weekend.

While the #58 bike will sit in the pit box in memorial, Hiroshi Aoyama will ride the lone Honda RC212V for the Gresini team at the Valencian GP. Gresini’s Moto2 riders Michele Pirro and Yuki Takahashi will also race, as the trio will try to honor their teammate’s memory.

Honda Gresini to Attend Valencian GP – Racing Uncertain

10/26/2011 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Honda Gresini to Attend Valencian GP   Racing Uncertain Marco Simoncelli MotoGP Assen Scott Jones

While it is still not clear whether the San Carlo Honda Gresini team will race with Hiroshi Aoyama in the upcoming Valencian GP, the Gresini Racing team has confirmed it will at least travel to the final MotoGP round. The Gresini Racing team has confirmed that many members of the San Carlo Honda Gresini MotoGP team will be present at the spanish track, and that the customary team pit box will be setup with Marco Simoncelli’s #58 Honda RC212V on display to tribute the fallen rider.

Hiroshi Aoyama to World Superbike with Castrol Honda

10/15/2011 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Hiroshi Aoyama to World Superbike with Castrol Honda Hiroshi Aoyama MotoGP Gresini Honda Scott Jones

Rumored to be headed to World Superbike, or at least a CRT bike in MotoGP, Hiroshi Aoyama’s 2012 season plans have finally been unveiled. Signing with the the Castrol Honda team, the former-250GP Champion will leave the MotoGP paddock to race next season in World Superbike, alongside new teammate Johnny Rea. The move means the displacement of Ruben Xaus from the Ten Kate Honda squad, which is hardly a surprise considering the Spaniard’s horrid season(s).

The announcement also adds further speculation regarding whether San Carlo Gresini Honda will run a solitary bike for next year, at he team has already confirmed a factory RC213V with Maro Simoncelli on-board. Honda has reportedly intervened on Gresini’s plans to run a second bike under the CRT structure, which makes for something interesting to chew on, as the CRT rules were created as a direct reaction to the major manufacturers’ influence over how MotoGP was run and headed, with Honda headlining that now failing initiative.

Earthquake 60km from Fukushima Kicks Off Japanese GP

09/29/2011 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Earthquake 60km from Fukushima Kicks Off Japanese GP Japanese Earthquake

MotoGP action has finally hit Japanese shores, as riders and teams made their usual Thursday preparations and announcements at Motegi for the Japanese GP. With the near rider boycott of the event, many eyes have been on the teams that have imported food and water, let alone the sighting of the occasional Geiger counter at the Twin Ring Circuit. Perpetuating an air of concern over the stability of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake 60km (37 miles) SSE from the crippled nuclear power plant sent a reminder of the region’s seismic volatility. With no damage reportedly caused at Fukushima, and the Japanese GP unaffected by the event, the physical impact is of course non-existent for MotoGP, but the psychological factor certainly remains in the paddock.

Unrelated to the earthquake, Casey Stoner was absent from the Thursday pre-race press conference, as the Australian’s flight was late in arriving into Japan. As such, Jorge Lorenzo filled-in at the center seat, normally reserved for the MotoGP Championship points leader, and made light of the situation.”Where is Casey?” asked a playful Jorge Lorenzo. “Am I leading the Championship now?” he said with a smile. 44 points behind the Repsol Honda rider, Lorenzo acknowledged that his Championship bid was essentially over, though seemed still determined to carry the flag for Yamaha in the final four races of the 2011 season.

Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP

09/19/2011 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP Honda Aragon 635x421

Make no doubts about it, Honda is set to make a statement at the rescheduled Japanese GP on October 2nd. After much hemming and hawing over whom would and would not race at Motegi, virtually every rider in the MotoGP paddock has been confirmed to be in attendance at Japan early next month, including Casey Stoner (according to Honda at least).

Whether it is because the riders have begun to believe the bevy of reports that Motegi and the Fukushima nuclear plant are safe, or the fact that the Twin Ring Circuit has already played host to several high-profile events, or even if it is the simple reality that Japanese companies like Honda and Yamaha have enormously long memories regarding issues of pride and honor, the fact of the matter is that not only will the MotoGP grid be as full as possible (there are question marks regarding Loris Capirossi’s shoulder), but Honda will field two more riders for the Japanese GP.