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.

Video: Hiroshi Aoyama at 300 km/h

08/26/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Video: Hiroshi Aoyama at 300 km/h Hiroshi Aoyama slow motion video 635x355

For Hiroshi Aoyama, the perfect lap is unattainable, as motorcycle racers are always looking for a little bit more speed, and thus a better lap. That being said, the Japanese rider has perhaps an unhealthy relationship with velocity, saying that while going 300 km/h is scary, he “likes that feeling.”

With more super slow-mo footage from Catalunya, Red Bull again brings us some 1000 fps video, just in time to promote Sunday’s Indianapolis GP. For those movie continuity buffs, you can tell this video was made earlier in the year, as Aoyama talks about Indy’s four different kind of asphalt types, which have now been paved over for one consistent tarmac throughout the infield. Watch the high-speed camera footage after the jump.

Official: Pedrosa Out for Assen – Aoyama in at Repsol Honda

06/22/2011 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Official: Pedrosa Out for Assen   Aoyama in at Repsol Honda Dani Pedrosa Qatar 635x425

HRC has officially announced now that Dani Pedrosa will miss the Dutch round of the MotoGP Championship. Breaking his collarbone back at the French GP, Pedrosa’s place on the disabled list was extended when it was discovered that bone fragments were still lurking in his shoulder. Pedrosa underwent yet another surgery to repair his collarbone, but his return to racing has been an uncertainty lately, as some in the assembled MotoGP press have suggested the Spaniard will sit out the rest of the season.

Whatever the status may be on Pedrosa’s return, the Ductch TT marks the third race absence for the Repsol Honda rider, and accordingly the team is obliged to replace him. Moving up San Carlos Gresini Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama, the Japanese rider will swing a leg over the third Honda factory team bike, while Marco Simoncelli rounds out the group on the fourth factory bike that’s still nestled in the Gresini garage.

Dani Pedrosa Has Shoulder Surgery…Yet Again

06/16/2011 @ 4:11 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dani Pedrosa Has Shoulder Surgery...Yet Again Dani Pedrosa Qatar GP Scott Jones

Dani Pedrosa underwent yet another shoulder surgery today, this time to fix a loose bone fragment that had become dislodged during the Spaniard’s recuperation from the broken collarbone he suffered from his crash at Le Mans during the French GP. How this complication with his shoulder occurred is a subject of much contention in the MotoGP paddock, as the Spanish press is adamant that Pedrosa re-injured his shoulder in a supermoto crash. HRC however denies this rumor, though the Japanese company has not offered a counter-explanation for Pedrosa’s current situation. The fact remains though that Dani Pedrosa’s healing process has been pushed back further, and Repsol Honda is not sure that Dani will be fit enough to participate in the upcoming Dutch TT.

Dani Pedrosa Out for Silverstone – And Then Some?

06/06/2011 @ 12:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Dani Pedrosa Out for Silverstone   And Then Some? 2011 MotoGP Catalunya Scott Jones

Dani Pedrosa on his blog today announced that he would not compete in the British GP at Silverstone next weekend, instead opting to heal his collarbone further, which he broke a the French GP several weeks ago. Though Pedrosa was on the fence about competing in the Catalan GP, it comes as no surprise that the Spanish rider will sit out Silverstone, now having missed his home race in Barcelona.

What does come as surprising though is the very credible rumors that Pedrosa has re-injured his shoulder while doing some Supermoto training, and because of this incident, may sit out the rest of the season (which may have prompted the blog post itself). Boom goes the dynamite.

MotoGP: Crashes Shake-Up Qualifying at Jerez

04/02/2011 @ 5:44 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: Crashes Shake Up Qualifying at Jerez Ben Spies Yamaha Racing MotoGP Jerez Qualifying 635x423

Qualifying for the Spanish GP got underway today under the sunny, but windy skies of Jerez, Spain. Unsurprising to just about anyone, the Repsol Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were on the top of the time sheets, with local Jorge Lorenzo completing the front row and only 0.16 seconds off the qualifying pace. While the rank and order surprises few, all eyes will be on the latter stages of tomorrow’s race to see how Dani Pedrosa can manage with his ailing shoulder, which the Spaniard will have operated on immediately after the GP

The qualifying session saw a total of six riders hitting the tarmac and gravel traps, with many blaming the wind as a contributing factor. The list of riders crashing includes Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet, Karel Abraham, and Hiroshi Aoyama. Thankfully no one was injured, but in the case of Rossi, it meant trashing his preferred bike for the session, causing him to qualify on his other machine, and landing 12th on the starting grid.

He’ll be joined on the fourth row by teammate Nicky Hayden, who has been having a miserable season thus far on the Desmosedici GP11, and once again Randy de Puniet proved himself to be the fastest Ducati, qualifying seventh. Honorable mentions go out to John Hopkins, who continued his progress filling in for the injured Alvaro Bautista this weekend with a fourteenth grid position for tomorrow’s race. With a good start we could see a mid-pack finish for Hopper, who has shown marked improvement with each session on the Suzuki GSV-R.

With the rain very likely to make an appearance for tomorrow’s race, all bets are off for how the Spanish GP will shape-up.

Chapter 1: Your Cheat Sheet to the Qatar GP

03/20/2011 @ 6:34 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Chapter 1: Your Cheat Sheet to the Qatar GP Dani Pedrosa close up1 635x425

Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, the 2011 MotoGP Championship is about to kick off today. Asphalt & Rubber has made the trek out to the Middle East, coming to you straight from the Losail International Circuit located just outside of Doha, Qatar. The weather has been favorable here in Qatar, with the heat down during the day, the skies clear but at times hazy, and the humidity staying down during the evening sessions. Hosting a two-day testing session before the Qatar GP, the riders have been here in Doha for almost 10 days now.

While you enjoy the return of MotoGP racing action to your online feeds and television screens, we’ve put together a cheat sheet to the Qatar GP to fill you in with the off-season happenings, as well as what’s been going on in the paddock while we’ve been here at Losail. Hold on race fans, prototype motorcycle racing is coming at you very, very, very soon.

Honda Now Has Five Factory Riders – Knights San Carlo Honda Gresini as a Factory Squad

03/02/2011 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Honda Now Has Five Factory Riders   Knights San Carlo Honda Gresini as a Factory Squad San Carlo Gresini Honda launch 635x414

How serious is Honda about winning the 2011 MotoGP World Championship? At Team Gresini’s MotoGP launch at Monza today, it was quietly confirmed that the San Carlo Honda Gresini squad has been given the keys to the candy store, turning the team into a factory-backed effort. While Marco Simoncelli was already assured factory support from Honda for the 2011 season, the move adds Hiroshi Aoyama to the factory rider list, and likely makes Gresini’s life infinitely less complex by not having to manage between a factory and non-factory split garage.

Honda Wraps-Up Domination at Third Day of Sepang

02/24/2011 @ 6:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Honda Wraps Up Domination at Third Day of Sepang Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda Sepang test MotoGP 635x421

“Veni, Vidi, Vici” might as well be stenciled on the four factory Honda RC212V race bikes of Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, and Simoncelli, as the foursome has dominated the Malaysian track over the past three days of MotoGP testing. Casey Stoner takes the top prize though, climbing once again to the top of the time sheets, with Dani Pedrosa right behind him as the only other man to crack under the two minute barrier at Sepang. While these results aren’t too surprising to those following the off-season closely, the time sheets speak an interesting story for the rest of the field.

The Top 13 riders are clumped by manufacturer, and who leads each group is a bit surprising. Ben Spies bested teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who also found himself behind Colin Edwards from the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad. In the Ducati camp, it was Hector Barbera who had the fastest time, ahead of Hayden and Rossi who both shared a best lap of 2:01.469 in Day Three. Even Alvaro Bautista’s Suzuki made a surprisingly quick journey around the track at Sepang, as the Spanish rider was 8th fastest overall for the day.

Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang

02/22/2011 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang Casey Stoner Repsol Honda Sepang test MotoGP 635x421

Casey Stoner set the pace today at MotoGP’s second off-season test at Sepang. The Australian, and the rest of the four factory Honda riders, proved to be very impressive on the Malaysian track, as the 2011 Honda RC212V seems to be hitting its stride just before the season opener in Qatar in a few weeks.

The Honda riders don’t have things all sewn up though, as the Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo was looking very fast, as were Americans Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. Earlier in the day, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi even cracked into the Top 5 on the standings, and despite finishing the day just over a second behind Stoner, the Italian was upbeat about the team’s progress and his physical condition.

Official: Loris Capirossi to Pramac Ducati

10/28/2010 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Official: Loris Capirossi to Pramac Ducati Loris Capirossi Ducati Desmosedici GP711 635x422

Finally official after months of speculation, Pramac Ducati has announced the addition of MotoGP veteran Loris Capirossi to its quasi-satellite Ducati team. Signing a one-year contract, Capirex has already been released from his post-season duties with Suzuki, and will ride the green and white Pramac Ducati during the Valencian test in two week’s time.

Suzuki is not expected to replace Capirossi, and has instead forged a deal with Dorna that sees the Japanese company staying involved in GP racing through 2013. There is however some speculation that Hirosihi Aoyama could land on a satellite Suzuki, but that idea seems to be more wishful thinking, then a well formulated plan (the factory Suzuki had a hard enough time keeping up with the satellite squads, so how would a satellite Suzuki fare?).