Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

Saturday at Assen with Scott Jones

06/27/2011 @ 12:01 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Friday at Assen with Scott Jones

06/25/2011 @ 8:20 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

Thursday at Assen with Scott Jones

06/24/2011 @ 5:59 am, by Scott JonesComments Off

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.

Aprilia/FIM Deny Any Irregularities on Biaggi’s Bike at Assen

04/21/2011 @ 8:21 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Aprilia/FIM Deny Any Irregularities on Biaggis Bike at Assen Aprilia RSV4 engine 635x508

Quite a stir was made on Tuesday when news hit the interwebs (including on A&R) that an illegal fuel pump was found on Max Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 Factory race bike at Assen. With World Superbike regulations requiring that the fuel system be completely unmodified from stock, the story was two-fold as it appeared something about the #1 plated Aprilia was awry, and seemingly no penalty was levied by Race Direction.

Subsequent to this news Gigi Dall’Igna, Technical Director of Aprilia’s World Superbike program, has categorically denied anything illegal about Biaggi’s fuel pump, simply stating that the only difference between Biaggi’s pump and those on Camier and Haga’s RSV4’s was the number stamped on the side…which was different on every unit. In addition to this news, Infront Media Sports emailed Asphalt & Rubber last night, and further explained the situation, also explaining that no irregularities had been found on Biaggi’s race bike at the Dutch round.

Max Biaggi Continues to Have a Hard Time Making Friends

04/18/2011 @ 10:20 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Max Biaggi Continues to Have a Hard Time Making Friends Max Biaggi Assen Superpole 2011 635x469

It’s been a tough season so far for Max Biaggi. The reigning World Superbike Champion has had a decent start to the 2011 season, and currently sits second in the point standings after three race weekends, but his progress has been nothing like the blitzkrieg campaign he accomplished last year. Facing a non-factory Ducati that seemingly rides like a factory bike, Biaggi is 43 points behind Carlos Checa, while the devilishly quick WSBK rookie and former MotoGP contender Marco Melandri is only four points behind his fellow Italian.

Likely feeling the pressure to bring honor to the #1 plate, we’ve already seen Biaggi revert back to some of his old antics of the past. With the “slap” incident from Donington Park still fresh in peoples’ minds, more accusations come from riders that the Roman Emperor has been blocking and in the way during the Superpole qualifying event, and this time those accusations come from inside the Aprilia garage.

WSBK: Battle to the Finish in Race 2 at Assen

04/17/2011 @ 11:04 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Battle to the Finish in Race 2 at Assen World Superbike Assen 2011 635x364

Carlos Checa started the second World Superbike race at Assen in pole position, after wise tire management left him the only rider in Superpole 3 on Saturday with an unused qualifying tire. He was joined on the front row by Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga. It was the first front row start (other than that for Race 1) for the Irish rider in his WSBK rookie season.

Laverty’s teammate Marco Melandri had worse luck, crashing on his final lap in Superpole 3 and only qualifying eighth. The second WSBK race at Assen got off to a late start after the Supersport race had multiple red flags. It had become somewhat cloudier as the afternoon progressed, but hampered the racing little.

WSBK: Close Racing Shakes Up the Order in Race 1 at Assen

04/17/2011 @ 10:42 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Close Racing Shakes Up the Order in Race 1 at Assen Marco Melandri Assen WSBK 2011 635x558

Carlos Checa started on his third straight pole of the 2011 World Superbike season at Assen, with Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga sitting beside him on the front row after Saturday’s qualifying. Despite similar cool temperatures and a grey sky, considerably less drama surrounded the paddock Saturday in Assen than three weeks previously at Donington Park.

A contrite Max Biaggi started sixth, while rival Marco Melandri crashed on his final run in Q3 and qualified eighth. Melandri was unhurt, though teammate Laverty’s position on the front row showed the sort of pace their Yamahas were capable of for qualifying.

Second place starter Smrz had led most of the early practice and qualifying sessions, only to be beaten by tire management, as Checa was the only rider with a fresh qualifying tire for the final Q3 session. Chris Vermeulen did not make Superpole, but did start the race, after spending most of his time between Donington and this race testing his recovering knee across Europe.

The also-injured James Toseland was replaced by Dutch rider Barry Veneman after a testing crash left him unable to compete. Sunday morning was sunny, with Camier taking the lead during the morning warm-up. Haslam, Checa, Rea, and Melandri completed the fastest five, while Smrz was fourteenth, Laverty eighteenth, and Vermeulen nineteenth.

WSBK: Fresh Tires Aid Checa to Superpole at Assen

04/16/2011 @ 10:26 am, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

WSBK: Fresh Tires Aid Checa to Superpole at Assen Jonathan Rea Assen WSBK Superpole 2011 635x742

Having dominated the final qualifying session under a cloudy sky and in cool temperatures, Carlos Checa won pole (1:35.292) for the World Superbike round at Assen. The Spaniard won pole for the third race weekend in a row, added by the fact that he was the only rider to have a fresh qualifying tire for the third Superpole session. He will be joined on the front row for Sunday’s races by Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga. Though none could touch Checa at the end, the Superpole sessions were marked by very close lap times, with the twelve riders in Superpole 2 covered by a half second. Only Marco Melandri crashed during the Superpole sessions, on his last lap while attempting to fight for pole. He was unhurt and qualified eighth.

Veneman Replaces Toseland for Home WSBK at Assen

04/06/2011 @ 10:52 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Veneman Replaces Toseland for Home WSBK at Assen Barry Veneman 635x423

Barry Veneman will replace the injured James Toseland at BMW Motorrad Italia for the World Superbike round at Assen. Toseland had surgery to implant wires in his wrist after a testing crash at Motorland Aragon left him with displaced bones and a lack of blood flow. With the surgery requiring at least six weeks of recovery time, Toseland was forced to sit out Donington Park and the next WSBK round at Assen. BMW Motorrad Italia did not replace Toseland for Donington, but has announced Dutch rider Veneman as the Briton’s replacement for the round held April 17th.

Veneman, who competed in 500cc MotoGP racing back in 2001, was a promising rider in Supersport and Superstock racing. He won a Dutch national championship in the mid-1990s, and much more recently he won the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race with Suzuki. Not only a local to the Assen circuit, Veneman has been racing a BMW Superbike in the German national championship as well as participating in BMW Motorrad testing.