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.

Ride Review: Honda CBR1000RR SP

02/18/2014 @ 2:23 pm, by Iwan van der Valk19 COMMENTS

Ride Review: Honda CBR1000RR SP 2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP review Iwan 08

The 2014 CBR1000RR Fireblade is once again an upgrade of the existing model: Honda’s flagship race-rep was first introduced back in 2008, and though it has received a couple of small updates here and there, it hasn’t been properly updated in a lengthy six years now.

It’s not all bad though, as Honda now presents the most complete and best Fireblade ever: the 2014 CBR1000RR SP. Both the SP and standard model receive a slightly altered riding position, three extra horsepower and two full pounds of weight loss.

The SP model is further enhanced – quite predictably – by mounting higher spec components such as brakes and suspension. The front receives high-class Öhlins NIX30 forks and Brembo monobloc brake calipers, while the well known TTX36 shock upgrades the rear suspension.

Honda mentiones that the engines are ‘blueprinted’ – the different components are specifically selected to work better together – but this is not shown in the output numbers.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP – A Better Fireblade

11/04/2013 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP   A Better Fireblade 2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP 18 635x423

The Honda CBR1000RR is a great street bike, albeit a little long-in-the-tooth in the fast-paced liter-bike category. The big hope and rumor for the 2013 EICMA show was that Honda would have its V4-powered superbike finally ready for debut, though plans for that machine seem to have been delayed…again.

Instead, Big Red has for us the 2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP, which is basically your standard Fireblade with premium kit bolted onto it, along with a very gentle engine massaging.

This sort of dual-pronged approach is fairly standard fare for the European brands (did you see what Ducati just did with the Monster 1200 and Monster 1200 S?), but for a Japanese OEM like Honda, it is a pretty revolutionary approach to model segmentation, but we digress.

Honda’s V4 Homologation Special Confirmed But Delayed

10/07/2013 @ 4:19 am, by David Emmett42 COMMENTS

Hondas V4 Homologation Special Confirmed But Delayed honda nr750 transparent 635x425

That the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade is getting a little long in the tooth has been obvious for several years now. And that Honda is planning a very special V4 sportsbike to take the Fireblade’s place on the World Superbike grid has also been broadly mooted for the past couple of years.

The existence of the V4 1000 was first publicly acknowledged by Honda president Takanobu Ito, who spoke openly about the bike at the end of 2012.

Since then, there have been constant rumors that the new Honda superbike was to be introduced at EICMA in Milan this coming November. So persistent had the rumors become that Honda Italia last week was forced to issue a denial, sending out a press release to the Italian media insisting that the bike will not be introduced at the EICMA this November.

Honda CEO Confirms V4 Sport Bike Project is Underway

09/20/2012 @ 10:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

Honda CEO Confirms V4 Sport Bike Project is Underway Honda RC213V Scott Jones

It has been a long time coming with this announcement, but Honda has finally officially announced that work has begun on what is presumed to be a V4 sport bike. In the same vein as the Honda RC30 that was introduced back in 1987, Honda has apparently seen the light, and according to the company’s own words, the company has started “with a goal to create a new history.”

Announcing the new model in his end-of-the-fiscal year speech, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito was terse with his words in describing the new Honda sport bike, but referencing the RC30 project, along with heavy rumors that we have been hearing about a V4 street bike project in the works that was being based of Honda’s MotoGP program — this almost assures that the bike referenced is a V4 superbike based loosely on the RC213V race bike.

Up-Close with McGuinness’s Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR

06/06/2012 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Up Close with McGuinnesss Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR John McGuinness Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR 02 635x425

The bike that carried John McGuinness to his 18th career Isle of Man TT win, the very same Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR could be the King of the Mountain’s stead to an even 20 wins this TT fortnight. Making 200+ bhp, the factory-backed Honda CBR1000RR has to contend with some of the most gruel miles in racing, and has the scars to prove it. Pitted and potted with rocks and pebbles from the course, McGuinness’s ride on the CBR is an equally tumultuous affair.

Splitting his time equally between head shakes and wheelies, it is no small feat in keeping a TT bike on-line at the famous road course. Only able to complete two laps before needing to be refueled, the Honda TT Legends race team has not only optimized the Honda CBR1000RR for the 37.733 mile Snaefell Mountain Course, but also for the single and double pitstops it will have in the Senior TT and Junior TT races, respectively.

Looking at the bikes of the other teams, what is most striking about McGuinness’s ride, aside from its drool-worthy livery homage to the Honda RC30, is how stock the bike appears. Sure, there is a heavily massaged and tuned motor underneath that bodywork, and the bike’s top-shelf brakes, wheels, and quick-shifter are readily apparent, but for a bike that any racer would kill to ride, the Honda TT Legends CBR is rather unassuming, as is its portly rider. Maybe that is how they like it.

IOMTT: McGuinness Sends a Message at First Practice Night

05/29/2012 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

IOMTT: McGuinness Sends a Message at First Practice Night john mcguinness honda tt legends isle of man tt daniel lo 635

Monday night marked the first practice session for the returning riders to the Isle of Man TT, and John McGuinness got things started off on the right foot. While most riders at the TT spent the evening shaking off the cobwebs, sorting out new bikes, and generally getting a feel for thing, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner McGuinness went out onto the Mountain Course, dropped a 128.267 mph lap on his third lap of the day, and promptly called it a night.

With the Top 15 riders were lapping in the lower 120’s, McGuinness was the talk of the Isle today, and sent a clear message to his competitors with his lap: the Lancastrian means business this fortnight. Feeling very comfortable on his Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR, McGuinness’s time is sure to get into the heads of his TT rivals, as they go out again this evening for the second practice session for the solo classes. McGuinness is the holder of the outright fastest race lap around the Mountain Course, with a 131.578 mph average course speed.

Honda TT Legends’ CBR1000RR is Sex on Two Wheels

02/29/2012 @ 12:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR is Sex on Two Wheels Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR livery small 02 635x419

When it comes to motorcycles that pitch more tents than a Boy Scout Jamboree, the Honda CBR1000RR probably isn’t at the top of your list. That’s not a slight to the venerable CBR, but Honda has always been more of a “function over form” type of brand. That being said, I never thought I would see that when Honda would give up its technological dominance in production sport bikes, but for 2012 the Honda CBR1000RR will have to fight the battle of being low-tech offering in war where electronics are the new horsepower.

While the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR is likely not to come out the victor in sport bike sales figures this year, the Japanese company has a very good chance of dominating at the Isle of Man TT in a few months. Of course it helps when you have “King of the Mountain” John McGuinness at the helm of your TT bike, but we’ve got hand it to the Japanese brand, as the TT Legends scheme that McGuinness and Simon Andrews will race at the IOMTT and Northwest 200 makes us forget all about the fact that the Fireblade comes sans an sort of electrical aids. Get your computer desktop ready, jumbo resolution photos await you after the jump.

Watch Jonathan Rea’s Record WSBK Superpole at Portimao from a Mechanic’s Point of View

12/19/2011 @ 6:16 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Watch Jonathan Reas Record WSBK Superpole at Portimao from a Mechanics Point of View Jonathan Rea Superpol Portimao 635x442

Taking the pole position at the final World Superbike round at Portimao, Jonathan Rea not only put his Castrol Honda on the front of the grid, but also broke set the fastest lap ever for a motorcycle at the Portuguese track. Fortuitously, the factory Honda WSBK team fitted one of its mechanics with a GoPro camera to capture the Superpole from the team’s point-of-view. At 6’10” tall (2.1 meters), the view provided by Daniel Postmus is not only one that few get to witness in side the team garage, but also comes from an altitude slightly higher than many are accustomed.

Lagging all season, the Castrol Honda team found some momentum in the latter races of the season, more specifically when the team was allowed to outfit its WSBK-spec Honda CBR1000RR with ride-by-wire throttle control. Hopefully the team can keep that momentum going forward, as it will have to contend with another season on an only mildly updated racing platform, the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR. Video after the jump.

MotoGP: Michele Pirro to Gresini on a FTR Honda CRT Bike

12/06/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Michele Pirro to Gresini on a FTR Honda CRT Bike Michele Pirro Gresini Moto2 635x423

Michele Pirro finished his 2011 Moto2 season on a high note, winning the final round at Valencia for the Gresini Racing team. Coming on the heels of MotoGP’s final tribute to Marco Simoncelli, the victory was an especially emotional one for the young Italian rider and his team. Finishing seventh in the Moto2 Championship standings, Pirro’s hard work has earned him a promotion into MotoGP, where the rookie rider will campaign a CRT bike with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team.

Gresini has confirmed that the team will use an FTR chassis, which will be custom-built to use a Honda CBR1000RR motor. This brings the total number of confirmed CRT entries up to five, with several more CRT entries still expected to commit to the 2012 MotoGP Championship. This news means we should see at least 20 bikes on the grid for the MotoGP opener at Qatar, though the question remains: how competitive will they be?

Officially Official: 2012 Honda CBR1000RR / Fireblade

09/24/2011 @ 1:42 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Officially Official: 2012 Honda CBR1000RR / Fireblade 2012 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade USA 635x411

Breaking cover over a month ago, the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR is now officially official according to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer. Confirming the fears of some Fireblade enthusiasts, the new Honda CBR1000RR gets only some basic tweaks for 2012, namely revised suspension (including Big Piston Forks), new 12-spoke wheel design, and smoother fuel-injection mapping. This news puts to rest claims that the 2012 Honda Fireblade would be receiving ride-by-wire throttle control for the next model year, despite the fact that World Superbike has changed its rules to allow the Castrol Honda team to use the technology starting at Imola (which is already showing some positive results for the struggling squad).