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.

Michael Dunlop Announces He Won’t Race in 2014

11/19/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Michael Dunlop Announces He Won’t Race in 2014 24 Hours Le Mans EWC 2013 Kevin Warren 12 635x417

After failing to secure a deal that he was satisfied with, Michael Dunlop has announced that he will not be racing during the 2014 season. The news comes just weeks after the Honda TT Legends squad released Dunlop, after the two parties failed to agree on a contract after several offers from Honda Europe had been made.

The talk of the 2013 Isle of Man TT, Michael Dunlop had a breakout performance this season, which also saw him competing in the FIM Endurance World Championship for the Honda TT Legends crew. Replacing John McGuinness at the Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race, and besting Mr. McPint in the solo classes at the TT, it seemed like Dunlop’s coming of age had arrived.

Unfortunately with no ride in sight for the 2014 season, it would seem Dunlop’s momentum is about to grind to a halt.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans with Kevin Warren

09/24/2013 @ 4:06 pm, by Kevin Warren8 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: All in a Day’s Time

09/24/2013 @ 3:31 pm, by Kevin WarrenComments Off

Trackside Tuesday: All in a Days Time honda tt legends le mans 24 hour kevin warren 635x422

In the world of motorcycle racing the Isle of Man TT is indeed infamous, and as a photographer I have been lucky enough to shoot on the Isle in the Irish Sea. When my letter of credential for the Le Mans 24 Hour Moto arrived, I was beyond ecstatic — my charge would be to cover those same TT riders as they participated in the FIM World Endurance Championship finale at Le Mans.

An overnight flight from my home in Atlanta, and a train ride from Paris to Le Mans, and I was on-site 48 hours later. There are times when arriving at a circuit that I have never shot can be daunting, but one walk thru the door to the Honda TT Legends pits and I felt at home. As much due to the familiar faces, as to the more relaxed atmosphere of the team here at Le Mans versus the intensity at the Isle of Man.

Race Results from the 24 Hours of Le Mans

09/23/2013 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Race Results from the 24 Hours of Le Mans 24 hours le mans start kevin warren 2013 635x398

After 24 hours of racing around a tiny historic track in France, the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorcycle endurance race, and final round of the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship has finally come to an end. A race of attrition, SRC Kawasaki claimed the top podium step, followed by Suzuki France’s Team R2CL (which was blessed with the addition of Guy Martin for the event), with Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube rounding out the final position.

The conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans also means that the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship rankings have been settled, with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) clinching the Championship, yet again, despite the team’s disappointing 26th place finish overall in Le Mans. Second in the Championship is the Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube squad, with SRC Kawasaki closing out the top three spot, for the four-round championship.

Kevin Schwantz & Team Kagayama Podium at Suzuka

07/28/2013 @ 9:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Kevin Schwantz & Team Kagayama Podium at Suzuka kevin schwantz suzuka 8 hour 635x423

Seeing the return of American racing legend Kevin Schwantz to FIM road racing, the 2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race was certainly one to remember.

While the return of Schwantz overshadowed many of the other big names in the sport that competed in the event, not to mention the former World Champion’s own teammates: Noriyuki Haga & Yukio Kagayama, the Suzuka starting grid was also blessed with the entries of Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Josh Brookes, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Simon Andrews, and American Jason Pridmore.

Though a long eight-our race, the on-course action was surprisingly close, with the Top 5 teams on the same lap well past the three-hour mark. Team Kagayama was in good shape for a solid result from the onset of the race, as Noriyuka Haga put the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a solid fourth position.

The team rose as high as second-position with Team Manager Yukio Kagayama on-board, as the Suzuka specialist kept a solid pace, and benefited from the pit stops of other teams, not to mention the retirement of the FCC TSR Honda team, which had a race-ending crash with Ryuichi Kiyonari at the helm.

While the crash from Kiyonari on the FCC TSR Honda dashed the race-win-repeat hopes of World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea, Kevin Schwantz finally dazzled fans in the third hour as he took to the course. For all the postulation that the 49-year-old was over the hill for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Texan held his own on the Kagayama Suzuki, and managed to keep Team Kagayama in the podium hunt, especially as other top teams succumbed to the rigors of endurance racing.

Race Results from the Suzuka 8 Hours

07/28/2013 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ride with John McGuinness at Suzuka

07/26/2013 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Ride with John McGuinness at Suzuka Honda TT Legends Suzuka 8 Hour 05 635x423

The pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on the Endurance World Championship calendar.

Immensely popular with the fans and fielded with a bevy of expert local teams, even the Japanese OEMs take the Suzuka 8 Hours very seriously — and are not above stacking their factory squads with the top riders from various national and international road racing series.

One such team at Suzuka is the Honda TT Legends crew, which as the name implies, is made up of legends from the Isle of Man TT: John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews. Backed by Honda Europe, McPint & crew are on some top machinery, but as they have already seen in qualifying, that’s only part of the battle.

With Rutter and Andrews having never ridden at Suzuka before, the team has a steep learning curve, though over the eight-hour race, we think they will have plenty of time to crawl back from their 29th spot qualifying, and into their Top 10 goal. Racing kicks off Sunday at 11:30am local (JST), but until then enjoy this on-board footage and witty banter from Mr. TT.

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results

06/07/2013 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results john mcguinness 2013 senior tt isle of man tt richard mushet 635x423

The blue ribbon event of the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT is typically the most-welcomed race at the end of the TT fortnight, but after seeing the 2012 race cancelled (for the first time ever outside of World War I & II), on the account of rain, the 2013 PokerStars Senior TT has an amazing amount of build-up.

As if the running of the fastest machines on the Mountain Course wasn’t enough, there was the prospect that Michael Dunlop could sweep the five main solo-classes, a feat only ever done once before, by Ian Hutchinson.

As the flag dropped, and we held our breaths to see if John McGuinness would get his first race win this TT fortnight, if Micky D could make the clean sweep, or if another competitor would rise to the challenge (Guy Martin, anyone?), tragedy struck: a red flag on the first lap.

Jonathan Howarth went off at Bray Hill, and though he was hurt, but ok, the accident injured 10 spectators, one critically. Having already waited two years to see the return of the Senior TT, fans at the Isle of Man would have to wait a little longer it would seem.

In a statement by the ACU that was published right after the incident, “ten spectators and the rider were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from slight to serious but not life threatening. Four of the spectators have been discharged, five of the injured have been kept in hospital and one remains under observation in the emergency department.”

A racing event fraught with tragedy and real-world danger, we all breathed a sigh of relief a dodging another tragic outcome at this year’s TT. Moving onward thanfully, the 2013 Senior TT resumed three hours later, click past the jump for its race results.

Video: Honda TT Legends Pays Tribute to Joey Dunlop

06/04/2013 @ 10:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Video: Honda TT Legends Pays Tribute to Joey Dunlop John McGuinness Joey Dunlop Honda livery IOMTT Richard Mushet 03 635x423

We would be remiss in our coverage of the 2013 Isle of Man TT if we didn’t say a few more words about Joey Dunlop. A legend of the sport, Joey is the winningest rider ever to race at the Isle of Man, and has 26 TT race wins to his name. Unfortunately, Joey died while road racing in Estonia, losing control of his 125cc race bike in the wet conditions.

The longest standing Honda rider of all time, Big Red wanted to pay tribute to Dunlop at this year’s TT, as it marked the 30th anniversary of Joey’s first win with the Japanese brand. Picking John McGuinness to ride in Joey’s livery, the current King of the Mountain started his career as a teammate to Joey, and was honored to pay homage to the racing legend.

In the video, you can hear McGuinness getting a bit choked up talking about his idol, and we think all the TT fans on the course enjoyed seeing Joey’s old colors go by. He truly is a legend of our sport. Enjoy Honda TT Legends’ video after the jump.

IOMTT: Monster Energy Supersport Race 1 Results

06/04/2013 @ 1:13 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: Monster Energy Supersport Race 1 Results Supersport Superstock race Isle of Man TT Tony Goldsmith 09 635x421

Like the sidecars, the Isle of Man TT features two Supersport races during the TT fortnight, and the Supersport TT has riders taking their600cc class machinery for a shorter four-lap race.

A stepping stone from the Lightweight class, which is limited to sub-650cc twins, the Supersports serve as a gateway to the bigger bikes, and usually have a different mix of riders filling vying for the front.

With the foul weather from the practice week behind them, the TT riders were treated with a perfect day for racing on The Rock, and we have a full report on who made it into the winner’s circle after the jump.