Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Report: Honda RC213V-S Priced at ¥20 Million

01/16/2015 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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According to a report made by The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second largest daily newspaper, Honda has green-lit the RC213V-S project, with a price tag of 20 million yen — roughly $170,000 USD.

The Honda RC213V-S debuted at the 2014 EICMA show, and was as advertised: a MotoGP race bike with lights and mirrors added to it.

Honda teased show-goers and the media by say that the RC213V-S model was only a prototype, adding more fuel to the speculation regarding whether the Japanese firm would actually produce the long-awaited model.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 11: HRC Penalties Aid Marc Coma

01/15/2015 @ 5:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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The second half of the second marathon stage, Stage 11 saw a strong performance from the factory Honda riders, and rightly so. After a three-way engine swap by the riders, Salta saw Barreda, Goncalves, and Isreal working until 2am, and suffering time penalties because of their actions.

So while Joan Barreda claimed another stage-victory, with Paulo Goncalves finishing closely behind him, the reality is that Marc Coma’s lead over his HRC rivals has been lengthened to 21 minutes, with only two more stages of racing to go.

“Yesterday we had to change Paulo’s engine with mine, which was fresher, and I had to put Jeremías’ one in. We were working until two in the morning and we only rested for a couple of hours,” explained Barreda. “Everything went well and I was able to win. We have proved that we can win not only stages, but also the whole race. Right now, the main priority is a win for the team.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Coma Adds to His Lead

01/14/2015 @ 7:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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The 2015 Dakar Rally headed back into Argentina today, as Stage 10 took riders out of Calama and into Salta. Stage 10 is the start of another marathon stage, meaning only the riders will be able to work on their machines tonight and tomorrow, until the end of the riding of Stage 11.

While the first marathon stage likely helped determine this year’s winner, the second marathon stage seems to be less of an affair. KTM’s Marc Coma sits with a seven-and-a-half-minute lead over HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. Goncalves finished 5th today, to Coma’s second, roughly two-minutes behind the overall leader.

“It’s been a tough Dakar. We have to fight many adverse situations but after so many days and despite the suffering, I am still enjoying it. That is what is great about this race. It makes you confront your limits and when you think you can’t do any more, you face them and move on,” said Coma.

“Today’s stage was very hard and it was not easy to keep up a high pace. At first there was the altitude, and then a technical part that really tested us. I tried to keep up the same pace throughout the stage.”

Casey Stoner Will Continue To Test Ride for HRC in 2015

01/14/2015 @ 11:58 am, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

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Casey Stoner is to remain as a Honda test rider for another year. Today, HRC officially announced that the former world champion will undertake two tests for the factory during 2015.

The first test will be at Sepang from 29th to 31st of January, four days before the official MotoGP test at the circuit.

No date has been set for the second test, HRC stating only that it will be towards the end of the year, when Stoner will presumably be providing feedback on the 2016 machine.

No doubt this agreement will once again revive speculation that Stoner could return to MotoGP, but there is zero chance of that actually happening.

The Australian has stated both in public and to HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto that he does not want to race again, and has turned down an offer from HRC before.

His speed and the quality of the feedback he provides means he remains an extremely valuable asset to Honda’s test program.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 9: Honda Continues the Fight

01/13/2015 @ 7:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The last day in Bolivia, Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally was back to business for this weary bunch of competitors. Though the miles are counting down, the terrain isn’t getting any easier, and it’s starting to separate the field.

We’ve already seen the grueling course claim HRC’s Joan Barreda, perhaps dashing Honda’s best hopes of unseating KTM’s dominace of the iconic rally raid race. But HRC responded in-kind on Stage 9, taking four of the Top 5 spots…that lone remaining spot being Marc Coma’s.

While the factory KTM rider may not have much help on the time sheets from his teammates, KTMs well-run racing machine has kept the Spaniard out of trouble.

“It was foggy at the start of the special and I made one small navigation mistake and I lost some time there, but then I tried to push with a high rhythm to come back to my position,” said Coma. “The last part was also tricky navigation and it was difficult to find one of the waypoints. I am lucky because maybe I am faster than some of the others and I can push until the end. It’s okay. It was a good day for us.”

Coma now only has a five-and-a-half-minute lead, ahead of HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. The fellow Portuguese rider has shown fine form over The Dakar, and is perhaps HRC’s best hope of an overall win.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Coma Takes Overall Lead

01/12/2015 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Stage 8 proved to be a big day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as the riders had to compete on machines that they alone could only work on the day before, as Monday was the riding portion of yesterday’s start to the first marathon stage.

This added challenge by the race organizers likely decided the outcome of this year’s rally, as it left HRC’s Joan Barreda to work on his broken Honda CRF450 Rally without the aid of his mechanics. Losing a monumental amount of time on Stage 8, after suffering electrical issues — Barreda saw an unfitting end to his well fought Dakar Rally.

Those issues can surely be attributed to the wet weather and the Uyuni salt lake that the competitors had to cross, which made for a slurry of salt water and mud. Ultimately the stage would be cut short at the 378 km marker, because of weather, with little complaint from the competitors.

“In the end it’s been collateral damage, and a disgrace what they’ve made us do today; to race in a sea. It was out of place. All the work on all the projects that we’ve done has gone down the pan,” said a disappointed Barreda. “To make a decision like that just wasn’t right. Today you couldn’t see a thing; visibility was zero. We were floating around on top of the water. They ordered us to start and this is what happened; my Dakar is over.’

Honda Announces Its 2015 World Endurance Racing Team

01/12/2015 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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HRC continues its bid for an FIM Endurance World Championship, and has reconfirmed its team of Julien Da Costa, Freddy Foray, and Sebastien Gimbert for the 2015 season.

Honda switched strategies in the EWC last year, dropping its “TT Legends” squad of venerable road racers for the current trio of endurance experts.

The plan worked, as HRC finished 7th in the 2014 Endurance World Championship, winning the Oschersleben 8-hour in the process. This was a marked improvement over the 2013 season, where the Honda TT Legends team finished a disappointing 18th overall.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Coma Halves Time to Barreda

01/12/2015 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Fresh off their rest day on Saturday, the 2015 Dakar Rally competitors were back to work on Sunday for Stage 7. A difficult round on the road, riders had to contend with 11,000+ feet in elevation, rain, and snow — all while crossing into Bolivia.

The big news from Stage 7 was Marc Coma halving the difference to Joan Barreda, mainly as a result of the HRC rider breaking his handlebar in two, after a crash during the time special section. The factory KTM rider now trails Barreda by only 6 minutes, and more importantly will have a significant gap on the course from his rival, on Stage 8.

“It was a tough stage where you had to be careful, but when I came to a muddy section around kilometre 200, while I was breaking before a danger marked on the road book, the bike slid and I crashed,” explained Barreda.

“The handlebars were damaged, so I had to do the last 120 kilometres just with the right hand. I was pushing hard to lose a minimum of time, but that was not easy. We are now at the marathon stage, we are a great team and we will solve the problem with my teammates.”

Barreda finished the day 10th on the stage, while Coma crossed the line in second, in a close pack with stage winner HRC’s Paulo Goncalves and fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner, who finished third and continues to impress.

As if the route of The Dakar wasn’t hard enough, riders will not have the support of their teams at the end of the stage, as Stage 7 is the start of the first marathon stage for the motorbikes.

The timing of the marathon stage and Barreda’s crash could be fortuitous for Coma, but HRC has proven itself ready for this year’s Dakar, winning the lion’s share of the stages.

2015 Dakar Rally – Rest Day

01/10/2015 @ 4:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Saturday is a rest day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, giving riders and teams a chance to catch their breath, tune their bikes, and hone the strategies for the next eight stages, one of which is a marathon stage, where the teams cannot help the riders work on their bikes.

For KTM and Marc Coma, the day will be spent trying to figure out how to shake Joan Barreda from the four-time Dakar winner. For HRC and Barreda, the game is simple, cover Coma’s every action and don’t let him eat into the 12-minute gap that the Spaniard has built with his hard riding.

Meanwhile, Yamaha Racing’s Alessandro Botturi has been waiving the banner for the blue and white contingency, which has otherwise had an abysmal Dakar Rally without Cyril Despres in its ranks — Despres is racing this year in the car category. Botturi is 11th overall, having made up some serious time during the shake up on Stage 6.

Other rankings notables are Laia Sanz in 14th, the top female racer in the 2015 Dakar Rally. Alain Duclos of France is the top Sherco rider, which this year has partnered with TVS making the Sherco/TVS team.

With a lot of Dakar still to race, expect these standings to still move around. After the jump is the full listing of all 110 bike entries to The Dakar.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 6: A Shuffling of Things

01/10/2015 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Stage 6 of the 2015 Dakar Rally saw the riders head into Iquique, and while the course was fairly straight-forward, a navigational error at the front of the pack caused a shuffling in the stage’s finishing order.

Though first out of the gate, Marc Coma finished the day 7th, after crashing in the early parts of the stage. He was quickly caught by Joan Barreda, whose strategies seems to be sticking close to Coma at all costs, minimizing the KTM rider’s ability to gain time on his Honda rival.

This left HRC’s Helder Rodrigues who took the stage win, planting another flag for Honda in this year’s Dakar. The Japanese manufacturer is proving to be a serious contender in the Dakar Rally, and could upset KTM’s dominance of the rally raid event.

“I started out from behind, but I caught up with the riders who were opening the road. They were very quick, but I also had the speed to catch them,” said Rodrigues. “I’m pleased with the way it turned out and was very calm until the end. It’s rest-day tomorrow, which we really need, to get the energy back and plan next the second week as well as possible. I want to keep attacking and claw back a bit of time in the overall standings.”