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.

John Hopkins Takes First Race Win in 11 Years

05/03/2011 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

John Hopkins Takes First Race Win in 11 Years john hopkins british superbike oulton win 635x952

It was the first time that an American has won a British Superbike race, and his victory in Race 2 at Oulton Park was John Hopkins’s first race win in 11 years, making the event doubly special for the Anglo-American and his fans. Taking a second place finish in Race 1, Hopkins’s result this weekend was equally impressive as the Oulton track was another venue that the former MotoGP rider had to learn as he went.

Proving to be in top form on the Crescent Suzuki GSX-1000R, Hopper is now fourth in the British Superbike Championship. With a format a bit different than what us Americans are used to, moving into the the top six “Title Fighters” group of riders is tremendously important to winning the overall Championship. In BSB, only the riders who are in the top six in the points standings qualify to compete for the “British Superbike Champion” title, which occurs over the final three rounds of the season.

John Hopkins’s Track Notes at the Spanish GP

04/02/2011 @ 6:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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.

Welcome Back.

04/01/2011 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

John Hopkins to Ride for Rizla Suzuki Starting in Jerez

03/19/2011 @ 9:48 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

John Hopkins to Ride for Rizla Suzuki Starting in Jerez john hopkins rizla suzuki qatar test 635x422

John Hopkins has seemingly been unable to get out to Qatar in time to fill-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista, instead Rizla Suzuki will go without a rider for the Qatar GP. Despite that setback, Hopper will pick-up with the Suzuki squad at the Spanish GP, racing once again on the GSV-R at Jerez. Out of all the riders in the MotoGP paddock, Hopkins has had the most success with the Suzuki MotoGP bike, finishing fourth in the 2007 MotoGP Championship.

Álvaro Bautista Breaks Femur in FP3 at Qatar GP

03/18/2011 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Álvaro Bautista Breaks Femur in FP3 at Qatar GP T2P6278

UPDATE: A&R just had another chat with Rizla Suzuki, racing this weekend depends on the ability to get a rider to Qatar in-time. No decision has been made, but the impression was that if Hopper can get out to Qatar, he’d be in the saddle for Qualifying on Saturday evening.

We’ve just gotten confirmation from the Rizla Suzuki team that Alvaro Bautista had broken his femur from his high-speed crash in FP3 at the Qatar GP. Currently undergoing tests at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Bautista needs a pin for the broken bone, an operation the rider would like to undertake in his home country of Spain, but the team is still evaluating whether to undergo that surgery in Qatar.

Bautista’s highside crash occurred at considerable speed in Losail’s Turn 15, a fast left-hander. While the team will release more information later tonight, there are no plans to bring in a new rider for the Qatar GP race this weekend, and all eyes are now on whether Bautista return can return in time for the next MotoGP round, which is on April 3rd at Jerez.

John Hopkins’s Test with Rizla Suzuki Proves to be Literally Little More than a PR Stunt

03/13/2011 @ 6:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

John Hopkinss Test with Rizla Suzuki Proves to be Literally Little More than a PR Stunt John Hopkins Rizla Suzuki Qatar test 635x688

It seemed John Hopkins’s return to MotoGP was well underway, as reports earlier this year said the Anglo-American would be testing at MotoGP’s last pre-season test being held at Qatar this week; however Hopper’s stint on the GSV-R seems to have been relegated to merely doing some laps on the Suzuki MotoGP bike as part of a PR video campaign for the Rizla squad.

Hopper’s test originally was supposed to assess the former-MotoGP rider’s ability to apex a GP machine, and give Paul Denning’s squad an option should Alvaro Bautista become injured in the 2011 season. After Saturday’s filming though, Hopper’s return seems less likely, but the now British Superbike rider remains hopeful.

Hopkins to Wildcard in World Superbikes at Silverstone

03/03/2011 @ 8:59 am, by Victoria Reid9 COMMENTS

Hopkins to Wildcard in World Superbikes at Silverstone samsung crescent suzuki gsxr1000 635x448

Despite newly announced title sponsor Samsung, British Superbike squad Crescent Racing will not enter John Hopkins as a wildcard entry for the Donington Park round of World Superbike racing as previously expected. Instead, both the American rider and his new teammate, reigning BST Champion Jon Kirkham, will be entered for the British WSBK round at Silverstone later in the season.

Originally, the team had announced that Hopkins would race at Donington, but with a rider new to the team testing today at Cartagena, it seems as though Crescent Suzuki has decided to wait to join the WSBK fray. They will continue their testing March 8th at Guadix, Spain in advance of the BSB opener at Brands Hatch on April 25th.

Hopper Testing at Qatar with Rizla Suzuki

02/09/2011 @ 10:27 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Hopper Testing at Qatar with Rizla Suzuki John Hopkins Rizla Suzuki 635x423

It started out as a rumor, with Crash.net reporting that John Hopkins could see himself once again taking to the Suzuki GSV-R in a one-off wild card race during the 2011 season. That notion in the past few days has expanded to to include Hopper riding at the IRTA test in Qatar next month, presumably to see if he would be capable of replacing Alvaro Bautista, should the Spanish rider become injured during the 2011 season.

For those keeping track, that’s Hopkins going from the AMA, to the BSB Championship, and now MotoGP (albeit as an alternate) in a matter of months; and as MCN reports, it’s due largely to the fact that Paul Denning owns not only the Crescent Suzuki Team, but is also the Team Manager for the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP effort.

Official: Hopper to British Superbikes

01/19/2011 @ 9:37 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Official: Hopper to British Superbikes john hopkins bsb1 635x423

Truly official now, John Hopkins has signed-on with the Crescent Suzuki British Superbike team for the 2011 season. Hopper’s first duty on the BSB team will be to test at the upcoming sessions at the Spanish tracks of Cartagena and Guadix. Crescent Suzuki also says that Hopkins will ride as a wildcard entry at the World Superbike round at Donington Park in March, which precedes the season BSB opener at Brands Hatch in April.

“I am really looking forward to BSB and working with Crescent again, it will obviously be a different crew but I know they are a great group of guys and that will be a good foundation to start the season. It is going to be a huge challenge for me, I know there are new tracks to learn, but I am not too concerned,” said Hopkins