Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1 — On Penalty Points, Precedent, & Contact Sports

11/14/2013 @ 11:23 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1    On Penalty Points, Precedent, & Contact Sports marc marquez phillip island motogp scott jones 635x423

It has been a busy year for MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb. Since taking on the job of ensuring that MotoGP events take place safely and efficiently, stepping into the shoes vacated by Paul Butler at the start of the 2012 season, Webb has faced some tough decisions and unusual situations, his second year in the job even more eventful than the first.

In response to criticism over the warning system in 2012, a new penalty points system was introduced to allow for harsher penalties for persistent offenders.

There were several high-profile incidents involving Marc Marquez in his rookie season, including a clash with Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez, a touch which severed the traction control sensor of teammate Dani Pedrosa’s Honda and caused Pedrosa to crash, and the situation at Phillip Island, where the new asphalt at the circuit caused the tires to degrade much more than the two spec tire manufacturers had expected, requiring last-minute adjustments to the race schedule on the fly.

We spoke with Mike Webb extensively at Valencia, on the Thursday evening before the race, covering the above subjects and more, and reviewing his second year as Race Director.

In the first part of the interview, Webb talks of whether motorcycle racing is a contact sport, how the penalty system has worked out, explains why Marc Marquez was not given points at Jerez, why Jorge Lorenzo wasn’t penalized for the touch at Sepang, and of changing perceptions.

Q&A: Randy Mamola Talks About the MotoGP Season So Far

08/15/2013 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Q&A: Randy Mamola Talks About the MotoGP Season So Far randy mamola day of stars laguna seca jensen beeler 635x423

With MotoGP’s summer break officially underway (and just days away from now concluding), Asphalt & Rubber sat down with Randy Mamola at the finish of the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, to get the Grand Prix legend’s perspective on how the 2013 MotoGP Championship was shaping up so far in his eyes.

Obviously, the man of the hour at the time of our discussion was Marc Marquez, who had just recreated one the most talked about passes in motorcycle racing history, and had won at one of the most enigmatic tracks on the GP calendar…after having never been to Laguna Seca before, naturally.

Sharing his insights on Marquez and the talent that the Repsol Honda rider exudes, Mamola gave us his unique perspective on the leaders for this year’s MotoGP title, amongst other issues in the paddock. Read the Q&A from our dialogue after the jump.

KTM Wants to Race in Moto2 & WSBK – No ROI in MotoGP

07/15/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

KTM Wants to Race in Moto2 & WSBK   No ROI in MotoGP KTM RC250GP Moto3 Production Racer 635x420

Speaking during an interview with the company’s corporate blog, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke his mind about the current state of international road racing, and KTM’s involvement with both the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships, and their support classes.

Stating that MotoGP lacked any return for the massive monetary investment it would require from the Austrian manufacturer, Pierer did go on to later to praise the Moto2 format as one that he would like to see KTM to compete in, with some changes of course.

Interview: Cal Crutchlow – The Long Winding Road to Glory

07/10/2013 @ 1:02 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Interview: Cal Crutchlow   The Long Winding Road to Glory cal crutchlow monster yamaha tech 3 motogp scott jones 635x422

Cal Crutchlow has not taken the customary route into MotoGP. No racing 125′s in the Spanish Championship, before the inevitable climb up through the Grand Prix support classes to MotoGP. Instead, he took a very sideways path, through BSB, World Supersport, and World Superbike, before encountering a very tough first year in MotoGP.

That circuitous path has stood him in good stead, however. Crutchlow is now on the brink of breaking into the elite circle of riders who have won a MotoGP race in the dry, and his services are in demand. It is surely just a matter of time.

I sat down with Crutchlow at Assen, with the intention of trying to extract the secret of his riding from him. I had a whole line of questions lined up on the technicalities of braking, the mechanics of cornering and how to race a MotoGP bike, but I got distracted by a long and philosophical chat before my recorder was turned on.

By the time we started the interview proper, it went off in a different, but just as fascinating direction. Cal Crutchlow talks about his love for the sport of motorcycle racing, how he got started, how he arrived in MotoGP, and why it is so important to be a factory rider. And why it is so very, very difficult to win a race in MotoGP.

Casey Stoner Rules Out a MotoGP Return…Again

06/15/2013 @ 1:04 am, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

Casey Stoner Rules Out a MotoGP Return...Again casey stoner podium hrc motogp scott jones 635x422

Casey Stoner has quashed rumors that he could make a return to MotoGP. In an interview with the British magazine Autosport, he says he will not come back to Grand Prix racing while it continues in the direction it is heading in. “I’m closed. I’m done with it,” Stoner told Autosport.

There have been persistent rumors that Stoner could come back for a couple of wildcards at the end of the season, though the Australian has denied he would be interested in coming in as a wildcard.

More outlandish rumors surfaced a month ago, claiming that Stoner was close to making a shock return to Ducati, and that the Italian company’s new German ownership had offered him a large sum to race again.

Q&A with Peter Clifford Interview: Red Bull Rookies in Moto3, The European Junior Cup, & Female Riders

06/12/2013 @ 3:03 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

Q&A with Peter Clifford Interview: Red Bull Rookies in Moto3, The European Junior Cup, & Female Riders red bull rookies cup scott jones 635x793

That the Red Bull Rookies Cup has been a huge success goes without saying. Former rookies now fill the front of the Moto3 grid, and are starting to make an impact in Moto2. The goal of the Red Bull Rookies Cup, of bringing young riders from around the world into Grand Prix racing, has clearly been met.

So successful has it been that two years ago, the World Superbike series set up a similar project. After a modest first year, the European Junior Cup is thriving in its second year, and providing some fantastic racing for talented young riders.

At Jerez earlier this year, we had the opportunity to talk to Red Bull Rookies Cup supervisor Peter Clifford about the series he is involved in, as well has the European Junior Cup. He gave us his view of the rival series, but also on a range of other subjects.

The interview covered the difference between four-strokes and two-strokes, the range of nationalities participating in the Rookies Cup, the complementary role of the European Junior Cup, and the approach the Rookies Cup is taking towards female riders in the series. As always, Clifford provides plenty of food for thought.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati claudio domenicali 635x954

When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

Q&A: Kevin Schwantz Talks COTA, MotoGP, & the Future of American Road Racing

04/24/2013 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Q&A: Kevin Schwantz Talks COTA, MotoGP, & the Future of American Road Racing kevin schwantz interview jensen beeler 635x422

The Thursday before the start of the Grand Prix of the Americas, Asphalt & Rubber was part of a quick event put on by Dainese and Ducati Austin, which allowed fans to meet Kevin Schwantz. Before the start of that evening’s meet-and-greet, I got to sit down with the former 500cc World Champion, and pick his brain not only about the current events happening with the Circuit of the Americas, but also about what was occurring on a larger scale within the American road racing scene.

While Mr. Schwantz could only provide limited answers about what was going on with the Texan track and his ongoing litigation with the circuit, his opinions on MotoGP and AMA Pro Racing were insightful, and serve as a serious warning about the state of American road racing not only here in the US, but also abroad in the various World Championships. It is a bit of a long read (Mr. Schwantz was more than generous with his time), but I think you will enjoy the exchange and perspective he shared during the interview.

MotoGP: Marquez Explains His Differences at Jerez & Austin

03/28/2013 @ 1:33 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

MotoGP: Marquez Explains His Differences at Jerez & Austin marc marquez elbow jerez hrc motogp

Marc Marquez entered MotoGP surrounded by hype and with high expectations. After a wet test at Valencia, where he showed he was fast, but not quite how fast, the Spaniard went to Sepang, where he posted very good times in a private test. At the full Sepang MotoGP tests, Marquez was genuinely impressive, never finishing outside the Top 4.

At Austin, Marquez stunned observers. The young Spaniard, still only a rookie in the MotoGP class, with only a few days on a MotoGP bike under his belt, dominated at the Austin test, topping the timesheets on all three days of the private test. It was not as if he didn’t have any competition at the circuit: both the factory Yamaha and Honda teams were at the Austin test, and Marquez beat Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi to set the fastest time.

So it was something of a surprise when Marquez failed to duplicate his impressive pace in Malaysia and Texas when MotoGP rolled up at Jerez for the final test of the season.

Though Marquez was 3rd fastest in the wet, once conditions improved – though they were never perfect – the Repsol Honda rookie got left behind a little, finishing the second day in 7th spot, nearly 1.2 seconds behind fastest man Valentino Rossi, and 5th spot on day three, 0.6 behind Cal Crutchlow.

Marquez left the three day test as 6th overall, six tenths behind the fastest man of the test Cal Crutchlow, and over a tenth behind Stefan Bradl, his main rival during the 2011 Moto2 season.

So what happened? Where did Marc Marquez’ speed suddenly disappear to? When asked by reporters on Sunday, the Spaniard had a few explanations. “Today was difficult,” Marquez acknowledged, “but I think it’s normal. It was the first time in dry conditions on this track.”

Don’t Call It a Bromance: Pedrosa on Marquez on Pedrosa

03/27/2013 @ 3:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Dont Call It a Bromance: Pedrosa on Marquez on Pedrosa dani pedorsa marc marquez bromance

I don’t know who sold HRC and the Repsol Honda on their aggressive social media strategy, but it is winning over our hearts and minds. It seems it was only last year that we bemoaning the un-dynamic duo of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, two riders through either their shyness (Pedrosa) or PR whitewashing (Marquez) were about as lovable to the global MotoGP audience as metal flakes in an oil change.

At that same time of course, we were being entertained by the online banter between Yamaha’s mechanics and riders, who were adding to the on-track spectacle with their off-the-track banter, insights, and analysis. What a difference a year makes though, because Yamaha Racing has reportedly clamped down on its members taking to social media, and HRC is looking more and more like a social media genius.

Latest from Repsol’s media pool is a video that pits young-gun Marquez against old-hat Pedrosa. The two Spaniards give their thoughts on each other, and…gasp…come across as the human beings that paddock insiders knew existed all along. Between Pedrosa’s late-season surge last year, and his smiling and laughing personality here, you can’t help but root for the Honda rider. The rapture is near my motorcycling brethren.