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.

Lin Jarvis: Sponsorship, Vision, & Races Outside of Europe

03/22/2013 @ 5:56 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Valentino-Rossi-2013-Yamaha-YZR-M1

At the presentation of Yamaha’s 2013 MotoGP campaign, where the bike which Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will ride in the coming season was unveiled, it was clear that there was one thing missing from the bike: this season, as for the last two years, Yamaha’s MotoGP team will not have a title sponsor, but will campaign in corporate colors once again.

Though the news hardly came as a surprise – the colors being used throughout the winter testing period suggested that Yamaha would be racing without a title sponsor – we were interested to find out whether the current situation is sustainable.

To that end, we cornered Yamaha Racing’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis, and put a few questions to him. Firstly, we asked, could Yamaha’s MotoGP team manage without a title sponsor, or was the expanded support from non-title sponsors sufficient? The answer to those questions was “yes and yes” Jarvis quipped.

Interview: Scott Redding On Aiming For The Championship, Not Going To MotoGP, & Weight Rules

03/05/2013 @ 2:05 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Scott-Redding-Qatar-2012-Moto2-Scott-Jones

One of the more intriguing things about spending a few years in a racing paddock is watching people grow and mature. Young riders come in to the Grand Prix paddock as exuberant 15 and 16-year-olds, certainly with the anachronistic maturity of all dedicated sportsmen and women; but still clearly young teenagers, that explosive mixture of energy, hormones, and sheer joy driving them into paroxysms of hyperactivity. A few years later, those young boys (and now girls as well) turn into young men, and a fuller, more mature personality emerges.

Such is the case with Scott Redding. Three years ago, when he first moved to Moto2, he was still a teenager with an impish grin on his face, looking like he was either planning trouble, or just returning from it. At the launch of the Marc VDS Racing program last night, at the Belgian team’s workshop a stone’s throw from Charleroi airport, a different Scott Redding was on display, calmer, more mature, more serious but without having lost his sense of fun. More focused, too.

Redding knows that this year, he is playing for keeps. The goal is to either win the Championship, or go down trying. This is his best chance, perhaps, with the introduction of a combined rider/bike minimum weight removing some of the advantage of the lighter riders, though the new limit of 215kg for both rider and bike still favors riders closer to 60 kg than to 70kg. His preparation has changed, spending the winter in Spain, riding, rather than in the dull English winter, where MX tracks are open on Saturdays and Sundays only, for a couple of hours each day.

Scott Redding is ready to become Moto2 champion. A conversation with the young Englishman follows after the jump.

Interview: Filippo Preziosi Talks about Ducati’s Four Riders, Future Developments, & The Spec ECU Rule

09/19/2012 @ 3:10 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse director and Ducati’s engineering guru Filippo Preziosi was a busy man at Misano. Besides overseeing the race weekend at the circuit and preparing for the test on Monday, Preziosi spent a lot of time talking to a number of journalists. I was one of the lucky few who were offered ten minutes with Preziosi, and so I jumped at the chance.

In the interview, Preziosi covered a number of topics: the Ducati junior team strategy, Ducati’s four riders for 2013, the current and expected developments for next season were all among the subjects discussed. Preziosi also talked about the effect of the spec ECU, which will be introduced for 2014, and gave the impression he was not necessarily opposed to the idea. After the jump is what Preziosi had to say.

Q&A with Colin Edwards & Nicky Hayden

08/13/2012 @ 3:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Late last week, Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a teleconference with MotoGP riders Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden, helping gear us up for this coming weekend’s Indianapolis GP. We couldn’t make the call, since I was busy freezing my ass off on some mountain in Colorado, but the good folks at IMS were kind enough to transcribe the interview, and share it with us.

With the teleconference taking place just before the announcement that Valentino Rossi would be leaving Ducati at the end of the season, and joining Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha, Hayden had to field a couple questions regarding the 2012 MotoGP Silly Season and his teammate for next year.  Of course, Hayden also fielded questions about Audi’s Lamborghini’s acquisition of Ducati, and how that would affect Ducati Corse’s MotoGP efforts.

The interview sheds some good insight into what is happening with Colin Edwards at the NGM Forward Racing team, which has struggled with its BMW/Suter CRT package all season. Forward Racing is expected to make a switch to an Aprilia ART bike at Indy, which so far has been the most competent CRT package on the 2012 grid, and the topic the CRTs vs the Prototypes is one Edwards talks about at length. Perhaps most interesting is Edwards’ take on the American road racing landscape, and the geopolitical issues within the MotoGP paddock.

Continue after the jump for the full transcript of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway teleconference.

KTM’s Pit Beirer Talks Moto3 Production Bikes, Cooperation With Kalex, & Two-Stroke Racing

07/12/2012 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

At the Sachsenring, after the introduction of KTM’s Moto3 GPR production racer, we spent five minutes with KTM’s Head of Motorsports Pit Beirer. We spoke to him about a number of subjects, including the evolution of the factory’s Moto3 chassis, the company’s cooperation with Kalex, and whether two-strokes would be better than four-strokes for racing.

MotoGP: Lucio Cecchinello Weighs in on the Rookie Rule

06/12/2012 @ 5:51 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

MotoGP’s 2013 Silly Season is one of the most complicated in many years. Though the retirement of Casey Stoner has opened up the market, the real complication lies with two factors, and the way those two interact. The issue can be summed up in a single question: what are we going to do with Marc Marquez?

It has been clear for some time that Marc Marquez is going to be one of the hottest properties in MotoGP in 2013, the Spaniard expected to graduate to the premier class at the end of this season. Under normal circumstances, this would not be an issue, but the situation that MotoGP finds itself currently in means that we are a very long way from normal circumstances.

The combination of the global financial crisis and the radically depleted field, a consequence of the cost hyperinflation the switch to 800cc caused back in 2007, has meant that the series finds itself in a period of transition, with the return to 1000cc machines just the first step in a major rules shakeup.

The scale of the proposed changes – a rev limit, a single ECU, one bike per rider, a cap on lease prices, and a limit to the number of bikes each factory can provide – means that discussions about the rules are ongoing, the situation changing at each Grand Prix as the haggling and horse-trading between the factories and Dorna continues.

Marquez was expected to fall victim to the Rookie Rule, the provision introduced when Ben Spies entered MotoGP in 2010, preventing a rider from going straight to a factory team in his first season in the class. Both HRC and Repsol, the Spanish oil giant who have backed Marquez throughout his career, have made no secret of their preference of putting Marquez directly into the factory Repsol Honda team.

The Rookie Rule prevents this happening, leaving Repsol and Monlau Competicion, who run Marquez’ Moto2 team (and the 125cc team he raced in before that) casting about for alternatives. Their preferred option, if Marquez cannot go straight to the factory team, is for Monlau to move up as an independent satellite team running Marquez as the sole rider. The team would be backed by Honda, and Marquez would have full factory-spec equipment at his disposal.

But that itself poses a problem. Under the current proposals, which look very close to being finalized, each manufacturer will only be allowed to supply a maximum of four riders with bikes in 2013, two riders in a factory team and two riders in satellite teams.

With the direct route into the factory team blocked, Marquez causes a dilemma, for Honda, and for the satellite teams involved: placing Marquez with either the San Carlo Gresini or the LCR satellite teams will cause problems with the teams’ existing sponsors, and if Marquez brings his own team of mechanics with him, then it would also mean satellite teams breaking long-standing relationships with mechanics already working for the teams.

Likewise for Honda, if HRC grants Repsol and Monlau’s wish of creating a separate team for Marquez, that could mean being forced to take away a bike from one of the two Honda satellite teams.

To hear the perspective of the satellite teams themselves, I spoke to Lucio Cecchinello at Barcelona, owner of the LCR Honda team currently fielding Stefan Bradl in MotoGP. Cecchinello and Gresini are the parties in the most difficult situation, and though Cecchinello pronounced himself a supporter of the Rookie Rule, he was clear that the current set of circumstances made the situation even more complicated than it would normally be.

IOMTT: Q&A with Michael Czysz on the 2012 Mo’Czyzzle

06/06/2012 @ 5:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Getting a chance to sit down with Michael Czysz, ahead of the 2012 SES TT Zero race, we asked the designer of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc and CEO of MotoCzysz a few questions about the Segway MotoCzysz Racing team’s latest machine, as well as his thoughts on the 2012 season and the state of electric motorcycle racing. With aerodynamics being the centerpiece for the team’s 2012 entry, there’s a lot of reading between the lines between Michael’s comments on the bike’s technical aspects, which become fairly apparent when closely examining the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc u-close. And yes, we of course even asked the form-driven motorcyclist his thoughts on the bike’s aesthetics.

Kidding aside, Michael provides a ton of insight not only into the Segway MotoCzysz team, but also the state and trajectory of electric motorcycle racing as a whole. Developing new systems for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the bar for electrics is constantly being pushed farther, and with several potent entries this year, the TT Zero competition has never been fiercer. Like John McGuinness said to me earlier in the week, in five year’s time or so, everyone will be racing these.

Interview: Jorge Lorenzo & Crew Chief Ramon Forcada

05/10/2012 @ 3:07 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

One of the most fascinating areas of MotoGP is the relationship between rider and crew chief. The way that those two individuals communcate and interact can be the difference between winning championships and riding around mid-pack. Riders need a massive amount of talent to go fast, but they also need to understand what the bike is doing underneath them and be able to communicate that to their chief engineer. Likewise, crew chiefs have to have a solid grounding in race bike physics and an understanding of how to make a machine that is capable of lapping very fast, but they also need to be able to listen to what their rider is really saying, and understand what he needs to allow him to go faster.

It is a subject that has fascinated me for a long time. At Estoril, I had the chance to interview Jorge Lorenzo together with his crew chief Ramon Forcada. 2010 World Champion Lorenzo came into MotoGP off the back of two 250cc World Championships in 2006 and 2007, and was joined by Forcada, a 20-year veteran of the Grand Prix paddock, in the factory Yamaha team. Both men were known for their ability, but they had to find a way to work together to get the best out of the relationship, and out of the Yamaha M1. Here is what they had to say about how that relationship works:

Casey Stoner Explains How to Slide a MotoGP Bike

04/12/2012 @ 12:34 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

One of the great pleasures in watching Casey Stoner ride a MotoGP machine is the controlled way in which he manages to slide the bike through the corners. In an era when the spectacular slides once so beloved by fans have been tamed by electronic intervention, Stoner has managed to convince his engineers to limit the electronics sufficiently to give him enough control to slide the bike to help get it turned.

His ability has fascinated both fans and journalists around the world, and many have tried to get him to explain how he does it, but Stoner himself has always found it very hard to say exactly what he is doing. At Qatar, a group of journalists pressed the Repsol Honda rider again to explain exactly where and when he chooses to slide the rear, and what benefits it provides. Though he protested it was hard – “It’s really difficult to explain, so many people have asked me,” he said – he went on to talk at length about what he does and why.

Interview: Lucio Cecchinello – The Man Behind LCR Honda

03/29/2012 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Former GP racer Lucio Cecchinello is a Honda man through and through. Team owner and principal at LCR Honda (the ‘LCR’ standing for Lucio Cecchinello Racing), Cecchinello started his racing career on a Honda NS125R, and worked his way up to the GP ranks, where he spent most of his time on a Honda RS125 (he finished his career on an Aprilia though). In 1996, Cecchinello started LCR, making him both the team’s rider and its principal director, an absolute rarity in the paddock.

LCR Honda slowly grew from the 125 & 250 Championships into the premier class of the sport: MotoGP. Campaigning a number of top riders, LCR Honda has seen Casey Stoner, Randy de Puniet, Alex de Angelis, Nobby Ueda, Toni Elias & Carlos Checa all ride the team’s bikes at some point in their careers. This year LCR Honda has Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl in the saddle, and the team hopes the German rider will be just as impressive on the big bikes as he was with the 600’s.

Taking some time to talk to HRC’s PR machine, Cecchinello shares his unique perspective on having both a racing and managing career. As a satellite team owner, Cecchinello’s opinions about CRTs from a business perspective are especially intriguing, as he forecasts trouble for CRT teams trying to bring in big-name sponsors.

Perhaps most significant are his comments regarding Moto2 though, as Cecchinello believes that the middle class of GP racing should go to a 500cc two-cylinder format, which would allow manufacturers to race in all three class with the same cylinder and head designs. The interview is a pretty good read for any MotoGP fan, check it out after the jump.