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.

Edwards Says an R1 Motor in Custom Frame Would Be the “Weapon of Choice” If He Races CRT

08/27/2011 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Edwards Says an R1 Motor in Custom Frame Would Be the Weapon of Choice If He Races CRT Colin Edwards Indianapolis GP Scott Jones

With rumors swirling around where Colin Edwards will land next year, we grabbed a moment with the Texas Tornado to ask him about one rumor that keeps cropping up: him on a claiming rule team for the 2012 season. Of course, you don’t just ask Colin Edwards direct questions, and expect direct answers, as the Texan enjoys a good laugh.

Getting some MotoGP-rookie hazing, Edwards had some fun with A&R while talking about CRTs, but what the Texan did say (or in some cases, didn’t say) is pretty interesting. One thing is for certain, the two-time World Superbike champion was very keen on having a pepped-up production motor inside a prototype chassis for his bike next year.

With an official announcement likely to come at Misano, the question now is where Colin will end up for 2012. Welcome to Silly Season 2011 ladies and gentleman.

Colin Edwards: “I’m Not Ready to Retire”

08/24/2011 @ 7:30 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Colin Edwards: Im Not Ready to Retire Colin Edwards Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Scott Jones

Also joining Nicky Hayden at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway teleconference was the venerable Colin Edwards, who took some time off from scoping and loading his new 338 Edge rifle to talk to Asphalt & Rubber and a select group of other journalists about the MotoGP season and the upcoming Indianapolis round. By his own admission, Edwards is not having as good of a season this year in MotoGP as he would like, with many in the paddock wondering if 2011 is the Texas Tornado’s last year in MotoGP. Saying that he wasn’t ready to retire, Edwards hinted that some announcements were coming down the line, though probably not in time for the Indianapolis GP.

“Will we make any kind of announcement at Indy? Probably not. Misano, maybe, I don’t know,” mused Edwards. “We’ve got a few pieces of the puzzle laying around. We’ve just got to put those pieces together. Probably the worst thing is that I’m not ready to retire. That would make it easy for everybody. But at the moment, I’m still enjoying it. I’m still having a good time, and I’m still motivated. Until that goes away, I’m going to ride motorcycles.” Read the rest of the teleconference transcript after the jump.

Nicky Hayden: “Nobody Has Lost Hope”

08/24/2011 @ 7:06 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Nicky Hayden: Nobody Has Lost Hope Nicky Hayden Laguna Seca Press Conference Scott Jones

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to a teleconference with both Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards this week, allowing Asphalt & Rubber and a select group of journalists to get a preview of the riders’ thoughts before the Indianapolis GP kicks off in earnest this Friday. The only MotoGP rider so far to preview the resurfaced infield at The Brickyard, among other things Hayden gave journalists his thoughts on the new pavement, where he stands in the Championship, and esprit de corps inside Ducati.

What caught our ear listening to the teleconference was that despite all the frustrations he’s had this year, and his noticeable changes in demeanor during press scrums after particularly discouraging sessions, Hayden remains forever the up-beat optimist in the MotoGP paddock. Talking about the level of commitment and the attitude inside Ducati Corse, Hayden said “I told Fillipo (Preziosi) that after the last test, I’ve been impressed with his team and how all the guys have just kept their head down and kept working,”

“Those guys, they get there early and stay late. Some of the engineers I spoke to back at the factory, they’re all on board,” Hayden continued. “I’ve got to believe that hard work and that good attitude is going to pay off in the long run. It normally always does, and I hope this is no different.” Read the rest of the teleconference after the jump.

Filippo Preziosi: “The Two-Cylinder is the Best Engine, If You’re Not Constrained by Rules”

08/16/2011 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Filippo Preziosi: The Two Cylinder is the Best Engine, If Youre Not Constrained by Rules Filippo Preziosi Ducati Corse 635x423

Head of Ducati Corse, Filippo Preziosi is a busy man under regular circumstances, and with the shenanigans going on in Ducati Corse’s MotoGP team right now, the former motorcycle racer is a hard man to get a word with, let alone on a race weekend in Brno. Somehow catching up with Preziosi during MotoGP’s Brno test, our friend David Emmett at MotoMatters, along with several other journalists, sat down with Ducati’s Maestro of MotoGP to ask him about where the Italian team was headed, and the challenges it is currently facing.

There is of course a tremendous amount of chatter going on in the MotoGP paddock about Ducati’s “frameless” carbon fiber chassis, a switch to an aluminum twin-spar frame, the Bridgestone tires, and Valentino Rossi’s psyche, all of which Emmett has already summarized for us in his detailed analysis of Ducati Corse’s situation. Taking on all of these issues, Preziosi sheds some insight on what is going on behind the scenes at Ducati, and is candid about what issues they are and are not facing.

Dismissing out right that the “L” engine configuration is at least partially to blame for Desmosedici’s lack of front-end feel, one of the more interesting points Preziosi makes is his preference for the v-twin motor. Acknowledging that the package will perhaps make less power/torque than a four-cylinder, Preziosi opts for instead the two-cylinder’s rideability, and if the rules allowed it, the motor’s weight advantage over the inlines (this of course coming from a man who has figured out how to make a v-twin without the weight of a traditional frame).

His comments raise some interesting thoughts about the way rules are constructed in motorcycle racing classes, and perhaps speaks to the central issue occurring MotoGP: that the rules are pigeonholing the development of GP motorcycles into one particular slot, that just happens to be a four-cylinder motorcycle with a conventional frame that reacts to a prescribed tire construction methodology. Preziosi makes some other interesting comments that read well between the lines, check them out in transcribed interview after the jump.

Repaved Indianapolis GP Surface is “Pretty Much Perfect” Says Nicky Hayden

08/09/2011 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Repaved Indianapolis GP Surface is Pretty Much Perfect Says Nicky Hayden Nicky Hayden Catalunya Scott Jones

Nicky Hayden was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, checking out the newly repaved infield section on the historic American track. Testing the track on a Ducati Superbike 1198SP, Hayden took a number of laps before giving the nod that he approved of the refurbishment (the FIM also gave their nod on Indy’s work on July 7th). The repaving of the infield portion of the circuit, Turn 5 through Turn 16, comes as a response from riders’ complaints from last year.

With several varieties of pavement, a bevy of bumps, and some poorly placed drainage components, the Indianapolis GP has been a low-point on the MotoGP calendar for most of the MotoGP paddock the past few years, despite being held at an otherwise top-rate and historic venue. With Dorna likely pressuring Indianapolis into making alterations, the track probably faced compulsion to make changes to its infield, especially with the Circuit of Americas track currently being built in Austin.

Talk in the MotoGP paddock is that the Austin GP is now being aimed as less of a replacement for the Indianapolis GP, and instead will be a third stop in America for MotoGP, as Dorna wants to expand the premier class’s presence in the USA. With the 2011 Indianapolis GP just two and a half weeks away, all the GP riders will soon get to see the improvements at Indy, until then they’ll just have to take Nicky Hayden’s word on it. A brief Q&A with the Kentucky Kid and video of his laps and thoughts are after the jump.

Who is Karel Abraham?

07/28/2011 @ 4:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Who is Karel Abraham? Karel Abraham MotoGP Laguna Seca

The lower ranks of GP racing, 125GP, 250GP, and Moto2, are not as well-followed in the United States as MotoGP, so when the Czech Republic’s Karel Abraham climbed aboard a Ducati Desmosedici GP10 and started putting down impressive lap times, a collective “who the heck is Karel Abraham?” was uttered out-loud. The 21-year-old law student got a proper roasting on his introduction to the premier class by english-speaking journalists (ourselves included), as it was revealed quickly that Karel Abraham is actually Karel Abraham Jr., where Karel Abraham Sr. is the owner of the Brno race circuit and the Cardion AB race team. Touching on a vein of nepotism, yes…daddy bought him a MotoGP race team was uttered by us.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this season at Qatar though, where I was standing on the wall at Turn 1 at the Arabian track during MotoGP’s last testing session before the 2011 season, and watched a young Ducati rider hold his own against the MotoGP field. Granted, the junior Abraham was not setting the desert sands on fire like Casey Stoner, but he was no slouch either…and this was on “the wrong bike” in the GP paddock. Throughout the season, he’s shaken things up a number of times, and on several occasions been the fastest Ducati in a session. When you consider that all of this is occuring in the 21-year-old’s first entry in the big show, Karel becomes an increasingly impressive rider.

Did his father buy him a MotoGP team? That may be the case, but the Czech rider is anything but a spoiled brat. Down to earth, friendly, and funny during our 30 minute conversation, Karel is perhaps an example of how MotoGP riders should be during interactions with fans and media. In a sport where riders switch into PR-zombie mode as soon as a journalist shows up, it can be incredibly difficult to get the true perspective inside the MotoGP paddock, but talking to Karel proved to be a refreshing reminder that MotoGP riders after all people like the rest of us.

It’s perhaps unfair that Abraham came into the MotoGP Championship with this stigma attached to him, as he showed to me this past weeekdn that he is at least one of the most relatable riders in the paddock. As for his raw talent and skill, the results speak for themselves really, as Karel is on his way to becoming MotoGP’s Rookie of the Year (sorry Crutchlow fans), and is currently ahead of Alvaro Bautista, Toni Elias, Cal Crutchlow, Loris Capirossi, and Randy de Puniet in the 2011 MotoGP Championship standings. That all being said, enjoy A&R‘s Q&A with Karel Abraham after the jump.

“Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Can’t Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?” – Kenny Roberts Sr.

07/27/2011 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Cant Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?   Kenny Roberts Sr. King Kenny Yamaha YZR M1 Laguna Seca

On Thursday at the US GP, a day before the general public and non-MotoGP press could get into Laguna Seca, Yamaha unveiled its 50th Anniversary team livery, with a special cadre of legendary Yamaha riders. Eddie Lawson, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts Sr., and Wayne Rainey joined current Yamaha riders Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Jorge Lorenzo in the pit lane of the famous American track to commemorate Yamaha’s half-century of motorcycle Grand Prix involvement. After the presentation, a scrum of journalists got a chance to talk to King Kenny about his experience riding the YZR-M1 around Laguna Seca, as Yamaha had built a special GP bike for the American GP Champion, though it did not have a full electronics package.

A&R also got to eavesdrop in on the conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance.

Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Saying in his day, a rider could be 10 feet off the ideal line, fight the bike through the corner, and finish the lap none the slower; but on the current MotoGP equipment, being 10cm off the line can mean seconds missing on the lap time because of how exacting the sport has become.

Casey Stoner on Developing the Honda RC213V

07/07/2011 @ 10:25 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Casey Stoner on Developing the Honda RC213V Casey Stoner Mugello HRC Scott Jones

Sitting down with Casey Stoner after the Italian GP at Mugello, the HRC media department asked a bevy of questions to the Australian rider. In the interview, Stoner primarily talks about about the upcoming 1,000cc 2012 Honda RC213V and its differences to the current batch of 800cc motorcycles. Stoner also sheds light on his riding style, how he operates during the race weekend to setup his race package, and what he looks for from a motorcycle to fit his riding strengths.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come from Stoner’s statements is how similar the RC213V is to the RC212V, and his thoughts on over-taking and passing in MotoGP. While the insight is an important one, one should always consider the source, and it doesn’t surprise us that a GP rider would suggest that its an increase in caliber of rider that’s responsible for less passing and overtaking in GP racing. Engineers, for example, might suggest that it’s the electronics packages that have changed the racing. Read the interview after the jump, and leave your thoughts on that subject (or any other) in the comments.

“There’s Not Much Else to Do, But the Biggest of all Things”

03/22/2011 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Theres Not Much Else to Do, But the Biggest of all Things Ben Spies Alpinestars video 635x371

Ben Spies is on the factory Yamaha YZR-M1 this year, and is already showing that he has the mettle to battle up front in MotoGP with the best of the best. A former AMA Champion and World Superbike Champion, Spies has his eyes on motorcycling’s ultimate prize, but it’s been a long road to where he is now for the young Texan racer.

Talking about his start in motorcycle racing, Alpinestars has done a quick video on Spies as a part of the company’s “Beyond the Riders” campaign. Like the videos with Jorge Lorenzo & the Repsol Honda riders, there’s some interesting things to hear from our stars of the Premier Class, which tell the story we don’t see on TV. Watch Ben’s story after the jump.

One on One: Valentino Rossi & Masao Furusawa

02/06/2011 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

One on One: Valentino Rossi & Masao Furusawa Valentino Rossi Malaysia Yamaha 635x421

Continuing its “ONE on ONE” series, Yamaha has pitted two staples of its MotoGP garage to interview each other: nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi and former-Executive of Engineering Operations Masao Furusawa. The video is obviously a bit untimely, as Rossi has already made the switch over to Ducati, but the interview proves relevant as he and Furusawa talk about why Rossi made the jump in the paddock from Honda to Yamaha in 2003. If you supplant the appropriate manufacturers’ names, you could almost hear Rossi talking about his reasoning thus far with the Italian racing brand.

So far the video series is two-parts long, and has some great insights into the relationship that was the driving force for Rossi joining Yamaha, and for his departure (Furusawa’s retirement from Yamaha being one of many factors in Rossi’s decision to leave the Japanese marque).  Over the course of their discussion, fun trivia bits come up, like what Max Biaggi said when Rossi won the opening GP race at South Africa in 2004. Check past the jump to find out what his response was, and to watch the videos in their entirety.