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.

IOMTT: Anstey Laps 112 MPH on the Mugen Shinden San

06/02/2014 @ 4:41 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Anstey Laps 112 MPH on the Mugen Shinden San Bruce Anstey Mugen TT Zero Isle of Man TT 635x423

When it comes to single-lap speed, Bruce Anstey is the man at the Isle of Man this year. Setting the outright fastest lap ever around the Snaefell Mountain Course, on the last lap of the Dainese Superbike TT no less, Anstey has another record to be proud of at the 2014 Isle of Man TT: the fastest TT lap ever on an electric motorcycle, at 112.355 mph unofficial.

For those not keeping up with the TT Zero news, Bruce Anstey is playing teammate to John McGuinness on Team Mugen. The Japanese tuning brand has brought its third-generation electric superbike to the TT, appropriately calling the 500+ lbs behemoth the Mugen Shinden San (san meaning “three” in Japanese).

IOMTT: Creg-ny-Baa with Richard Mushet

05/31/2014 @ 10:03 pm, by Richard MushetComments Off

IOMTT: Creg ny Baa with Richard Mushet 2014 Isle of Man TT Creg ny Baa Richard Mushet 02 635x423

For the first real racing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, I had to choose Creg-ny-Baa. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition for me now, as I’ve shot the Superbike TT race from there a few times now. As an added bonus, there aren’t any midges, which is a relief after Barregarrow’s flying bug population feasted on me last night!

One of the most recognisable and iconic sections of the course, the Creg (as it is usually mentioned) signals what is essentially the end of the descent from the top of the blindingly-quick mountain section.

It is fairly similar to a short circuit corner, which I usually try to avoid taking photos of at the TT, as corners like this, and those at the Gooseneck and Signpost, just don’t convey how spectacular the TT is to watch.

Despite my usual reasoning, the Creg has a few unique features, which include the backdrop of the Creg-ny-Baa pub when you’re on the inside of the corner, and Kate’s Cottage when shooting from the front of the pub.

Another great feature there are the rows of fans lining the grass at the side of the road who will wave, applaud, and cheer the riders as they pass, especially on the final lap when the leading rider has essentially wrapped-up victory.

Bruce Anstey Sets New IOMTT Lap Record – 132.298 MPH

05/31/2014 @ 5:30 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Bruce Anstey Sets New IOMTT Lap Record   132.298 MPH Cronk y Voddy Straight Isle of Man TT 2014 Tony Goldsmith 06 635x422

If you are not following the 2014 Isle of Man TT, you are missing out on some great racing already, and we’re only once race into the TT fortnight. Getting down to business with the big bikes, the Dainese Superbike TT has set the standard quite high, with some proper-good road racing happening on the Isle.

We won’t spoil the results from the race, but we will say that the 132 mph barrier was broken during the Superbike TT. Bruce Anstey, the 44-year-old Kiwi, put down a “mega” 132.298 mph lap, while on his Honda/Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Motocycle Honda CBR1000RR SP.

IOMTT: Dainese Superbike TT Race Results

05/31/2014 @ 5:04 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: Dainese Superbike TT Race Results Quarterbridge Isle of Man TT 2014 Richard Mushet 16 635x423

The late evening practice sessions have finally given way to the mid-day races at the Isle of Man, and that means that the 2014 Isle of Man TT has started in earnest. As always, the Dainese Superbike TT was the opening event, which is just the perfect way to start the TT…with the big toys on the Mountain Course, right?

This year’s event brings all sorts of questions. Will Michael Dunlop continue the domination he began back in 2013? Or will John McGuinness reclaim his crown, and make further progress into besting Joey Dunlop’s outright TT race win record? How about fan favorite Guy Martin, and his hunt for his first Isle of Man TT race win? Thankfully, some of those answers can begin to come forthwith.

IOMTT: Barregarrow with Richard Mushet

05/31/2014 @ 1:04 am, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

IOMTT: Barregarrow with Richard Mushet 2014 Isle of Man TT Barregarrow Richard Mushet 05 635x423

For this evening’s session, I decided to shoot from a place on the course I’ve seen pictures from numerous times before, and always had an itch to shoot there myself one day.

Following the famous Cronk-y-Voddy straight, Barregarrow (pronounced “Beh-garrow” by the locals) is an infamous dip where machinery is pushed to the limit. Accelerating from the top of the section, down a hill most people wouldn’t want to cycle up, the bikes hit a small rise that momentarily jumps them and the rider into the air.

Par for the course on the Mountain circuit, until the bike lands and its suspension is fully compressed as the riders hit the bottom of the hill, which is also a fairly severe dip in the tarmac, which can be felt at anything above 30 mph.

This ensures plenty of scraped belly pans, spectacular images, and sometimes a few sparks, but never the dropping of revs, as the riders hit their apex and continue on their way to Kirk Michael village. All the obvious challenges of shooting a spot like this are present – the immense speeds and the fading light as the sessions progress.

The sidecar session especially, was fairly tricky due to the lowering evening sun. But, tonight had a more evil enemy than the technical aspects of using a camera, as I was eaten alive by the bloody midges, which have left me with blotchy red bites all over my arms and legs.

IOMTT: Lezayre with Richard Mushet

05/30/2014 @ 3:51 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Lezayre with Richard Mushet Lezayre Isle of Man TT 2014 Richard Mushet 01 635x423

Returning to Lezayre for Thursday evening’s practice, with the promise of better weather than the previous night, there was still the threat of rain in the air when I arrived.

Lezayre is an eye-wateringly fast section of the circuit. It is on the run towards Ramsey, and is the most northernly section of the circuit.

Also known as the Conker Fields or “K” Tree, the riders wrestle with the bike as it rears it’s front end towards the heavens on a left-handed, fifth-gear kink. To give you an idea of the “K” Tree’s challenge, skip to 1:10 on this video to see Dan Kneen in full-flow through there.

Despite the rain holding off, tonight was another challenging session to shoot, as the ever-fading light under the trees made it increasingly difficult to track the riders with the autofocus on both of my camera bodies. Quite an issue when riders are travelling at speeds easily approaching 150 mph!

Video: Watch William Dunlop Chase Down Ian Hutchinson at Triple-Digit Speeds at the IOMTT

05/29/2014 @ 7:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Video: Watch William Dunlop Chase Down Ian Hutchinson at Triple Digit Speeds at the IOMTT william dunlop ian hutchinson iomtt mountain course 635x423

A typical practice day spent at the Isle of Man TT starts in the evening, as the roads close just around dinner time (the Isle of Man’s latitude means the sun sets near 10pm). One finds a good vantage point before the roads close though, which also means choosing a spot that will provide their specatating for the next fews hours, as getting around the Mountain Course is nigh impossible once the bikes get going.

Those few hours are spent watching racers scream by at triple-digit speeds, until the sessions end and the roads re-open. Grabbing a quick bite to eat, spectators typical congregate at the bars where they drink, or the home-stays they sleep, and share what they saw on the course with their mate, over drinks and food of course.

As the night comes to an end, the TV stations air their coverage of the day, which pieces together the day’s events, and adds a cohesive narrative to what was before just a single-corner vantage point. Rinse and repeat this for nearly a week, and you have an idea of why the Isle of Man TT is so special, and less of a race and more of an event.

IOMTT: Grandstand Paddock with Richard Mushet

05/28/2014 @ 9:41 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

IOMTT: Grandstand Paddock with Richard Mushet Paddock Isle of Man TT 2014 Richard Mushet 11 635x423

After a glorious Tuesday evening practice, the weather was looking decidedly gloomy before this evening’s session. Due to an abundance of cloud cover and impending showers, I can honestly say that my decision to shoot from Lezayre wasn’t the best idea I’ve had so far this TT.

Unfortunately the session was stopped, after most riders had only managed a solitary lap, due to an incident at the top of Barregarrow. Combined with the failing light and ever-heavier rain showers on the Northerly sections of the circuit (including myself at Lezayre) the Clerk of the Course cancelled all sessions this evening.

Due to a lack of racing action I will leave you all with a few sights from around the paddock today, and hopes for better weather (and light) for tomorrow’s practice.

IOMTT: Rain Cancels Wednesday Practice After Just One Lap

05/28/2014 @ 5:11 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

IOMTT: Rain Cancels Wednesday Practice After Just One Lap Paddock Isle of Man TT 2014 Richard Mushet 03 635x423

More rain has gotten in the way of the Isle of Man TT’s practice sessions, as Wednesday evening’s events came to a halt after only one lap around the Mountain Course. With rain hitting a few spots of the course, and an incident at the top of Barregarrow, Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson had no choice to but to call the night’s events to an end as the rain increased.

The incident at Barregarrow involved newcomer Laurent Hoffmann, who was airlifted to Nobles Hospital, and is reported to have leg injuries as a result of the crash. By the time that crash had been cleared, Mother Nature turned up the waterworks, and that was the end of things.

IOMTT: Greeba Castle with Tony Goldsmith

05/28/2014 @ 2:51 pm, by Tony Goldsmith3 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Greeba Castle with Tony Goldsmith Greeba Castle Isle of Man TT 2014 Tony Goldsmith 04 635x422

We were treated to perfect conditions for Tuesday evenings practice and after a bit of deliberation I decided to go to the Greeba Castle section of the course.

Greeba Castle is a tight S-bend lined with trees and Manx stone walls. The riders have been flat on the stop for two or three miles before breaking hard into this section. The first left-hander is taken quite slowly before they drive through the right-hander and out into a pocket of sunlight, before disappearing out of sight and onto the Alpine section.

I hadn’t photographed there before, in truth I had been put off a little as I’d heard it was tricky as you are perched on top of 5 1/2 foot wall. As the sun was shining I decided it was the perfect night to go and try it out.

The stories I’d been told of the wall were not exaggerated, and not being as mobile as I once was once took a few attempts to get up. You might be thinking that 5 1/2 feet doesn’t sound very much, but when you are sitting on it, planning an escape route, it looks like 10 feet.

Thankfully I didn’t have to throw myself from the wall, the only problem encountered where the dreaded Manx Midges. My head has started itching again as I begin to think about the little bastards.