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.

Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

04/17/2014 @ 1:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Photos from 250+ Feet up COTAs Petrolsaurus Rex marc marquez aerial cota motogp jensen beeler 635x422

As a fifth-generation Californian,  I am obliged to lament the decision to drop Laguna Seca, and to focus American MotoGP racing efforts on solely Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Circuit of the Americas. That being said, while the California track is a superb race course to ride, the facilities and general location are no where close to the level that is provided by Indy and COTA.

Nothing illustrates this better than the Grand Prix of the Americas that Austin, Texas just hosted. The track is simply a spectacle, and if a certain Marc Marquez wasn’t such a child prodigy, the MotoGP race would have been just as exciting at the ones seen in Moto2 and Moto3.

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” (note the “recommended for editors” capitalization), the tower really needs a better name for casual conversation.

We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order.

Nomenclature aside, the view from the Petrolsaurus Rex platform highlights the great attention to detail that COTA went to for Formula 1 and MotoGP viewing. Drawing big red, white, and blue lines along the course, a quick straw poll from photographers sees COTA being one of the more photogenic race courses (something one could not say about Laguna Seca).

I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy the hi-res photos after the jump. There’s a certain minimalist quality to having GP bikes next to long contrasting lines.

Miller Motorsports Park by Jensen Beeler

06/01/2011 @ 7:36 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Miller Motorsports Park by Jensen Beeler Checkered flag weather 635x445

Nestled between two mountain ranges and in the high desert, Miller Motorsports Park provides one of the most striking and beautiful backdrops to any race course I’ve ever attended. The fact that both World Superbike and AMA Pro Racing race during the same weekend makes the BigM weekend, as the locals call it, increasingly special, and accordingly our access to the course and riders this past Memorial Day was especially gracious.

While I like to let our resident Nikon-hauler Scott Jones do the hard work behind the lens, every now and then my camera catches a photo in focus, so I thought I’d share some of those rare occasions during my first time in the World Superbike paddock. Enjoy them after the jump.

Hervé Poncharal of Monster Tech3 Yamaha Sits Down with Asphalt & Rubber at Laguna Seca

07/27/2010 @ 7:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Hervé Poncharal of Monster Tech3 Yamaha Sits Down with Asphalt & Rubber at Laguna Seca Herve Poncharal interview 560x407

During the Red Bull US GP weekend, Asphalt & Rubber’s Jensen Beeler got a chance to sit down with Hervé Poncharal, Team Manager of the Monster Tech3 Yamaha MotoGP team, and have a lengthy discussion. Sharing with us his insights into the race weekend, which for his riders was to a home crowed, Poncharal talks about the development of Ben Spies as a MotoGP rider, and role Colin Edwards has played in helping his teammate adjust to racing in MotoGP. Giving some insight about how the 2011 season will shape up for both Ben and Colin, Poncharal hints that we could see a British rider on the satellite team next year. Read the full interview transcript after the jump.

Skip Barber Superbike School Teaches Asphalt & Rubber How to Ride at Laguna Seca

04/19/2010 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Skip Barber Superbike School Teaches Asphalt & Rubber How to Ride at Laguna Seca skip barber motorcycle notes 635x425

As a California native, I’ve always wanted to ride around Laguna Seca on a sportbike. However my passion for track riding didn’t manifest itself until I moved away from the Golden State to Pennsylvania, making a Seca track day all but implausible. Having just moved back into California, and the warm weather finally upon us here in the San Francisco area, track days and Seca have been on my mind. So when Michael Czysz, Lead Instructor at the Skip Barber Superbike School (and of MotoCzysz fame) shot me an email asking me if I wanted to ride for two days around the fabled circuit and take Skip Barber’s two-day superbike course, I of course took him up on the offer. With perfect 70°F weather, I made my way to the Californian coast, ready to take on The Corkscrew with the brand new 2010 KTM RC8 motorcycle and with the help of Skip Barber’s instructors.

I’ve always heard how Laguna Seca is a special track, and how technical the course is on a motorcycle (or any vehicle for that matter). Driving into Monterey from Salinas, you get about half the distance between the two cities when the track entrance jumps up on you. Most tracks you can see for miles as you approach them, but Laguna Seca is nestled behind a hillside from the roadway, and sits inside a Monterey County park. This topography not only provides a scenic venue to enjoy when you’re not going full-throttle around the race track, but also accounts for Seca’s 300′ change in elevation as you go through the 11 turns that comprise the circuit.

Driving into the park I can already feel my nerves acting up. I went through eight years of competitive sailing, two Junior Olympics, and three Nationals with this same physiological response. On a typical track day this sensation would subside after my first session, and be greatly reduced after the first full-pace lap, but upon entering into the Skip Barber office the apprehension quickly disappears.