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.

WSBK: Joan Lascorz & Kawasaki Talk for the First Time about the Crash at Imola

09/05/2012 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

WSBK: Joan Lascorz & Kawasaki Talk for the First Time about the Crash at Imola Joan Lascorz WSBK Kawasaki 635x412

Recovering from the injuries he sustained while testing for Kawasaki at Imola, we learned earlier this year that Joan Lascorz was lucky to escape with his life from the frightful event, though he will never walk again. Suffering from paralysis from his abdomen down, the well-liked Spaniard is still recuperating, but has released a press release (along with Kawasaki) about the event, the months after it, and Jumbo’s coming future.

Recounting the incident, Lascorz also gives an insightful description of his current state of mind, and his thoughts about his road to a new life. The full press release is after the jump. It’s okay if you get a bit misty-eyed while reading it. We certainly did.

WSBK: Update on Joan Lascorz’s Condition

04/20/2012 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

WSBK: Update on Joan Lascorzs Condition Joan Lascorz Kawasaki WSBK 635x422

With World Superbike in Assen this race weekend, the Kawasaki Racing Team has released an update on team rider Joan Lascorz, who broke his neck during a crash at a post-race test at Imola earlier this month. Though the press release is terse with information, it does say that Lascorz is conscious and remains in the ICU of the Hospital de la Valld’Hebron in Barcelona. Saying it could take months to know the full-extent of the Spanish rider’s injuries, no further update on his condition was given.

However, MCN is reporting that in an interview with Kawasaki Team Manager Guim Roda, Lascorz is said to have movement in his arms, but currently not in his legs. With inflammation still surrounding the injury to his C6 vertabra, the hope is that as the swelling subsides Lascorz will regain use of his legs, though nothing is certain at this point. With a lengthy road to recovery still ahead of him, everyone is being cautious about predicting the full-extent of the accident’s effects.

Everyone in the World Superbike and motorcycling community at large, including Asphalt & Rubber, is hoping for a full and speedy recovery of the well-liked Spanish racer. Carlos Checa perhaps said it best with his recent comment on Twitter: “Joan Lascorz is in another championship, a race that [he] is sure going to win and we will all be there to support you at all times. Take heart!” Press release from Kawasaki after the jump.

Still No News on Joan Lascorz

04/10/2012 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Still No News on Joan Lascorz Joan Lascorz Kawasaki 635x952

The low-point of a great race weekend, factory Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz was airlifted out of the Imola circuit, after crashing during a post-race test at the Italian track. Flown immediately to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, Lascorz was diagnosed with a broken 6th vertebra (C6), and was reported to have suffered trauma to his spinal chord. Since the Spanish rider has been moved back to Spain, details about Lascorz’s condition have not been coming forth with regularity, though the latest update from the team is that the rider has been kept sedated to minimize his movement and because he still had fluid in his lungs.

WSBK: Joan Lascorz Airlifted from Post-Race Test at Imola

04/02/2012 @ 8:59 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

WSBK: Joan Lascorz Airlifted from Post Race Test at Imola Joan Lascorz WSBK Kawasaki 635x423

Factory Kawasaki World Superbike rider Joan Lascorz has been airlifted from the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola today, after the young Spanish rider crashed his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R during a post-race test. Treated first at the circuit’s medical center, it was decided to airlift Lascorz to Bologna when it was suspected the WSBK rider had fractured a vertebra.

Scoring a 7th and 9th place in Sunday’s two World Superbike races, Lascorz lost control of his Kawasaki in the final minutes of the today’s testing session. Unconfirmed reports say the Spaniard hit a wall on the outside of the track, fracturing either his 5th or 6th vertebra. According to the Spanish press, Lascorz is currently in surgery for his injuries. A&R hopes for the best for the young WSBK rider, and that he has a full and speedy recovery from this incident. A statement from World Superbike is after the jump.

Kawasaki WSBK Team – Behind the Scenes at Phillip Island

03/06/2012 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Kawasaki WSBK Team   Behind the Scenes at Phillip Island tom sykes kawasaki wsbk phillip island 635x552

After consistently struggling in the World Superbike Championship, Kawasaki finally seems to have all its duck in a row for the 2012 season. Teething the recently updated Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R over the course of last season’s races, Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz made it clear at the season’s opening round at Phillip Island that Team Green can contend for podium finishes and even race victories against the mighty Ducati of Carlos Checa and Aprilia of Max Biaggi.

With Sykes starting at the pole position after the cancellation of Superpole qualifying, the Englishman lapped in the position in both races at the Australian track. Battling with a very strong Honda factory team, Sykes even squeaked out a great victory over fellow countryman Johnny Rea, securing a podium finish for Kawasaki on the team’s first outing of the season. Clearly excited by that start, Kawasaki Racing has put out a video of the team’s weekend at Phillip Island. Check it out after the jump.

WSBK: Rain Causes Crash-Filled Superpole at Misano

06/11/2011 @ 7:12 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Rain Causes Crash Filled Superpole at Misano Tom Sykes WSBK MMP 635x4251

Checa led Biaggi, Corser, Haslam, and Camier as the fastest five in the first free practice of the Misano weekend, and continued to lead through the first qualifying practice with a lap time of 1:36.024. Friday afternoon, Biaggi, Melandri, and Fabrizio completed the provisional front row after the first qualifying practice. Corser caused that session to end early, crashing just minutes from the flag. He hit his head and was taken to the medical center but was cleared to continue riding for the weekend. James Toseland did not participate in either session and would not race with a relapse in the recovery of his right wrist. He has been replaced by Italian Lorenzo Lanzi both this weekend and at Aragaon.

In Saturday’s Superpole sessions, Tom Sykes (1:55.197) held off a late charge from Carlos Checa to take pole position for the World Superbike round at Misano despite the damp conditions. Rain began falling minutes before Superpole 1 began, leading to crashes by Ruben Xaus, Leon Camier, Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Jakub Smrz. Neither Xaus nor Camier, despite being the earliest crashers, were able to complete a timed lap and were knocked out in Superpole 1. Smrz led much of the final run for pole, fighting with Sykes. In the end, Skyes, Checa, Smrz, and Marco Melandri will start from the front row for tomorrow’s races.

WSBK: Vermeulen Preemptively Out for Miller Round

05/24/2011 @ 8:02 pm, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

WSBK: Vermeulen Preemptively Out for Miller Round vermeulen 635x423

Despite his perennially upbeat demeanor on Twitter, Chris Vermeulen’s recovery continues to progress slowly. The factory Kawasaki rider, who has yet to complete a race in the 2011 World Superbike season, will remain in Europe while teammates Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes travel to this weekend’s race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.Vermeulen has been attending recent races in Europe and participating in practice and qualifying sessions, but an off at Monza tore a hole in his elbow and added to the Australian’s injuries.

Vermeulen will test for the team at Motorland Aragon early next month, with a plan to return to racing at Misano for the June 12th weekend. “It is disappointing to not race in America but my injuries are still healing. The good thing is they are improving,” said Vermeulen.

Vermeulen Tests His Knee on a Kawasaki ZX-6R in Spain

04/07/2011 @ 2:13 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

Vermeulen Tests His Knee on a Kawasaki ZX 6R in Spain Christopher Vermeulen Kawasaki WSBK 635x449

With his knee injury and subsequent recovery has taken far longer than expected, Chris Vermeulen took another step forward today in his attempt to properly return to World Superbike racing. The Australian rode Thursday at Parcmotor Castelloli in Spain, just before a Kawasaki festival being held at the circuit this weekend. However Vermeulen was not testing the WSBK Kawasaki ZX-10R, but instead riding a Ninja ZX-6R, the reasoning of which he explained on Twitter as: “Had a good ride on the supersport bike today a little less physical than my bike but did 40laps and knee did ok.”

Though Vermeulen has been plagued with a slow recovery, he did participate in some of the practice and qualifying sessions of the second round of World Superbike racing at Donington Park last month. However, he sat out both races at Donington, in addition to missing the season opening round at Phillip Island. Since then, Vermeulen has been slowly working his way back into the full-season ride he has with the factory Kawasaki team run by Paul Bird Racing.

Vermeulen May Not Race at Donington Park

03/25/2011 @ 8:33 am, by Victoria Reid8 COMMENTS

Vermeulen May Not Race at Donington Park Christopher Vermeulen Kawasaki Racing 635x423

The saga of rehabilitating Chris Vermeulen’s knee continues this weekend at the second round of the World Superbike season. The Australian will participate in the practice and qualifying sessions beginning Friday at Donington Park, but he may sit out the races on Sunday.

This news comes after Vermeulen missed the season opener and winter testing at Phillip Island because his knee has not recovered as quickly as planned, and it was hoped that skipping his home race would allow Vermeulen time to recover enough to race the rest of this season, but it seems the Australian and his factory Kawasaki team are taking this weekend one session at a time.

The former MotoGP rider spent some time testing at Motorland Aragon in Spain last week (where compatriot James Toseland fractured his wrist, forcing him to sit out this WSBK weekend) and just yesterday spent some more time on the seat riding around Cadwell Park. After this most recent outing, Vermeulen tweeted, “was great to get back on the bike but still work to do on my knee to be race fit.”

WSBK: Kawasaki & BMW Italia Testing at Aragon

03/16/2011 @ 12:45 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Kawasaki & BMW Italia Testing at Aragon Motorland Aragon Spanish MotoGP track 635x483

Motorland Aragon will host a private test for the factory Kawasaki and BMW Motorrad Italia World Superbike teams Thursday and Friday this week. Though Kawasaki had a good bit of winter testing both at the official WSBK test in Portugal and private testing in Sepang, the Italian BMW team suffered the effects of inclement weather and lost testing time. This private test comes just one week before the World Superbike season resumes at Donington Park in England, whose improvements have recently been approved by the FIM.

Importantly for Kawasaki, Chris Vermeulen is expected to test in Spain. After injuries and surgery kept him out of much of the 2010 season, the Australian hoped to return at his home round but was unable to pass the physical. He sat out testing and racing in Australia, remaining at home and working on his physical therapy.