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: A Point Proven During Superpole at Monza

05/06/2011 @ 6:36 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

WSBK: A Point Proven During Superpole at Monza Max Biaggi Superole Monza WSBK 635x338

Racing for some redemption, Max Biaggi (1:41.745) proved a point in winning pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Monza, returning to the track to best his own qualifying time after most riders had returned to their garages. Biaggi also bested his record top speed (334.8 kph/208.035 mph) from an earlier practice session in qualifying. He will be joined on the front row for his home race by Eugene Laverty, Jonathon Rea, and Troy Corser. Meanwhile, points leader Carlos Checa was knocked out in Superpole 2 and will start eleventh. Most riders fell afoul of the Monza chicane at least once, having their lap times ruined and deleted by cutting across the feature.

Rea (1:43.712) was the first to go fastest for the weekend, leading Corser, Badovini, and Biaggi in the first free practice on Friday morning. Haslam (1:42.934) took his turn to put the quick BMW on provisional pole in the afternoon qualifying practice, though it was Biaggi breaking the WSBK speed record that garnered more attention for the Italian in front of the home crowd. Laverty and Badovini, who was again quick Friday afternoon, completed the provisional front row. Meanwhile, James Toseland, Badovini’s returning teammate, was only twenty-first quickest in QP. Also recovering Chris Vermeulen did not ride in the afternoon session, after an off in the morning required a visit to the medical center and stitches on his elbow.

WSBK: Battle to the Finish in Race 2 at Assen

04/17/2011 @ 11:04 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Battle to the Finish in Race 2 at Assen World Superbike Assen 2011 635x364

Carlos Checa started the second World Superbike race at Assen in pole position, after wise tire management left him the only rider in Superpole 3 on Saturday with an unused qualifying tire. He was joined on the front row by Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga. It was the first front row start (other than that for Race 1) for the Irish rider in his WSBK rookie season.

Laverty’s teammate Marco Melandri had worse luck, crashing on his final lap in Superpole 3 and only qualifying eighth. The second WSBK race at Assen got off to a late start after the Supersport race had multiple red flags. It had become somewhat cloudier as the afternoon progressed, but hampered the racing little.

Ruben Xaus to Start 200th WSBK Race at Phillip Island

02/14/2011 @ 5:21 pm, by Victoria Reid9 COMMENTS

Ruben Xaus to Start 200th WSBK Race at Phillip Island Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda WSBK 3 635x952

Ruben Xaus will start his 200th World Superbike race at Phillip Island, making him the third rider in this season’s field to start such a large number of races. He will join the ranks of Carl Fogarty, Noriyuki Haga, Troy Corser, Aaron Slight, and Frankie Chili in numbers of starts by racing at the season opener later this month. Xaus began his WSBK career with two wildcard entries in 1998, after a rookie Supersport season in 1997.

He returned to World Supersport for 1999 and 2000, but began his full-time career as a World Superbike rider in 2001. He left WSBK for the 2004 and 2005 seasons to go racing in MotoGP, with a career high of third at Qatar in 2004 on a satellite Ducati. Xaus was named MotoGP Rookie of the Year for 2004 and moved to a satellite Yamaha for 2005, where he did not have the same luck.