Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Preview of Misano: On Yamaha’s Seamless Gearbox, Marquez’s Misdemeanors & The Veto That Wasn’t

09/13/2013 @ 12:08 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Will they or won’t they? The “they”, of course, were Yamaha, and the question was whether Yamaha would start to use their seamless gearbox at Misano, something which riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo had been asking for a long time.

That the gearbox would be used at the test on Monday seemed obvious, but several publications – including both MCN and the Spanish website Motocuatro – predicted that Yamaha’s seamless transmission would be raced at Misano.

They were right. In the press conference on Thursday, Jorge Lorenzo was the first to break the news. “It will be here for the weekend,” he said, going on to clarify: “tomorrow.” Rossi was delighted, telling the press conference he was very happy that Yamaha had decided to start using the seamless transmission, as it could help them in their fight against Honda.

Trackside Tuesday: First in Flight

08/27/2013 @ 12:42 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

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The longer you spend trackside at a given circuit, the more you think you know what that circuit has to offer. The good shots are in this turn in the morning, that turn in the afternoon, and so on. It’s easy to hang on to this belief in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

The fact is that small changes in location or perspective can turn a good image into an amazing one. I see this all the time when shooting at a track such as Catalunya or Phillip Island, where the trackside view of the circuit is not limited by large fences and their gaps. Often a turn looks good from one spot, but if you move a few steps farther along, the perspective changes dramatically.

But the more days you spend shooting at a given circuit, the easier it is to think you have it wired. Laguna Seca is getting to be like that for me. I’ve been attending and photographing races there as an amateur and then a pro for many years. Good friend and fellow photographer Jules Cisek and I were commiserating in July about our shared feeling of being a bit bored with our home track. The weekend before we’d both been at the Sachsenring, he for the first time, I for the second, and that had seemed like blissfully undiscovered country.

2014 MotoGP Calendar: Brazil In, Laguna Seca Out?

08/21/2013 @ 11:09 am, by David Emmett45 COMMENTS

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The 2014 MotoGP calendar could see the first steps in a long process to transform Grand Prix motorcycle racing from a Eurocentric series to a truly international world championship. Today, Dorna CEO held a press conference in Brazil to announce that MotoGP could make a return to that South American country as early as late 2014.

The event would be held at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet de Brasilia, the motorcycle circuit in the capital city of Brazil, and has been scheduled to take place in the second half of the 2014 season. That date is still very far from certain, however, as the track is still subject to safety homologation by the FIM for Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

If the race goes ahead – and the facilities at the circuit are believed to need a lot of work to bring them up to MotoGP standard, though there appear to be few physical obstacles to moving walls back and creating the necessary runoff required – then it will join the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina as the second South American race on the calendar, giving a much more international feel to the MotoGP series.

The expansion into Central and South America is seen as crucial to the future of the sport, as all forms of motor sport are extremely popular in the region. The inclusion of Colombian rider Yonny Hernandez in the premier class provided a boost for the visibility of the series in the region, and the hope is that by adding Argentina and Brazil to the calendar, more local talent can be cultivated. The region is also a key market for the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers.

Q&A: Randy Mamola Talks About the MotoGP Season So Far

08/15/2013 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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With MotoGP’s summer break officially underway (and just days away from now concluding), Asphalt & Rubber sat down with Randy Mamola at the finish of the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, to get the Grand Prix legend’s perspective on how the 2013 MotoGP Championship was shaping up so far in his eyes.

Obviously, the man of the hour at the time of our discussion was Marc Marquez, who had just recreated one the most talked about passes in motorcycle racing history, and had won at one of the most enigmatic tracks on the GP calendar…after having never been to Laguna Seca before, naturally.

Sharing his insights on Marquez and the talent that the Repsol Honda rider exudes, Mamola gave us his unique perspective on the leaders for this year’s MotoGP title, amongst other issues in the paddock. Read the Q&A from our dialogue after the jump.

Up-Close with the 2013 Honda RC213V

07/29/2013 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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The Honda RC213V and its predecessors have always been formidable machines in MotoGP, but for 2013 HRC has truly managed to make a peerless motorcycles for its four riders: Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Stefan Bradl, and Alvaro Bautista.

In the past, the Honda was all about its motor and its ability to rocket out of the corners, whereas the Yamaha YZR-M1 was more about its chassis and the ability to have supreme edge-grip through the turns.

This dichotmy created two bikes that required two very different riding styles to be fully utilized; and also it meant sometimes the Honda was the weapon of choice, and sometimes the Yamaha was the better tool for the job — depending on the track, of course.

But all that changed this past season and a half. Finding a solution to the RC213V’s chatter problem (a problem that was courtesy of the raised minimum weight requirement for 2012), in the latter part of last season, HRC watch Dani Pedrosa storm after Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship points.

Helping the Repsol Honda rider was of course HRC’s seamless shifting gearbox, which at some tracks on the calendar is good for a tenth or two per lap, but what really spurred on Pedrosa was engineers at Honda overcoming the one weakness in the RC213V’s design.

No longer was the race between a bike with power and the other with handling — now the Honda had both; and better yet, Yamaha had no reply for this development.

While Yamaha Racing is still hoping to debut its own seamless gearbox during the 2013 season, it will likely do little to change the course of events in the Championship standings. The 2013 Honda RC213V is a matchless machine right now, and it is the hands of two very formidable riders.

Don’t count Jorge Lorenzo and his Yamaha YZR-M1 out of course, but the reigning World Champion has more than hisfill when it comes to fending off the two Repsol Honda riders.

Making it a point to capture this fine machine in detail at the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, I dodged bikes in the very busy MotoGP pit lane to bring you a bevy of high-resolution photos of the 2013 Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, which are waiting for you after the jump (be sure to check-out my similar photo sets of the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 and Yamaha YZR-M1 from Austin, TX as well).

A Motorcycle Service Manual in Your Dash? A Look at the Motus MST’s All-Glass Cockpit

07/23/2013 @ 1:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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This weekend at MotoGP’s Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, I stopped by the Motus ten to give Lee Conn and Brian Case some grief, and to see how the production-ready Motus MST was looking. The bikes looked similar to their prototype form from two year’s ago, with obviously more fit-and-finish in the overall design. One of the big changes I noticed though was that Motus has dropped the industry standard analog tach and LCD speedo for an all-glass cockpit design.

Sunday Summary at Laguna Seca: Of Marquez’s Achievements, The Legality of the Pass, & The Lone Yamaha

07/22/2013 @ 7:42 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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It may be, in the colorful phrase of Jeremy Burgess, a “shitty little race track,” but somehow Laguna Seca always manages to produce moments of magic. This year was no different, with Stefan Bradl finally getting his first podium, Marc Marquez breaking record after record, and Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa coming back, after they both had damaged their collarbones at the Sachsenring.

As memorable as those performances were, they will all be overshadowed by one moment. Marc Marquez passed Valentino Rossi in the Corkscrew on lap 4, running through the dirt in scenes reminiscent of Rossi’s iconic pass on Casey Stoner back in 2008.

The incident fired the imagination of MotoGP fans for so very many different reasons: the reminder of Rossi’s pass on Stoner; the even deeper line which Marquez took through the gravel in 2013; the thrill of a rider running through that corner and still managing to return and maintain his position.

Naturally, it was the talk of the press conference. When asked about the pass, Rossi turned his attention to HRC team principal (and Marc Marquez’ team boss) Livio Suppo. Suppo was Casey Stoner’s team boss back in 2008, and had complained bitterly of Rossi’s pass at the Corkscrew.

“You and Stoner break my balls for two or three years about that overtake, because I cut the curb. So what do you say about that? Have to be disqualified eh?” Rossi asked to much laughter. Not to be outdone, Suppo replied in kind: “Thanks for the question, and thanks to Marc, because after a few years, we pay you back!”

Sunday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/22/2013 @ 9:36 am, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

Photos: Marc Marquez Passing Valentino Rossi in The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca

07/22/2013 @ 1:54 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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Just like Valentino Rossi’s move on Casey Stoner in 2008, we will be talking about Marc Marquez getting past  Rossi through the dirt of the Laguna Seca Corkscrew for some time to come.

With some retrospect, Marquez’s move on Rossi might be the defining moment for where the young Spaniard replaced the veteran Italian as MotoGP’s darling, but until that passing of the torch has been solidified with more duration, we will refer to the pass as just one of racing’s most epic moments in recent memory.

MotoGP: Race Results from the US GP at Laguna Seca

07/21/2013 @ 3:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS