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.

A Better Look at the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218

05/14/2014 @ 5:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

A Better Look at the Lightning Motorcycles LS 218 lightning motorcycles ls 218 enhance

It was only two days ago that Lightning Motorcycles teased its upcoming LS-218 superbike, complete with a shadowy look of the 200hp+ electric machine.

With the official debut scheduled for this Saturday at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California, we don’t have long to wait for the full monty; but with a little Photoshop work, and a little sleuthing, we can have a pretty good idea of what to expect of the final design, or do we?

Raising the exposure and adjusting the levels on the press photo reveals a machine that is about 75% complete. Noticeably missing are the hand controls and instruments, a dash, and it seems some bodywork like the undertail, lower fairing, and windscreen (the photo shows an opaque windscreen, which we have a hard time imagining being a part of the final design).

Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 to Debut at Quail Lodge

05/12/2014 @ 11:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Lightning Motorcycles LS 218 to Debut at Quail Lodge lightning motorcycles ls 218

We shouldn’t have to make too big of a case for your attendance at the The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, so if you’re in Northern California this coming weekend, you owe it to yourself to attend.

But just in case seeing a plethora of unique and beautiful show bikes isn’t your thing (100 years of motorcycles at the Bonneville Salt Flats is on display this year, by the way), we submit to you the upcoming debut of the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 production electric superbike.

A long time in the coming, and based off Lightning’s electric race bike, the LS-218 aims to be the “mot [sic] technologically advanced and highest performing street-legal production motorcycle in teh [sic] world.”

A lofty statement, but then again the LS-218 has some credentials to back it up — and it starts with the electric superbike’s name: LS-218, which is an homage to the machine’s 218 mph top recorded speed at the Bonneville salt flats (a speed reach while setting an official 215 mph land speed record).

We have seen a concept sketch of what the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 should look like, and expect the final version to look very similar; but until Saturday, the above photo is the only glimpse we have of the machine. If the genuine article has the same tastes as the concept sketch, motorcycle fans (even petrol heads) should be in for a treat.

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

05/06/2014 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain carlin dunne pikes peak international hill climb lightning motorcycles jensen beeler 635x423

Normally our “Trackside Tuesday” series features something from the MotoGP paddock, since that is where the A&R photographers spend most of their time swinging lenses. But, I thought we would change it up a bit today, especially since the marketing machine for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway for next month’s race.

I have a love-hate relationship with Pikes Peak. The racing is unlike anything else you will see in America, and it survives by what seems like tradition alone. Set on one of Colorado’s famous 14er peaks, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet of undulating road, which starts fast and sweeping, tightens to slow and technical, and then finally relents to some degree near the summit.

It is not a race for the timid, as many of the turns feature an extreme of terrain: granite walls or sheer drops. At one turn, called The Bottomless Pit, the joke is that if you crash there (and don’t break every bone in your body on the two foot tall wall at the tarmac’s end), you will starve to death before you reach terra firma. It’s a bit of hyperbole for sure, but it still isn’t a turn where I would want to go down, if I was a racer.

It amazes me then that the hill climb is in its 92nd season, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is really just one good lawsuit away from being sacked; and to be frank, it’s not like the race has done much in the past to mitigate its exposure. So, it is refreshing to see some professionalism being brought to this iconic race, and 2014 will see some spectator guidelines being imposed on the PPIHC.

There will of course be a few misinformed people that will call this the death of Pikes Peak, but the honest truth is that the race, if left unchanged, would have been the death of itself — and it’s not like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb isn’t still without its dangers.

That might be the reason that Guy Martin has finally decided to make the journey over from across the pond, and give the local teams and riders a run for their money. The Isle of Man TT star will be riding on a custom turbocharged cafe racer, which with the added boost of nitrous, is said to put down near 500hp.

The whole thing is a ridiculous entry, which has its sights squarely on the outright motorcycle record at Pikes Peak, much like Sebastien Loeb’s run last year was an assault on the four-wheeled record.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles Beat All Gas Bikes at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

06/30/2013 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles Beat All Gas Bikes at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb carlin dunne pikes peak international hill climb lightning motorcycles jensen beeler 635x423

It wasn’t the outright course record that we had hoped for, but Carlin Dunne set a superb 10’00.694 time up the mountain on his Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike, besting the top gas-bike time of the day, a 10’21.323 that was set by Bruno Langlois on his 1205cc class Ducati Multistrada 1200 S.

Setting the fastest time ever for an electric motorcycle up Pikes Peak, Dunne likely would have broken his own outright record had the PPIHC race course not been extremely green after two days of intermittent downpours.

Describing the course as having very little traction, compared to the earlier practice days, Dunne cited at least a dozen spots where he could have improved upon his time, but also acknowledged that one of those twelve areas likely would have been his stopping point for the day, as was the case for a bevy of other competitors.

The first major motorsport event to see an electric motorcycle out perform its gas counterparts, the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will surely be remembered as a turning-point for the historic race, and also for motorsport in general.

2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Motorcycle Results

06/30/2013 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Watch the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Live

06/29/2013 @ 6:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Watch the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Live pikes peak international hill climb live stream 635x421

We are only a handful of hours away from the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and unless you like waking up at zero-dark-thirty to queue up the mountain road, we have an easier way for you to follow all the Pikes Peak action. Teaming up with Red Bull this year, the organizers at Pikes Peak have made available a live stream of the race. Booyah internetz!

This means you can watch Sebastian Loeb and Peugeot attempt to crack the nine-minute barrier (the ten-minute barrier was just broken last year!), see Greg Tracy make his four-wheel debut at the Race to the Clouds on-board the Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution II electric race car (Monster Tajima is back with his electric supercar as well), and witness A&R lose a bet as Carlin Dunne attempts to set the outright motorcycle record on the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike (Carlin has already posted the fastest qualifying time a motorcycle, petrol or electric, ever on the mountain).

To catch the action, you can either got to RedBull.tv or watch the live feed on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb website. The racing starts at 8am (MDT), and will go according to the following running order (found after the jump). With weather expected to come through the Pikes Peak area, be advised that there could be delays.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Set Fastest Qualifying Time Ever for a Motorcycle at Pikes Peak

06/28/2013 @ 10:38 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Set Fastest Qualifying Time Ever for a Motorcycle at Pikes Peak carlin dunne lightning motorcycles 635x423

In its second year of having a fully paved road course to the summit, it should come as no surprise then that qualifying for the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb saw the quickest time ever set by a motorcycle.

It should also come as no surprise that the man setting the record was Carlin Dunne, the 2011 race winner and rookie of the year, and 2012 race winner and outright motorcycle record holder.

Qualifying on the lower section of the Pikes Peak course, Dunne put down an astounding 4’13 lap time — putting him five seconds clear of his nearest two-wheeled competition.

While it is impressive that Dunne was able to beat out the Ducati Multistrada 1200’s in the 1205cc class, what is perhaps the most intriguing piece of news is that Dunne set the qualifying record while riding the Lightning Motorcycles Flying Banana*.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Sets Outright Best Motorcycle Time at Pikes Peak Tire Test on a Lightning Motorcycle

06/13/2013 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Sets Outright Best Motorcycle Time at Pikes Peak Tire Test on a Lightning Motorcycle carlin dunne lightning motorcycles thunderhill track test 635x423

The competitors for the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb have just concluded a two-day tire test at the Colorado road course, and it should perhaps come as no surprise that our boy Carlin Dunne has posted the outright fastest lap for a motorcycle during the tire test (the Santa Barbara native set the outright two-wheeled course record last year on his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S).

What is surprising about Carlin’s result at the tire test is that he was on the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike. That’s right, the fastest bike so far for 2013’s Race to the Clouds is a 200+ hp electric superbike that is refueled with solar energy. Petrol heads, eat your heart out.

Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles for Pikes Peak

06/04/2013 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles for Pikes Peak carlin dunne pikes peak international hill climb jamey price 635x422

While our attention is currently focused on the 2013 Isle of Man TT, the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is just around the corner. Perhaps the closest thing to the TT that we have here on American soil, Pikes Peak is the second-oldest motorsport race in the United States (the first being the Indy 500), and features riders and drivers who risk it all during the Race to the Clouds.

With that in mind, our boy Carlin Dunne is returning to Pikes Peak again this year, though he is trading in his gorgeous Ducati Multistrada 1200 for the “Flying Banana” of Lightning Motorcycles. A two-time winner, and outright fastest man ever on two wheels at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Dunne will be gunning for the race record for an electric motorcycle at this year’s event.

“I have a chance to be a part of something even bigger, to prove something to the rest of the world by riding this amazing electric bike. And I have to say, I’ve been testing it for a month, and it’s insane. It’s power and acceleration is like nothing I’ve ever ridden. When you light that fuse, hang on,” said Dunne.

Chip Yates to Defend Electric Motorcycle Record at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with Lightning Motorcycles

04/15/2013 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Chip Yates to Defend Electric Motorcycle Record at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with Lightning Motorcycles Chip Yates Pikes Peak electric superbike 635x400

As the kids in the arcade used to say, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Upon hearing the news that Greg Tracy and Amarok Racing would be making an appearance at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Chip Yates has set aside his tinkering with electric airplanes for the time being, and come out of two-wheeled retirement to defend his title.

Trading in the world’s fastest pizza delivery bike for the Richard Hatfield’s Flying Banana (there really is no good way to write that, sorry Richard), Yates will compete on one of Lightning Motorcycle’s electric superbikes at the 91st running of the Race to the Clouds.