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.

Race Highlights from the 2014 Macau GP

11/21/2014 @ 1:24 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Race Highlights from the 2014 Macau GP stuart easton 2014 macau grand prix CPGM 635x423

The 48th annual Macau Grand Prix was underway this past weekend, rounding out the 2014 road racing season, all the way on the other side of the world from the normal Irish and Manx roadways.

As much of a spectacle as its European counterparts, the Macau GP is set in the downtown area of the Special Administrative Region of Macu, and is proper elbow-to-elbow motorcycle racing.

A spectacle to see with the tight corners and dense cityscape, we regrettably didn’t cover the race this year due to a communication error on my part with our correspondent (my pay has been docked accordingly).

To try and at least make up for that error, we have for you the video highlights of the race, which Stuart Easton won quite comfortably, bringing his tally of Macau GP wins up to four now.

Watch the 2013 Macau Grand Prix Right Here

11/18/2013 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Watch the 2013 Macau Grand Prix Right Here ian hutchinson macau gp gcs 635x423

What? You mean the 2013 Macau GP wasn’t on your television, despite the fact you get like a billion channels nowadays? And one flying-lap is simply not enough to ease your motolust?

Don’t worry, if you missed the road racing action this weekend in China’s Special Administrative Region, we’ve got your back. Someone in China has broken the Great Firewall, and uploaded the race to YouTube.

The racing is fierce on this nearly four-mile long circuit, and the fairytale ending is worth the price of admission alone. Enjoy over an hour of racing coverage.

Ian Hutchinson Wins the 2013 Macau GP

11/16/2013 @ 11:23 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Ian Hutchinson Wins the 2013 Macau GP ian hutchinson michael rutter macau gp GCS 635x422

Defying the odds against him, Ian Hutchinson has won the 2013 Macau GP, beating fierce competitor Michael Rutter in the shortened race. Hutchinson took the lead from Rutter on the fourth lap of fifteen, though a crash on the eleventh lap by Dean Harrison brought the Macau GP to an early end.

Thankfully Harrison was unhurt by the crash, though his bike was in the middle of the course, and forced race officials to red flag the race. Despite the premature ending, there can be no question that it was Hutchinson’s day, as the man from Bingley had a solid two-second gap over Rutter.

Coming off an eighteen month recovery period, Hutchinson’s win reconfirms the young Yorkshireman as a true talent in road racing, with today’s Macau GP win adding another impressive entry on Hutchinson’s already illustrious resumé, which includes a clean sweep of the 2010 Isle of Man TT’s five solo-class races.

“It’s probably one of the most special wins I’ve ever had with what’s gone on in the last few years, but hopefully now I can move on to carrying on back where I left off three years ago,” said Hutchinson after the race.

Ian Hutchinson Takes Pole Position for Macau GP

11/15/2013 @ 7:13 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Ian Hutchinson Takes Pole Position for Macau GP Ian Hutchinson Macau GP Qualifying CGPM 635x423

The Macau GP is this weekend, and it is already shaping up to be a great event after today’s qualifying. Normally this is a race that Michael Rutter dominates (the Brit has eight Macau GP race wins to his name), but this year sees a new name on the leaderboard at the conclusion of the two qualifying sessions: Ian Hutchinson.

The only man to ever win all five solo races at the Isle of Man TT, Hutchinson was all the talk in 2010, but the Bingly man has seen his last two seasons hampered with tough recoveries from leg injuries.

Though finally healthy, many were beginning to wonder if Hutchy had lost his pace on a motorbike — his performance today on the Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1 has ended that talk though.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans with Kevin Warren

09/24/2013 @ 4:06 pm, by Kevin Warren8 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: All in a Day’s Time

09/24/2013 @ 3:31 pm, by Kevin WarrenComments Off

Trackside Tuesday: All in a Days Time honda tt legends le mans 24 hour kevin warren 635x422

In the world of motorcycle racing the Isle of Man TT is indeed infamous, and as a photographer I have been lucky enough to shoot on the Isle in the Irish Sea. When my letter of credential for the Le Mans 24 Hour Moto arrived, I was beyond ecstatic — my charge would be to cover those same TT riders as they participated in the FIM World Endurance Championship finale at Le Mans.

An overnight flight from my home in Atlanta, and a train ride from Paris to Le Mans, and I was on-site 48 hours later. There are times when arriving at a circuit that I have never shot can be daunting, but one walk thru the door to the Honda TT Legends pits and I felt at home. As much due to the familiar faces, as to the more relaxed atmosphere of the team here at Le Mans versus the intensity at the Isle of Man.

Kevin Schwantz & Team Kagayama Podium at Suzuka

07/28/2013 @ 9:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Kevin Schwantz & Team Kagayama Podium at Suzuka kevin schwantz suzuka 8 hour 635x423

Seeing the return of American racing legend Kevin Schwantz to FIM road racing, the 2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race was certainly one to remember.

While the return of Schwantz overshadowed many of the other big names in the sport that competed in the event, not to mention the former World Champion’s own teammates: Noriyuki Haga & Yukio Kagayama, the Suzuka starting grid was also blessed with the entries of Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Josh Brookes, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Simon Andrews, and American Jason Pridmore.

Though a long eight-our race, the on-course action was surprisingly close, with the Top 5 teams on the same lap well past the three-hour mark. Team Kagayama was in good shape for a solid result from the onset of the race, as Noriyuka Haga put the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a solid fourth position.

The team rose as high as second-position with Team Manager Yukio Kagayama on-board, as the Suzuka specialist kept a solid pace, and benefited from the pit stops of other teams, not to mention the retirement of the FCC TSR Honda team, which had a race-ending crash with Ryuichi Kiyonari at the helm.

While the crash from Kiyonari on the FCC TSR Honda dashed the race-win-repeat hopes of World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea, Kevin Schwantz finally dazzled fans in the third hour as he took to the course. For all the postulation that the 49-year-old was over the hill for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Texan held his own on the Kagayama Suzuki, and managed to keep Team Kagayama in the podium hunt, especially as other top teams succumbed to the rigors of endurance racing.

Ride with John McGuinness at Suzuka

07/26/2013 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Ride with John McGuinness at Suzuka Honda TT Legends Suzuka 8 Hour 05 635x423

The pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on the Endurance World Championship calendar.

Immensely popular with the fans and fielded with a bevy of expert local teams, even the Japanese OEMs take the Suzuka 8 Hours very seriously — and are not above stacking their factory squads with the top riders from various national and international road racing series.

One such team at Suzuka is the Honda TT Legends crew, which as the name implies, is made up of legends from the Isle of Man TT: John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews. Backed by Honda Europe, McPint & crew are on some top machinery, but as they have already seen in qualifying, that’s only part of the battle.

With Rutter and Andrews having never ridden at Suzuka before, the team has a steep learning curve, though over the eight-hour race, we think they will have plenty of time to crawl back from their 29th spot qualifying, and into their Top 10 goal. Racing kicks off Sunday at 11:30am local (JST), but until then enjoy this on-board footage and witty banter from Mr. TT.

Video: Still Think Electric Motorcycles Are Slow?

06/10/2013 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Video: Still Think Electric Motorcycles Are Slow? motoczysz michael rutter on board video tt zero 635x423

The progress in the last five years on electric motorcycles has been astounding. Taking their first laps around the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course, a 87.434 mph pace was the best an electric motorcycle could do at the prestigious road race in 2009 — a pace that was on par with the 50cc record set in 1971. Since that time though, the development of these machines has grown by leaps and bounds.

In just five years after the first laps were taken by electric motorcycles at Snaefell, these machines have grown their average lap speeds by over 20 mph at the TT Zero race, setting a new record of 109.675 mph in 2013, and boasting a rate of improvement of roughly 5 mph each year since 2009.

If hitting 142.2 mph down the Sulby Straight speed trap wasn’t further proof of the speeds these bikes are achieving, maybe some visual evidence will help support the notion. Checkout the on-board videos of Michael Rutter (on the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc) and John McGuinness (on the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni) after the jump.

IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/05/2013 @ 3:28 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results Michael Rutter MotoCzysz TT Zero Isle of Man TT Richard Mushet 635x423

You either love the technology and progress being showcased in the SES TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, or you hate the lack of sound, slower speeds, and fairly predictable outcomes that the electric race provides.

For our part, we love watching the electrics go around the Mountain Course, and if you have been following the practice and qualifying sessions for the TT Zero class, the racing is anything but a parade lap at the pointy end of the entry list.

With John McGuinness leading the field with his Mugen Shinden Ni going into the 2013 TT Zero, many wondered if MotoCzysz could make it four in a row at the 2013 Isle of Man TT.

To win though, McGuinness would have to defeat two-time TT Zero winner Michael Rutter, and the 2010 TT Zero winner Mark Miller, both of whom are on the brand new 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc this fortnight. Well, now we know the answer. Click through past the jump for our full race report 2013 SES TT Zero.