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.

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen Concept

In addition to debuting the Husqvarna 701 supermoto, the Swedish brand had two street concepts to unveil at the EICMA show. First up is the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen concept, which is a café racer inspired model. With a 373cc single-cylidner thumper at its core, the Vitpilen (Swedish for White Arrow) sports an attractive and clean design. A modern riff on the 1953 Husqvarna Silverpilen, the idea behind the Husqvarna Vitpilen is that less is more. Making a modest 43hp, the Vitpilen weights a paltry 297 lbs (135kg). Clever details abound on the Vitpilen, and we particularly enjoy the high-tech LED meets retro-scrambler headlight design that sits prominently at the front of the bike.

MotoGP: Three Crashes, Two Red Flags, & One Qualifying Session at the Indianapolis GP

08/18/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Three Crashes, Two Red Flags, & One Qualifying Session at the Indianapolis GP Indianapolis GP Friday Jules Cisek 211 635x423

Considering it is August here in Indiana, MotoGP has had pretty much perfect weather for the 2012 Red Bull Indianapolis GP thus far, with only a brief rainstrom hitting the track late Thursday afternoon and into the evening. With perfect conditions for Saturday, qualifying proved to be an eventful day for all the classes, as a number of riders had crashes that warranted the red flag coming out at the American circuit.

With riders continuing to complain not only of the three different types of asphalt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but now also about the fine dirt on the course, the issue of whether IMS is safe for MotoGP has been raised with the six red flags that were out in the four qualifying motorcycle sessions held today. Though no one hit any obstacles or walls, with three riders questionable for competing in Sunday’s MotoGP class race, it is not a stretch of the truth to say that the Indy GP will be challenging.

MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso to Ducati with a Two-Year Deal?

08/13/2012 @ 9:29 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso to Ducati with a Two Year Deal? Andrea Dovizioso Laguna Seca MotoGP Scott Jones

As we mentioned last week, Andrea Dovizioso agreed to take the factory Ducati seat vacated by Rossi’s departure for Yamaha. His signature, it appears, was subject to certain conditions, though. According to reports in the Italian media, Dovizioso demanded guarantees of support and development from Audi before putting pen to paper.

Italian TV station Mediaset is now reporting that Dovizioso has now received those guarantees, and has signed a two-year deal to ride for Ducati in 2013 and 2014. Ducati’s choosing Dovizioso over Cal Crutchlow – Dovizioso’s British partner at the Tech 3 squad had earlier been offered the ride at Ducati – is an indication of the the future direction of the Bologna factory.

The deal appears to signal that Ducati has accepted that they need to focus their development on building a bike to suit a traditional Grand Prix style, as displayed by the Italian. It is perhaps a signal to Ducati’s new owners Audi that they understand the magnitude of the problem, and that the loss of Valentino Rossi is being taken very seriously indeed.

MotoGP: A Silly Season Update

06/19/2012 @ 4:25 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

MotoGP: A Silly Season Update Ben grid1

Now that three races have passed, giving the paddock time to digest the news of Casey Stoner’s shock decision to retire and consider what effect it will have on the future line up of the MotoGP grid. The riders’ representatives have been very busy at the past few races, putting out feelers to factories and teams, weighing up opportunities and gauging the market value of their riders. With summer approaching, Silly Season for the 2013 Championship is very much open.

Two more decisions have accelerated developments, and drawn the lines of the 2013 season a little more clearly. Firstly, Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to stay with Yamaha for next season – “if Jorge wants to win championships,” said Lorenzo’s team boss Wilco Zeelenberg at Barcelona, “his best option is to stay at Yamaha.” The strength of the team and the state of the bike do seem to have been the key criteria for Lorenzo’s decision, the Spaniard opting for performance over financial gain.

The second development is the dropping of the Rookie Rule, preventing newcomers into the MotoGP class from going straight to the factory teams. The rule was popular with some team owners, but it also created major headaches for them: a big-name rookie like Marc Marquez does not come alone, but brings a small army of sponsors, advisers, mechanics, and assorted hangers on.

Room has to be made for these people and these sponsors, and long-term relationships have to be put aside to make way for them, which team managers then have to try to reestablish a year later once the rookie has gone. The abolition of the Rookie Rule clears the way for Marc Marquez to enter the Repsol Honda team, but it also opens up opportunities for other rookies at Yamaha or Ducati.

With these developments in mind, we can start to take a look at the current state of the market, the range of options open to riders in MotoGP, and what bikes may be on the grid for next season.

MotoGP: Yamahas vs. Hondas at the Catalan GP

06/03/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Yamahas vs. Hondas at the Catalan GP Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP Catalan GP 635x425

Despite a drizzle in the morning, the weather held for MotoGP’s race session in Catalunya. With Casey Stoner sitting on pole, the reigning-World Champion knew he had a bevy of Yamahas to content with come race day, with the big question being whether the softer tire option would prove to be a calculated gamble for the riders running it. With a number of Spaniards calling the greater Barcelona area home though, Stoner’s pole-position advantage was anything but a guarantee of a good result.

MotoGP: Testing at Jerez Provides Few Surprises

03/27/2012 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Testing at Jerez Provides Few Surprises Ducati Corse Jerez MotoGP test 2012 22 635x422

With testing concluded at Jerez, the MotoGP paddock has just two short weeks before the opening round at the Losail International Circuit is underway. Heading into Qatar, there are few surprises from last season though, as the Honda of Casey Stoner continues to dominate the time sheets, while teammate Dani Pedrosa and top-Yamaha man Jorge Lorenzo trail closely behind.

Yamaha’s package looks very refined and balanced, and appears to have gained a step on the Honda machines. This should make for more interesting racing moments, where the more balanced Yamaha YZR-M1 will excel at certain tracks, while the more powerful Honda RC213V will shine at others. Also coming more into play will be the strengths and weaknesses of Honda and Yamaha’s top riders, whose particular track preferences could be the x-factor at some of the races.

Still at best, MotoGP is shaping up to be a three-man show, with maybe Ben Spies and some other riders occasionally mixing the order of things up. This statement is of course a direct reflection on the progress of Ducati Corse, which despite having made improvements to the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, is not really any closer to making up the difference to the front of the pack. Now using a completely revised aluminum frame, the team still seems to be struggling to find a starting point from which to build from, and in the process they have killed enough spare parts to start a pick-and-pull MotoGP junkyard.

Edwards Says an R1 Motor in Custom Frame Would Be the “Weapon of Choice” If He Races CRT

08/27/2011 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Edwards Says an R1 Motor in Custom Frame Would Be the Weapon of Choice If He Races CRT Colin Edwards Indianapolis GP Scott Jones

With rumors swirling around where Colin Edwards will land next year, we grabbed a moment with the Texas Tornado to ask him about one rumor that keeps cropping up: him on a claiming rule team for the 2012 season. Of course, you don’t just ask Colin Edwards direct questions, and expect direct answers, as the Texan enjoys a good laugh.

Getting some MotoGP-rookie hazing, Edwards had some fun with A&R while talking about CRTs, but what the Texan did say (or in some cases, didn’t say) is pretty interesting. One thing is for certain, the two-time World Superbike champion was very keen on having a pepped-up production motor inside a prototype chassis for his bike next year.

With an official announcement likely to come at Misano, the question now is where Colin will end up for 2012. Welcome to Silly Season 2011 ladies and gentleman.

Ben Spies Named MotoGP Rookie of the Year

10/17/2010 @ 10:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ben Spies Named MotoGP Rookie of the Year Ben Spies Rookie of the Year MotoGP 635x476

Ben Spies clinched the MotoGP Rookie of the Year award while a racing at Phillip Island this weekend, adding another bullet point to the Texan’s impressive resumé, and achieving the next logical step in his GP career. Currently the highest ranking American in the MotoGP series, Spies holds a 11 point advantage over the Kentucky Kid Nicky Hayden. Both Americans have had a great season this year, and it will be exciting to watch the pair finish out the last two races of the season.

Moving up to the factory Yamaha team for the 2011 season, Spies will play second fiddle to Jorge Lorenzo, the reigning MotoGP World Champion. We’ll have to anxiously await Spies’ arrival on the factory-spec bike at the test in Valencia, following the conclusion of the 2010 MotoGP season, where we’ll get our first glimpse at what Spies can do on the more powerful factory M1. Team Texas: 1, Team Marco: 0.

Photo: Ben Spies (Personal Website)

Colin Edwards Signs One-Year Contract with Tech3

09/19/2010 @ 1:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Colin Edwards Signs One Year Contract with Tech3 Colin Edwards contract renewal Aragon GP 560x371

Officially announced after today’s Aragon GP, Colin Edwards has signed-on with Monster Yamaha Tech3 for another year of racing with the satellite team. In what was Edwards’ 100th appearance on a Yamaha, the Texan had a disappointing finish, but has seen his best results while on the French team. Edwards will join his new teammate for next year, Cal Crutchlow, and help the British rider come up to speed on the 800cc Yamaha MotoGP bike, and the pair is highly favored to be the top satellite riders next season.

“I am delighted to have signed a new one-year contract with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team,” said the Texan Tornado. “I want to say a big thanks to Yamaha and to Tech3 for their unwavering support. I am honoured to continue my long and successful relationship with Yamaha, Herve Poncharal and all at Tech3. I love the team and feel like part of a big family and I’m thrilled that our adventure together is continuing next year.”

Get to Know Team Texas: Edwards Interviews Spies

06/01/2010 @ 6:01 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Get to Know Team Texas: Edwards Interviews Spies Colin Edwards Ben Spies Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Texas 560x352

In an effort to get to know Team Texas a bit better, BBC Sport sat down Monster Yamaha Tech3 riders Colin Edwards and Ben Spies, and had the veteran rider question the MotoGP newcomer about issues on and off the track. Team orders? Rituals? Mustard or ketchup? The pair cover all the bases on what makes Team Texas truly Texan, and at the end of the interview, Edwards even dives into silly season speculation, and asks Rossi or Lorenzo? Check it out after the jump.

Spies 5th Fastest at Second Day of Sepang Testing

02/05/2010 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Spies 5th Fastest at Second Day of Sepang Testing Colin Edwards Sepang Malaysian 560x372

MotoGP riders tested at Sepgang for the second time today, after waiting for the Malaysian track to dry out from the looming rains. For their second outing, Ben Spies gets the most improved award, as the Texan rookie moved up from yesterday’s 12th place testing position (2’03.142) to being the 5th quickest man around the track (2’02.266) today. Spies had complained of jetlag yesterday, but with nearly a second dropped off his pace, it would seem he got a full night’s sleep last night. The Malaysian outing has been especially good for Tech3 Yamaha, which saw Colin Edwards as the 3rd quickest man yesterday.