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.

2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Mega Gallery

09/12/2013 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Mega Gallery 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale static 05 635x423

By now you have heard all about the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale, Bologna’s new “supermid” sport bike. You’ve heard about the Babigale’s 898cc Superquadro motor, which produces 148hp  and 73 lbs•ft of torque.

You’ve heard about the Ducati 899’s monocoque “frameless” chassis design and 372.5 lbs dry weight. And of course, you have heard of the 899’s extensive electronics suite that includes ABS, traction control, engine braking control, and ride-by-wire.

But have you seen Ducati’s sport bike, and its double-sided swingarm? We have 117 high-resolution photos of it after the jump for, just in case you haven’t gotten a glimpse.

Remember, pricing starts at $14,995 for the red model, and  $15,295 for the white model.

Rumors from Mugello: Hayden on Record Pace While Testing the WSBK Panigale, World Superbikes Beckon?

09/09/2013 @ 11:55 pm, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

Rumors from Mugello: Hayden on Record Pace While Testing the WSBK Panigale, World Superbikes Beckon?  image38 635x422

Though Ducati have told Nicky Hayden that there is no room for him in its factory MotoGP team, it is no secret that they would like to keep him within the Ducati family.

The American retains a huge following in his native country (according to Google Trends, he is the second most searched MotoGP rider, after Valentino Rossi, though Marc Marquez is hot on his heels), and is a favorite with sponsors thanks to his willingness to help the people who help pay his salary. Hayden has been a great ambassador for Ducati in the US during his four and a half year tenure at the Italian factory.

So Ducati are doing all they can to persuade Hayden to move to World Superbikes, and take on the challenge of racing the Ducati 1199 Panigale R. To that end, Hayden rode the World Superbike-spec version of the bike at Mugello last week, to assess what he was getting into before making a decision.

Nicky Hayden Testing the Ducati WSBK Today at Mugello

09/04/2013 @ 8:29 am, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

Nicky Hayden Testing the Ducati WSBK Today at Mugello Nicky Hayden Ducati 1199 Panigale R Austin COTA 635x422

Nicky Hayden is in Mugello today, testing the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 with Ducati Corse’s World Superbike contingent. The purpose of the day’s track excursion is surely a bid by Ducati Corse to keep Hayden in the Bolognese family, and to give Hayden an idea of the Panigale’s WSBK racing package, as the Kentucky Kid is weighing his options for the 2014 racing season.

The test coincides with rumors emanating from the WSBK paddock that Carlos Checa is reportedly looking for a way out of his contract with Ducati Corse, as the Spaniard has struggled to find results with the Italian company’s latest superbike platform. Whether Hayden is auditioning for Checa’s seat is uncertain (Marco Melandri is rumored to be in the mix as well), though we imagine Ducati wouldn’t mind having both riders on its WSBK roster next year.

Trackside Tuesday: The Mind-Killer

06/11/2013 @ 10:57 am, by Scott Jones16 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Mind Killer marc marquez mugello crash face motogp scott jones 635x422

The more time I spend photographing MotoGP, the more fascinating the riders become. In the past few years I’ve come to believe that, while superior physical differences (their reflexes and fine motor skills) are significant, it’s the mental differences that are the most interesting.

I suppose anyone who has ridden a motorcycle even a bit beyond one’s comfort zone can appreciate some part of the physical aspect of riding a racing bike. For most of us, even the speed of racers in local events is impressive compared to our street riding.

By the time we consider Grand Prix riders, their level of performance is so high that I suspect most of us have very little idea how challenging it is to move a motorcycle around a track that deftly.

While the skills with throttle, brakes, and balance are on a level similar to the best athletes in other sports, I think that what really sets motorcycle racers apart is their ability to overcome fear.

MotoGP: Mugello Meeting Helped ‘Clear The Air’ Between Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha

06/10/2013 @ 4:04 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Mugello Meeting Helped Clear The Air Between Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha cal crutchlow podium celebration mugello motogp scott jones 635x423

The troubled waters through which Cal Crutchlow has found himself sailing with Yamaha have been calmed a little. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider and his manager Bob Moore held their first face-to-face meeting with Yamaha bosses Lin Jarvis and Masahiko Nakajima on the Sunday night after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, to discuss the options for extending their relationship for next year.

Also present at the meeting was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss Hervé Poncharal, who has been very vocal in his desire to retain the British rider. Crutchlow’s results have been a real boon for the French team, and  his outspoken and impish personality have helped attract a large amount of media attention.

Poncharal has been mediating between Yamaha and Crutchlow, and is trying to secure an extension of Crutchlow’s contract with the team for 2014. He judged the meeting a positive step forward, with all parties involved getting a chance to express their views in person.

“It was good to clear the air,” Poncharal said of the meeting, something which was necessary after Crutchlow’s indignant and very public response to rumors that Yamaha were intending to put Pol Espargaro on Crutchlow’s seat in the Tech 3 garage.

Rumors of an imminent departure for the new factory Suzuki team continue to surround Crutchlow, despite Crutchlow’s continuing protestations that his first objective is to remain with Yamaha.

MotoGP: Ducati Test Cut Short by Rain, Biaggi Posts 1’52.1

06/07/2013 @ 4:01 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

MotoGP: Ducati Test Cut Short by Rain, Biaggi Posts 152.1 max biaggi pramac ducati mugello test

Max Biaggi’s brief return to MotoGP is over. After two days of testing Ducati’s MotoGP bike at Mugello, filling in for the injured Ben Spies, Biaggi returns to his day job, as TV commentator for the Italian coverage of World Superbikes.

Two short days were not really enough time for Biaggi to get back to grips with a MotoGP bike, especially given that testing stopped early on both days after rain started to fall in the afternoon. Biaggi faced two problems, returning to riding at speed for the first time in eight months, and returning to a MotoGP bike for the first time in over seven years.

Given those difficulties, the times he set in the end were respectable. According to GPOne, who had reporter Luca Semprini on location, Biaggi’s best time was a lap of 1’52.1, which would have seen him qualify in 23rd position for last Sunday’s MotoGP race, just ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama on the FTR Kawasaki CRT machine.

MotoGP: Biaggi’s First Day of Ducati Testing

06/06/2013 @ 3:48 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Biaggis First Day of Ducati Testing max biaggi pramac ducati motogp test mugello

Max Biaggi is back on a MotoGP machine, for the first time since he lost his ride at the end of the 2005 season. The reigning World Superbike champion took to the track at Mugello today to test Ben Spies’ Pramac Ducati, and get a feel for a MotoGP machine again.

Biaggi was invited to ride the bike by Ducati, mainly just as a friendly gesture towards an old rider, but in part also to give his input on riding the bike. With Spies still absent recovering from his shoulder injury, putting Biaggi on the bike was an interesting prospect. Because of Biaggi’s Italian connections, he rode Spies bike, but with bodywork from Iannone’s Energy.TI machine.

In a series of posts on his Twitter feed, Biaggi took some time getting up to speed on the machine. An enormous amount has changed since Biaggi last rode a V5 990cc Honda RC211V back in 2005, all of which take a lot of getting used to. The spec Bridgestone tires and the amount of electronic rider aids are two of the biggest changes, though the electronics on the factory Aprilia RSV4 WSBK machine are already highly sophisticated.

Caption This Photo: The Prodigal Son

06/06/2013 @ 3:04 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Max Biaggi To Test Ben Spies’s Ducati at Mugello, Michele Pirro To Replace Spies at Barcelona

06/04/2013 @ 3:33 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Max Biaggi To Test Ben Spiess Ducati at Mugello, Michele Pirro To Replace Spies at Barcelona michele pirro ducati desmosedici gp13 lab bike motogp scott jones 635x422

Max Biaggi is to make a surprise return to riding a MotoGP machine. The former 250 and World Superbike champion will take a seat on Ben Spies’ Ignite Pramac Ducati as part of a one-day test at Mugello, as part of Ducati’s testing program, according to Italian site GPOne.

Spies was scheduled to stay on at Mugello to take part in a two-day test, but after the first day of practice at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, it was clear to both Spies and Ducati that his shoulder was still too weak to ride a MotoGP machine. With work continuing on the Desmosedici, it was important for Ducati to get as much data as possible on their bike, and so Biaggi was offered the chance to ride the machine.

Alpinestars Releases Marquez’s 209.9 MPH Crash Telemetry

06/03/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Alpinestars Releases Marquezs 209.9 MPH Crash Telemetry Alpinestards Tech Air telemetry Marc Marquez crash Mugello MotoGP 01 635x311

Marc Marquez would almost certainly like to forget this past weekend at Mugello for the Italian GP. Heads up to the spoiler alert, but not only did he make an unforced error during the race, crashing out of second place all by his lonesome (with a comfortable margin fore and aft, we might add), but the young Spanish rider also had one of the fastest crashes ever in the MotoGP Championship during Friday’s Free Practice 2 session.

Losing control of his Repsol Honda RC213V at 209.9 mph as he approached the San Donato corner during the race, Marquez had to jump away from his race bike, at roughly 170 mph, in order to avoid the rapidly approaching wall barrier. Escaping with a battered chin, a small fissure to his humerus bone, as well as minor soft-tissue injuries to his shoulder, Marquez came out of the incident in FP2 rather well, all things considered.

Now that Marquez has gotten a clean bill of health from doctors in Barcelona (he will have to undergo some physio the next few days though), Repsol and others in the paddock can breathe a sigh of relief, and begin to analyze the crash in more detail. Helping add insight to the crash, Alpinestars has released the telemetry from Marquez’s Tech Air race suit, which shows the g-forces involved during the crash, as well as the deployment time of the suit’s airbag.