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.

Video: Ducati Corse is Ready for Mugello and the Italian GP

05/31/2013 @ 1:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Video: Ducati Corse is Ready for Mugello and the Italian GP 2013 ducati desmosedici gp13 635x364

I don’t know why Ducati Corse is calling this video “Ducati Team 2013 Presentation Video” on YouTube. Maybe it is because the team has been absent from the top of the time sheets for so long that Ducati thought we might have forgoten that Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso are the team’s factory riders. I kid, I kid…but really…no, I kid.

Already two practice sessions deep at Mugello for the Italian GP though, Ducati Corse is making quite the impression with all five of its riders: Hayden (4th), Iannone (6th), Dovizioso (7th), Pirro (10th), and Spies (16th). Mugello is Ducati’s home track event on the MotoGP calendar, and the 2013 Ducati Desmosedici GP13 has turned more than a few laps at the Tuscan circuit.

For Ducatisti, Sunday could be a very good day, though the weather remains a huge variable. But still, in the dry the Ducatis seem to be going very well, and for Ducati podiums, we all know you just add water. Chewy.

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Challenge, Crutchlow’s Ultimatum, & Sport as Soap Opera

05/30/2013 @ 7:24 pm, by David Emmett26 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossis Challenge, Crutchlows Ultimatum, & Sport as Soap Opera Cal Crutchlow MotoGP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Scott Jones 635x421

Mugello is a spectacular setting. Even when it absolutely pours down, so badly that a river starts running through the Mugello paddock, the setting remains spectacular. It makes navigating the paddock without a life vest fairly treacherous, but at least the view is stunning. The rain looks set to stay for the duration, though the forecast appears to be improving day by day, but the riders need not fear a lack of wet track time.

As always, the riders waxed eloquent on the circuit, almost universal in their praise. Most entertaining simile of the day was from Bradley Smith, who compared Mugello to a motocross track: all undulating surfaces, blind crests and banked corners. He is right, of course, but it is not the first comparison that springs to mind when describing a track as physically large and magnificent as Mugello.

MotoGP Dropping Claiming Rule in 2014 – Goodbye CRT?

05/30/2013 @ 1:02 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

MotoGP Dropping Claiming Rule in 2014    Goodbye CRT? hector barbera yonny hernandez cota motogp jensen beeler 635x423

MotoGP’s Claiming Rule is set to be consigned to the history books. At the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Barcelona, a proposal will be put forward to abandon the claiming rule altogether.

With the advent of the new distinction, between MSMA entries and non-MSMA entries, the need to claim an engine ceased to exist. The demise of the claiming rule opens the way towards the leasing of Yamaha engines to private teams without fear of those engines being claimed by other factories.

The claiming rule had been instigated at the start of 2012, to allow the grid to expand. At the end of 2011, with the departure of Suzuki, and both Honda and Ducati cutting back the number of satellite bikes they were prepared to provide, numbers on the MotoGP grid looked like falling to as low as 13 or 14 bikes.

The switch back to 1000cc engines meant a rich spectrum of engines was available to custom chassis builders, to produce affordable race bikes. To allow such teams to compete with the full factory efforts, such teams were allowed extra fuel (24 liters instead of 21), and double the factory engine allowance, 12 instead of 6.

To prevent new factories from taking advantage of the loophole, the MSMA members – the factories involved in MotoGP – retained the right to claim the engine of such teams. Hence the name, Claiming Rule Team or CRT.

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamaha’s Travails, Rossi’s Hopes, Ducati’s Dreams, & Honda’s Domination

05/29/2013 @ 4:32 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Preview of Mugello: Of Yamahas Travails, Rossis Hopes, Ducatis Dreams, & Hondas Domination Cal Crutchlow Mugello MotoGP Jules Cisek

Mugello is arguably MotoGP’s crowning glory. The location is stunning, in the verdant hills of Tuscany, a few miles north of Florence, one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. The track itself is gorgeous and beautifully laid out, rolling round the valley in which the circuit is set.

It is one of the few tracks left at which a MotoGP bike can fully stretch its legs, even a 260+ horsepower fire-breathing 1000cc Honda RC213V. At the end of the front straight, as riders drift right then left for the slight kink of the pit lane exit just before the track drops off for the spectacular first corner at San Donato, the bikes approach the magical barrier of 350 km/h. An obstacle that has not yet been cleared, but one which must surely fall in the near future.

A lap of the circuit passes in under 1’48, an average of 175 km/h, or nearly 110 mph. It is verily a temple of speed.

It may seem odd, then, that the fastest bike does not necessarily win at the circuit. Of the past ten editions of the race, seven have been won by Yamahas, a bike which has never been the fastest in a straight line.

While speed is not the secret to the circuit, a glance at the list of winners over the years reveals exactly what is: Valentino Rossi has won seven times at the circuit in the premier class (as well as twice more in the support classes), Mick Doohan won here six times, Jorge Lorenzo won twice, and the list of one-time winners includes Dani Pedrosa, Kevin Schwantz, Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner.

To win at Mugello is simple: it is merely a matter of being one of the very best riders in the world.

MotoGP: Ducati Corse’s New “Junior Team” Strategy

08/02/2012 @ 11:11 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Ducati Corses New Junior Team Strategy Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Thursday Jules Cisek 08 635x423

Ducati is on the verge of a large-scale overhaul of a major part of its MotoGP strategy. In 2013, its approach to satellite teams is set to change radically, with its satellite structure set to receive factory-spec Desmosedicis that will have a much closer relationship with the Borgo Panigale factory, says Ducati boss Alessandro Cicognani. “The main goal is to have a more competitive bike,” Cicognani said, speaking to us after the race at Mugello. “In this scenario, we are thinking that the satellite team could be a help to achieve more effective results more quickly for the factory team.”

The idea is to take a leaf out of Yamaha’s book, Cicognani explained. “The strategy we are thinking about is like a Tech 3 but with factory-spec bikes, something like that,” he said, while emphasizing that the plans had yet to be finalized. “We are thinking about it. We have some ideas.”

Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 3

07/23/2012 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 3 Mugello Teletubbies

You’d be hard pressed to know that Part 3 of Monster’s little video series on the Mugello helmets of Valentino Rossi featured The Doctor at all (Part 1 & Part 2), as the short video clip watches more like a highlight reel of all of MotoGP’s Monster-sponsored riders. Maybe that’s because Rossi wasn’t fighting for the front at the Italian GP (though it was his best dry-weather outing thus far with the GP12), while Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso found himself sipping the bubbly after the race.

The truth is probably more along the lines of the fact that the energy drink manufacturer had to shell out big bucks for the video rights from Dorna, and a marketing manager at the company needed something to justify that huge expense to his boss. Anyhoo, our big takeaway from this final installment: the view of fans rushing the track post-race is something worth experiencing first-hand, especially when it involves Teletubbies riding pit-bikes. Video after the jump.

Trackside Tuesday: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

07/17/2012 @ 3:43 pm, by Jules Cisek13 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Actions Speak Louder Than Words Stefan Bradl Trackside Tuesday Jules Cisek 635x423

The somewhat thin crowds at Mugello this past weekend were in a way reflective of the lack of Italian domination in Grand Prix racing over the last few seasons. With Spaniards taking all 3 GP Championships in 2010, three non-italian nations doing the same in 2011, Valentino Rossi unlikely to win a race for the second season in a row, and inconsistent results for Italians in the lower classes, things look bleak for Italia in 2012 as well.

And while this didn’t stop those present from showing the energy and passion that this racing mecca is so well known for, it shouldn’t be too surprising that despite the incredible Moto2 win by Andrea Ianonne and the endearing swagger and impassioned ride to 2nd of Romano Fenati in Moto3, I pick a non-Italian rider to spotlight after attending the Gran Premio D’Italia TIM.

That rider is the reigning Moto2 World Champion, and MotoGP rookie sensation Stefan Bradl.

Sunday at Mugello with Jules Cisek

07/16/2012 @ 2:01 am, by Jules Cisek6 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Mugello: Of Great Race Tracks, Great Racers, Ducati, & Spies

07/16/2012 @ 1:54 am, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Mugello: Of Great Race Tracks, Great Racers, Ducati, & Spies Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Sunday Jules Cisek 12 635x423

Great tracks produce great racing, even in the MotoGP class, where the combination of fuel limits, extremely advanced electronics, and stiff Bridgestone tires mean that the way to win races is by being absolutely inch-perfect on every lap.

And Mugello is a great track, there is no doubt of that, despite the fact that the usual Mugello atmosphere had been muted by a combination of a dismal Italian economy and sky-high ticket prices at the circuit, the only way for the circuit to recoup some of the sanctioning fee it must pay Dorna to run the race.

The hillsides were very sparsely populated, perhaps in part a result of the total Spanish domination of qualifying, putting three Spaniards on the front row in MotoGP, and another two on the Moto3 and Moto2 poles as well.

MotoGP: A Slithering in the Championship at the Italian GP

07/16/2012 @ 1:35 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: A Slithering in the Championship at the Italian GP Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Sunday Jules Cisek 03 635x423

Under Tuscan skies, MotoGP ends its three-consecutive race weekends in Mugello, Italy — one of the most favorite stops on the Championship calendar each season. With Casey Stoner struggling at the Italian track, and Jorge Lorenzo dominating, a clear move in the Championship points seemed destined for the Italian GP. Adding a curve ball to the equation though was Repsol Honda man Dani Pedrosa, who sat on the pole-position, and who also showed a renewed promise to contend for the Championship title.

With the battle at the front of the Championship heating up, the battle between the best of the rest was also coming to a head — especially over the empty seat in the factory Yamaha squad. Said to be held up by one Mr. Valentino Rossi, waiting in the wings are also Andrea Dovizioso, Ben Spies, and Cal Crutchlow. With the American said to have an edge on keeping his seat, mostly due to the checks Yamaha USA writes, Spies’ abysmal season seems almost all but forgiven. Though anything can happen before MotoGP makes its next stop, in the USA at Laguna Seca.