Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

The He Said, She Said, But No One is Really Saying Anything about the Virginia International Raceway Snafu

07/13/2011 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

The He Said, She Said, But No One is Really Saying Anything about the Virginia International Raceway Snafu Virginia International Raceway 635x407

AMA Pro Racing and the Virginia International Raceway have been having a war of the press releases the past few days, as it was announced that AMA road racing will not be taking place at the fabled mid-Atlantic track later next month. With AMA Pro Racing first announcing on Monday that the event scheduled for August 12th-14th was cancelled, the sentence immediately following that statement must have struck a nerve with VIR, as it read: “Despite AMA Pro Racing’s efforts to preserve the originally scheduled August 12-14 event, VIR staff notified AMA Pro Racing late Monday, July 11, of its final decision not to host or promote the race weekend.”

VIR followed up on Tuesday with a statement of it’s own, lambasting AMA Pro Racing for putting the blame on the Virginia track, and shifted the accusations onto AMA Pro Racing, who according to VIR was tardy in getting the raceway a contract in time to properly promote the event. With each side seemingly telling only part of the story, speculation has been rife as to what really went down between America’s premier road racing series, and one of our most prestigious venues.

Though we have no inside-knowledge of what transpired between the two parties, friction between tracks and promoters typically comes down to pie slices, and who gets the bigger piece. With VIR’s 10-year contract to host AMA Pro Racing in expiration, the renegotiation of the contract apparently fell apart. Reading between the lines on the press releases, it would seem to us that while negotiations have been ongoing, AMA Pro Racing gave VIR its final offer, which the track did not accept. While it is impossible to say who is right or wrong in this blow-out, it’s pretty easy to tell who the big losers are: the fans. Press releases after the jump.

Rossi Considers Skipping Last Two MotoGP Races – Fires A Shot Across Yamaha’s Bow

09/20/2010 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Rossi Considers Skipping Last Two MotoGP Races   Fires A Shot Across Yamahas Bow Valentino Rossi fans VR46 635x422

Much of the talk about Valentino Rossi and his injuries have centered on the Italian’s leg, which was broken with a compound fracture at Mugello earlier this year. Despite causing Rossi to miss several races, the Italian’s biggest physical concern hasn’t been his leg, but instead his shoulder, which he injured in April while motocross training. The shoulder has been a lingering issue for Rossi ever since his return at Brno, which culminated this weekend with the Fiat-Yamaha team actually having to setup the M1 at Aragon to work around the injury.

With a lackluster performance this weekend, not to mention a disappointing return to GP racing in general, Rossi announced after Sunday’s race that he was considering having his shoulder operated on after the three fly-away races (Motegi, Sepang, and Phillip Island), which would effectively mean that the nine-time World Champion would miss MotoGP’s last two stops at Estoril and Valencia. MotoMatters has once again done a superb job of transcribing Rossi’s interaction with the media on the subject, which adds some context to this development (read the transcript here)

This announcement is a big bombshell for the Yamaha camp, which could see its star rider, if we can still say that, again vacating from the team to heal his injuries. However again reading between the lines of the Italian, Rossi’s revelation this weekend has about as much to do with an injured shoulder as it does with putting pressure on Yamaha to release him from his contract in time to test the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 at Valencia.

Max Biaggi Has NOT Signed with Aprilia…Yet

08/03/2010 @ 7:06 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Max Biaggi Has NOT Signed with Aprilia...Yet Max Biaggi contract renewal false 560x410

Despite what you may be reading on the interwebernetz this morning, Max Biaggi has yet to renew his contract with Aprilia. Early reports are claiming that Biaggi has signed a two-year, €1 million/year contract with Aprilia that includes bonuses (likely performance based); however confirmation from the company says that’s not the case.

Aprilia, who is keen on giving Biaggi a pay cut next year, is close to winning its first WSBK title with the 39-year-old Italian at the helm. Meanwhile Biaggi is likely holding out for a pay increase, which is understandable since he’s been an unstoppable force this season.