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.

Hero MotoCorp Forms Joint-Venture with Magneti Marelli

12/08/2013 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Hero MotoCorp Forms Joint Venture with Magneti Marelli hmc mm hero motocorop magneti marelli 635x423

Once upon a time, Hero MotoCorp was Hero Honda, with the Indian brand relying on its Japanese counterpart to provide the technology that then went into the partnership’s emerging market motorcycles. The joint-venture was a stepping stone for Honda to launch into India, and for Hero it was a quick way to gain marketshare in its lucrative domestic market.

Fast-forward to present day, and Hero has not only become Hero MotoCorp, but it has also become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in India. Honda is a stand alone brand in India now, and trails only Hero MotoCorp with its motorcycle sales volume in India.

To maintain its position at the domestic leader, Hero MotoCorp has had to rely on replacing its technical partnership with Honda by forging alliances with various other brands around the world. Perhaps the most famous of these partnerships is the one with Erik Buell Racing, which includes the Indian brand sponsoring the American company’s racing efforts, and owning a sizable 49.2 % chunk of Erik Buell Racing’s private corporate stock.

Add a new brand to the list now though, as Hero MotoCorp has formed a joint-venture with the Italian electronics wizards at Magneti Marelli. There are bonus points for good timing as well, as the news comes just a few weeks before Hero MotoCorp is to be completely free of Honda’s technology.

BMW Partners with TVS on Sub-500cc Motorcycles

04/08/2013 @ 12:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BMW Partners with TVS on Sub 500cc Motorcycles bmw tvs 635x353

Finally after nine months of dancing with each other around the negotiations table, Germany’s BMW Motorrad and India’s TVS (one of the country’s largest motorcycle manufacturers) have inked an agreement that will see the companies develop sub-500cc motorcycles together.

The announcement is another move that sees Western brands collaborating with Indian companies to develop models suited for India and other developing nations that have high riding populations.

Decisively light in the loafers when it comes to small-displacement motorcycles, the move is a boon for BMW Motorrad, which just recently saw rival KTM surpass it in total volume of sales — a move that was spurred largely by the Austrian company’s partnership with Bajaj and their joint work on the small-displacement Duke series.

Hero Building a 250cc Sport Bike with Erik Buell Racing?

11/21/2012 @ 4:59 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Hero Building a 250cc Sport Bike with Erik Buell Racing? erik buell racing america 1270x846

According to The Economic Times, India’s premier financial newspaper, Hero MotoCorp is working on a 250cc sport bike, in conjunction with Erik Buell Racing. You may recall that Hero and EBR have already agreed to a technical partnership, which also saw the Indian motorcycle manufacturer become Erik Buell Racing’s title sponsor in the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series.

After its break up with Honda in the Hero Honda relationship, Hero MotoCorp has been relying on other firms for its technical developments. The Economic Times suggests the same can be said for this 250cc sport bike, with EBR handling the development of the machine, while Hero handles the business end of things, namely the quarter-liter’s production and distribution.

AMG Severs Ties with Ducati after Audi Acquisition

04/19/2012 @ 10:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

AMG Severs Ties with Ducati after Audi Acquisition Ducati Diavel AMG tank 635x567

The writing was on the wall with this piece of news, as after Audi’s acquisition of Ducati Motor Holdings, AMG has terminated its marketing partnership with Ducati. The announcement should not surprise anyone, as AMG & Ducati were certain to sever ties as soon as Mercedes-Benz bowed out of acquiring Ducati Motor Holding, and Audi was rumored to have picked up the ball.

Marketing with “the other team” surely neither Audi nor AMG wanted Ducati to be associated with the other, and all that remained was some fancy foot-work from the lawyers to end the partnership amicably and swiftly. Needing only a day to do so, we think the language in AMG’s statement after the jump has interesting spin to suggest the suits could have done a better job.

Hero MotoCorp Partners with AVL for Engine Design – Ponders Global Domination

03/19/2012 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Hero MotoCorp Partners with AVL for Engine Design   Ponders Global Domination hero motocorp logo1 635x423

Seeing its 27-year-long joint-venture with Honda come to an end last year, Hero MotoCorp has been picking up technology partners with an intense pace. With its 2014 rapidly approaching, Hero already counts Erik Buell Racing as one of its technical partners (as well as a potential acquisition target), and now Hero has now announced that the Austrian engineering design firm AVL will help the Indian company with a new range of larger-dipslacement motorcycle motors.

The move towards larger displacement engines is surely a sign that Hero MotoCorp has its eye on the export market, as it already accounts one of every two motorcycles sold in India. Surely seeing the work that rival Bajaj has done with KTM and the Duke series of motorcycle, we can expect Hero to go after a similar position in Europe, with even larger models for the American market.

Erik Buell Racing Partners with Hero MotoCorp

02/22/2012 @ 8:43 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing Partners with Hero MotoCorp Hero MotoCorps Pawan Munjal with Erik Buell Racings Erik Buell

While we have been expecting Erik Buell Racing to join forces with a larger company at some point this year, today it comes as a bit of surprise to learn that EBR has partnered with Hero MotoCorp. The deal sees Hero becoming the title sponsor for two teams in the AMA Pro Racing National Guard Superbikes Championship — Team Hero and AMSOIL Hero, while Erik Buell Racing will give Hero design and technology inputs for bikes destined for the Indian market.

In practicality, this partnership would seem to suggest that Erik Buell Racing will help Hero MotoCorp, a company recently freed/dumped from its partnership with Honda, build sporty two-wheelers for the Indian motorcycle market, while the cash-infused Indian manufacturer will help the boutique American sport bike maker continue to go racing in the United States. This news also puts Danny Eslick on the Team Hero EBR 1190RS for the 2012 season, while Geoff May will continue with the AMSOIL Hero EBR 1190RSThanks for the tip Kevin!

Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen

11/21/2011 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen volkswagen motor 635x476

Back in 2009 Suzuki and Volkswagen made some headlines, as the German automaker took a 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer. The basic points of the agreement were that Volkswagen would get access to Suzuki’s small-displacement motors and Indian presence, while the latter would benefit from Volkswagen’s larger-vehicle technologies, etc.

Seemingly however doomed from the start, the partnership in motorcycle circles erroneously spurred some interesting thoughts of a Volkswagen motorcycle coming to fruition. While industry journalists spun gold out of hay, the two behemoth manufacturers failed to come to terms on any of their proposed partnership goals, leaving both parties to wonder why they were interested in each other, let alone financially intwined.

Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Mercedes Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings Mercedes Benz Ducati aquisition 635x423

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat

02/17/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat 4 635x357

It seems Ducati is willing to put its label on just about anything these days, boats being no exception. And when this press release hit our inbox this morning phrases like “you’ve gotta be f*ing kidding me!” echoed off the walls of our still unfurnished office. But in all honesty when we opened the email and saw pictures of the red & white Cigarette Racing boat, we perhaps regretted our initial impression.

Straight out of a Miami Vice episode, the 42′ hull of the Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat is pure white with red accents and Ducati logos. We’re not that into the ocean boat racing thing, but boy have they come a long way from what little of the 1980’s we remember. While we’d probably never own such an impractical machine (motorboats are cheating anyways), we certainly wouldn’t turn down a chance to romp around for a day in this 42X Ducati Edition speed machine, what with its dual 1,100hp Mercury Racing engines (that’s 2,200hp for the mathematically challenged).

Ducati Corse Adds Diesel to Partnership List

01/10/2011 @ 8:41 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse Adds Diesel to Partnership List DIESEL LOGO 635x348

Ducati Corse is slowly becoming the Lord of the Rings in MotoGP — bringing together some of the largest brands outside of the industry into the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. Already announcing Mercedes Benz’s tuning house AMG as its official car sponsor to the Marlboro Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati announced ahead of today’s start to the Wrooom event that apparel company Diesel would be added to the team’s rostrum of sponsors.

The maker of tight skinny jeans and other fashionable items, Diesel will be adding its “Made in Italy” brand to Ducati’s Italian bikes, and will also supply the Ducati Corse team with apparel for the 2011 season, which we can also only imagine will be made available to the public as well with a modest mark up on the not so modest base prices. Still say what you will about Italians and their fashion, one thing remains impressively true: Ducati is crushing it right now when it comes to finding dollars to go race in MotoGP.