Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2R Pricing Revealed

Even though the Kawasaki Ninja H2R debuted in October at the INTERMOT show, and the Kawasaki Ninja H2 debuted a few weeks ago at the EICMA show, Kawasaki was a bit slow to release the pricing and availability details of its two supercharged machines. Releasing now details for the US market, we can quote pricing for the H2 and H2R throughout the world. In the United States, the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R will cost $25,000 and $50,000 respectively. Interested parties will have to special order the bikes, before December 19th, from their local Kawasaki dealership, and buyers should note that the H2R comes with certain restrictions.

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.

Photo of the Week: True Grit

06/20/2011 @ 10:25 am, by Scott JonesComments Off

Photo of the Week: True Grit photo of the week cal crutchlow motogp scott jones

Tech 3’s other rider is in the spotlight this week, after Colin Edwards turned some attrition up front into a broken-collarbone-podium for the French team at Silverstone. Cal Crutchlow’s collarbone, fractured in a cold-tire crash in Qualifying, has been repaired, but only after a delay of a couple of days to assess possible damage to several vertebrae.

Crutchlow is known as one of the toughest competitors in motorbike racing. Given Edwards’s attempt to ride the day after breaking his collarbone at Catalunya, Cal will surely want to make the next race two weeks after his own injury, the aforementioned operation delay and the fact that his fracture required reassembling four separate pieces of collarbone not withstanding.

Accordingly, he will test the waters on Thursday to see if he feels well enough to compete in Saturday’s GP at Assen. The recent collarbone epidemic’s first victim, Dani Pedrosa, will miss the Dutch TT after a second operation to repair his Le Mans injury. Many fingers will be crossed in the hopes that we can complete a GP weekend without anyone on the sparse GP grid breaking a collarbone, or worse.

Photo of the Week: Unbreakable

06/13/2011 @ 10:07 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Unbreakable Photo of the Week Colin Edwards Silverstone podium 635x421

The ups and downs of racing are sometimes quite amazing. After breaking his collarbone at Catalunya, Colin Edwards had his flights booked to return home and skip the British GP. But he felt well enough after his operation to pin the break that he stayed. Seeing his teammate, Cal Crutchlow, break his collarbone in qualifying, Colin then went on to claim a podium for the beleaguered Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.

Boss Herve Poncharal told me when I congratulated him in the paddock that yesterday he’d been ready to commit suicide (not literally of course), and a day later he has two riders on the box, as Bradley Smith snagged second place in the Moto 2 race. Congratulations to all the Tech 3 folks!

Photo of the Week: No Looking Back

06/06/2011 @ 11:28 am, by Scott Jones20 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: No Looking Back photo of the week Valentino Rossi look back Scott Jones

Valentino Rossi is not happy. His tone had clearly changed in Catalunya when speaking to the media about the state of the Ducati GP11’s development. Though probably not expecting a repeat of his debut success on the Yamaha at Welkom, Rossi was also probably not expecting to be as far off the pace as he is five races into the season. Word around the paddock is that Ducati has until Mugello to sort the bike out, and change it to a machine that Rossi can win with. If the mysteries of a carbon fiber chassis can’t be solved in time for Rossi’s home Grand Prix, the 2011 season is likely to become very interesting indeed.

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose

05/31/2011 @ 12:19 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose photo of the week Carlos Checa WSBK Miller Motorsports Park Scott Jones

The story of the 5th WSBK round at Miller Motorsports Park was all Carlos Checa. Last year he had the pace but not a reliable machine. This year he had both, dominating the weekend with the triple crown: Superpole and victories in Race 1 and Race 2. MMP provided a formidable challenge with wildly varying weather, from pouring rain to bright sunshine to freezing cold winds. Adaptable, patient, and just plain the fastest rider of the weekend, Checa rose above all difficulties and earned a well-deserved double victory.

A pair of Utah wins that has been long overdue since he had to retire twice out of commanding leads last year due to mechanical problems. Checa also extended his lead in the Championship, and seems well on his way to his first world title. His amiable personality and good humor will surely make him a popular champion should he reach the season’s finish line in first place.

Photo of the Week: It’s Not Easy Being Max Biaggi

05/23/2011 @ 10:16 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

Photo of the Week: Its Not Easy Being Max Biaggi photo of the week maxi biaggi crash mmp scott jones

With World Superbike coming to Miller Motorsports Park next weekend, many eyes are on reigning champ Max Biaggi. Will Max be able to recover from a rocky season’s start to keep the title in Aprilia’s trophy case? Or will a charging Carlos Checa and upstart Marco Melandri continue to show no respect for Max’s greatness? Since his early days as a fantastic 250cc two-stroke rider, Max has had his share of disrespectful rivals.

Last year he, and the dominant Aprilia, added another star to his dorsal display of world titles. But in 2009 he ran into some trouble with Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga. You can never fault Max for not trying hard enough–in qualifying Max held onto the throttle as he dumped the RSV4 in the Attitudes, though Spies would win both races that weekend. Whether you love him or hate him, Max gives it all he’s got.

Photo of the Week: King of the Hill

05/16/2011 @ 11:19 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: King of the Hill Tommy Hayden Infineon AMA Superbike Scott Jones

In the not so old days of AMA Superbike, Mladin or Spies won on a factory Suzuki, and the question was who would finish third. In 2010 Josh Hayes and Tommy Hayden finished the season only 14 points apart, Hayes claiming the number one plate for Yamaha with 466 points. But 2011 got off to a different start altogether with Hayden’s teammate, Blake Young, winning both Superbike races at Daytona and leaving Hayes and Hayden to swap places in the lower regions of the podium.

The second event of the season took place at Infineon Raceway this weekend, and Yamaha rider Josh Hayes won the first Superbike race by over seven seconds. Tommy Hayden took second, now the only one of the three yet to win. On Sunday he followed Hayes until five laps from the end before passing the Yamaha and holding on for the win. Young claimed third place, though he’d allowed Martin Cardenas to ruin the 3-way monopoly the day before, as the M4 Suzuki rider claimed third in Race One.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Tommy, the eldest of the three Hayden brothers. Though I don’t photograph much AMA, I do see Tommy at MotoGP races where he often comes to support his brother, Nicky. Always cordial in spite of his shyness, Tommy graciously deals with Nicky’s success and notoriety. I would really like to see Tommy follow in younger brother’s footsteps to win the AMA Superbike title this year.

Photo of the Week: The Passing Scent of Two-Strokes

05/09/2011 @ 6:00 am, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: The Passing Scent of Two Strokes Nicol Terol Qatar GP Scott Jones

I love the smell of two-strokes in the morning…or the evening, or the afternoon. But just as Hiroshi Aoyama became the final 250cc two-stroke champion in 2009, at the end of this season we’ll have one last 125cc world champion. Most money is on Spaniard Nicol Terol, who without last season’s rival Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro to get in his way, has dominated the 125cc season so far.

Rumors that his current competitors let him get far ahead so they don’t have to look at the color scheme of his livery are untrue: Terol is just that fast on a tiny 125cc machine. Next season, the kids and odd grown-up who don’t move on to Moto2 will be on the replacement Moto3 class bikes. In a nutshell these are 250cc 4-strokes, but for all the details look here.

MotoGP will of course be leaving the 800cc engines behind to return to liter engines, so many changes are in store for 2012. One of the most notable will certainly be the absence of the approaching bee swarm sound as the little bikes and little riders approach on their out lap, the 2-stroke whine growing louder as the wind carries it across the track, and the pleasant odor of the oil and gas mix as the crowd goes by for the first time. Another chapter in the history of Grand Prix motorbike racing is coming to a close in 2011.

Photo of the Week: Physician, Heal Thyself

05/02/2011 @ 3:53 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Physician, Heal Thyself photo of the week valentino rossi heal thyself

Valentino Rossi managed a fifth place at Estoril this weekend, barely missing fourth as Andrea Dovizioso nipped him at the line after tailgating most of the race. The Doctor continues to have his hands full with the GP11, despite a nearly recovered shoulder and the ability to ride closer to his own personal potential. As graceful as Lorenzo looks on the Yamaha that Rossi and Jeremy Burgess developed, Rossi looks just as awkward at times on Casey Stoner’s old ride.

In response to Rossi’s complaints about all that is wrong with the Ducati, Stoner was quick to point out that the bike was good enough to win three of 2010’s final six races, suggesting that Rossi simply needed to adjust his riding style in order to go faster. The Doctor would rather heal the patient than himself however, and he and his team will continue to work on major changes to the GP11.

In the mean time, from images like the one above, we can see how Rossi struggles with his body position as he tries to get the Ducati to keep up with the Hondas and Yamahas. The switch to Ducati is looking like perhaps the greatest challenge of his career.

Photo of the Week: Head of the Class

04/25/2011 @ 6:01 am, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Head of the Class Photo of the week Jorge Lorenzo class photo Scott Jones 635x422

Part of the interest of the first race of the MotoGP season relates to the class photos, where the riders come out first for the 125cc group shot, then Moto2, and last the MotoGP riders appear. The 125 riders are mainly kids, so there is a lot of joking around in high voices that haven’t dropped yet. Moto2 is a mix of young and not as young, but it’s still a large field so the phrase “herding cats” is likely to be uttered a few times as the Dorna folks try to get everyone into position for the photograph.

The MotoGP riders are much fewer in number, but the group makes up for its smaller size with proportionally larger egos, and the premier class’ mind games are already well under way when it comes to which individuals will appear to sit down first, and wait for those who chose not to wait for anyone else.

Photo of the Week: Hands of Perseverance

04/18/2011 @ 7:04 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Hands of Perseverance  Toni Elias gloves

Sometimes I make an image which, at the time, seems fairly ordinary, but later emerges as something of an unexpected interest. When I saw Toni Elias about to mount up to begin his Moto 2 title chase, I thought it interesting that someone who had been in the premier class for five seasons couldn’t manage to take to the track with matching gloves. When Elias went on to become the first Moto2 champ, I included this image in the MotoMatters.com calendar, thinking it even more ironic that the future class champion had begun the season with this odd equipment choice.

During a speaking appearance at the San Francisco Dainese D-Store, I spoke to assistant manager Mike J. who shed some more insight on the photo. While holding a copy of the calendar open to the October page, Mike pointed out that while Elias had an Alpinestars glove on his right hand, the glove on his left was by Dainese. Due to Elias’ contract with A-stars, Elias had the logo and brand references covered up. I had not recognized the brand, only that the design was different from his Alpinestars glove.