Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Trackside Tuesday: Soft-Spoken, But Not Broken

05/29/2012 @ 9:57 am, by Daniel LoComments Off

Ian Hutchinson has experienced the extreme highs and lows of racing, from taking the first clean sweep of all five solo class wins at the 2010 Isle of Man TT, to nearly losing his leg in a first lap accident in a British Supersport race at Silverstone later that same season. After sitting out of the 2011 event, “Hutchy” is back at the TT on the esteemed Swan Yamaha team’s Isle of Man debut entry.

It was just after 8pm last night, and Ian was on his final lap of the day. Even after a year off the Mountain Course, he was still able to promptly churn out an average speed of 123.025 miles per hour by the end of the first Superbike practice session.

Trackside Tuesday: How Soon We Forget

05/22/2012 @ 3:37 pm, by Scott Jones16 COMMENTS

All last season, and for the first three races of 2012, when I’ve walked past the Ducati garage and looked in at Rossi’s side, watching for an interesting moment to photograph, I’ve seen pretty much the same thing: Immensely talented people looking immensely frustrated. I stand there for a moment and think, I’ve already taken this photo, many times. When are things going to change in there?

Things changed this weekend at Le Mans. But after three races in a row, I’d elected to be home for some family events instead of away at the French GP. From the perspective of getting different images of the Ducati box, this was bad timing. But in other ways, and not just family-related, it was good timing indeed, because I watched the race with friends at the San Francisco Dainese Store, which was, as one might expect, full of Rossi fans. And being there was a bit like going back in time.

Are You the 2013 Ducati Hypermotard 848?

05/18/2012 @ 12:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

The Hypermotard series is growing long in the tooth, and while everyone expects the Ducati’s smaller Superbike to get revamped in 2013, here is some evidence to suggest that the big news at EICMA this year will be an all-new Hypermotard model. Expected to have a water-cooled motor, best guesses would have the new Hypermotard using the 849cc Testastretta power plant, which would dovetail nicely with the supersport-sized Superbike getting an ~800cc variant of the new Superquadro motor.

Photo of the Week: Here’s to the Unsung Heroes of MotoGP

05/14/2012 @ 1:15 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

This, race fans, is Danilo Petrucci, one of the brave souls trying his luck on the future of MotoGP hardware, in his case the doggedly underpowered Came IodaRacing Project machine. Not on a (relatively) zippy Aprilia ART, or a Honda-powered FTR, Petrucci qualifies on the same grid as Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, and brings to this gunfight a knife that packs a whopping 185 bhp, compared to the factory prototype engines that are rumored to be around 260 bhp.

As I photograph a race, I see a much different version of the event than TV viewers. I watch the recorded TV broadcast later, and can tell you that there is a lot going on with the Claiming Rule Team bikes that doesn’t make in onto TV. I’m generally moving the entire time (when I haven’t stopped to photograph a turn obviously), so I see the entire field go past, lap after lap. Since Qatar I’ve noticed that most of the CRT talk has centered around the machines, and that no one I’ve seen has talked much about what the CRT riders are going through.

Though we currently have in the sub-set of MotoGP bikes a group of machines that are less expensive to run and correspondingly less impressive in the performance category, the fellows riding them are not similarly handicapped when it comes to racing spirit. They aren’t trying half as hard because they have no chance to win. Much of the time it seems just the opposite; because they don’t want to be six seconds a lap slower, they are trying that much harder merely to get within four seconds of the fastest times.

Photo: Five – Two = Podium

05/13/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Blurred to protect against spoilers, we’ll just leave things simply by saying that World Superbike’s Race 2 at Donington Park is well worth a watching if you haven’t already seen it. Decided right down to the last few turns, race pundits surely will be discussing the race and its outcome over the next week. Unsurprisingly, geography is playing a major a role in how things are being viewed.

Though in a race where a number of questionable passes occurred, it is hard to single out this one event from the plethora of others that occurred during the race, but of course this one had the biggest effect on the race outcome. Click past the jump for the he said, she said, and of course for some slightly sharper photos. Also, be sure to leave your thoughts on the racing incident, was someone, if anyone, at fault?

Photo of the Week: The Devil You Know

05/07/2012 @ 5:51 pm, by Scott Jones33 COMMENTS

As I listened to Casey Stoner explain how he rode around the flu, a chattering bike, and his latest bout with arm pump to stay just far enough ahead of Jorge Lorenzo to win the final GP at Estoril, I couldn’t help but wonderi how Lorenzo sees his future. It can’t seem as bright as it did at the end of his nearly perfect 2010 season.

Lorenzo had succeeded in mounting so much pressure on his Fiat-Yamaha teammate that Rossi started crashing, and ultimately left Yamaha for Ducati, rather than remain on the same team as the Spaniard. But for Lorenzo, that only exchanged one demon for another, this one in the form on Stoner on a Honda — a combination that now appears pretty much unbeatable over the course of a season.

Photo of the Week: A Reshuffling of the Deck

04/30/2012 @ 12:01 pm, by Scott Jones18 COMMENTS

As the 2012 MotoGP plot thickens, no chapter is more complex than that of Ducati. Trying to turn the GP12 into a red Yamaha has been unsuccessful, but along the way it has become something the team’s second rider likes quite a bit. This is the best Ducati Nicky Hayden has ridden according to The Kentucky Kid, and his 3rd place in Jerez qualifying and up-front pace at the beginning of the race makes that plain to see.

For Nicky, the job is about finding a setting that allows him to keep that pace over race distance, whereas Rossi has admitted he needs to regroup and redefine his approach to a bike that is simply never going to be a Yamaha. “I must get used to riding the bike a bit differently than I’m used to,” he said after the race. “A bit differently” may be an understatement, for if it were only “a bit” he’d likely have done that already.

Photo of the Week: There’s Always a Changing of the Guard

04/24/2012 @ 6:05 am, by Daniel Lo8 COMMENTS

Ben Spies’s sophomore MotoGP season  of 2011 can only be described as a wild roller coaster ride. The former AMA and World Superbike champion finished on the podium four times in 2011 including a legitimate alien-slaying maiden victory at Assen, but was also tempered by an equal number of non-scores and several other generally forgettable weekends.

Indianapolis was the scene of a season highlight for the Texan. Running Yamaha’s red and white 50th anniversary GP colors for the final time, Ben sliced his way to a podium finish against track conditions that provided no real passing line to speak of and finishing behind only the lightning fast Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.

Having nearly won the last race of the 800cc era, Ben will no doubt be looking to challenge for the 2012 title. “There’s always a changing of the guard”, he has been quoted as saying on more than one occasion. Could he be referring to himself? Time will tell.

Photo: It Doesn’t Get Any Closer Than This at Assen

04/23/2012 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

If you haven’t seen World Superbike’s Race 2 at Assen yet, you will want to stop reading now. Battling for the last spot on the podium, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri, and Leon Haslam put on a great charge to the finish line. With Laverty getting some distant away from the two factory BMW Motorrad riders, Melandri and Haslam were left fighting for fourth and the bragging rights of beating the other.

Photo of the Week: Forged Mettle

04/16/2012 @ 10:42 am, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

What a difference a tire makes. Last season in each of Cal Crutchlow’s rider debriefs that I attended, the topic at some point came around to the Bridgestone tire and how treacherous it was during warm-up. Once the tire reached operating temperature, it was fantastic if the rider could keep it hot enough. But until it gathered enough heat, it was flat out dangerous, as so many cold tire high-side crashes proved in 2011.

Crutchlow was one of the most outspoken riders in asking Bridgestone to change the tire design, which they have done for 2012. This year’s control tire warms up much faster, allowing riders to get through the early laps of a session without a dramatic high side, of which we had none in Qatar.