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.

Video: Watch Jeremy Toye’s Winning Lap up Pikes Peak

07/10/2014 @ 5:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The fastest motorcyclist up Pikes Peak this year, Jeremy Toye upset the Ducati contingency in the “Open” class, with his stellar 9 minute 58.687 second race to the clouds, aboard his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R superbike.

A newcomer to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Toye also laid claim to the “Rookie of the Year” title with his impressive pace. So, sit back and take a ride up Pikes Peak’s 12.42 mile course, with its 156 turns and 4,720 feet of elevation change, courtesy of Toye and Kawasaki. This is probably as close as you’ll get to the event from now on.

Trackside Tuesday: A 14,000 Foot Perspective

07/01/2014 @ 4:39 pm, by Jamey Price6 COMMENTS

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The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one event I always look forward to on my annual calendar. It’s an event like none other on the globe. The 14,110 ft mountain is my canvas to do as I wish. It is refreshing. Fun. Exhausting. Frustrating. Dangerous. Nearly every emotion that could be thrown at a person in one week is something you are guaranteed to feel on this mountain.

My first year, 2012, I was in sheer awe of the mountain and the event itself, and it was even more special working with Ducati. My second year, 2013, I was overwhelmed with a sense of being part of history as Sebastian Loeb rocketed past me in his special built Peugeot 908 on course to obliterate the standing record. But this year, the mountain had a different feel. And not in a better way.

I was back working with Ducati. I love the team. I love the company. I love the brand. I don’t get to shoot motorcycle racing much, but when I do, it find it to be an exciting and exhilarating challenge. But this year, the mountain had changed. The race was soulless. It had no energy. It had no atmosphere.

What I do not want to do is make this a smear post. Or rain on the parade of a 92-year-old race. But change is needed. Some of you may have read my series of tweets from Sunday afternoon. I stand by what I said. Nothing was said in anger. Only frustration for the event that I very deeply care about. So what has changed?

Sunday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/30/2014 @ 3:54 pm, by Jamey Price5 COMMENTS

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Pikes Peak race day is a whole rainbow of emotions. At sunrise, you’re excited. Anticipation of the day is overwhelming. The thousands of cars filing up the two-lane mountain road are filled with people excited to see these gladiators tackle the famous mountain.

By 7:30 am, the first bikes are lining up to make their run, and the energy is reaching fever pitch, with the sun still low in the sky and the light near perfect. One by one, the bikes roar off, up the mountain. Then it comes. Red flag.

They’re a common sight at Pikes Peak, but immediately this one feels different. My friend on the summit texts me and says it’s serious and that Flight for Life is on the way. This is not how you want to start the race. We are not even an hour into the day.

An hour and a half later, an official walks up to the pole-sitter, who is next to go, whispers something in his ear, and the rider immediately drops to his knees, and puts his head in his hands. Bobby Goodin has passed away on the mountain in something of a freak accident, after he cross the finish line. It is the worst possible way to start the day. But the race goes on.

It’s hard to get back into the racing energy when you know something like this has happened. Add to that the sheer number of red flags don’t allow you to get back into the groove and keep your mind off of the tragedy that has occurred.

Many many hours later, and many many many red flags later, the day is done. Romain Dumas has claimed honors for the four-wheels. And Jeremy Toye, on a Kawasaki, has taken honors on two wheels — incredible since he wrapped the bike around a tree on Friday morning.

But despite the successes and the triumphs of many…..the day is still marred by many mistakes on the mountain. Horrific traffic, poor organization, and far too many red flags. It was not Pike’s Peak’s best day.

Respect for the mountain is not a question. It is a demand.

Bobby Goodin Has Died While Racing at Pikes Peak

06/29/2014 @ 10:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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It is with great regret that we have to report the passing of Bobby Goodin, a motorcycle racer at the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Finishing fourth in the Pikes Peak Middleweight motorcycle class, spectators say Goodin lost control of his Triumph Daytona 675R after crossing the finish line at the mountain’s summit.

According to our sources and others that witnessed the crash, Goodin’s motorcycle crash occurred where the road transitions from pavement of the race course to the dirt of the parking lot.

A very short transition from our last viewing, Goodin’s accident occurred after the 54-year-old raised him arm to celebrate finishing the 92nd running of the Race to the Clouds, and was then flung into a group of boulders down the mountain’s side.

2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Motorcycle Results

06/29/2014 @ 2:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Friday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/28/2014 @ 2:29 pm, by Jamey Price2 COMMENTS

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At long last, we were down on the bottom section of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race course. Each group that runs the bottom uses it as their qualifying run — fastest time to the flag at Glen Cove is on pole.

The bottom section is distinctly different from the two above it. It is the only section completely in the tree line, so you get some interesting light coming through the pine trees.

I find the bottom to be particularly difficult as a photographer. It offers fewer options and vantage points than the sections above, but it has the advantage of not being so high of altitude, so working and walking there is slightly easier.

At the end of our morning, Lambert Fabrice was on pole on the #38 bike, which isn’t at all surprising considering he has been swinging off his machine like a mountain goat version of Marc Marquez.

Saturday is a well deserved day off for everyone. After four straight mornings of alarm clocks sounding off at 2:20 am, we all need a little rest. Nothing happens on the mountain as far as official race practice goes, but almost everyone will probably do one more sighting run with the public traffic.

They won’t see or run the mountain until Sunday, and when they do, it will be one run — fastest to the top is king of the mountain. It’s a long day. Hopefully free of red flags and clear weather….sadly, I almost guarantee we won’t be free of either.

Thursday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/26/2014 @ 11:04 pm, by Jamey Price3 COMMENTS

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Back to the summit of Pikes Peak we go. After a warm-up round on Tuesday morning on Pike’s Peak’s highest elevations, we returned for one final high altitude practice on Thursday morning. With breezy and crisp conditions and ambient temperatures cold enough to freeze water, the riders made their way through the winding, high speed, and very bumpy alpine section.

I, however, have never been the biggest fan of the top 3rd of the mountain. It’s more like shooting on the moon. There is lots to do, but you had better bring your “A” game and a ton of energy to hike yourself around in the low-oxygen environment. It’s grueling.

I was much more conformable at altitude today than I was on Tuesday though….but it doesn’t make it any easier. Despite that, at the end of the session I had come to really enjoy the summit section. I shot in places I had never been before, and enjoyed watching the riders really start to push themselves and the bikes to the limit.

Tomorrow, we go qualifying at the bottom! Day off on Saturday, and Sunday is race day!

What a “Good” Crash at Pikes Peak Looks Like

06/25/2014 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a risky proposition, especially for the competitors in the motorcycle classes. A course where instead of run-off, sheer drops and rock-filled inclines abound, the joke is that if you go down at any one of the 156 turns that comprise the race course, it’s likely that you won’t die from the impact…you’ll die from starvation during the drop.

That is certainly hyperbole (except for the turn aptly named “Bottomless Pit”), as the danger is very real. We can give no better example than the footage from yesterday’s motorcycle session, at the top of the mountain.

During the practice days, competitors go full-tilt up the mountain road, are collected, and then as a group descend to the starting point for another run. That day for supermoto rider Tom Specht, in the Pikes Peak Middleweight class, the mountain showed why you can never let your guard down.

Taking a tumblefew miles from the summit, Specht was “lucky” in the sense that he only suffered shoulder injuries from his rapid descent. This could have been way worse.

For Jeff Grace, who “caught” Specht’s Honda CRF450 as it landed in the road in front him — well, at least he only has some scuffs and scrapes, not to mention a great video to show everyone. No crash is ever a good crash, but at Pikes Peak, this might be as “good” as it gets, since everyone involved will ride another day.

The 92nd running of the “Race to the Clouds” goes off Sunday morning. We’ll be bringing you more pictures and report throughout the rest of the week. Stay tuned right here to A&R.

Wednesday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/25/2014 @ 4:30 pm, by Jamey Price10 COMMENTS

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It’s time to throw down times. Recon day is over. It’s now or never. The riders will not see these sections of the mountain again until race day.

Some of the rookie riders seem to still be learning the fastest lines, but the old veterans have it down pat and are hurling the bike around the tight switchbacks on Sector 2 of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, my favorite part of the course.

There are long fast straights, tight hairpin turns, and insane drop-offs in Sector 2, and it is also where the mountain gains the most elevation in the shortest period of time — not to mention the sunrises are the best up there. It is a magical thing to watch the sun come up over the horizon over the course of five minutes.

Pikes Peak is always magical. But when you get an amazing sunrise, combined with bikes pushing hard up the mountain, it makes for a fun morning.

Tuesday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/24/2014 @ 5:35 pm, by Jamey Price4 COMMENTS

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The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a grueling event to cover, and nothing is worse than walking off a plane, from more or less sea level, and heading to the highest part of the mountain for Practice 1.

Pikes Peak is unique. The organizers split the mountain into three sections — cars run two-thirds of the course , while bikes, ATVs and sidecars run the other third.

The bikes started at Devil’s Playground for our first practice, which puts us immediately at high altitude. It tests the bikes and our bodies to the limit. But thankfully, first practice is just about getting the bikes dialed in, and less about making fast times.

To finish first, first you have to finish. Reliability on this mountain will put cracks in even the most well laid out plans. Some riders were already pushing hard, and it was evident. Others were just getting the lay of the land.

Tomorrow we run the middle sector of the mountain. As a photographer, it is my personal favorite spot to shoot. But I’m not looking forward to another 2:15am alarm.