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.

MotoGP: Jorge Lorenzo Returns to Assen, But Will He Race?

06/28/2013 @ 2:52 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Jorge Lorenzo Returns to Assen, But Will He Race? Saturday Italian GP Mugello MotoGP Scott Jones 031 635x422

Jorge Lorenzo is to return to Assen. The Yamaha press office issued yet another press release today, announcing that the reigning world champion will fly from Barcelona to Groningen airport, just a few kilometers from Assen, at 3pm, and then return to the Assen circuit.

The press release states solely that he wishes to ‘spend the remainder of the Grand Prix weekend with his team,’ but there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that he intends to try to race on Saturday. Before he can do that, he will have to undergo a medical examination to see if his collarbone is strong enough. We will know tomorrow morning.

New Cost-Cutting Rules for World Superbike Starting in 2014

06/07/2013 @ 4:10 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

New Cost Cutting Rules for World Superbike Starting in 2014 World Superbike logo 635x425

The FIM, Dorna & MSMA have been able to come to an accord on the new rules for the World Superbike Championship, and the name of the game is cost reduction.

In a series of changes that will begin in 2014, and applied over the next three seasons, WSBK will see a price cap for the teams’ race motorcycles and their components (rumored to be €250,000).

A maximum number of engines will also be set for each rider, a rule that has already been implemented in MotoGP with a great deal of success.

The last provision seems to be a guarantee from the manufacturers that a minimum number of motorcycles “with the same state of tuning” will be made available to teams for lease or purchase, though this provision doesn’t seem to distinguish from factory and satellite spec machinery.

The brief announcement from World Superbikes is after the jump.

MotoGP: Bridgestone Denies Lorenzo’s Tire Accusations

05/21/2013 @ 3:05 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Bridgestone Denies Lorenzos Tire Accusations  bridgestone rain tires 635x423

As is customary, the Bridgestone media service issued their post-race debrief on tire performance on Tuesday, in which they discuss how the tires they selected held up during the race at Le Mans the previous weekend. This week’s press release is more interesting than most, as it contains a denial from Bridgestone that there was anything wrong with the rear tire used by Jorge Lorenzo in the race on Sunday, countering claims that his tire was defective.

Speaking to the media after the race on Sunday, Lorenzo said that although he was not a tire engineer, he could think of no other explanation but a defective tire for the complete lack of rear grip he had suffered throughout the race. The setting they had used in the wet morning warm-up had worked well, Lorenzo said. In 2012, under similar conditions, he had not had a single problem, he explained, going on to win the race by nearly 10 seconds.

Effenbert Liberty Racing Withdraws from WSBK…Again

05/21/2013 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Effenbert Liberty Racing Withdraws from WSBK...Again picard facepalm 635x357

Sweet baby Jesus, here we go again. We are only into the fifth round of the World Superbike Championship, and Effenbert Liberty Racing is having its first (and hopefully last) kerfuffle. Announcing that “the adventure of the team in the WSBK 2013 is not of our further interest” in a press release today, Effenbert Liberty Racing announced that it will no longer race in World Superbike.

Explaining that the team was unable to promote the interests of its sponsors and partners through WSBK racing, the Liberty Racing will skip the Donington Park round, which would have been only the fourth round of the season for the squad, having skipped the opening round at Phillip Island, and starting its season at Motorland Aragon.

GHSA Praises Report Calling for Motorcycle Safety Changes

11/27/2012 @ 3:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

GHSA Praises Report Calling for Motorcycle Safety Changes Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Saturday Jules Cisek 01

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has issued a press release that praises the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for its call to Congress for changes in motorcycle safety.

The GAO’s recommendation basically breaks down into two points: 1) Congress should give states more flexibility in the way they use funds that have been earmarked to tackle motorcycle safety, and 2) that the NHTSA should provide states with more comprehensive information about motorcycle crashes and injuries.

The second point is perhaps the most important, as it has become painfully obvious that the government, both at the state and federal level, has little concrete information about the causes of motorcycle crashes and injuries.

While we are still using information collected almost 40-years-ago from the Hurt Report, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has contended that the motorcycle landscape has changed so significantly in that timeframe that the Hurt Report was conducted that it no longer accurately quantifies the dangers and conditions present for motorcyclists.

The Politics of Racing: Dorna Talks Argentina’s Cancellation

11/23/2012 @ 6:20 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Politics of Racing: Dorna Talks Argentinas Cancellation Repsol YPF logo 635x400

Along with its third iteration of the 2013 MotoGP Championship’s provisional calendar, Dorna has issued a statement regarding the removal of the Argentinian round from the racing schedule for next year. In its brief statement about the “non-inclusion,” Dorna cites the Spanish government’s recommendation in June of this year, which said that Repsol teams and riders should not travel to Argentina for safety reasons.

Dorna also states that on November 20th, the Spanish government rescinded this “no travel” recommendation; however, because the deadline for the calendar was November 18th, the MotoGP rights holder had no choice but to cancel of the Argentinian GP. Read in between the lines as you will, the press release is after the jump.

BMW Sorta Announces Air-Cooled 90th Anniversary Model

11/13/2012 @ 2:08 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

BMW Sorta Announces Air Cooled 90th Anniversary Model BMW 90th Anniversary 635x357

We are barely two hours into the official start of the 2012 EICMA show, and I am already filling out the report card for BMW Motorrad: Fail. After debuting a number of machines at the INTERMOT show in Germany, zie Germans have apparently saved nothing for the show in Milan. No naked S1000RR, no Lo-Rider production models, not even an updated R1200RT with the company’s new semi-liquid-cooled boxer engine design.

In fact, the only real news to come from the BMW Group was the announcement of an upcoming announcement (no, seriously). Stating that at a latter date, the company would release details on an air-cooled model that would commemorate the 90th Anniversary of BMW Motorrad. Pure speculation, but we would expect something along the lines of an updated café racer / standard. Press release after the jump.

WSBK: Suzuki Slams Sylvain Guintoli for Breach of Contract

10/15/2012 @ 1:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

WSBK: Suzuki Slams Sylvain Guintoli for Breach of Contract Sylvain Guintoli WSBK Miller Scott Jones

Some more controversy is brooding for World Superbike rider Sylvain Guintoli, as Paul Denning and the FIXI Crescent Suzuki have slammed the British-living French-born rider for backing out of his 2013 commitments with the team. Issuing a statement to the press, Crescent Suzuki states that Guintoli and the team came to a “full and final agreement” at Magny-Cours, which was singed by the Frenchman.

According to Crescent Suzuki, Guinters made significant steps with the team to test at Aragaon starting today, but since that agreement, Guintoli has informed the team that he has to back out of his testing obligation in order to consider a new offer from a rival team. That rival team is heavily rumored to be Aprilia Racing, which may be scrambling to find a replacement rider for the still undecided Max Biaggi, the now-current World Superbike Champion.

For devout WSBK fans, the statements from FIXI Crescent Suzuki sound similar to those made by Liberty Racing, when the Czech team let Guintoli go mid-season, citing a number of reasons, including the Frenchman’s on-track results. Starting strong early on, Liberty Racing’s swan song started at Monza, and ultimately saw the team release its riders one-by-one, before finally missing the last race at Magny-Cours altogether.

For added Drama Llama, the press statement from FIXI Crescent Suzuki and Paul Denning is after the jump.

John Hopkins to Take a Year Off from Racing

10/08/2012 @ 12:23 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

John Hopkins to Take a Year Off from Racing John Hopkins Miller Motorsports Park WSBK Scott Jones

John Hopkins is to take a year out from racing to allow himself to recover fully from the multiple serious injuries that have plagued him throughout the 2012 season. In particular, a nagging hip injury first incurred at Monza has forced the American to take a break from racing, in order to allow his injuries to heal completely before attempting to race again.

It is a rare thing for motorcycle racers to make sensible decisions when it comes to recovering from injury, so for Hopkins to take the step to focus on his recovery is a major step. The American has suffered several serious injuries throughout his career, but his 2012 season has been particularly blighted by bad luck and mishap. His season got off to a difficult start, falling heavily at Phillip Island and breaking his hand at a pre-season test in Australia.

He had already been having difficult with that hand, as he had injured it in a crash at Brno aboard Suzuki’s MotoGP bike, an injury that never really healed properly. After having the finger he had broken amputated when it became infected after multiple surgeries, Hopkins appeared to be on his way back until the crash at Monza in which he broke a hip.

It is a risk for Hopkins to take a year out from racing, as securing a ride for 2014 will not be easy. However, his options at the moment are extremely limited, and with Suzuki set to make a return to MotoGP in 2014, he may yet get a second shot at the championship. After the jump is the press release issued by Suzuki on Hopkins’ decision to take a year away from racing:

Harley-Davidson Has Pope Bless Fuel Tanks – No, Seriously

10/03/2012 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Has Pope Bless Fuel Tanks   No, Seriously Pope Benedict XVI Harley Davidson fuel tank blessing 635x422

Harley-Davidson is in Italy this week, gearing up for the company’s 110th Anniversary event that’s being held in Rome in June 2013. Apparently part of the pre-party planning involved having Pope Benedict XVI bless two fuel tanks today, with brand ambassador Willie G. Davidson present. This is of course a practice run for the full-bike blessing that will take place next year in St. Peter’s square.

We were going to write a tongue-in-cheek article about how we have never seen a company get as excited about a 110th anniversary celebration (though, there should be some sort of record for making the same motorcycle for that long of a time period), and maybe lace it with some choice idealogical wordplay, but honestly the press release from Harley-Davidson provides ample fodder for the cynics without our help. And here we thought the Pope was more of a Ducati guy