Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Manx Grand Prix to Become a “Classic TT” Event

08/06/2012 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Manx Grand Prix to Become a Classic TT Event Manx GP 1974 635x486

Our most beloved sovereignty in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is of course most well known for the race that bears its name, the Isle of Man TT. Traditionally taking place in the first weeks of June, the road race attracts tens of thousands of spectators to the small island, for a fortnight of racing on closed public roads. Words don’t do the Isle of Man TT justice, so honestly you are just better off booking the trip and experiencing this two-wheeled bucket-list carnival first-hand for yourself.

Not as well known as the TT, the Isle of Man plays host to a second road race on the famous Mountain Course, the Manx Grand Prix. Traditionally held in late-August or early-September, the Manx, as it is known, uses the same course as the TT, but only features non-professional racers in its classes (except for the classic class). Changing the Manx’s format to better promote and differentiate it from the more popular TT, the Isle of Man has decided to do away with modern machinery all together in the festival, and the Manx Grand Prix is to become a “Classic TT” according to its organizers, as was the rumor during the 2012 Isle of Man TT.

WSBK: Sylvain Guintoli & Liberty Racing Part Ways

07/20/2012 @ 3:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

WSBK: Sylvain Guintoli & Liberty Racing Part Ways Sylvain Guintoli Effenbert Liberty Ducati WSBK 635x423

World Superbike in Brno this race-weekend, the home round for the Czech-based Effenbert-Liberty Ducati team. Once again in the spotlight after its dust-up following the Monza round, Effenbert Liberty rider Sylvain Guintoli took to Twitter ahead of WSBK’s stop in Brno, announcing in a string of messages that that Czech team had breached its contract with him by not providing a bike for the Czech round, and as far as the French rider was concerned, the contract had been nullified.

Giving its side of the situation several days later, Liberty Racing first cited an issue with Guintoli’s technical team, but later amended that statement by blaming Guintoli’s lackluster results as the reason for why the French rider had been sacked. This is of course in spite of the fact that Guintoli has been on the podium three times this season so far, including a race win in Holland. Guintoli is currently eighth overall in the Championship, and is the first Liberty Racing rider to have won a race in WSBK.

MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa & Marc Marquez Join the Repsol Honda Team for 2013 & 2014

07/12/2012 @ 11:10 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa & Marc Marquez Join the Repsol Honda Team for 2013 & 2014 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda HRC MotoGP 635x421

HRC has today confirmed the news that has been expected for several weeks now. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez have both signed up to race in the Repsol Honda team for the next two seasons, 2013 and 2014. Both riders are long-time protégés of the Spanish petroleum giant Repsol, so the combination of Marquez and Pedrosa in the factory team was the logical choice.

Once the Rookie Rule had been removed – at the request of the Honda satellite teams, for whom Marquez would have caused problems with crew members and sponsors – Marquez’s move into the factory Honda team was inevitable. As for Pedrosa, the Spaniard has consistently won races every season he has been in MotoGP, and has been in the title race most seasons, though injuries have prevented him from mounting a serious challenge.

Pirelli Responds to Tire Troubles for WSBK at Monza

05/07/2012 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Pirelli Responds to Tire Troubles for WSBK at Monza Laverty Melandri Biaggi Rea Pirelli Monza WSBK color 635x463

With World Superbike’s stop at Monza being massively disrupted by the combination of the track’s demanding layout and Pirelli’s melting rain tires, the Italian tire company has taken the brunt of criticism from fans, teams, and riders for its handling of the two races at the historic circuit. With the long straights and high speeds of Monza proving to be a challenge in even normal conditions, the issue of tires became increasingly important as it was discovered that the compound used in Pirelli’s rain tires could not handle the center-line heat caused by the Italian track, even in full-wet conditions.

WSBK fans watched as riders blew through rain tires in just a matter of two or three laps during the wet Superpole qualifying session on Saturday, and when the rain showed up again on Sunday, the riders had said they had enough of the nonsense. Though not encountering fully-wet conditions, Pirelli’s intermediate tire was ruled out of the equation, as it uses the same compound as the rain tire, albeit with fewer groves. So, Pirelli’s solution to the problem was to take racing slicks of different compound, presumably one that could handle the heat of the track, and cut them to into makeshift intermediate tires. Expecting riders to go two races on a pair, the WSBK paddock was less-than-enthusiastic with this remedy.

With the riders essentially causing a mutiny on the starting grid, Race 1 at Monza was cancelled, while Race 2 was delayed for dryer conditions. Once the rain returned halfway through the race though, riders again raised their arms to signal the stoppage of the competition. Since they completed half of the race, only half points were awarded, but that left for some interesting comments in the paddock. Responding to the criticism of how it handled the Monza weekend, Pirelli has released a press statement that shifts the blame back to the World Superbike teams. Read the company’s statement in its entirety after the jump.

Still No News on Joan Lascorz

04/10/2012 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Still No News on Joan Lascorz Joan Lascorz Kawasaki 635x952

The low-point of a great race weekend, factory Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz was airlifted out of the Imola circuit, after crashing during a post-race test at the Italian track. Flown immediately to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, Lascorz was diagnosed with a broken 6th vertebra (C6), and was reported to have suffered trauma to his spinal chord. Since the Spanish rider has been moved back to Spain, details about Lascorz’s condition have not been coming forth with regularity, though the latest update from the team is that the rider has been kept sedated to minimize his movement and because he still had fluid in his lungs.

Interview: Fausto Gresini – The Man Behind Honda’s Satellite MotoGP Racing Effort

03/15/2012 @ 11:17 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Interview: Fausto Gresini   The Man Behind Hondas Satellite MotoGP Racing Effort Fausto Gresini San Carlo Gresini Honda 02 635x421

Press interviews that are done internally by the teams themselves are usually very one-sided, glowing, and devoid of any controversial or tough questions, so you have to give a hat-tip to HRC for producing a pretty fair shake of an interview with Gresini Honda‘s Fausto Gresini. The former-racer turned MotoGP Team Manager is heralded as the most successful team owner in the history of MotoGP, which is certainly open for debate, though Gresini undeniably has some very note-worthy notches on his belt.

Along with his successes Gresini and his squad unfortunately have also had their fair share of tragedy. Losing Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli at Sepang in 2011, the team has been at the center of two dark chapters of the MotoGP story. Running a black livery in 2012, instead of the team’s customary white color scheme, the absence of Simoncelli still percolates underneath the demure exterior of the team, though the Gresini Honda team is clearly looking forward instead of back.

Taking on the challenge of running a CRT entry for the 2012 MotoGP Championship, Gresini Honda will race with both a factory prototype and with a Ten Kate-prepped Honda CBR1000RR motor in an FTR chassis. At the helm of the CRT machine will be Michele Pirro, the same rider who gave Gresini a dramatic finish to the 2011 season, by winning the final Moto2 round at the Valencian GP. Also new to the team is Alvaro Bautista, who has been our dark horse favorite here at A&R. Fast, but underrated, Bautista’s true potential will be measured this year as he joins an all-star team, and rides “the bike” of the GP paddock: the 2012 Honda RC213V.

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!

A&R’s April Fools Round-Up

04/01/2011 @ 6:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

A&Rs April Fools Round Up april fools bomb 635x508

If it hasn’t become apparent by now, we love us some April Fools here at Asphalt & Rubber, because like Christmas, the real joy in the holiday isn’t in the act of receiving, but in the act of giving. It’s perhaps at this time of year where the media side of the motorcycle industry reaches its zenith of creativity, producing eloquent prose, perfect press releases, and some of the most superb photo re-touches we’ve ever seen. We have in fact many maestros in our presence, and we wanted to share our Top 3 picks of the days festivities.

And our role in all this? Well we’re firm believers in the idea that if you’re going to do something wrong, then it’s best to do it right. Instead of trying to fabricate a story or two, and then convince you that they were real (that’s so 2010 by the way), we decided to switch things up and publish two stories (here & here) that we knew to be fundamentally true, and convince you that they were in fact fake. April Fools.

Ultimate Motorcycling Claims To Be The Most Popular American Motorcycle Publisher Online – We Call Bullshit

10/18/2010 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Ultimate Motorcycling Claims To Be The Most Popular American Motorcycle Publisher Online   We Call Bullshit motorcyclistonline.com+ultimatemotorcycling.com+cycleworld.com uv

Ultimate Motorcycling, formerly of  Robb Report fame, issued a fun article today (and accompanying press release) about how they’ve become the most popular American-based website for motorcycling out of all the print magazines, surpassing CycleWorld, Motorcyclist, and *gasp* even Asphalt & Rubber (actually we don’t dabble in print, so we guess we’re excluded from this club). This of course is complete, utter, and absolute bullshit, now allow me to tell you why. Ultimate Motorcycling is backing up its claim by citing Alexa.com, one of the most unreliable and easily massaged traffic reporting sites on the internet.

Now while all metric sites should be taken with a fair dose of salt, since they typically indirectly measure a website’s traffic, Alexa is by far the worst of the group. Bought by Amazon in 1999, and then quickly forgotten about by the Seattle company, Alexa has done little since the 20th century to change with the ever evolving internet. While the site was fun back in the days when AOL was still the default landing page for most internet users, Alexa has long since jumped the shark in regards to its credibility in the industry.

There is a nice Wikipedia article that explains basics of Alexa, and TechCrunch gives a good example on how inaccurate Alexa reports really are (YouTube bigger than Google? Really!?), but the boiled down version is that Alexa collects the majority of its data through its own Internet Explorer toolbar and Firefox/Opera add-ons, and given how few people actually use these toolbars the sample sizes are woefully small and statistically insignificant. Further proof of this is the fact that Bulgaria is shown at Ultimte Motorcycling‘s top ranking country…yes, Bulgaria (we apologize to all 600 of our Bulgarian readers for this slight, but come on!).

The worst part about Alexa’s rankings, is how easy they are to game. Remember, these stats are coming from a toolbar that only a handful or readers are actually using, so to inflate them all you need to do is have a few more people visit your site using the toolbar. Having litterally two or three more people visiting Ultimate Motorcycling‘s website with the Alexa toolbar installed can drastically skew the data results the company uses, and for instance say…making someone’s writing staff install Alexa on their work computers could just as easily raise the traffic figures (not that we’re suggesting such an unethical thing has actually occured).

Official: Dani Pedrosa Out for Sepang

10/07/2010 @ 4:09 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Official: Dani Pedrosa Out for Sepang Dani Pedrosa injury collarbone Motegi 635x476

After breaking his collarbone during practice at the Japanese GP, Dani Pedrosa’s chances of racing at Sepang for the Malaysian GP were held highly in question. With some close to the team suggesting Pedrosa would attempt to race in Malaysia, a press release this morning seemingly confirms that the Spaniard is out for the weekend’s races, instead intending to focus on a return at Phillip Island next week. This announcement is big news for Jorge Lorenzo, who is trying to lock up the 2010 MotoGP Championship. With only Dani Pedrosa having a mathematical chance of stealing the crown from his fellow Spaniard, Lorenzo now only has to finish 9th in Sunday’s race to claim his crown. Press release after the jump.