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.

Officially Official: Ducati and Valentino Part Ways

08/10/2012 @ 2:34 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Officially Official: Ducati and Valentino Part Ways Valentino Rossi Scream Ducati Desmosedici GP11 635x423

Part 1 of MotoGP’s latest worst-kept secret is out: Valentino Rossi is to leave Ducati at the end of the 2012 season. Ducati this morning issued a press release (printed below) that their working relationship with Rossi will come to an end at the end of the season. The full press release is after the jump.

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).