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.

Q&A: Danilo Petrucci – “I Was Proud To Be Able To Follow Rossi For Two Laps”

02/09/2015 @ 1:08 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Danilo Petrucci has always been one of the most underrated riders in MotoGP. The Italian came into the class from Superstock, where he finished runner up in the Superstock 1000 class.

He joined the IODA Racing team, where he started off on the team’s own Aprilia-based machine, before switching to the Suter BMW. Last year, he rode the Aprilia ART machine for the IODA, before finally getting a shot at a proper MotoGP machine this year with Pramac.

Since making the move, Petrucci has quickly got up to speed, but three years on underpowered bikes have left the Italian with a riding style problem to fix.

Like many other former Open class and CRT riders, he is used to carrying corner speed, to compensate for a lack of horsepower.

Now on a Ducati Desmosedici GP14.1, he has horsepower to spare, and needs to adapt his riding style to stand the bike up earlier and make use of the available acceleration.

I spoke to Petrucci after the last day of testing at Sepang, where he explained what he had been working on. He talked of changing his riding style, developing electronics for the factory team, and getting help from his friend Valentino Rossi.

Q&A: Scott Redding — Learning How to Do It

02/05/2015 @ 2:01 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Our man David Emmett is in Sepang right now, attending the first official winter test of the 2015 season. Getting a chance to speak with Scott Redding about his lap times and understanding the Honda RC213V race bike, David got a great insight into the mind of the young British rider.

As David wrote in his notes, “the team is much more closely knit than at Valencia, working together well, and the atmosphere is excellent. It feels like Redding and the Marc VDS are bursting with potential, but like a tree full of leaf buds, it will take some time before it explodes into its full glory.”

The following is a a full transcript of what Redding told David at Sepang. It’s a great insight into the mind of a rider, how they work, and how they hold long-term objectives in their minds. -JB

Q&A: Nicky Hayden — His Wrist & The Honda RC213V-RS

12/17/2014 @ 2:42 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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To help fill the long void during the winter break, the Aspar team has been occasionally issuing press release interviews with its riders. Today’s press release contains an interview with Nicky Hayden, now back at home working on building strength in his wrist and preparing for the 2015 MotoGP season.

In the press release, Hayden briefly runs through subjects as diverse as his wrist recovery, the changes to his crew in 2015, and the potential of the Honda RC213V-RS, the replacement for the RCV1000R Hayden rode in 2014. The interview appears after the jump.

Q&A: Jorge Lorenzo – A Season of Highs & Lows, in Review

11/17/2014 @ 12:21 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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With the 2014 MotoGP season at an end, it is time for the teams to look back at the year. In a pair of press release interviews, the Movistar Yamaha team reviews 2014 with its riders.

First up is Jorge Lorenzo, who takes a frank and open look back at what has been a very difficult season for him.

In the interview, he reviews his own performance, where he went wrong in the first part of the season, how he was stronger at the end of the year, and evaluates his main rivals.

Q&A: Cal Crutchlow, Part 3 – On Having Jack Miller as a Teammate & Mental Strength

10/08/2014 @ 11:22 am, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge.

Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far.

In the second part of the interview, he continued this theme, talking about his struggle to maintain his morale through this, the hardest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in this, the final part of the interview, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller’s ascent to MotoGP.

Q&A: Cal Crutchlow, Part 2 – On Morale, Following Rossi’s Example, & Being a Factory Rider

10/07/2014 @ 12:37 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge.

Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far.

He continues the theme in this, the second part of the interview, where he discusses his struggle to maintain his morale through the darkest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in the final part of the interview, to be published on Wednesday, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller’s ascent to MotoGP.

Q&A: Cal Crutchlow, Part 1 – His Toughest Year Yet, Adapting to the Ducati

10/06/2014 @ 1:42 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge.

Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

At Aragon, ahead of the fourteenth race of the season, we caught up with Crutchlow, to talk about his year so far, his expectations for next year, and how he manages to keep his morale up through such a difficult period.

Cal Crutchlow gave a candid and honest account of his season, not shirking the blame, and speaking openly of the fears and doubts which plague a professional motorcycle racer when they go through a season as tough as this. He opened a window into a side of racing which is not often talked about, and marks his courage as both a rider, and as a human being.

The interview went on for so long that we have had to split it up into three parts, which will appear over the next few days. In the first part of the interview, he speaks of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of 2014 being his toughest year in MotoGP so far.

In the second part of the interview, which will appear on Tuesday, he delves into the dark side of his year, of the struggle to maintain his morale while the results are not coming. And in the final part of the interview, to be published on Wednesday, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller’s ascent to MotoGP.

Q&A: Nicky Hayden — Returning to MotoGP at Aragon

09/24/2014 @ 2:28 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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After sitting out the last four races since Indianapolis, Nicky Hayden will ride a MotoGP bike again at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

To help clarify his situation, and talk about the operation he underwent and the difficult period of rehabilitation which followed, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release containing an interview with the American.

In it, he answers many of the questions he will inevitably face over the weekend. This is Nicky Hayden’s side of the story. Read it after the jump.

Q&A: Corrado Cecchinelli – MotoGP’s Director of Technology

09/23/2014 @ 12:00 am, by David Emmett33 COMMENTS

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From 2016, the entire MotoGP class will switch to a single, spec software for the electronics on the bikes. Development of the software is to become a collaborative process, with the factories competing in MotoGP supplying code and requirements through a single website.

This much we know. But what we don’t know is much more interesting. Which technologies will be supported? Which functions will be available? How sophisticated will the software be? Who will lead the software process, the factories or Dorna?

To get answers to all of these questions and more I spoke to MotoGP’s Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli at Silverstone. He is the man in charge of the process of making the switch to the spec, or unified software, as it is now being called. Cecchinelli will manage the development process, and define the goal of the unified software, trying to create a level playing field for all of the competitors.

It was a long and interesting interview. We covered many subjects, from the logistics of the development process, to the technologies which will be allowed, to what Cecchinelli sees as the objective of the software, and the goals it should achieve.

Cecchinelli described in some detail how the development process for the unified software is to work, and how the process will be managed. It will be a collaborative process, but it will not, as some fans had hoped, be a fully open process, with fully public access to the code.

Cecchinelli then set out his vision for the unified software, both in terms of implementation at the track and its application in production bikes. The goal is that any MotoGP-level electronics engineer should be able to extract the maximum performance from the software, rather than requiring mastery of an arcane and excessively complex piece of software.

It should be fully usable by the engineers in the independent or non-factory teams, allowing them to use the software to its full potential. This is one of the complaints made by the Open teams at the Sepang test at the start of the year, when they were handed an extremely powerful, but extremely complex software update. The update was soon dropped, in favor of an evolution of the existing software.

Cecchinelli’s vision of how the unified software should be applicable to road-going machines makes for interesting reading. The aim is for technology developed at the track to be directly transferrable to production bikes. That does not mean restricting technology, but rather focusing it on making it usable for all riders.

The idea is not to remove traction control and engine braking, but to keep them relevant to production bikes, and improve rideability. Though the software will still allow turn-by-turn settings, Cecchinelli made a strong case for why it should be removed, and the focus switched to other technology areas.

The aim, Cecchinelli was keen to emphasize, was to prevent factories getting into a spending war over extreme performance, and make them focus instead on providing the rider with a more rideable package.

Cecchinelli admitted that the unified software would not stop factories from spending money, but his aim was to limit the return on throwing ever larger resources at the field of electronics which had no direct relevance to MotoGP. We started on the subject of the development process, and where it stands at the moment.

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

09/11/2014 @ 3:13 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

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Dani Pedrosa has been with his crew chief Mike Leitner for over ten years now, since Pedrosa’s first season in the 250cc class in 2004. Pedrosa and Leitner have been a strong partnership, with the Austrian helping Pedrosa win two world championships and 41 victories in the two classes they have been together.

The arrival of Marc Marquez into MotoGP has had a profound impact both inside and outside the Repsol Honda team. Marquez’s natural speed has forced Pedrosa and his crew to rethink their approach to the races, to try to match the pace of Pedrosa’s young teammate.

At the beginning of the season, Pedrosa complained a number of times that he felt the revised strategy taken by Leitner was not working as hoped, and that had left him unable to compete.

Though Pedrosa’s competitiveness has improved, the Spaniard being the first person to beat his teammate with victory at Brno, it has still left tension in Pedrosa’s garage. Rumors are circulating that Pedrosa would like to drop Leitner and change his crew chief.

Intrigued by the question of what exactly had changed in Pedrosa’s race strategy, we spoke to his crew chief Mike Leitner. The resulting conversation gave a fascinating insight into race strategy, and how teams approach each MotoGP race.

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.

Leitner also talks about how the extra soft tire the Ducatis have has complicated the first part of each MotoGP race. He went on to link this to the rubber left on the track by the Moto2 race, and how that changes during the race, and can affect strategy.

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.