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.

Q&A: PJ Jacobsen — America’s Next World Champion?

06/09/2014 @ 6:38 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

Q&A: PJ Jacobsen    Americas Next World Champion? pj jacobsen dan lo 635x423

With Ben Spies already retired, Colin Edwards about to retire at the end of the 2014 season, Nicky Hayden struggling with a wrist injury, and Josh Herrin having a very tough rookie year in Moto2, there is growing concern among US fans about the future of American racing.

What is to become of the nation that once dominated world championship racing, with existing stars in decline and no fresh blood ready to replace them?

Perhaps the brightest point in the firmament for American racing is PJ Jacobsen, currently racing in the World Supersport championship for the Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress team.

The native of Montgomery, New York has been quietly building a reputation as a fast and promising young racer, stringing together a series of top ten results in the competitive WSS series in his debut year, and coming very close to scoring his first podium.

Jacobsen’s World Supersport debut comes after an impressive first year racing in the British BSB championship with Tyco Suzuki, which earned him a move to the world stage.

We caught up with Jacobsen a few weeks ago at Assen, ahead of the third round of the World Supersport championship. There, we spoke to him about the state of American racing, the difficulties faced by American riders trying to break into a world championship, and the path he took to the world stage.

Jacobsen covers BSB, living in Northern Ireland, and how his background in dirt track helped in road racing. PJ tells us about how BSB is a viable route into a world championship, and just what it takes to make the move. It was a fascinating perspective from an extremely talented young racer.

Q&A: Getting to Know Josh Herrin

01/07/2014 @ 12:53 pm, by Aakash Desai2 COMMENTS

Q&A: Getting to Know Josh Herrin josh herrin caterham racing moto2 635x422

After going pro in 2006 at the age of 16, Josh Herrin impressed many by racking up wins in the AMA Supersport and AMA Daytona Sportbike series – with 2013 seeing Josh win the AMA Pro Superbike  Championship, America’s crown jewel of road racing.

Most recently, he has joined the Caterham Moto2 team, making him the first American athlete to make the jump from AMA to Moto2. I recently got to sit down with Josh Herrin to talk about his life and his racing career. The transcript from our conversation follows.

Marc Marquez: “It Was a Great Surprise”

11/17/2013 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Marc Marquez: It Was a Great Surprise Marc Marquez MotoGP Indianapolis GP Scott Jones 635x423

Thanks to the good folks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Asphalt & Rubber recently got a chance to participate in a teleconference with an up-and-coming racer by the name of Marc Marquez. For those of you who haven’t heard about this talented Honda rider, he just won a little Spanish racing series called MotoGP — and apparently is the youngest rider ever to do so.

Taking questions from American journalists, the young Marquez shared with us his insights about winning the championship in his rookie season, riding on the factory-spec Honda RC213V, competing against riders like Jorge Lorenzo, and during the season when he thought he could actually be the MotoGP World Champion.

As always, Marc was his usual enthusiastic self, and we think it comes through in the transcript for the teleconference.

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 2 — The Phillip Island Tire Debacle

11/15/2013 @ 11:41 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 2    The Phillip Island Tire Debacle Saturday Phillip Island MotoGP 2013 Scott Jones 13 635x423

In part one of our interview with Mike Webb, the MotoGP Race Director talked about the penalty point system and how it had worked in 2013. In the second part, Webb talks about the tire debacle at Phillip Island.

Webb explains what the teams were told about the rules and the penalties they would incur, and he discusses the incident on the exit of pit lane between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. He explains how Race Direction felt the dry flag-to-flag race went, and whether the situation could be handled any differently.

He also explains why penalty points are only handed out at the front of the race, while the battle mid-pack can be much fiercer than anything happening for the lead. Finally, Mike Webb casts an eye on the future, and explains the next steps towards improving safety, and improving communication with the riders.

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1 — On Penalty Points, Precedent, & Contact Sports

11/14/2013 @ 11:23 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Q&A: MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1    On Penalty Points, Precedent, & Contact Sports marc marquez phillip island motogp scott jones 635x423

It has been a busy year for MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb. Since taking on the job of ensuring that MotoGP events take place safely and efficiently, stepping into the shoes vacated by Paul Butler at the start of the 2012 season, Webb has faced some tough decisions and unusual situations, his second year in the job even more eventful than the first.

In response to criticism over the warning system in 2012, a new penalty points system was introduced to allow for harsher penalties for persistent offenders.

There were several high-profile incidents involving Marc Marquez in his rookie season, including a clash with Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez, a touch which severed the traction control sensor of teammate Dani Pedrosa’s Honda and caused Pedrosa to crash, and the situation at Phillip Island, where the new asphalt at the circuit caused the tires to degrade much more than the two spec tire manufacturers had expected, requiring last-minute adjustments to the race schedule on the fly.

We spoke with Mike Webb extensively at Valencia, on the Thursday evening before the race, covering the above subjects and more, and reviewing his second year as Race Director.

In the first part of the interview, Webb talks of whether motorcycle racing is a contact sport, how the penalty system has worked out, explains why Marc Marquez was not given points at Jerez, why Jorge Lorenzo wasn’t penalized for the touch at Sepang, and of changing perceptions.

Q&A: Randy Mamola Talks About the MotoGP Season So Far

08/15/2013 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Q&A: Randy Mamola Talks About the MotoGP Season So Far randy mamola day of stars laguna seca jensen beeler 635x423

With MotoGP’s summer break officially underway (and just days away from now concluding), Asphalt & Rubber sat down with Randy Mamola at the finish of the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, to get the Grand Prix legend’s perspective on how the 2013 MotoGP Championship was shaping up so far in his eyes.

Obviously, the man of the hour at the time of our discussion was Marc Marquez, who had just recreated one the most talked about passes in motorcycle racing history, and had won at one of the most enigmatic tracks on the GP calendar…after having never been to Laguna Seca before, naturally.

Sharing his insights on Marquez and the talent that the Repsol Honda rider exudes, Mamola gave us his unique perspective on the leaders for this year’s MotoGP title, amongst other issues in the paddock. Read the Q&A from our dialogue after the jump.

Q&A with Peter Clifford Interview: Red Bull Rookies in Moto3, The European Junior Cup, & Female Riders

06/12/2013 @ 3:03 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

Q&A with Peter Clifford Interview: Red Bull Rookies in Moto3, The European Junior Cup, & Female Riders red bull rookies cup scott jones 635x793

That the Red Bull Rookies Cup has been a huge success goes without saying. Former rookies now fill the front of the Moto3 grid, and are starting to make an impact in Moto2. The goal of the Red Bull Rookies Cup, of bringing young riders from around the world into Grand Prix racing, has clearly been met.

So successful has it been that two years ago, the World Superbike series set up a similar project. After a modest first year, the European Junior Cup is thriving in its second year, and providing some fantastic racing for talented young riders.

At Jerez earlier this year, we had the opportunity to talk to Red Bull Rookies Cup supervisor Peter Clifford about the series he is involved in, as well has the European Junior Cup. He gave us his view of the rival series, but also on a range of other subjects.

The interview covered the difference between four-strokes and two-strokes, the range of nationalities participating in the Rookies Cup, the complementary role of the European Junior Cup, and the approach the Rookies Cup is taking towards female riders in the series. As always, Clifford provides plenty of food for thought.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati claudio domenicali 635x954

When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

Q&A: Kevin Schwantz Talks COTA, MotoGP, & the Future of American Road Racing

04/24/2013 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Q&A: Kevin Schwantz Talks COTA, MotoGP, & the Future of American Road Racing kevin schwantz interview jensen beeler 635x422

The Thursday before the start of the Grand Prix of the Americas, Asphalt & Rubber was part of a quick event put on by Dainese and Ducati Austin, which allowed fans to meet Kevin Schwantz. Before the start of that evening’s meet-and-greet, I got to sit down with the former 500cc World Champion, and pick his brain not only about the current events happening with the Circuit of the Americas, but also about what was occurring on a larger scale within the American road racing scene.

While Mr. Schwantz could only provide limited answers about what was going on with the Texan track and his ongoing litigation with the circuit, his opinions on MotoGP and AMA Pro Racing were insightful, and serve as a serious warning about the state of American road racing not only here in the US, but also abroad in the various World Championships. It is a bit of a long read (Mr. Schwantz was more than generous with his time), but I think you will enjoy the exchange and perspective he shared during the interview.

Q&A with Nicky Hayden: “If I’m Honest, the Flight Home after the First Test Was Pretty Rough”

03/15/2013 @ 4:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Q&A with Nicky Hayden: If Im Honest, the Flight Home after the First Test Was Pretty Rough nicky hayden face 635x400

In a teleconference hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Nicky Hayden hopped on a phone with a bunch of paddock journalists to talk about the pre-season testing, the plan for the 2013 season, and the changes to the Ducati Corse MotoGP team.

A development year for the Italian team, Ducati will have four riders on factory equipment to pull data and input from, as the the Bologna Brand hopes to take the fight back to the Japanese OEMs in coming seasons.

Candid as always, you can read the full transcript of the teleconference after the jump.