Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2R Pricing Revealed

Even though the Kawasaki Ninja H2R debuted in October at the INTERMOT show, and the Kawasaki Ninja H2 debuted a few weeks ago at the EICMA show, Kawasaki was a bit slow to release the pricing and availability details of its two supercharged machines. Releasing now details for the US market, we can quote pricing for the H2 and H2R throughout the world. In the United States, the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R will cost $25,000 and $50,000 respectively. Interested parties will have to special order the bikes, before December 19th, from their local Kawasaki dealership, and buyers should note that the H2R comes with certain restrictions.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

Photo of the Week: The Long Goodbye

08/01/2011 @ 2:07 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: The Long Goodbye Loris Capirossi Qatar test Scott Jones

It looks like 2011 will be Loris Capirossi’s final Grand Prix season, and the end of a remarkable career that has sadly fizzled in the past few years. Capirex’s last win was in 2007, his final season as a factory Ducati rider, and since switching to the Rizla Suzuki team in 2008 he has not had the equipment to show the kind of form that previously garnered both 125cc and 250cc world titles.

This season’s return to a Ducati seat with Pramac has not improved his competitiveness, and crashes have continued to add up to more aches and pains. Approaching 40, Capirossi carries many scars into each session, including hands so frail that he wears specially designed and heavily padded gloves to protect them from further impact.

In person he is friendly and polite, quick to return a smile, though lately he has seemed weary of the challenge of climbing on yet another uncompetitive bike and going out to fight for 10th place. He will always have a place in Ducati history, haven taken the team’s first win at Barcelona in 2003, and in GP history for his world titles.

It would be great to see him manage one more good result this year, but given the difficulties of the GP11, it seems more likely that he will have to be content ending his long GP career in one piece. Considering how many talented riders have come to the premier class for a season or two before disappearing for other grids, Capirossi’s decades-long GP career is quite an accomplishment.

Monday Testing at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/15/2011 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Day Two: Who Really Was the Fastest Around Losail?

03/15/2011 @ 7:41 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Day Two: Who Really Was the Fastest Around Losail? Valentino Rossi pit box Qatar test

Continuing our thought on who really was fastest at the Qatar test, the idea of comparing best lap times again seems more than moderately preposterous, considering last night’s sessions were for testing purposes. That’s not to say however that some basic understanding of how teams are shaping up before the season cannot be divined, and by looking at the individual lap times we can get at least an impression of whom is finding some consistency on the desert track.

Photo of the Week: A Man with a Million Things to Ponder

03/14/2011 @ 3:57 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: A Man with a Million Things to Ponder Jorge Lorenzo Qatar Test Scott Jones 635x422

Jorge Lorenzo has his hands full in 2011. With his stylized JL #1 replacing last year’s 99 on his Yamaha M1, Lorenzo wants to keep up the momentum with which he swept the 2010 season. But as the official tests have made clear, repeating in the style of the man he both dislikes, and wants to be, will be prove a difficult task indeed. After the first night of the final test in Qatar, Lorenzo managed the fifth best time, four tenths behind Dani Pedrosa, and nearly three tenths behind the man everyone fears, Casey Stoner.

Stoner only put in 20 hot laps (32 total) and managed second on the time sheet. Lorenzo did 60 total laps, but had one impressive series of low 1:57s and high 1:56s after another. That consistency just may be the key to fending off the competition over the long haul if he can make 2011 as mistake-free as 2010. The lone star on JL’s new 1 logo is eerily reminiscent of his teammate, Texan Ben Spies, who managed to creep ahead of Lorenzo to demote the Spaniard to 5th on the evening. There is no shortage of riders who are likely to make Lorenzo’s amazing season in 2010 very tough to replicate.

MotoGP: Qatar Test Day Two Results

03/14/2011 @ 2:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Qatar Test Day Two Results Ben Spies Qatar test Day two

MotoGP’s last pre-season test concluded today in Qatar, as riders finished their second day of lapping around the Losail International Circuit. Conditions were colder than yesterday, and the wind made its presence known earlier in the day than before. At the start of the session, riders seemed reluctant to take to the track, but it wasn’t long before testing was underway in earnest.

Once again the Hondas proved to be very fast, accounting for three out of the Top 5 fastest riders for the day. Unlike Sunday, the Yamaha camp was divided in progress, as Ben Spies was very comfortable with the day’s results, while Jorge Lorenzo, in the best of light, was frustrated with being unable to keep pace with Stoner and Pedrosa (and his teammate). The Ducatis continued to struggle in the windy conditions, again showing issues with turn-in. Sixth quickest, Randy de Puniet topped the time sheet for the Italian manufacturer, followed by Nicky Hayden (9th), Hector Barbera (11th), and then Valentino Rossi (13th). MotoGP’s testing at Qatar saw just about every Ducati end up in the gravel trap, with the majority doing so at Turn 2, a problem spot on the track in the past.

MotoGP riders will get Tuesday off from riding, and then go into a four-day program for this race weekend, taking to the track once again Thursday night. Stay tuned to Asphalt & Rubber, as we’ll will be here in Qatar for the rest of the week covering the first race of the 2011 MotoGP season.

Day One: Who Really Was the Fastest Around Losail?

03/14/2011 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Day One: Who Really Was the Fastest Around Losail? Casey Stoner Repsol Honda

As you may have realized already this week, Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you live from Qatar, as MotoGP finishes up its last testing weekend of the pre-season, and gets ready for its first race of the year. Qatar is a strange country, mostly in that it’s not that different from the United States (at least not nearly as different as I was expecting, as this is my first trip to the Middle East). Perhaps even stranger is the laid back atmosphere of the MotoGP paddock during the testing session (maybe 1/4 as many people as a normal GP weekend, sans MotoGP fans). While we sit through Day Two of testing, which is currently underway, here’s something to chew on from Day One.

Now the purpose of MotoGP testing is of course actually testing the motorcycles, new parts, setups, etc., and not the attainment of absolute lap times. Therefore it strikes me funny on how much concern is given over to whom was fastest on a given day of testing, as there’s an obvious disconnect between what the teams are trying to achieve, and what the fans would like to see (with the journalists unsurprisingly pandering to this latter group).

That all being said, some sort of analysis has to come out of the event, and the path of least resistance is in the time sheet stamped out by Dorna, and handed to the assembled press. However if you drill down into the times lap by lap, not only do you get a better idea of the consistency that the MotoGP riders are attaining, but also it provides for another way to sift and sort the riders into some sort of categorical heirarchy, since that seems to be the name of the game at these tests.

Sunday Testing at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/13/2011 @ 6:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

John Hopkins’s Test with Rizla Suzuki Proves to be Literally Little More than a PR Stunt

03/13/2011 @ 6:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

John Hopkinss Test with Rizla Suzuki Proves to be Literally Little More than a PR Stunt John Hopkins Rizla Suzuki Qatar test 635x688

It seemed John Hopkins’s return to MotoGP was well underway, as reports earlier this year said the Anglo-American would be testing at MotoGP’s last pre-season test being held at Qatar this week; however Hopper’s stint on the GSV-R seems to have been relegated to merely doing some laps on the Suzuki MotoGP bike as part of a PR video campaign for the Rizla squad.

Hopper’s test originally was supposed to assess the former-MotoGP rider’s ability to apex a GP machine, and give Paul Denning’s squad an option should Alvaro Bautista become injured in the 2011 season. After Saturday’s filming though, Hopper’s return seems less likely, but the now British Superbike rider remains hopeful.

MotoGP: Qatar Test Day One Results

03/13/2011 @ 2:25 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: Qatar Test Day One Results Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Qatar test day one 635x422

MotoGP was under the lights of the Losail International Circuit out here in Qatar on Sunday night. With the weather staying warm, but the humidity coming on in the latter stages of the night, it was the Hondas once again who were setting the pace for MotoGP’s pre-season testing sessions. With four Hondas within half a second of each other, it seemed only the Yamahas were capable of getting in-between the RC212Vs of Pedrosa, Stoner, Aoyama, and Dovizioso (Simoncelli would finish farther down the time sheet as 11th fastest).

Leading the tuning fork charge was Ben Spies, who bested his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo by just over a tenth of second. Spies also would lead former teammate Colin Edwards by just under two tenths of a second, as the three Yamahas rounded out what would be the second row if this was race qualifying. Meanwhile the Ducatis all landed in the slower half of the field, clearly struggling with the desert track.

Asphalt & Rubber @ Qatar GP

03/13/2011 @ 7:30 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber @ Qatar GP Valentino Rossi close up1 635x425

We’re live here in Doha for the next 10 days, covering the last pre-season MotoGP test and the Qatar GP. The skies seem perpetually hazy, with the sun poking through every now and then. That’s just fine by us, as it’s keeping daytime temperatures in the low 80F’s, with nights being a pleasant 60-70F. As usual we’ll have our Twitter feed going on the site, keeping you up-to-date with the latest happenings in the MotoGP paddock.

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Photo Feed from MotoGP’s Warm-up at the Qatar GP: