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.

WSBK: Race 2 a Chess Match in the Czech Republic

07/10/2011 @ 7:27 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Race 2 a Chess Match in the Czech Republic biaggi melandri2 635x406

Max Biaggi won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Brno during Saturday’s Superpole sessions, beating out Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa, and Eugene Laverty, who join him on the front row for the second race of the weekend. Biaggi’s teammate Leon Camier was not so quick, though he did manage to move on to Superpole 3 after a late crash in the first third nearly kept him from setting any time at all. Neither Castrol Honda moved on beyond the final Saturday qualifying practice, nor did most of the Kawasaki riders fare terribly well.

Multiple riders sat out this weekend’s racing, with Lorenzo Lanzi replacing James Toseland at BMW Motorrad Italia, Alex Lowes in for Jonathan Rea at Castrol Honda, and no one filling in for Troy Corser at BMW Motorrad. Toseland rode in the Friday free practice, but was forced to give up his seat after his wrist injury continued to cause problems. Ruben Xaus was also forced to sit out Race 2 after a massive crash in Race 1 on Sunday. Though he did not have any broken bones, he did not race. Chris Vermeulen also did not start the second race.

WSBK: Close Fighting for Race 1 at Brno

07/10/2011 @ 3:55 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Close Fighting for Race 1 at Brno Biaggi Melandri 635x406

Max Biaggi started the first World Superbike race of the Brno round on pole after no one could touch him in the final Superpole session on Saturday. He was joined by Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa, and Eugene Laverty on the front row. Though Biaggi led at the end, Jakub Smrz, Checa, and Laverty all took a turn at leading a session in the Czech Republic. Much further back, neither Castrol Honda rider managed to move on to the Superpole sessions and will start on the fifth and sixth rows. Checa led the morning warm-up on Sunday, with Smrz, Sylvain Guintoli, Biaggi, and Michel Fabrizio the fastest five.

Though James Toseland did ride for Friday morning’s free practice, he was forced to sit out the rest of the race weekend, hoping to heal for the next round at Silverstone. He was replaced by Lorenzo Lanzi at BMW Motorrad Italia. Also sitting out the weekend is injured factory BMW rider Tory Corser and Jonathan Rea at Castrol Honda. Though Corser has not been replaced at this round, Rea’s recovery might be long-term, leading to his replacement by Alex Lowes.

WSBK: Penalties & Last Lap Pass Decide Race 2 at Monza

05/08/2011 @ 10:47 am, by Victoria Reid6 COMMENTS

WSBK: Penalties & Last Lap Pass Decide Race 2 at Monza Marco Melandri Yamaha Racing WSBK Race 2 Monza 635x487

Reigning World Champion Max Biaggi started his home round of the 2011 World Superbike season at Monza on pole after publicly declaring that this was a weekend to make up points after mistakes at earlier rounds. He started his quest to do so with aplomb, breaking the WSBK speed record and spending extra time on track while doing so. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Tory Corser joined Biaggi on the front row for the start of the second race, leaving Carlos Checa surprisingly down in eleventh after a poor set of Superole sessions on Saturday for the points leader. Most riders had multiple, possibly crucial, laps deleted after running across the chicane.

Meanwhile, injuries continued to plague men already suffering from them. Chris Vermeulen added to his set of scars by tearing the skin on his elbow during a practice crash. That injury, only able to be partially closed, left him unable to race on Sunday. Meanwhile James Toseland also sat out Sunday’s races, despite some vigorous autograph signing, on his predicted return to the WSBK paddock after a testing crash left him with wires in his wrist. Later, Haslam returned to the top of the timesheets in the morning sunshine at Monza, with Biaggi, Laverty, Corser, and Camier the fastest five in Sunday morning’s warmup.

WSBK: Duel Ends in Decisive Victory for Monza Race 1

05/08/2011 @ 10:33 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Duel Ends in Decisive Victory for Monza Race 1 Eugene Laverty Yamaha Racing WSBK Race 1 Monza 635x660

Max Biaggi proved a point to start the first 2011 World Superbike race at home at Monza by being on the pole, breaking speed records and blowing away his own times along the way. The reigning Champion dominated Saturday’s Superpole sessions, going so far as to flog his Aprilia around the circuit whilst the rest of the riders sat in the garages, comfortable with Biaggi’s position. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Troy Corser joined him in starting on the front row, with Laverty’s lap time more than six tenths slower than Biaggi’s.

Even after dominating qualifying through the first three rounds, Carlos Checa had to settle for an eleventh starting position. Meanwhile, those who have not had such good fortune through the early season continued with their bad luck. James Toseland, set to make his return after a testing injury kept him from Donington Park and Assen, participated in Friday’s sessions, but not the final qualifying practice. Nor did he race, though he was busy signing autographs with that injured wrist through the weekend.

WSBK: Close Racing Shakes Up the Order in Race 1 at Assen

04/17/2011 @ 10:42 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Close Racing Shakes Up the Order in Race 1 at Assen Marco Melandri Assen WSBK 2011 635x558

Carlos Checa started on his third straight pole of the 2011 World Superbike season at Assen, with Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga sitting beside him on the front row after Saturday’s qualifying. Despite similar cool temperatures and a grey sky, considerably less drama surrounded the paddock Saturday in Assen than three weeks previously at Donington Park.

A contrite Max Biaggi started sixth, while rival Marco Melandri crashed on his final run in Q3 and qualified eighth. Melandri was unhurt, though teammate Laverty’s position on the front row showed the sort of pace their Yamahas were capable of for qualifying.

Second place starter Smrz had led most of the early practice and qualifying sessions, only to be beaten by tire management, as Checa was the only rider with a fresh qualifying tire for the final Q3 session. Chris Vermeulen did not make Superpole, but did start the race, after spending most of his time between Donington and this race testing his recovering knee across Europe.

The also-injured James Toseland was replaced by Dutch rider Barry Veneman after a testing crash left him unable to compete. Sunday morning was sunny, with Camier taking the lead during the morning warm-up. Haslam, Checa, Rea, and Melandri completed the fastest five, while Smrz was fourteenth, Laverty eighteenth, and Vermeulen nineteenth.