Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

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

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. 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.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Marc Coma Takes His Fourth Career Dakar Rally Victory

01/19/2014 @ 12:03 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Marc Coma Takes His Fourth Career Dakar Rally Victory Marc Coma Dakar Rally KTM 32 635x422

The 2014 Dakar Rally is finally done, after two weeks of hard racing across Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Despite a slow start to this year’s Dakar, KTM’s Marc Coma took his fourth career win of the iconic rally raid race, aboard KTM’s all new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Finishing almost two hours clear of his nearest competitor, teammate Jordi Viladoms, Coma took the lead on Stage Five and never looked back. The Spaniard’s fourth Dakar win came primarily from consistent riding, which saw Coma slowly rise in the rankings as Despres and Barreda made mistakes and encountered technical difficulties with their machinery.

“Without the right people behind me it would have been impossible to win,” said Coma. “We have worked very well throughout the race and also before. Last year I went through a very difficult situation not being able to compete because of injury and I came back to win the race. I think this says a lot about the people I have around me. I am very proud of this victory. What was key to winning the Dakar was not to make any mistakes.”

Marc Coma dedicated his win to his late teammate Kurt Caselli, who tragically died during the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000. Caselli filled in for Coma in the 2013 rally, earning himself great praise for his assention in the ranks, and two stage wins. Coma’s victory is a fitting tribute to the American rider.

Photos: Cyril Despres & His Yamaha YZ450F Rally Race Bike

12/19/2013 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Photos: Cyril Despres & His Yamaha YZ450F Rally Race Bike Cyril Despres Yamaha YZ450F Rally studio 06 635x423

Yamaha Racing has officially debuted its 2014 Rally race team, which is being spearheaded by Cyril Despres, the five-time Dakar Rally winner who was formerly of KTM fame. Despres hopes to defend his latest Dakar Rally win, despite swapping orange for blue, and today is our first formal viewing of the 2014 Yamaha YZ450F Rally bike with his livery.

This year’s Dakar Rally goes through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile and will be a longer and tougher route than in past years. With KTM debuting a now purpose-built racing machine, the KTM 450 Rally, and HRC also fielding its refined Honda CRF450 Rally, Yamaha and Despres will have their work cutout for them in defending the Frenchman’s number one plate.

Team Blue has prepared itself though, taking many inputs from Despres and incorporating them into the 2014 bike’s design. We won’t know how it will go at the Dakar Rally course until January 5th, but from the pictures we have now, it sure looks the business.

Cyril Despres Talks About Yamaha & The Dakar Rally

11/25/2013 @ 10:47 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Cyril Despres Talks About Yamaha & The Dakar Rally Cyril Despres Yamaha Racing Dakar Rally 06 635x423

While the off-road community continues to morn the loss of American Kurt Caselli, preparations are underway for each year’s big event, the Dakar Rally. At the center of that attention is Cyril Despres, who made the shock move from KTM to Yamaha’s rally team.

Riding alongside Olivier Pain, Frans Verhoeven, and Michael Metge in the 2014 Dakar Rally, all eyes will be on the Frenchman Despres, and whether he can continue his rivalry with Spaniard Marc Coma, despite now being on different machinery (and contending with KTM’s all-new rally bike).

Taking a break from filming duties for Yamaha Racing, Despres had a moment to talk about his switch to Yamaha, his first impressions of the Yamaha 450 Rally race bike, and the upcoming Dakar Rally.

Despres’ comments, as usual, are fairly candid, and the five-time Dakar winner tells a good story about how Stéphane Peterhansel (a six-time Dakar winner himself) persuaded him to try the race on a different machine — a Yamaha, the same make Peterhansel campaigned his victories upon not so long ago.

KTM and the Baja 1000 Release More Info on Kurt Caselli

11/16/2013 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

KTM and the Baja 1000 Release More Info on Kurt Caselli Kurt Caselli full throttle 635x422

Organizers of the Baja 1000 and KTM Racing have both released press releases concerning the death of American racer Kurt Caselli, who unfortunately died today during the Baja 1000 race.

While SCORE International’s press release only mentions that Caselli died while leading the Baja 1000, KTM’s press release adds information about Caselli’s race bike, which appears has signs that the talented American rider encountered an animal on the race course, which likely caused his crash.

Meanwhile, FMF Racing’s Donny Emler Jr. has posted to Instagram a message that refutes earlier reports that a spectator-made booby trap was involved in the incident, and describes how competitors Ricky Brabec and Ivan Ramirez came upon Caselli and sought help for the fallen rider. Both press releases are after the jump.

Kurt Caselli Has Died While Competing in the Baja 1000

11/16/2013 @ 8:28 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Kurt Caselli Has Died While Competing in the Baja 1000 kurt caselli ktm 635x423

We bring you unfortunate news from the Baja California Peninsula, as we have gotten word that American Kurt Caselli has died while competing in the 2013 Baja 1000 off-road race.

Leading the race on his factory-supported KTM, early reports indicated that Caselli crashed after hitting a booby trap (an all too common feature of the Baja 1000) around the 796-mile mark, and later succumbed to injuries to his head.

However, a post to Instagram by FMF’s Donny Emler Jr. says that is not the case, and that Kurt’s crash was merely a racing incident, and did not occur near any spectators. Press statements from both KTM and the Baja 1000 organizers can be read here, and suggest that Caselli’s motorcycle came in contact with an animal, which likely caused his crash.

Moar Photos of the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally

10/13/2013 @ 3:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Moar Photos of the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally Metzler team 08

HRC is getting serious about this whole rally thing. After testing the waters last season, Big Red is ramping up a serious bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally. Already announcing its 2014 team of Helder Rodrigues, Sam Sunderland, Javier Pizzolito, Paulo Goncalves, and Joan Barreda, HRC debuted its new machine, the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally, to the press.

Judging from the response the bike got in our comments section, we are betting a few marriages might be on the rocks because of this beauty, but that isn’t stopping us from posting some more photos of the Honda CRF450 Rally, and this time the come courtesy of Metzler tires.

Debuting the German tire company’s new unobtainium KAROO Extreme prototype tires, Honda and its riders are hoping Metzler will help make the difference in the Dakar, and will help HRC give KTM and Yamaha a race for their money, come January 5th in Argentina.

Video: 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally

10/11/2013 @ 3:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Video: 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally 16 635x423

We’re having dirty thoughts here at Asphalt & Rubber, mostly as we drool over HRC’s new Dakar challenger, the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally. Based off the Honda CRF450X enduro, HRC says that its new Honda CRF450 Rally race bike has an improved engine output, aerodynamic performance, durability, and maintenance requirements. We just think it looks like awesome in two-wheel form.

The Honda CRF450 Rally factory race bike will be the work horse for the Team HRC rally team, as it aims to unseat KTM from its Dakar Rally thrown in a few months. With zie Austrians debuting an all-new KTM 450 Rally race bike of their own, and Yamaha Racing now benefitting from the talents of Cyril Despres, HRC might have its work cutout for it. Until then, we’ll just spend some alone time with this video.

First Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Race Bike

10/10/2013 @ 6:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

First Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Race Bike 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike 02

These are the first photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally factory race bike that Marc Coma, Kurt Caselli, and Ruben Faria will ride in the upcoming Dakar Rally in three-months time (factory rider Francisco Lopez will be on the 2013 machine). The 2014 race bike is a completely new machine from the ground up, and will make its racing debut at the OilLibya Rally of Morocco.

With the goal of winning its 13th Dakar in a row, KTM has some stiff competition for this upcoming Dakar, as former-rider Cyril Despres has defected to the Yamaha Racing team, and HRC has recently debuted its brand new 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally race bike as well.

HRC Shows Off the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally Race Bike

10/08/2013 @ 7:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

HRC Shows Off the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally Race Bike 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally 11 635x423

HRC already showed us its 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally race bike earlier this year at Mugello, during the Italian GP. Announcing a five rider team, Helder Rodrigues (Portugal, age 34), Sam Sunderland (U.K., 24), Javier Pizzolito (Argentina, 33), Paulo Goncalves (Portugal, 34) and Joan Barreda (Spain, 29) will race for Big Red in the 2014 Dakar Rally and other rally events.

Improving on its 2013 design, which in-turn was based off the Honda CRF450X enduro, HRC says that the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally has improved engine output, aerodynamic performance, durability, and maintenance requirements. It will be campaign by the Team HRC factory team, and also be made available to other rally teams as a production racer.

Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally

05/30/2013 @ 1:59 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally Cyril Despres Yamaha Motor France 2014 Dakar Rally 10 635x418

When it happened, we were shocked to learn that Cyril Despres was left out of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s 2013 team announcement, though we American have a silver lining in the news as the five-time Dakar Rally winner was replaced by our own Kurt Caselli. However, with that upheaval, we were left to speculate as to the fate of the Dakar master.

Would Despres retire from rally racing, finishing his career at its peak? Or, would the Frenchman defect from KTM to another team, like say Honda’s upstart rally effort? Well, now we have the answer, as Cyril Despres has been outed as having joined the Yamaha Motor France rally team for the 2014 & 2015 Dakar Rallies.