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.

2015 Dakar Rally Details Revealed

11/20/2014 @ 5:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2015 Dakar Rally Details Revealed 2015 dakar rally route 635x721

The route for the 2015 Dakar Rally has been confirmed, and details have been dropped on what could be the most grueling motorcycle event on Earth. The 14 day, 13 stage Dakar will take competitors through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and back to Argentina again, making for roughly 9,000 kilometers of terrain to navigate.

The 68 motorcycle competitors will have the added challenge of two marathon stages — stages where only the riders can work on their bikes, and can receive no help from their support crews.

Marc Coma is a heavy favorite for the 2015 edition, especially with rival Cyril Despres making the career switch to race on four wheels with Peugoet. However Coma can expect strong competition from his teammate Ruben Faria, not to mention from the likes of Joan Barreda on his Honda, and Olivier Pain on the Yamaha.

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.