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.

MotoGP: Surprisingly Dry Qualifying at Valencia

11/05/2011 @ 7:10 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

MotoGP: Surprisingly Dry Qualifying at Valencia Loris Capirossi Pramac Ducati SuperSic 635x423

With rain coming down during the 125GP session, MotoGP narrowly avoided its own water-soaked qualifying. With wet sessions on Friday, the order of things was disrupted as the Ducatis clearly could overcome their problems in the damp conditions. As the track dried though, the Honda dominance returned, making the Spanish skies a huge factor for Sunday’s Valencian GP. Depending on who you talk to in the paddock, it’s either a guarantee for rain tomorrow, or it will be assuredly sunny, meaning no one has a clue what the weather will really be like.

While Stoner and Pedrosa have had their accustomed positions on the time sheets, Valencia has seen moments of brilliance from Hayden, Rossi, de Puniet, and Bautista, as all four riders have had an extra pep in their step during the inclement weather. The Spanish venue seems especially to favor the Spaniard Bautista, as the Suzuki rider has been a cut faster than previously in the season, no doubt encouraged by a home crowd and the desire to help Rizla Suzuki secure a future in MotoGP.

The other notable standout this weekend has been American Josh Hayes, who has been aided by the rain and adapted readily to the Monster Tech3 Yamaha YZR-M1 typically ridden by Colin Edwards. Not having to learn the carbon brake discs of MotoGP, and with the Bridgestone tires blunted by the water, Hayes has come up to speed rather quickly on the M1, finishing FP1 with a respectable P10. How that learning curve would change in the dry though remains a pressing question mark on the AMA Superbike Champion’s mind, though that seems to be the case for many riders this weekend. Qualifying results after the jump.

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island

10/10/2011 @ 6:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island Alvaro Bautista Japanese GP Rizla Suzuki pit 635x422

Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear  from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

MotoGP: Casey Stoner Fined €5,000 for Punching Randy de Puniet in Warm-Up Session

05/15/2011 @ 5:04 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Casey Stoner Fined €5,000 for Punching Randy de Puniet in Warm Up Session Casey Stoner Randy de Puniet punch 635x453

The tenor of temper tantrums and drama in the MotoGP paddock seemingly escalates with each passing day, as the Warm-Up session at Le Mans saw further scuffles from MotoGP riders. Punching Randy de Puniet in the arm, Casey Stoner has been levied a €5,000 fine by Race Direction for the contact with the French rider. With such a physical act is clearly out of order and unsportsmanlike in any sort of motorcycle race, but the issue about slower riders on the racing line has also surfaced, with many in the MotoGP paddock looking for some intervention from Race Direction on that issue as well.

Randy de Puniet’s Track Notes at the French GP

05/14/2011 @ 8:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Crashes Shake-Up Qualifying at Jerez

04/02/2011 @ 5:44 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: Crashes Shake Up Qualifying at Jerez Ben Spies Yamaha Racing MotoGP Jerez Qualifying 635x423

Qualifying for the Spanish GP got underway today under the sunny, but windy skies of Jerez, Spain. Unsurprising to just about anyone, the Repsol Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were on the top of the time sheets, with local Jorge Lorenzo completing the front row and only 0.16 seconds off the qualifying pace. While the rank and order surprises few, all eyes will be on the latter stages of tomorrow’s race to see how Dani Pedrosa can manage with his ailing shoulder, which the Spaniard will have operated on immediately after the GP

The qualifying session saw a total of six riders hitting the tarmac and gravel traps, with many blaming the wind as a contributing factor. The list of riders crashing includes Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet, Karel Abraham, and Hiroshi Aoyama. Thankfully no one was injured, but in the case of Rossi, it meant trashing his preferred bike for the session, causing him to qualify on his other machine, and landing 12th on the starting grid.

He’ll be joined on the fourth row by teammate Nicky Hayden, who has been having a miserable season thus far on the Desmosedici GP11, and once again Randy de Puniet proved himself to be the fastest Ducati, qualifying seventh. Honorable mentions go out to John Hopkins, who continued his progress filling in for the injured Alvaro Bautista this weekend with a fourteenth grid position for tomorrow’s race. With a good start we could see a mid-pack finish for Hopper, who has shown marked improvement with each session on the Suzuki GSV-R.

With the rain very likely to make an appearance for tomorrow’s race, all bets are off for how the Spanish GP will shape-up.

Chapter 1: Your Cheat Sheet to the Qatar GP

03/20/2011 @ 6:34 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Chapter 1: Your Cheat Sheet to the Qatar GP Dani Pedrosa close up1 635x425

Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, the 2011 MotoGP Championship is about to kick off today. Asphalt & Rubber has made the trek out to the Middle East, coming to you straight from the Losail International Circuit located just outside of Doha, Qatar. The weather has been favorable here in Qatar, with the heat down during the day, the skies clear but at times hazy, and the humidity staying down during the evening sessions. Hosting a two-day testing session before the Qatar GP, the riders have been here in Doha for almost 10 days now.

While you enjoy the return of MotoGP racing action to your online feeds and television screens, we’ve put together a cheat sheet to the Qatar GP to fill you in with the off-season happenings, as well as what’s been going on in the paddock while we’ve been here at Losail. Hold on race fans, prototype motorcycle racing is coming at you very, very, very soon.

Randy de Puniet Signs on with Pramac Ducati for 2011

11/07/2010 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Randy de Puniet Signs on with Pramac Ducati for 2011 Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 635x694

A&R Patron Saint, Randy de Puniet confirmed this weekend at Valencia that he has signed with the Pramac Ducati team for the 2011 season. Making his announcement at the conclusion of Saturday’s qualifying session, de Puniet is the second-to-last unconfirmed rider for next season, as now everyone waits to hear Gresini Honda’s confirmation of Hiroshi Aoyama to its quasi-satellite team.

The Gresini squad is likely waiting for the Repsol Honda team to confirm how it will handle having three marquis riders under one tent, as HRC has signed Dani Pedorsa, Casey Stoner, and Andrea Dovizioso. At one point there was talk of having Dovi take a seat in Gresini, with the promise of factory support from HRC.

Toni Elias Signs With LCR Honda – Returns to MotoGP

10/31/2010 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Toni Elias Signs With LCR Honda   Returns to MotoGP Toni Elias Indianapolis GP Moto2jpg 635x425

Reigning Moto2 World Champion Toni Elias will return to the big show for the 2011 season, as the Spanish rider has secured a contract with the LCR Honda satellite team. Elias has been on fire this season in Moto2, easily establishing himself as the dominate rider in the class. Looking to secure Moto2 as the feeder series for MotoGP, Dorna is rumored to have helped secure Elias’s return to premiere racing, after he lost his ride in the San Carlo Gresini Honda squad in 2009.

Silly Season: The Hondas of MotoGP

10/20/2010 @ 4:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Silly Season: The Hondas of MotoGP LCR Honda Randy de Puniet Lauren Vickers 635x421

It’s a bit of irony that Casey Stoner was the first MotoGP alien to to make his move in the 2010 silly season, yet is the last MotoGP alien whose fate we know completely. Signing with Honda it was assumed that Stoner would be a part of a three-man team within Repsol Honda, with HRC saying as much during its press announcement with the Australian rider. When the budget necessary to field a three-man team failed to materialize from Repsol, HRC began looking for other options, with the most prominent being a single-man team (likely with Casey Stoner), possibly sponsored by Red Bull. Unable to get the energy drink company to foot the bill, HRC then turned to satellite squad Gresini, where Marco Simoncelli, another HRC contracted rider, currently resides.

Andrea Dovizioso seemingly drew the short-straw in that arrangement, with HRC pressuring the Italian to move into Gresini with the promise of factory support being made for both riders. Dovizioso is reported as having a performance clause in his contract that guarantees him a seat in a factory team should he meet certain criteria. With Dovi honoring his end of the agreement, he looked to HRC to honor its side of the contract, and a Honda Gresini ride is not what the Italian had in mind. Making matters worse is HRC’s history of not honoring support agreements to riders once they leave the folds of the factory team. As such Dovizioso held his ground, and rightfully so.

With the 2011 season likely to see four factory-backed Honda riders, something had to give, and that something seems to be Repsol Honda. According to MotoWorld, Repsol Honda agreed at the Australian GP to up its MotoGP funding from €10 million to €15 million, and support a three-man Repsol Honda factory team. With Stoner, Pedrosa, and Dovizioso tucked away under one tent for the 2011 season, and Marco Simoncelli staying in Gresini Honda, that leaves a vacancy in the quasi-satellite team that will surely be filled by Hiroshi Aoyama.

The Suzuki Silly Season Roundup: The Rookie, The Veteran, & The Frenchman

09/18/2010 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The Suzuki Silly Season Roundup: The Rookie, The Veteran, & The Frenchman Rizla Suzuki single bike team 635x422

Noticeably absent from the silly season slogging has been the factory Suzuki MotoGP team. Although we know that Suzuki intends to stay in MotoGP for at least one more season, despite a continued tradition of mediocrity, very little other information has come forward. Perhaps at the top of the rumor heap is the speculation that Rizla Suzuki will potentially field only one bike in the 2011 MotoGP season, electing not to replace Loris Capirossi who has been linked to the Pramac Ducati team.