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.

Welcome Back.

04/01/2011 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

John Hopkins to Ride for Rizla Suzuki Starting in Jerez

03/19/2011 @ 9:48 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

John Hopkins to Ride for Rizla Suzuki Starting in Jerez john hopkins rizla suzuki qatar test 635x422

John Hopkins has seemingly been unable to get out to Qatar in time to fill-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista, instead Rizla Suzuki will go without a rider for the Qatar GP. Despite that setback, Hopper will pick-up with the Suzuki squad at the Spanish GP, racing once again on the GSV-R at Jerez. Out of all the riders in the MotoGP paddock, Hopkins has had the most success with the Suzuki MotoGP bike, finishing fourth in the 2007 MotoGP Championship.

Rizla Suzuki to Sit Out Qatar GP

03/19/2011 @ 9:48 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Rizla Suzuki to Sit Out Qatar GP Rizla Suzuki Alvaro Bautista foot drag 635x425

No sooner did news of Álvaro Bautista’s broken femur hit the MotoGP paddock did speculation begin as to whom would/could replace the unfortunately injured Spanish rider. The list of racers capable of piloting a MotoGP machine is short and distinguished, and the majority of speculation turned to whether John Hopkins would have another go at the Suzuki GSV-R in Qatar. The other option banded-about, although with much less fervor, were MotoGP-turned-Moto2 riders Ant West, Alex de Angelis, & Aleix Espargaró.

Álvaro Bautista Breaks Femur in FP3 at Qatar GP

03/18/2011 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Álvaro Bautista Breaks Femur in FP3 at Qatar GP T2P6278

UPDATE: A&R just had another chat with Rizla Suzuki, racing this weekend depends on the ability to get a rider to Qatar in-time. No decision has been made, but the impression was that if Hopper can get out to Qatar, he’d be in the saddle for Qualifying on Saturday evening.

We’ve just gotten confirmation from the Rizla Suzuki team that Alvaro Bautista had broken his femur from his high-speed crash in FP3 at the Qatar GP. Currently undergoing tests at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Bautista needs a pin for the broken bone, an operation the rider would like to undertake in his home country of Spain, but the team is still evaluating whether to undergo that surgery in Qatar.

Bautista’s highside crash occurred at considerable speed in Losail’s Turn 15, a fast left-hander. While the team will release more information later tonight, there are no plans to bring in a new rider for the Qatar GP race this weekend, and all eyes are now on whether Bautista return can return in time for the next MotoGP round, which is on April 3rd at Jerez.

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.

2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R MotoGP Race Bike Unveiled

03/10/2011 @ 2:00 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV R MotoGP Race Bike Unveiled 2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV R 635x403

Finally we have all the factory MotoGP bikes officially unveiled in their race liveries (click for the Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha unveilings). Surprising everyone this year with a teal color scheme, Rizla Suzuki is still present in MotoGP, albeit only running one rider for the 2011 season. Taking to the helm of the 2011 Suzuki GSV-R is Alvaro Bautista, who has shown great promise on the otherwise lackluster race bike.

Despite its troubled past, Suzuki has been working hard on turning its toad into a prince, and could be the surprise entry in this year’s MotoGP Championship. We don’t expect the bike to win any races, but a couple surprise podiums do seem attainable for the squad. Photos and technical specifications after the jump.

Honda Goes 1, 2, 3, at Second Day of Testing at Sepang

02/23/2011 @ 10:01 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Honda Goes 1, 2, 3, at Second Day of Testing at Sepang Dani Pedrosa MotoGP Sepang test Repsol Honda.jpg 635x421

The Honda boys were out in full-force today, as MotoGP testing continued at Sepang. With only Toni Elias outside of the Top 7, Honda’s race package for the 2011 season is looking very stout, despite the fact that chassis selections still haven’t been finalized. While landing at the top of the results list is about as useful as yelling “first” in the comments section, Casey Stoner just barely snatched the honor away from Dani Pedrosa in his final lap around the Malaysian circuit, leaving only .058 seconds between the teammates.

Like yesterday, the Yamaha Racing factory squad looked in good form as well, with Spies showing marked improvements despite crashing in one of the sessions. Jorge Lorenzo spent some time on two different bikes, confirming the direction his crew was going with developing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 for the new season.

Things weren’t progressing as well in the Ducati camp though, as all the teams struggled with front-end issues. Notably absent from the day was Valentino Rossi, who has come down with cold/flu like symptoms. He retired to the hotel, in the hopes of being well enough to ride in tomorrow’s last day of testing. Carrying the Corse flag alone, Nicky Hayden had a tough day that ended with gearbox problems. Still, the ever-positive American was hopeful for better fortunes on Thursday as the team seems to have worked out some chatter issues.

Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang

02/22/2011 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang Casey Stoner Repsol Honda Sepang test MotoGP 635x421

Casey Stoner set the pace today at MotoGP’s second off-season test at Sepang. The Australian, and the rest of the four factory Honda riders, proved to be very impressive on the Malaysian track, as the 2011 Honda RC212V seems to be hitting its stride just before the season opener in Qatar in a few weeks.

The Honda riders don’t have things all sewn up though, as the Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo was looking very fast, as were Americans Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. Earlier in the day, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi even cracked into the Top 5 on the standings, and despite finishing the day just over a second behind Stoner, the Italian was upbeat about the team’s progress and his physical condition.

Hopper Testing at Qatar with Rizla Suzuki

02/09/2011 @ 10:27 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Hopper Testing at Qatar with Rizla Suzuki John Hopkins Rizla Suzuki 635x423

It started out as a rumor, with Crash.net reporting that John Hopkins could see himself once again taking to the Suzuki GSV-R in a one-off wild card race during the 2011 season. That notion in the past few days has expanded to to include Hopper riding at the IRTA test in Qatar next month, presumably to see if he would be capable of replacing Alvaro Bautista, should the Spanish rider become injured during the 2011 season.

For those keeping track, that’s Hopkins going from the AMA, to the BSB Championship, and now MotoGP (albeit as an alternate) in a matter of months; and as MCN reports, it’s due largely to the fact that Paul Denning owns not only the Crescent Suzuki Team, but is also the Team Manager for the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP effort.

MotoGP: The 100 Million Dollar Moving City

12/10/2010 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: The 100 Million Dollar Moving City rizla suzuki garage 635x423

A lot of people don’t realize that during the racing season MotoGP takes on the role of a small moving city. Hopping from venue to venue and setting up camp where they land, GP teams are perhaps the more modern take on the traveling circus business model, erecting hospitality structures, team offices, rider amenities, and of course the team garage, all in the name of the big show.

Stick around the race track after a Sunday race, and you’ll see GP teams breakdown the paddock and hospitality amenities in a matter of hours, stuffing the building and bike components into container crates. Those crates in-turn are packed onto team trucks, or loaded onto Dorna’s airplanes, so that MotoGP can travel to its next venue, and start the process over anew. Rinse & repeat 18 times, and you’ve got yourself a GP season.

Compressing the hours of work it takes to setup and takedown the team garage, Rizla Suzuki, with the help of Troy Lee Designs, put together a time lapse videos showing the process. Enjoy it and a bonus video of the Rizla garage during race day after the jump.