Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

XXX: 13 Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Buck Naked

12/31/2013 @ 2:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

XXX: 13 Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Buck Naked 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike 09 635x423

How rude of us. All this talk about KTM’s new 450cc race bike for the Dakar Rally, and we haven’t properly introduced the machine to you. Well, we did bring you some of the first photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike a few months ago, but they hardly do the purpose-built race bike any justice.

KTM’s goal with the 450 Rally was to build a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine than the previous machine, which was basically a 600cc-class chassis with a 450cc motor wedged into it. Now building a new bike around a brand new motor, all from the ground-up, KTM believes it has the ultimate adventure-racer in its arsenal.

More like a motocross bike in its design than the bulky 2013 model was, the 2014 KTM 450 Rally is a stunning piece of kit, and for as odd as it sounds, we have never lusted after a fairing stay / headlight housing more in our lives. Luckily KTM supplied us with 13 hi-res photos of the new KTM 450 Rally…totally naked. If you’re a gearhead, the following might not be safe for work.

Video: KTM Readies for the 2014 Dakar Rally

12/31/2013 @ 1:55 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Video: KTM Readies for the 2014 Dakar Rally 2014 KTM Dakar Rally Coma 02 635x423

Cyril Despres might be the man to beat at the upcoming Dakar Rally, but the boys at KTM aren’t going to let Despres’ defection to Yamaha Racing stop them from keeping the Austrian brand’s winning streak alive. Gearing up for the 2014 Dakar Rally, which starts January 5th in Argentina, KTM factory riders Marc Coma, Ruben Faria and Francisco Lopez talk in a video about the upcoming race and their new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Debuting the purpose-built 450cc machine, Coma et al will have a potent weapon this year, especially in the more technical stages. However, with two marathon stages (stages where the riders must perform all their own maintenance and mechanical work), as well as five separation stages (stages where motorcycles and quads will tackle a different and more technical routes of the course than the cars and trucks), the 2014 Dakar Rally is looking especially hard compared to previous years.

With Coma looking to tie Despres’ current tally of five wins, we can expect strong competition from the Spaniard. Missing last year’s event due to injury, Coma will be keen to regain his momentum, and equal his Dakar rival. Of course, the KTM Factory Red Bull Team enters this year’s rally with heavy hearts, mourning the loss of American Kurt Caselli, who died this year while competing in the SCORE Baja 1000. KTM is dedicating their race in this year’s Dakar to their fallen teammate.

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.

KTM Readying All-New 2014 Dakar Rally Race Bike

08/05/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

KTM Readying All New 2014 Dakar Rally Race Bike Ruben Faria KTM Dakar Rally 2013 635x423

The 2014 Dakar Rally is still five months away, but KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has tipped the Austrian company’s hand in an interview with KTM’s official company blog. With the goal of making a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine, KTM has been working on a ground-up redesign of its venerable adventure-racer.

Of course, KTM will still have to use a 450cc single-cylinder engine, per the Dakar Rally’s rules, but Pierer says the chassis will be significantly improved upon over the current iteration.

That goal seems easy enough, as the company CEO disclosed that the current 2013 race bike is essentially using the same chassis when The Dakar had a 600cc engine regulation for factory teams.

Modifying the old chassis to design simply to accommodate the new 450cc lump, KTM’s short-cut to building a new rally racing machine was crude, yet obviously effective.

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia

03/21/2013 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia 2014 dakar rally argentina bolivia chile

For the sixth year in a row, the Dakar Rally will race in South America, though the iconic rally race is mixing things up, and is dropping its route through Peru for one that includes Bolivia instead. The Dakar will keep Argentina and Chile on its 2014 course schedule, and the two countries will comprise the majority of the race’s torturous test of its competitors.

The 2014 Dakar Rally will have longer special stages, as well as several marathon stages (stages where only the competitor can do mechanical work on his/her machine, not the mechanics). Taking riders  and drivers though Argentina’s northwest canyons and sandy valleys, it should be an especially grueling edition of the historic race.

KTM’s 2013 Factory Rally Team: Despres Out, Caselli In

03/12/2013 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

KTMs 2013 Factory Rally Team: Despres Out, Caselli In ktm 450 rally 635x432

After a last-minute appointment to replace the injured Marc Coma in KTM’s factory rally team for the 2013 Dakar Rally, American Kurt Caselli impressed many with his stellar rookie performance on the South American course. Taking two stage wins, Caselli will join Marc Coma and Ruben Faria on KTM’s factory-backed rally team, which will go by the “Red Bull KTM Factory Racing” name.

With Chilean rider Francesco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez also getting full-factory equipment, noticeably absent from KTM’s announcement is five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres, who is leaving the KTM squad “to move on and face new challenges.”

Winning the most recent edition of The Dakar in a comfortable fashion with his support rider, Faria, finishing second, Despres’s probable move to another team is a huge shock to the sport, and could make KTM’s dominance in motorcycle rally racing questionable for the future.

Dakar Rally — Stage 11: American Kurt Caselli Wins Again

01/16/2013 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally    Stage 11: American Kurt Caselli Wins Again Kurt Caselli Dakar Rally KTM 2013 01 635x423

It is a special thing to win a stage at the Dakar Rally, and multiple stage victories are a true accomplishment in a racer’s career. We could leave the accolades there for Kurt Caselli, but taking two stage wins, during his rookie debut at the famous rally race, now that is something truly noteworthy. Filling the very big shoes left behind by the injured Marc Coma, Caselli has proven to be a diamond in the rough for the factory KTM team, which can only bode well for the California natives return to The Dakar in the coming years.

Winning the Baja-like terrain of Stage 11 with a 4:45 margin, Caselli helped lead the way for fellow bannerman Cyril Despres to regain the outright lead of The Dakar, while Despres’ teammate Ruben Faria also consolidated KTM’s 1-2 standings in the overall time slots, 13:16 behind Despres.

Still ranked well below the other factory KTM riders, Caselli’s position moves to 29th, a figure weighed heavily by his navigational errors in Stage 8, which saw him miss several waypoint and checkpoints.

With eleven stages now completed, the 2013 Dakar Rally will head back into Chile tomorrow with the 12th stage, meaning only three stages of racing remain. A Top 10 finish may be a large challenge for Caselli, but it is undeniable that the American has made a strong first impression at his debut Dakar.

Dakar Rally – Stage 6: Yamaha Leads KTM into Chile

01/10/2013 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Dakar Rally   Stage 6: Yamaha Leads KTM into Chile Olivier Pain Yamaha Dakar Rally 635x423

It has been four stages since we checked in with the 2013 Dakar Rally, and a bit has happened since Cyril Despres’s eight-minute gaffe in the rally race’s second stage. Reclaiming the lead the very next day, Despres seemed back on his form, and ready to blow away the competition — Stage Four would say otherwise however.

Shaking up the leader board, it was Yamaha’s Olivier Pain who finished the fourth day of racing roughly three minutes ahead of his teammate David Casteu and KTM’s Cyril Despres, respectively. The fifth and sixth stages had the competitors leave Peru, and make their first crossing into Chile (the 2013 Dakar will leave Chile for Argentina tomorrow during Stage Seven and then re-enter Chile at Stage Twelve through to the finish).

The change of locale proved advantageous for Despres, who gained timed on the Yamahas in front of him, and finally overtook Casteu on today’s Stage Six. Frenchman Olivier Pain remained in the lead through today though, with a 2:22 lead over Despres, and nearly five minutes over Casteu, who is running in danger of being caught by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez and Ruben Faria.

There are two more days of racing in Chile, before the riders will have their one and only rest day, which serves as the halfway mark for the Dakar Rally. Commence onward for full standings and some photos of the top competitors.

Photos: 2013 KTM Rally Team

11/26/2012 @ 5:26 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Photos: 2013 KTM Rally Team 2013 KTM Rally Team 05 635x423

Gearing up for the Dakar Rally, and the start of the adventure rally season, KTM has debuted its 2013 rally team with Cyril Despres, Marc Coma, and Ruben Faria. Riding the KTM 450 Rally race bike, the three KTM riders are tipped to be the favorites at the 2013 Dakar Rally, with Despres looking for his fifth win, while Coma races for his fourth victory against his teammate and rival.

The Dakar will once again be held in South America, making 2013 the fifth time that the race has been held outside of its namesake territory. A bit of branding yoga, the famous adventure race has been right at home in the varied terrains of Peru, Argentina, and Chilé, and for 2013, the Dakar will visit those countries in that order. New to the Dakar, Honda’s factory team will be on the roster, as well factory teams from Husqvarna and Aprilia.

Because we know how much you enjoy them, high-resolution photos of the factory KTM riders doing their thing, after the jump (HD display owners will also note that A&R has gone “retina” with our post images, woot).