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.

Video: Ducati Hypermotard – License to Thrill

02/18/2013 @ 11:43 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Video: Ducati Hypermotard   License to Thrill 2013 ducati hypermotard 635x475

It is good to see that if this motorcycle racing thing doesn’t pan out, Nicky Hayden has at least a more promising future on the big screen than say….John McGuinness.

Helping Ducati hock its now water-cooled Ducati Hypermotard, Hayden earns his paycheck with wheelies, enduos, and a little bit of drifting for good measure in this James Bond-esque commercial.

Our thoughts? Exactly how long was that woman in the bathroom (i.e. did she fall in)? And, Ruben Xaus makes a cameo as the security guard? Awesome.

Bimota to Wild Card in a World Superbike Race?

12/14/2011 @ 10:10 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Bimota to Wild Card in a World Superbike Race? Bimota HB4 DB8 Ruben Xaus test 01 635x423

Aside from one or two suspiciously similar motorcycles a year, we don’t often hear from the Italian brand of Bimota. Known for building exotic motorcycles that feature custom frames around production motors (now, what does that sound like?), Bimota used to sample the best engines from all the manufacturers, but lately the motorcycle company seems to favor almost exclusively another certain Italian company in Bologna.

There was also a point in time where Bimota raced its designs, helping the small firm earn a reputation not only for its aesthetic graces, but also for its technical prowess. Hoping to return to its roots with that latter element, Bimota was caught on the track in Spain recently. Testing at the Almeria track, Ruben Xaus (yes, that Ruben Xaus) has settled into his new job as Bimota’s Sporting Director quite nicely.

Xaus is helping the small Italian company improve upon its Bimota HB4 Moto2 bike and Bimota DB8 Superbike. With this testing, Bimota is teasing the possibility of the Ducati 1198-powered Bimota DB8 making a World Superbike wild card appearance for the 2012 season.

WSBK: A Charge to the Lead in Superpole at Nurburgring

09/03/2011 @ 7:05 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: A Charge to the Lead in Superpole at Nurburgring checa nurburgring pirelli 635x357

Carlos Checa (1:54.144) again stormed to pole, commanding each Superpole qualifying session for the 2011 World Superbike round at the Nurburgring and setting a new track fast lap. He will be joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, the injured Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri. Though the day was occasionally overcast, the track conditions were hot, as Checa refused to reliquish control of the weekend, having led every session but one. There were no major incidents in Superpole, though Michel Fabrizio did crash on his first lap in S1. He was uninjured and qualified twelfth.

Action was hot as the summer break wrapped up at the German circuit, with championship leader Checa (1:57.296) taking command in the first, wet, practice session. Lascorz, Smrz, Fabrizio, and Camier completed the fastest five, all within a second of Checa’s time. In the completely dry afternoon, though, Biaggi (1:55.524) led Checa, with the top thirteen covered by just a second. Melandri, Fabrizio, and Laverty completed the top five, despite Laverty’s brush with the wall during the session. Rea was back in at Castrol Honda, managing seventh fastest in the afternoon qualifying practice. Teammate Ruben Xaus has not yet returned to fitness and was replaced at Nurburgring by Makoto Tamada. Chris Vermeulen did not participate and was not replaced at Paul Bird Kawasaki.

WSBK: Close Fighting for Race 1 at Brno

07/10/2011 @ 3:55 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Close Fighting for Race 1 at Brno Biaggi Melandri 635x406

Max Biaggi started the first World Superbike race of the Brno round on pole after no one could touch him in the final Superpole session on Saturday. He was joined by Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa, and Eugene Laverty on the front row. Though Biaggi led at the end, Jakub Smrz, Checa, and Laverty all took a turn at leading a session in the Czech Republic. Much further back, neither Castrol Honda rider managed to move on to the Superpole sessions and will start on the fifth and sixth rows. Checa led the morning warm-up on Sunday, with Smrz, Sylvain Guintoli, Biaggi, and Michel Fabrizio the fastest five.

Though James Toseland did ride for Friday morning’s free practice, he was forced to sit out the rest of the race weekend, hoping to heal for the next round at Silverstone. He was replaced by Lorenzo Lanzi at BMW Motorrad Italia. Also sitting out the weekend is injured factory BMW rider Tory Corser and Jonathan Rea at Castrol Honda. Though Corser has not been replaced at this round, Rea’s recovery might be long-term, leading to his replacement by Alex Lowes.

WSBK: Jonathan Rea In Surgery to Miss Aragon Round

06/15/2011 @ 12:34 pm, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Jonathan Rea In Surgery to Miss Aragon Round Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda WSBK 635x444

Jonathan Rea underwent surgery today to repair a broken right radius, and will miss this weekend’s World Superbike round at Motorland Aragon. The Castrol Honda rider suffered the injury, along with a now-ubiquitous broken collarbone and some injuries to his right foot during a warm-up crash at last weekend’s Misano round. Rea will not be replaced this weekend, leaving only teammate Ruben Xaus to ride for the team at Aragon.

Rea fractured his right radius and left clavicle in the crash at Misano’s Turn 11 on Sunday. That day he explained, “I had a crash yesterday which needed some stitches in my arm and then a 230kph crash this morning at one of the fastest corners on the calendar.” Rea continued, “Of course, I’m frustrated and I have some injuries that I want to take time to heal properly. We’ll have to miss Aragon next week, unfortunately, but Brno is a month off and the doctors tell me that the break in my arm would normally keep someone off work for three weeks.”

WSBK: Checa Edges Biaggi for Superpole at Phillip Island

02/25/2011 @ 10:31 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Checa Edges Biaggi for Superpole at Phillip Island Carlos Checa Superpole WSBK Phillip Island 635x452

Lapping by a very narrow margin over reigning World Champion Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa won the pole position for the 2011 World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island today. Though the Spaniard dominated the testing and practice sessions this week, Biaggi continued to improve his times, and was only .013s slower at the end of qualifying session. Also showing strong results were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, who complete the front row for Sunday’s races.

Jonathan Rea rallied after a severe testing crash and his second crash of the day to qualify twelfth, while Leon Camier, suffering from glandular fever, qualified sixteenth and did not make Superpole, a blow for the Aprilia factory team even as teammate Biaggi unveiled his #1 plate.

Carlos Checa Dominates at Phillip Island Test

02/21/2011 @ 10:17 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Carlos Checa Dominates at Phillip Island Test Carlos Checa Althea Racing WSBK Phillip Island test 635x391

Carlos Checa was fastest overall, with a lap time of 1:30.578, as the final World Superbike winter test ended Tuesday at Phillip Island. That time was also nearly a half second faster than the existing lap record set by Regis Laconi in 2009, and almost 1.3 sec faster than Troy Corser’s race lap record from 2007. In addition to Checa, Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea, Jakub Smrz, and Joan Lascorz completed the fastest five. Rea’s time from Tuesday morning kept him third fastest despite a crash at Turn 3 in the afternoon that resulted in an injured hand. No word is available yet on the specifics of his injury.

WSBK: Checa Fastest at First Day of Phillip Island Testing

02/20/2011 @ 11:29 pm, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Checa Fastest at First Day of Phillip Island Testing Carlos Checa Althea Ducati WSBK 635x473

Carlos Checa was fastest overall during World Superbike testing Monday at Phillip Island, nearly a second faster than anyone else during the dry running in the afternoon. Monday was a quick day for Ducatis, as Sylvain Guintoli led the morning session and was second fastest overall, while Jakub Smrz was third fastest of the day. Reigning champion Max Biaggi was fourth fastest, with Michel Fabrizio fifth overall. Notably absent was Christopher Vermeulen who will not ride during the test or his home race this weekend, and has been replaced by Akira Yanagawa at the factory Kawasaki team.

Ruben Xaus to Start 200th WSBK Race at Phillip Island

02/14/2011 @ 5:21 pm, by Victoria Reid9 COMMENTS

Ruben Xaus to Start 200th WSBK Race at Phillip Island Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda WSBK 3 635x952

Ruben Xaus will start his 200th World Superbike race at Phillip Island, making him the third rider in this season’s field to start such a large number of races. He will join the ranks of Carl Fogarty, Noriyuki Haga, Troy Corser, Aaron Slight, and Frankie Chili in numbers of starts by racing at the season opener later this month. Xaus began his WSBK career with two wildcard entries in 1998, after a rookie Supersport season in 1997.

He returned to World Supersport for 1999 and 2000, but began his full-time career as a World Superbike rider in 2001. He left WSBK for the 2004 and 2005 seasons to go racing in MotoGP, with a career high of third at Qatar in 2004 on a satellite Ducati. Xaus was named MotoGP Rookie of the Year for 2004 and moved to a satellite Yamaha for 2005, where he did not have the same luck.

Castrol Honda Talks about Being Castrol Honda

02/11/2011 @ 2:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Castrol Honda Talks about Being Castrol Honda Colin Edwards Troy Bayliss Imola WSBK Race 2

The name “Castrol Honda” in motorcycle racing is something that spans several decades, and for this writer conjures up the days when v-twins ruled World Superbikes. The battle in 2002 between Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss is a season talked about when referencing “the glory years of World Superbike”, and I can still remember watching The Showdown at Imola, the final race of 2002 season, when Colin Edwards clinched the World Championship (did you just get goose bumps too?)…in fact it’s that race that got me hooked on motorcycles in the first place.

Taking that legacy into 2011, the newly reformed Castrol Honda team, campainged by Ten Kate Racing with factory Honda support, has quite a legacy to live up to…and the team knows it. Talking about what it means to wear the green, white, and red livery, Castrol Honda team members talk about the name’s past, and what they plan to accomplish this season while wearing the oil company’s banner. Check out their video after the jump.