Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Saturday Summary at Misano: Marquez’s Half a Second and the Giant Battle for Fifth

09/15/2013 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Half a second at Misano is a very, very long time. At a short track like this, gaps are measured in tenths, not seconds. The gap from 5th to 12th, for example, is 0.505. Yet the gap from Marc Marquez on pole to Jorge Lorenzo, the rider with the second fastest time, was 0.513 seconds. A huge difference.

Despite another one of his fast crashes in free practice, from which he keeps walking away almost unhurt, Marquez stayed calm, posted an impressive fast lap in his first run of Q2, and then followed it up by obliterating Casey Stoner’s 2011 Misano pole lap record by over two tenths of a second.

The lap was stunning – another trademark of Marquez since his switch to MotoGP – and beyond the capability of anyone to follow. The Repsol Honda man looked unstoppable during qualifying.

MotoGP: Qualifying Results from Misano

09/14/2013 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Friday Summary at Misano: Yamaha’s Seamless, Ducati’s New Exhaust, & Race Direction’s View of Rivas And Marquez

09/13/2013 @ 10:27 pm, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

jorge-lorenzo-yamaha-racing-misano-motogp

So Yamaha have brought their seamless gearbox to Misano. Being of a mind not just to blindly believe what Yamaha say they are doing, I naturally spent all of MotoGP FP1 on pit wall, watching the bikes come out of the 2nd gear final corner, and recording the sound of the gear changes to measure the gaps and estimate the length of time spent changing gears.

Without even looking at the numbers, you could tell the difference: the gear changes of both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were audibly quicker, taking place without the usual bang of exploding fuel as the quickshifter cuts ignition.

The difference was clear even when they were riding on their own, but when Bradley Smith and Cal Crutchlow went past shortly afterwards, the difference between the factory and the satellite machines was stunning. Where a large gap and small explosion could be heard when the Tech 3 bikes changed gear, the factory machines sounded smooth, revs dropping but continuing to drive, well, seamlessly.

You didn’t even need to hear the noise: just watching the bikes come out of the final corner gave you enough visual clues to see the bikes were using the seamless gearbox. The factory Yamahas were smoother, with less wheelie, and no movement of the rear when the gears were changed. This was clearly a seamless transmission Yamaha were using.

Preview of Misano: On Yamaha’s Seamless Gearbox, Marquez’s Misdemeanors & The Veto That Wasn’t

09/13/2013 @ 12:08 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

misano-san-marino-gp-track

Will they or won’t they? The “they”, of course, were Yamaha, and the question was whether Yamaha would start to use their seamless gearbox at Misano, something which riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo had been asking for a long time.

That the gearbox would be used at the test on Monday seemed obvious, but several publications – including both MCN and the Spanish website Motocuatro – predicted that Yamaha’s seamless transmission would be raced at Misano.

They were right. In the press conference on Thursday, Jorge Lorenzo was the first to break the news. “It will be here for the weekend,” he said, going on to clarify: “tomorrow.” Rossi was delighted, telling the press conference he was very happy that Yamaha had decided to start using the seamless transmission, as it could help them in their fight against Honda.

MotoGP: Cardion AB Says Point the Blame Elsewhere

09/18/2012 @ 3:49 pm, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

After the chaos at the start of Sunday’s MotoGP race at Misano, it was inevitable that the hunt would be opened for someone to pin the blame on. With so much at stake, especially for Dani Pedrosa and the Repsol Honda team, the finger of blame was bound to get pointed at everyone. One person who appears to have come under attack from some quarters is Karel Abraham.

The Cardion AB rider was the original cause of the first start being called off, when his bike stalled on the grid after the starting lights had already been illuminated. This caused Race Direction to immediately step in and show flashing orange lights, in accordance with the FIM rules, but this happens so incredibly rarely that it caught everyone off guard. In the ensuing panic, Dani Pedrosa’s machine had problems with the front wheel, causing the Spaniard to be rolled off the grid, thereby forfeiting the pole position and being forced to start from the back of the grid.

In response to the accusations, Abraham’s team issued a press release today explaining the mechanical problem which caused Abraham to raise his hand, which in turn caused the start to be canceled. They state explicitly that Abraham acted exactly as demanded by the rules, to avoid danger to everyone on the grid.

Cardion AB also made it very clear that they cannot be held responsible for the problems which Pedrosa’s team suffered at the restart, saying explicitly in the statement: “Our team dealt with the situation in full compliance with MotoGP regulations. It is not our fault that the new situation resulted in chaos and the unintentional breach of the applicable regulations by HRC.” The full statement put out by the Cardion AB team is after the jump.

Sunday Summary at Misano: Pedrosa’s Foul-Up & Ducati’s Improving Performance

09/17/2012 @ 12:59 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

That was a chaotic weekend. Two-and-a-half days lost to rain, then a bizarre series of hold-ups and incidents on the start of the MotoGP grid that ended up eventually going a long way to deciding the championship. Fortunately for the series, the MotoGP race was preceded by two scintillating support races, and then the MotoGP race itself saw two very popular podiums.

To start with the biggest issue, the start and then the restart of the MotoGP race. There was a lot of confusion and head-scratching over what was going on – the riders had never seen the flashing amber lights on the starting panels, for one – but when the dust settled, it looked like everything had been run almost by the numbers, despite the protests from Dani Pedrosa’s camp.

The sequence of events seems to have been this: After the first warm up lap, the riders lined up on the grid ready to go, but after the starting lights had been shown, Karel Abraham had a clutch problem and put his hand up to indicate that his bike was not working. Once that had happened, Race Direction had no option but to call off the start. They ran this by the book: flashing yellow lights were displayed next to the red lights, and yellow flags were waved. There was as short of an interval as possible, before the bikes set off for the second warm-up lap, and race distance was reduced by a single lap.

Sunday at Misano with Scott Jones

09/16/2012 @ 11:40 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off

MotoGP: High-Drama Defines the San Marino GP

09/16/2012 @ 11:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Even before the lights could go out to start the San Marino GP, the pre-race drama for MotoGP fans was intense. Stalling on the starting grid after the riders’ sighting lap, Karel Abraham raised his arm to signal the dangerous race conditions. Virtually a moment away from the start of the race, the yellow flags of the marshals flew, and the start was aborted — though, the confusion didn’t stop some riders from rocketing off the line. Thankfully however, the situation was without incident.

With a number of bikes needing to be restarted because of the failed start, teams and mechanics again filled the grid, and the start of MotoGP’s visit to Misano was delayed. No one was more affected by the restart than pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa, whose Honda RC213V had its front wheel locked-up when the team attempted to take off the tire warmers for the race’s restart. With the one-minute horn sounding, the Repsol Honda mechanics had exceeded their amount of time to work on the bike, though the situation was resolved in time for Pedrosa was able to join the field for the sighting lap.

Noticeably shaken by the incidents that occurred just a moment from the lap, and running on essentially cold tires, Pedrosa was lapped by the pace car, and ultimately had to start the San Marino not on pole, but instead at the back of the grid. Yes, even before the race started, the San Marino GP proved to be one of the most dramatic rounds of the 2012 MotoGP Championship.

Saturday Summary at Misano: Of Pedrosa vs Lorenzo, The Battle For 3rd, & Rossi’s Helmet Explained

09/16/2012 @ 2:35 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Finally it stopped raining. The light drizzle that has plagued the Misano circuit since Friday morning petered out around lunchtime, making way for the sun to dry the track out. Though the riders were glad to see the back of the rain, it left them with an awful lot of work to do. The set up work from the three lost sessions all had to be squeezed into the single hour of qualifying, leaving space for the mad fifteen minute scramble for grid positions. “It was a pretty tight session,” Dani Pedrosa said after qualifying. “We had to test tires, set up, and get a feeling for the bike in just 60 minutes.”

MotoGP: Qualifying Bodes Well for the San Marino GP

09/16/2012 @ 2:24 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Not too hot, not to cold…that’s Misano for Saturday’s qualifying event. After seeing Friday’s FP1 & FP2 sessions obliterated by a damp, but not wet, track, MotoGP riders found things for Saturday to be just right. The first chance for Jonathan Rea to get a proper go at the Honda RC213V, the Honda WSBK rider is merely “filling in” for the injured Casey Stoner, but many in the paddock believe that a good showing from Rea could land him on the Honda Gresini machine for next year — the last prototype seat in MotoGP still available.

While we will undoubtedly have to wait a bit longer to see that seat filled and sorted, the big attention for the day was the battle between the two Spaniards, as Dani Pedrosa is running out of rounds to catch up to rival Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship. Needing a win this weekend to keep those hopes alive, many GP fans are hoping for another battle between the two riders, like the one we recently saw in Brno. If the qualifying session is any proof of the matter, racing on Sunday should be quite good.