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.

Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racing’s Pound of Flesh

06/03/2014 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racings Pound of Flesh isle of man tt trophy daniel lo 635x423

Motorcycle racing is a dangerous endeavor, something we have been reminded of heavily in the past few weeks. Losing Simon Andrews in the North West 200, as well as Bob Price and Karl Harris at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the usual debates have once again surfaced, namely that motorcycle road racing should be abolished because of the toll of dangers, injuries, and fatalities it demands.

Despite death’s inevitability, the Isle of Man TT is a spectacular event, just ask anyone who has sat on a Manx hedgerow and watched these two-wheeled gladiators race past. The speeds on city streets are astounding, the atmosphere in the paddock is warm and friendly, and the Isle of Man itself is a picturesque locale that could come from some child’s storybook.

Modern media does a great job of translating the first-hand experience of the Isle of Man TT into an approachable hour-long TV format, but it still falls short of the genuine article.

Through a television set, you can’t breathe the fumes of unbridled horsepower from the racing machines, you can’t see past the riders’ determination through their helmet visors, and you don’t witness the hours of determined work, sweat, and sacrifce that occur in the paddock to get a racer to the starting line.

I would challenge any person, motorcycle enthusiast or not, to lay witness to a TT fortnight, and still walk away unimpressed with the spectacle that they have laid witness to — there is simply nothing else like it on Earth. It’s almost spiritual.

But why is it though? Scratch the surface a little deeper on the idea why the TT is so special, and you arrive at the notion that the Manx road race holds our wonderment in captivity because of how far outside the standard deviation of safety it operates — even under the skewed perspective of risk management that occurs in motorsport — and that forces us to take some major stock in our own mortality.

Simon Andrews Has Died After a Horrible NW200 Crash

05/19/2014 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Simon Andrews Has Died After a Horrible NW200 Crash simon andrews 2013 isle of man tt tony goldsmith 635x422

It’s with sad news that we begin this Monday’s coverage, as we regret to report that popular road racer Simon Andrews has succumb to the head injuries he sustained in a crash during the North West 200.

Andrews was racing with the Penz13.com BMW team on Saturday, when he had a horrific crash during the NW200 Superstock race. The crash occurred during the fourth lap of the race, near the Metropole corner in Portrush.

Airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, reports on Andrews’ condition seemed to improve on Sunday, as the 29-year-old had been taken off life support and was breathing on his own, but Andrews unfortunately passed away this morning from his injuries.

TT Legends — Episode 7: The Oschersleben 8hr

02/26/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

TT Legends — Episode 7: The Oschersleben 8hr Honda TT Legends Oschersleben 8hr 07 635x423

We don’t know about you, but the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary is really giving us a reason to look forward to Wednesday. In fact it might even be the most popular event at the A&R office since No-Pants Fridays. Sadly, Episode Seven is the penultimate installment, but all good things must come to an end, right?

Today’s video takes us to Germany, for the Oschersleben 8hr. Perhaps not the biggest event on the FIM Endurance World Championship, it was a decisive round for the Honda TT Legends squad for the 2012 EWC title. As usually, it’s a great look into this top-level team, and your favorite TT heroes have more than enough personality to keep you entertained.

TT Legends — Episode 6: The Suzuka 8 Hours

02/19/2014 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

TT Legends — Episode 6: The Suzuka 8 Hours honda tt legends suzuka 635x423

Episode Six of the “TT Legends” documentary is out, and it has the Honda TT Legends crew leaving the Isle of Man for Japan. Taking part in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, one of the stops in the Endurance World Championship, the Honda-supported team is racing for the OEM’s glory.

Perhaps not the biggest of races here in the United States or in Europe, but for the Japanese, Suzuka is a huge deal. A place where bragging rights for the Japanese OEMs are born, in the past it hasn’t been uncommon to see OEMs stack their teams with WSBK and GP racers (even Kevin Schwantz raced at Suzuka last year).

Eight hours of racing anywhere is brutal, but at Suzuka, the intense heat and humidity is always an additional factor. Riders cool down in swimming pools, and drink their weight in Gatorade. A truly fantastic event, it should be on any enthusiasts’ bucket list — just be sure to pack a pair of shorts.

TT Legends — Episode 5: The Isle of Man TT, Part 2

02/12/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

TT Legends — Episode 5: The Isle of Man TT, Part 2 john mcguinness 2012 isle of man tt honda tt legends 635x422

It’s Wednesday, so that means another installment of the “TT Legends” documentary. For Episode Five, we find the boys still at the Isle of Man TT, the namesake for the Honda TT Legends team.

2012 was a particularly eventful year for the TT, as Simon Andrews escaped with his life in a harrowing crash, the Senior TT was cancelled, for the first time ever on account of rain, and John McGuinness finally won a Superstock TT race.

As usual, the episode is a great watch, and this time around things focus pretty heavily on John McGuinness (we even get a glimpse of him on his electric superbike, the Mugen Shinden).

With 20 TT wins to his name now, McPint will be looking to make further progress on Joey Dunlop’s record during the 2014 outing. Standing in his way will be a bevy of powerhouse riders, including the recently announced Michael Dunlop, who will be racing with a factory-backed BMW S1000RR.

Simon Andrews to Ride for Penz13.com at IOMTT

02/06/2014 @ 2:37 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

Simon Andrews to Ride for Penz13.com at IOMTT simon andrews isle of man tt jump 635x423

After sustaining injuries in the FIM World Endurance round at Le Mans last year, Simon Andrews is returning to racing for the 2014 Isle of Man TT in Rico Penzkofer’s paddock. The 29-year-old will be riding a BMW HP4 prepared by the Penz13.com BMW racing team, not only in the TT, but also the Macau Grand Prix and the North West 200.

During his TT debut in 2011, Andrews made it clear he was a serious competitor taking 11th in the Superstock and Senior races while setting a lap record of 125.134 mph, making him the third fastest newcomer of all time.

Add to that a fastest lap time of 126.001 around the TT Mountain Course, and you can start to see why his TT career includes four Top 15 finishes, along with a podium finish in the 2012 Macau Grand Prix where he took third.

TT Legends — Episode 4: The Isle of Man TT, Part 1

02/05/2014 @ 6:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

TT Legends — Episode 4: The Isle of Man TT, Part 1 john mcguinness honda tt legends isle of man tt daniel lo 800

We are now halfway through with the “TT Legends” documentary, with today’s fourth of eight installments featuring the venerable Isle of Man TT. Part one of two, Episode Four introduces one of the most iconic races in motorcycling.

Over 100 years old, every motorcycle enthusiast should make a pilgrimage to the Isle of Man — the only downside is that once you go, you will want to go again, and again, and again…

Raced on city streets, with speeds hitting over 200 mph down the Sulby Straight, it is easy to see why Honda Pro Racing’s factory road racing and endurance squad borrows its name from the TT.

Featuring some of the best IOMTT riders on its team, to keep things honest, the Isle of Man TT is really where the Honda TT Legends team shines. Enjoy!

TT Legends — Episode 3: The North West 200

01/29/2014 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

TT Legends — Episode 3: The North West 200 Honda TT Legends North West 200 06 635x428

We are back on track with the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary, which follows the racing shenanigans of the Honda TT Legends road and endurance racing squad. After finishing with the Bol d’Or endurance race in Episode Two, Episode Three finds the Honda riders at the North West 200, one of the great Irish road racing events.

Like the Isle of Man TT, the North West 200 is held on public roads, but unlike the TT, this is not a time trial format. Instead, NW200 riders leave the starting line together, and swap paint and positions throughout the course. One of the fastest road races, riders reach well over 200 mph on their machines at the Irish road race.

TT Legends — Episode 2: The Bol d’Or 24 Hour Race

01/27/2014 @ 2:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

TT Legends    Episode 2: The Bol dOr 24 Hour Race Honda TT Legends Bol d Or 2012 02 635x423

We are a little late in bringing you this, the second installment, of the “TT Legends” documentary about the Honda TT Legends road racing and endurance team, so apologies for that.  But, we think you will enjoy this 22 minute reprieve from the non-two wheeled world, as like the first episode, this is a great look into one of the top teams in racing.

Focusing on the 2012 Bol d’Or 24 hour race at Magny-Cours, perhaps the most prestigious event on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar, episode two should be a treat for any road racing fan. Le Mans starts, rain, French fans, and Mr. McPint — there is a little something for everyone in this episode.

TT Legends — Episode 1: Meet the TT Legends Team

01/15/2014 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

TT Legends    Episode 1: Meet the TT Legends Team john mcguinness jump balaugh bridge honda tt legends 635x419

As we said last week, “TT Legends” the made-for-TV documentary about Honda’s road racing and world endurance racing is coming to YouTube, and the show’s first episode is up for your viewing pleasure. The video introduces the Honda TT Legends team, and has some great footage over its 22 minute duration.

Best of all, the personalities of John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald really shine through. For the next seven weeks, we should have some treats for you as we go through the series’ eight episodes. Grab a beverage, and enjoy!