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.

MotoGP: Qualifying Results from Catalunya

06/14/2014 @ 5:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Catalunya: A Sweltering Track, Changing Riding Styles, Ducati’s Diabolical Dilemma, & Hayden’s Wrist

06/13/2014 @ 4:46 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Catalunya: A Sweltering Track, Changing Riding Styles, Ducatis Diabolical Dilemma, & Haydens Wrist 2014 Catalan GP MotoGP Friday Scott Jones 12 635x423

If you thought that Barcelona could be a track to throw up a few surprises, the first day of practice proved you right. Not in Moto2, of course: Tito Rabat’s dominance was crushing, making Marc Marquez’s earlier reign of terror look like a close fought battle.

In Moto3, Finnish youngster Niklas Ajo topped the timesheets, putting the Husqvarna name at the forefront. That was unexpected, though given the fact that the nominally Swedish Husqvarna is nothing more than a rebadged KTM straight from the factory in Mattighofen, Austria, it should be less of a surprise.

The biggest surprises were perhaps in MotoGP. That Aleix Espargaro would be quickest in the morning is to be expected, especially as he put on the super soft tire available to the Open bikes to set his time. But for Bradley Smith to go fastest in the afternoon was a major change of fortunes, and just reward for the effort Smith and his crew have been putting in over the past few weeks.

His fast time was set with a fresh soft tire, but given that this compound – Bridgestone’s medium tire, the hard being the other option available to the Factory Option teams – has real potential to be the race tire, it is not quite as simple as Smith having pushed in qualifying trim.

Smith’s time, and the way he set it, was emblematic of the conditions at the track. It was warm in the morning, but in the afternoon, track temperatures rose to their highest of the year, reaching 55° C / 131° F. It made the track treacherous to ride, front and rear wheels sliding out everywhere.

The circuit was already in far from ideal state, with riders complaining about the bumps left by Formula 1, and the surface showing more signs of wear. Throw in extreme temperatures, and there is very little grip at all. All of the riders complained of the drop in tire performance after two to three laps.

Friday at Catalunya with Scott Jones

06/13/2014 @ 2:54 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Catalunya: How To Beat Marquez & Silly Season Steps Up a Gear

06/12/2014 @ 10:25 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Catalunya: How To Beat Marquez & Silly Season Steps Up a Gear Circuit de Catalunya Aerial 635x453

It is becoming customary for any MotoGP preview worth its salt to begin with a single question: can anyone beat Marc Marquez this weekend? That same question was put to the riders during the pre-event press conference, to which Valentino Rossi gave the most obvious answer. Of course it was possible, he said.

“It is nothing special. What you have to do is do your maximum and improve your level.” The only trouble is, every time Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, or Dani Pedrosa improve their level, so does Marc Marquez. But it is still possible, Rossi believes. “We are not very far. It is not easy, but nothing special.”

Barcelona, like Mugello, is one of the tracks where Marquez is perhaps more vulnerable. It is a circuit where the reigning champion has always struggled – though for Marquez, “struggling” means only managing podiums rather than wins – and where the Yamahas, especially, have been strong.

Valentino Rossi has won here nine times, and Jorge Lorenzo has been either first or second at the track for the past five years. The track flows, and has a little bit of everything.

A long, fast front straight, some elevation change climbing up into the two stadium sections, the two “horns” of the Catalunya bull which the Montmelo circuit most resembles, a couple of esses, and long, flowing combinations of corners. Those corners more than compensate for the front straight.

Jorge Lorenzo reckoned that the Yamaha had a top speed deficit of perhaps 4 or 5 km/h on the Honda, but that at Barcelona, this was less of an issue than at other tracks. After all, he pointed out, there are some 3.7 kilometers of corners in which to catch a Honda ahead of you.

MotoGP: Nicky Hayden Will Try to Race at Catalunya

06/10/2014 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Nicky Hayden Will Try to Race at Catalunya 2014 Saturday Le Mans MotoGP Scott Jones 14 635x423

With his wrist continuing to give him trouble, Nicky Hayden ultimately had to miss the Italian GP at Mugello, much to the dismay of MotoGP fans around the world. Never fear though, after a successful surgery in Italy, Hayden hopes to return to action this weekend, as his hand is feeling greatly improved after the operation.

Hayden is cautious to call this race weekend a comeback though, and the Kentucky Kid might still sit out the Catalan GP if it appears the sessions will further aggravate his still healing wrist. Still, the news of Hayden getting back on the bike so quickly after an operation shows the determination of the American rider. We hope to see him on the starting line come Sunday.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Jerez & Le Mans

05/21/2014 @ 5:53 pm, by Tony Goldsmith4 COMMENTS

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Jerez & Le Mans Living the Dream MotoGP Jerez Tony Goldsmith 22 635x423

Having only had three days at home in the four weeks between Qatar and Austin meant it was nice to get back and recharge the batteries prior to going to Jerez.

The bags were soon packed, and I was ready and looking forward to Jerez, but the fickle Manx weather had other ideas. When I arrived at the airport in the Isle of Man it was a beautiful sunny day: an hour and half later and a thick blanket of fog had settled over the airport.

The plane due to fly me to London was unable to land and my flight was cancelled, meaning I was not able to make my connecting flight to Malaga. I got straight on the phone to EasyJet who kindly changed all my flights and a few more hasty calls to sorted the car hire a hotel at Gatwick for the night.

My rescheduled flight off the Island was not looking good either but the fog magically lifted at the perfect moment and I finally made it away at 6 o’clock in the evening.

My original plan was to spend an evening in Malaga, giving me Wednesday to drive to Jerez, find my digs and stock the fridge with supplies for the weekend.

This all went out the window, thanks to the Manx weather and I ended up arriving at Malaga at 10pm which meant that that my first foray onto the Spanish roads was in the pitch black!

Around two and a half hours later I managed to find my apartment in what appeared to be a field in the middle of nowhere, but in the sunlight the following day it proved to be quite close to a little town.

Beautiful, blistering sunshine welcomed me to Jerez on Thursday morning and I made my way to the track to pick up my credentials.

Bultaco Rapitan Sport Prototype – Even More Crazy

05/18/2014 @ 2:10 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Bultaco Rapitan Sport Prototype   Even More Crazy Bultaco Rapitan Sport Electric street bike 01 635x476

The second of Bultaco’s two prototype electric machines, the Bultaco Rapitan Sport picks up where the more mundane, and we use that word relatively, Bultaco Rapitan leaves off. Essentially the same machine at its core, the Rapitan Sport features a more street-tracker aesthetic to mask its electric underpinnings.

This means the same 53hp and 92 lbs•ft of torque powertrain from the Rapitan is featured, which Bultaco developed in-house. It also means that the Rapitan Sport has the same “dual-link” Hossack front-suspension system, belt drive, and 125 mile / 68 mile (city/highway) claimed riding range.

Looking like a very polished design, we like what we see here with the Bultaco Rapitan Sport prototype. We’re not sure how many riders in motorcycling’s conservative ranks will go for its unique pieces of technology and bright yellow street tracker vibe, but we’re a little crazy here at Asphlat & Rubber, and the Rapitan Sport happens to be our particular flavor of two-wheeled insanity.

Like the Rapitan, the Raptian Sport is due out later this year — fingers crossed. No word on price or availability, though we suspect a European debut before any units make it to North America.

Bultaco Rapitan Unveiled – Spanish for “Whoa!”

05/18/2014 @ 1:38 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Bultaco Rapitan Unveiled   Spanish for Whoa! Bultaco Rapitan Electric street bike 02 635x423

As promised, here is the first glimpse of Bultaco’s revival as an electric motorcycle company, and the Spanish brand calls it the Bultaco Rapitan. Really a spin-out project by LGN TECH Design S.L., the new Bultaco is the work product of José Germán Pérez, Raúl Pérez, Juan Manuel Vinós, Gerald Pöllmann, and Jorge Bonilla.

Underneath the Rapitan’s edgy exterior (note the Hossack front-end) resides an electrical powertrain system that the Bultaco gents say they developed themselves. Good for 53hp and 92 lbs•ft of torque, the Bultaco Rapitan isn’t going to blow away the competition with power, but should make for a decent and unique riding experience.

The Spanish firm isn’t saying how much battery is on-board, but claims 125 miles of city riding, and 68 miles of highway riding at 75 mph — which we would guessimate at 10+ kWh, but we all know how accurate these range claims are, right?

Tipping the scales at 416 lbs (189kg), the Bultaco Rapitan isn’t the lightest street-naked on the market, but it certainly isn’t the heaviest either. With 92 lbs•ft of torque, we suspect this should make for a peppy ride, and if the avant garde styling is to your liking (it suits our tastes just fine), then we hope the final production model won’t stray too far.

Monday Summary at Jerez: Engine Braking, Soft Tires, & Beating Marquez

05/06/2014 @ 12:37 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Monday Summary at Jerez: Engine Braking, Soft Tires, & Beating Marquez Sunday Jerez Spanish GP Tony Goldsmith 04 635x422

The first MotoGP test of the season at Jerez is a tough one for the factories, coming as it does after three flyaway races on three continents, followed by a one-week hop back to Europe. Teams and engineers are all a little bedazzled and befuddled from all the travel, and have not had time to analyze fully all the data from the first four races of the season.

It is too early in the season to be drawing firm conclusions, and crew chiefs and engineers have not yet fully exhausted all of their setup ideas for fully exploiting the potential of the package they started the season with.

As a result, they do not have a vast supply of new parts waiting to be tested. The bikes that rolled out of pitlane on Monday were pretty much identical to the bikes raced on Sunday. The only real differences were either hard or impossible to see. Suspension components, rising rate linkages, and brake calipers were about as exotic as it got.

The one area where slightly bigger changes were being applied was in electronics strategies, with Yamaha and Honda working on engine braking, and Honda trying out a new launch control strategy. That new launch control system did not meet with the approval of Marc Marquez, however, and so will probably not be seen again.

Most of the teams spent their day revisiting things they had tried briefly during practice, but not really had time to evaluate properly. That paid dividends for Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Monster Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro, both of whom tried out the softer of the two tire options available.

MotoGP: Lap Times from the Jerez Post-Race Test

05/05/2014 @ 2:27 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Lap Times from the Jerez Post Race Test Sunday Jerez Spanish GP Tony Goldsmith 19 635x423

Marc Marquez was the fastest man at the Jerez post-race test, setting a quick lap early in the day which would not be beaten. The Repsol Honda man had a big gap to Jorge Lorenzo for most of the day, but the Movistar Yamaha rider closed the gap to just over a quarter of a second by the end of the day.

Valentino Rossi ended the day in 3rd, after a late lap put him ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who, like Marquez, stopped testing earlier in the afternoon.

Alvaro Bautista was the fastest of the satellite Hondas, leading Stefan Bradl by a fraction, the LCR Honda man being the last rider within a second of Marquez. Pol Espargaro was quickest of the Tech 3 riders, while brother Aleix was sandwiched between Pol and Bradley Smith.