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.

2014 Honda RC213V Debuts at Rain-Soaked Aragon Test

06/18/2013 @ 1:34 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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Honda’s decision to skip the MotoGP test at Barcelona has so far not paid off. The first day of its three-day test at the Motorland Aragon circuit was an absolute washout, with torrential rain forcing the Honda riders to spend almost all day in the garages.

Only Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista put in a few laps, Bradl shaking down the 2014 version of the RC213V, which Honda has brought to the test, and Bautista checking a few things from Barcelona. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez did not venture out on track.

Instead, Honda took the time to introduce the 2014 version of the RC213V it is planning to test in Aragon. The bike is completely new, including a new engine and chassis, the engine ready to managed the reduced fuel allowance (cut from 21 to 20 liters) to be introduced at the request of the MSMA from next year.

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season

05/21/2013 @ 11:06 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

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As Randy de Puniet heads to Japan to test Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP bike, the possible availability (some won’t be convinced it’s a reality until a pair of Suzuki motorcycles appear on the grid in Qatar next April) of two new factory seats has spawned a Silly Season unto itself.

If that possibility entailed another satellite prototype team, the furor would be considerable, but that it’s a new factory team means reason and rationality are running for their lives.

So once again we have the chance to observe the unique mindset of the top level motorbike racer. To that mindset, at least in this modern era, the factory ride is the Holy Grail of motorcycle racing. It’s easy to see why this has happened.

After the days of the 500cc two-strokes, when a highly-developed formula meant a privateer team could compete with the deep-pocket teams, the four-stroke era has seen costs skyrocket, and factory-deep pockets dominate the win column. It’s for very good reasons that riders feel you have to be on a factory bike to win races. But the thing is, not all factories are equal.

Friday Summary at Le Mans: Of Four Fast Men, Improved Ducatis, Redding’s Reign, and a Quota on Spaniards

05/17/2013 @ 4:43 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

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So far, so good. That seems to be the story from the first day of practice at Le Mans. A full day of dry weather – except for the last few minutes of FP2 for the Moto3 class, where the rain turned briefly to hail, only to blow out again as quickly as it came – means that everyone had a chance to work on their race set up.

With the top four separated by just 0.166 seconds, the top five are within a quarter of a second, and Alvaro Bautista, the man in ninth, is just over seven tenths from the fastest man Dani Pedrosa.

A good day too for the Hondas. Dani Pedrosa was immediately up to speed, as expected. Marc Marquez was also quick in the afternoon, which was less expected. Unlike Jerez and Austin, this was the first time he rode a MotoGP machine at Le Mans, and getting used to hauling a 260 hp, 160kg bike around the tight layout of the French track is a different proposition to riding a Moto2 bike with half the horsepower here.

He took a morning to get used to the track, asked for a few changes to the base set up inherited from Casey Stoner, and then went and blitzed to second in the afternoon, 0.134 seconds off his teammate.

More important than Marquez’s speed is his consistency, however. In the afternoon, he posted seven laps of 1’34, which looks to be the pace to expect for a dry race. Only two men did more, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo having posted nine laps at that pace, with both men also consistently a tenth or two quicker than the Spanish rookie.

Transcript: The Gay Question at Jerez

05/02/2013 @ 4:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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If you didn’t watch Thursday’s pre-event press conference for MotoGP at Jerez, it is worth a viewing right to the end (assuming you have a MotoGP.com account). Building off the news about the NBA’s Jason Collins coming out as gay in a self-written feature in Sport Illustrated, my good colleague David Emmett had the courage to inquire about the culture and acceptance of the MotoGP paddock for homosexual riders.

I will let David write in his own words the mood and response to the evening’s press conference, as well as address the comments, criticisms, and opinions put forth later on Twitter by members of the paddock, when learning about the event. For the sake of accuracy though, after the jump is a full transcript of David’s question, as put to riders Cal Crutchlow, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Stefan Bradl, and Scott Redding, as well as those riders’ responses to David’s inquiry.

Photos: The Five AGV Pista GP Helmets in MotoGP

04/08/2013 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Since October is just simply too long of a wait for the Italian company’s new uber carbon fiber racer lid to come to the United States, our bromance with the AGV Pista GP helmet continues to manifest itself online here at Asphalt & Rubber — and yes, we also don’t have the patience for the still-very-racey but-less-uber fiberglass-bodied AGV Corse, which comes a little earlier to the US, in September.

With the MotoGP season starting in earnest this weekend, one of the more minor highlights was the debut of all the riders’ new helmets, and for 2013 we now have five Pistas to drool over on the MotoGP grid, which certainly doesn’t help our “patience is a virtue” mantra.

While we work on centering our chi, there are a bevy of  photos for you after the jump. However, on any given Sunday you can find Stefan Bradl, Andrea Iannone, Danilo Petrucci, Lukas Pesek, and of course Valentino rep’n their Pistas on the grid. Which one is your favorite?

Lap COTA with Stefan Bradl on the Honda RC213V

04/03/2013 @ 1:22 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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UPDATE: Dani Pedrosa’s and Marc Marquez’s on-board laps have been added to this post.

Ask and yee shall receive, here is some more movie magic from HRC’s private test at the Circuit of the Americas. For this go-around, we feature LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, as he takes the factory-spec Honda RC213V for a quick lap around the new Texan GP circuit.

Honestly, I was all set to drop some mega-hyperbole on the whole situation, and maybe even get a few digs in about MotoGP’s media policies along the way, but I am too depressed at the moment to make that happen.

You see, having just ridden COTA only a couple weeks ago, I was fairly pleased with my lap times, especially after having only spent an hour on the circuit. Now, I wasn’t the fastest guy out there by any stretch, but my times were dropping with each lap and session, and I certainly wasn’t the slowest at the end of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R bike launch, so I call that a win for a Thursday afternoon.

But no, Mr. Bradl had to go and show me up. Close to 15 seconds quicker on his out-lap than my best hot-lap, I guess we see why he races motorcycles for a living, while I blog from my mother’s basement, wearing nothing but a bathrobe and bunny-shaped slippers. Le sigh.

Moar MotoGP Movie Magic Please!

04/03/2013 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Oh HRC, how we begin to love thee. I think I am belaboring the point now, but someone at Honda’s MotoGP team has really latched onto this whole online marketing thing, and I like it. With a plethora of videos and interviews building up to this weekend’s season-opening round at Qatar, HRC is really promoting its factory-backed riders: Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, and Stefan Bradl.

Though pitched as a season preview video, the short clip after the jump is really more like four minutes of MotoGP porn, set on location at the Circuit of the Americas race course outside Austin, Texas. Complete with slow-motion cameras and what looks like a helicopter drone camera (I wonder where they got that idea), if you don’t come away pumped for this weekend’s race, then you should consult your physician.

Just remember though, the only reason this video exists is because HRC paid for a private test week at COTA, and was thus free of Dorna’s media restrictions. Had this been an official MotoGP test, video like this would have never been produced (or worse, thrown behind the MotoGP.com paywall). Makes you wonder, huh?

LCR Honda’s 2013 MotoGP Team Livery

03/25/2013 @ 1:04 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Every year we find ourselves covering the launch of LCR Honda’s team livery and subsequent photo shoot. Maybe it is because we love Lucio Cecchinello’s approach to localized sponsorship for his MotoGP team, but more likely it is the attention to detail and artisan approach the Italian brings to his satellite Honda squad.

This isn’t just a motorcycle team, it is a family…a family of very passionate motorcyclists, and it shows. For 2013, Stefan Bradl is back, and will be campaigning the season with a factory-spec Honda RC213V race bike. More photos after the jump.

MotoGP Sepang 2 Test Day 3: Pedrosa Tops the Timesheets, But Leaves Lorenzo as Fastest

02/28/2013 @ 10:49 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa was once again fastest on the final day of testing at Sepang, topping the timesheets for the fifth time in six total days of testing at Sepang. Though the Repsol Honda man looks to be the pre-season favorite so far, he does not leave the test as fastest overall, however. That honor goes to Jorge Lorenzo, who put in a scorching lap on Wednesday to set the fastest time over all three days of the test.

The riders got off to a late start on Thursday, rain meaning that the bulk of the riders kept to their garages until the track started to dry out at the end of the morning. A few men put in laps in the wet, but once the track dried out, enough riders started putting in laps to clean the worst of the dirt left by the rain from the track, though track conditions were never as good as on the first couple of days.

Pedrosa soon took charge of proceedings, later knocking another half a second off his time late in the afternoon. Rookie Repsol teammate Marc Marquez impressed yet again, taking 2nd on the timesheets with his very last lap, after the final 30 minutes of the session turned into a qualifying session.

Marquez continued to concentrate on learning the ropes on a MotoGP machine, and the longer runs he put in were a little further off the pace of Pedrosa, and still not as consistent as they will need to be, but he proved with his flying lap that he will be starting from the front of the grid by the time the season starts.

Jorge Lorenzo ended the final day of the test with the 3rd fastest time, but leaves Sepang as fastest overall. Lorenzo’s best time was over four tenths slower than Pedrosa’s on Thursday, but the Spaniard spent the latter part of the day working on race set up, ending the test with a mightily impressive race simulation of 20 laps, 16 of which where in the 2:01s, most of them fast 2:01s.

Lorenzo’s race simulation follows the pattern from his championship-winning season in 2012, making a very long race simulation to test the bike and himself in punishing conditions. Less characteristic was a mistake the Spaniard made, putting in one lap of 2:05 towards the end, an anomaly among the scorching laps that surround it.

MotoGP Sepang 2 Test Day 1: Pedrosa is Fastest, While Bradl Impresses

02/26/2013 @ 1:29 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa has taken up at the second Sepang MotoGP test where he left off after the first. The Repsol Honda man led for most of the day, having set a fast time fairly early in the morning. His rival at the Factory Yamaha squad did much the same, Jorge Lorenzo taking 2nd a couple of tenths behind Pedrosa.

Marc Marquez continues to impress, the Spanish prodigy ending the day with the 3rd fastest time, just over a third of a second off his Repsol Honda teammate, and a little over a tenth behind reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Also impressive was Stefan Bradl, the LCR Honda man achieving his stated aim for the test of matching the pace of Valentino Rossi. The strong times by Marquez and Bradl demoted the Factory Yamaha returnee to 5th, though the difference was minimal, just a few hundredths separating the threesome.