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.

WSBK: Final Superpole of the Season Posts Fast Qualifying Sessions at Portimao

10/15/2011 @ 8:08 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Final Superpole of the Season Posts Fast Qualifying Sessions at Portimao rea portimao honda 635x476

Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) took the final pole of the 2011 World Superbike season at Portimao, beating off championship winner Carlos Checa with a lap set early in the final Superpole session. Rea and Checa had traded session fast times on Friday, with the younger rider coming out on top and leading a starting front row also including current Yamaha teammates Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. Superpole was relatively uneventful, with leading fast laps coming early in the three sessions and only riders pulling themselves out of the knockout zone in the final seconds after the flag. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row for tomorrow’s two races.

There was plenty of news before the racing began on Friday, with word that Biaggi would return for the season finale, as would Josh Waters and Yoshimura Suzuki. Meanwhile, Roberto Rolfo had to be replaced at Pedercini Kawasaki by Santiago Barragan, as the Italian rider had broken his left kneecap earlier in the week in a bicycle accident near his home. Chris Vermeulen was again out, missing the final race weekend of a season that saw him compete in only seven races. On Friday morning, recent pole winner and recipient of bad luck, Rea (1:43.945) led the timesheets over Checa, Badovini, Sykes, and Guintoli as the fastest five. Meanwhile, Leon Camier tweeted, “just had front row seat to max an Marco having another punch up but on the slow down lap after first sess! Shoving each other all sorts.”Checa (1:43.579) was not one to relinquish control after winning the championship, taking provisional pole in the afternoon qualifying session under sunny Portuguese skies. Laverty, Guintoli, and Rea were also on the provisional front starting row.

WSBK: Superpole Sessions at Magny-Cours Nearly Prove Costly to Championship Leader

10/01/2011 @ 7:03 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Superpole Sessions at Magny Cours Nearly Prove Costly to Championship Leader rea pirelli mc 635x421

Jonathan Rea won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Magny-Cours with a new circuit record (1:37.490), beating out fellow front-row starters Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Leon Camier. The latter’s teammate, Max Biaggi, is again missing this weekend. It is his third missed race weekend in a row, as a practice injury sustained at the Nurburgring continues to heal slowly. Though championship leader Checa starts on the front row for both of Sunday’s races, his Superpole sessions were touch and go. He was in the knockout zone in S1 until a post-flag flying lap put him fastest. He remained on the bubble for most of S2, only barely making it to the fight for pole. The championship hunt continues this weekend, after Melandri’s late race resurgence in Race 2 in Imola kept Checa from winning then. The Spaniard needs only finish three points ahead of Melandri to clinch the title this weekend.

Checa (1:39.013) started off the weekend quickest in the first practice session on Friday, leading Sykes, Corser, Haslam, and Smrz as the fastest five. Both Fabrizio and Xaus has minor crashes, with the former finishing the session. Xaus complained of neck pain and feeling dizzy, leaving him in the medical center and eventually declared unfit to race. In the first qualifying practice, it was again Checa fastest, with a near record lap to take the provisional pole. Close behind were Laverty, Guintoli, Sykes as the provisional front row.

WSBK: Another Track Record Drops in a Duel Over Pole in Superpole at Imola

09/24/2011 @ 6:59 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: Another Track Record Drops in a Duel Over Pole in Superpole at Imola checa pirelli imola 635x421

Carlos Checa (1:47.196) won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Imola on a sunny and clear day, after dueling his way through Superpole with second place starter Jonathan Rea. Checa set a new track record early in the final session and looked confident in the garage until Rea came within hundredths of his lap time. Checa returned to the track, though Rea was unable to best his time and had to settle for second on the starting grid for Sunday. Noriyuki Haga, who led S2, will start third while Tom Sykes will complete the front row of the grid.

Before the on-track action even got underway, the championship hunt was shaken up as Biaggi, with his injury from the Nurburgring weekend not healing as quickly as required, is sitting out the entire Imola weekend,  “It is a bad split fracture which – fortunately – is progressing well. But it has not healed and the X-ray today shows that,” said Dr. Claudio Costa. He continued, “Max – summoning up reason – was forced to acknowledge the situation.” This is the second race weekend in a row Biaggi has been forced to miss due to the injury, which occurred during practice three weeks ago. Also missing from the field is Chris Vermeulen and the newly-retired James Toseland, who has been replaced by Javier Fores at BMW Motorrad Italia.

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: Sunshine and Early Knockouts Bring Drama to Superpole at Silverstone

07/30/2011 @ 8:02 am, by Victoria Reid8 COMMENTS

WSBK: Sunshine and Early Knockouts Bring Drama to Superpole at Silverstone John Hopkins Silverstone1 635x421

John Hopkins (2:04.041) provided a stunning show to win pole as a wild card for the 2011 World Superbike round at Silverstone. He set a new fast lap at the circuit, a particular feat when classed against current British Superbike teammate and fellow wild card John Kirkham, who qualified last. Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa will be joining the American rider on the front row on Sunday. Reigning champion Max Biaggi had an early crash but managed to make it through to Superpole 2, where his day ended with an eleventh-place qualifying run.

Hopkins has been having a good weekend, as the first man to go fastest (2:06.667) in the first practice session Friday. He led Camier, Smrz, a recovering Toseland at his home round, and Checa as the fastest five. Hopkins did not fare quite so well in the second session, finishing the first qualifying practice fifth fastest on his British Superbike Cresent Suzuki. His teammate Kirkham was eighteenth and twenty-second fastest in the Friday sessions. Checa (2:05.477) was back on top to take the provisional pole Friday afternoon, leading fellow Ducati rider Berger, Sykes, Camier, and the aforementioned Hopkins as the top five.

WSBK: Dry & Sunny Brno Brings Dominance to Superpole

07/09/2011 @ 7:18 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Dry & Sunny Brno Brings Dominance to Superpole Biaggi 635x406

Max Biaggi (1:58.580) ended the Superpole qualifying sessions for the 2011 World Superbike round at Brno essentially untouchable. Though he continued to lap at the end of the final session, his closest rivals either remained in the garage or were unable to find the speed to catch him on the track. He will be joined by Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa, and Eugene Laverty on the front row for Sunday’s races. Despite a crash late in S1, Biaggi’s teammate Leon Camier managed to get back out and move forward, qualifying on the second row.

Smrz was the first fastest rider in Friday morning’s free practice session at the Czech rider’s home circuit, barely beating Biaggi’s best time as the session ended. The Italian was second fastest, with Melandri, Fabrizio, and Smrz’s teammate Guintoli (set to replace the injured Loris Capirossi in MotoGP for at least one race this season) the fastest five. In the first qualifying session, it was Checa’s turn to be the fastest Ducati again, though Smrz was just a couple of tenths slower for a provisional front row start. Melandri, Laverty, and Biaggi completed the fastest five in that afternoon session.

WSBK: A First-Time Pole Sitter from Superpole at Aragon

06/18/2011 @ 7:04 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

WSBK: A First Time Pole Sitter from Superpole at Aragon Marco Melandri 635x4751

Marco Melandri (1:57.634) took his first World Superbike pole at Motorland Aragon, holding off Max Biaggi, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa in the Spanish heat. Though the Saturday Superpole sessions were moderately uneventful, they were not without drama as riders jostled to move forward and fight over pole. Melandri’s Yamaha teammate, Eugene Laverty, will start sixth as Kawasaki undergoes something of a resurgence. Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz will join him on the second row in fifth and seventh, respectively.

Somewhat shockingly, both factory BMWs were knocked out in Superpole 1, leaving Leon Haslam and Troy Corser to start from fourteenth and sixteenth. However, satelitte rider Ayrton Badovini qualified on the second row in eighth. Jonathan Rea did not compete, having had surgery Monday for the injuries he sustained during a warm-up crash last weekend at Misano.

Melandri took an early lead at Aragon, leading both the first free practice and the first qualifying practice. Though the Italian has a small advantage in having raced at the circuit last year in MotoGP, WSBK uses a slightly longer circuit that includes a hairpin at the end of the back straight. Melandri led Checa, Badovini, Camier, and Sykes in the morning practice and Checa, Haga, Camier, and Sykes as the top five in the first qualifying session in the heat Friday afternoon.

WSBK: Rain Causes Crash-Filled Superpole at Misano

06/11/2011 @ 7:12 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Rain Causes Crash Filled Superpole at Misano Tom Sykes WSBK MMP 635x4251

Checa led Biaggi, Corser, Haslam, and Camier as the fastest five in the first free practice of the Misano weekend, and continued to lead through the first qualifying practice with a lap time of 1:36.024. Friday afternoon, Biaggi, Melandri, and Fabrizio completed the provisional front row after the first qualifying practice. Corser caused that session to end early, crashing just minutes from the flag. He hit his head and was taken to the medical center but was cleared to continue riding for the weekend. James Toseland did not participate in either session and would not race with a relapse in the recovery of his right wrist. He has been replaced by Italian Lorenzo Lanzi both this weekend and at Aragaon.

In Saturday’s Superpole sessions, Tom Sykes (1:55.197) held off a late charge from Carlos Checa to take pole position for the World Superbike round at Misano despite the damp conditions. Rain began falling minutes before Superpole 1 began, leading to crashes by Ruben Xaus, Leon Camier, Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Jakub Smrz. Neither Xaus nor Camier, despite being the earliest crashers, were able to complete a timed lap and were knocked out in Superpole 1. Smrz led much of the final run for pole, fighting with Sykes. In the end, Skyes, Checa, Smrz, and Marco Melandri will start from the front row for tomorrow’s races.

WSBK: Rainy Superpole at Miller Motorsports Park Proves to Be a Challenge for Some

05/29/2011 @ 3:17 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

WSBK: Rainy Superpole at Miller Motorsports Park Proves to Be a Challenge for Some Miller Motorsports Park rain Superpole Scott Jones

Carlos Checa (1:58.315) took pole from Jakub Smrz on his last lap of Sunday’s Superpole qualifying for the 2011 World Superbike round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Factory Yamaha riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty completed the front row of starters in a Superpole session marked with damp and drying conditions and a couple of crashes. Leon Camier, who will start twelfth, nearly ended his qualifying before it began with a huge highside on his first lap. Also at the end of the session, Max Biaggi, who will start seventh, had a minor incident in which he fell over at slow speed in the muddy grass. Sylvain Guintoli, Troy Corser, Biaggi, and Ayrton Badovini will start on the second row for tomorrow’s races.

Checa was his usual fastest self in the first free and qualifying practices on Saturday, setting times well ahead of the rest despite issues with his Ducati. Camier, Biaggi, Smrz, and Fabrizio completed the fastest five riders in the first session, while the Aprilia duo were again second and third in the first qualifying practice. Sykes and Corser were the provisional fourth and fifth place starters. Waters, in his wild card entry for Yoshimura Suzuki, just squeaked through to Superpole in fifteenth fastest.

WSBK: A Point Proven During Superpole at Monza

05/06/2011 @ 6:36 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

WSBK: A Point Proven During Superpole at Monza Max Biaggi Superole Monza WSBK 635x338

Racing for some redemption, Max Biaggi (1:41.745) proved a point in winning pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Monza, returning to the track to best his own qualifying time after most riders had returned to their garages. Biaggi also bested his record top speed (334.8 kph/208.035 mph) from an earlier practice session in qualifying. He will be joined on the front row for his home race by Eugene Laverty, Jonathon Rea, and Troy Corser. Meanwhile, points leader Carlos Checa was knocked out in Superpole 2 and will start eleventh. Most riders fell afoul of the Monza chicane at least once, having their lap times ruined and deleted by cutting across the feature.

Rea (1:43.712) was the first to go fastest for the weekend, leading Corser, Badovini, and Biaggi in the first free practice on Friday morning. Haslam (1:42.934) took his turn to put the quick BMW on provisional pole in the afternoon qualifying practice, though it was Biaggi breaking the WSBK speed record that garnered more attention for the Italian in front of the home crowd. Laverty and Badovini, who was again quick Friday afternoon, completed the provisional front row. Meanwhile, James Toseland, Badovini’s returning teammate, was only twenty-first quickest in QP. Also recovering Chris Vermeulen did not ride in the afternoon session, after an off in the morning required a visit to the medical center and stitches on his elbow.