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.

Max Biaggi Continues to Have a Hard Time Making Friends

04/18/2011 @ 10:20 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Max Biaggi Continues to Have a Hard Time Making Friends Max Biaggi Assen Superpole 2011 635x469

It’s been a tough season so far for Max Biaggi. The reigning World Superbike Champion has had a decent start to the 2011 season, and currently sits second in the point standings after three race weekends, but his progress has been nothing like the blitzkrieg campaign he accomplished last year. Facing a non-factory Ducati that seemingly rides like a factory bike, Biaggi is 43 points behind Carlos Checa, while the devilishly quick WSBK rookie and former MotoGP contender Marco Melandri is only four points behind his fellow Italian.

Likely feeling the pressure to bring honor to the #1 plate, we’ve already seen Biaggi revert back to some of his old antics of the past. With the “slap” incident from Donington Park still fresh in peoples’ minds, more accusations come from riders that the Roman Emperor has been blocking and in the way during the Superpole qualifying event, and this time those accusations come from inside the Aprilia garage.

WSBK: Fresh Tires Aid Checa to Superpole at Assen

04/16/2011 @ 10:26 am, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

WSBK: Fresh Tires Aid Checa to Superpole at Assen Jonathan Rea Assen WSBK Superpole 2011 635x742

Having dominated the final qualifying session under a cloudy sky and in cool temperatures, Carlos Checa won pole (1:35.292) for the World Superbike round at Assen. The Spaniard won pole for the third race weekend in a row, added by the fact that he was the only rider to have a fresh qualifying tire for the third Superpole session. He will be joined on the front row for Sunday’s races by Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga. Though none could touch Checa at the end, the Superpole sessions were marked by very close lap times, with the twelve riders in Superpole 2 covered by a half second. Only Marco Melandri crashed during the Superpole sessions, on his last lap while attempting to fight for pole. He was unhurt and qualified eighth.

Biaggi to Melandri: “What Did the Hand Say to the Face?”

03/26/2011 @ 11:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Biaggi to Melandri: What Did the Hand Say to the Face? Max Biaggi slaps Marco Melandri

Slap! And that’s what happened when Max Biaggi stopped by Marco Melandri’s pit box after qualifying, after the two riders traded moments stuffing each other during the Superpole sessions. While out on his fastest lap in Superpole 2, Marco Melandri came onto the slower lapping Max Biaggi, and according to Melandri, Biaggi blocked his fellow Italians fast lap.

Subsequently, Melandri returned the favor on Biaggi’s fast lap attempt, while Biaggi would go on to do the same to Noriyuki Haga (and others reportedly) as well. After Superpole concluded however, it was Melandri that got The Emperor’s wroth in the paddock, as the reigning World Superbike Champion stopped by the Yamaha pit, and gave Melandri a couple of light slaps on the face during a worded exchange. Video after the jump.

WSBK: Checa Breaks Lap Record at Donington Superpole

03/26/2011 @ 10:01 am, by Victoria Reid6 COMMENTS

WSBK: Checa Breaks Lap Record at Donington Superpole Carlos Checa WSBK Superpole Donington Park

Carlos Checa won his second straight pole of the World Superbike season Saturday at Donington Park, setting a new circuit record in the process (1:28.099), and he will be joined by Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, and Jakub Smrz on the front row. The testing last week at Aragon must have done wonders for the factory Kawasaki team as Sykes posted his fastest lap on a race tire, not a qualifier. Dropping back during qualifying, early weekend frontrunners Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri qualified only sixth and ninth, respectively. Melandri’s teammate Eugene Laverty crashed in Superpole 1, destroying his Yamaha, but continued on a backup bike to qualify thirteenth.

WSBK Reduces Number of Riders for Superpole in 2011

12/18/2010 @ 2:34 pm, by Victoria Reid3 COMMENTS

WSBK Reduces Number of Riders for Superpole in 2011 Haga Miller Motorsports Park 2010 635x637

Tucked away in the Friday press release from the World Superbike Commission, along with other changes to the technical and sporting regulations, was the news that only sixteen bikes would be eligible to compete in Superpole qualifying.  In the 2010 season, the fastest 20 riders during the qualifying practices competed to move on to Superpole 2 and 3 to vie for the pole position for the Sunday races.

With the lower numbers of entries this past season, many if not sometimes all of the riders gained entry into the first Superpole session.  This coming, 2011, season, only the sixteen fastest riders will be in the first session of Superpole, with the slowest four getting knocked out of the running for Superpole 2 (allowing the fastest twelve to move onto Superpole 2).

WSBK: Crutchlow Takes Dominant Superpole at Brno

07/10/2010 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

WSBK: Crutchlow Takes Dominant Superpole at Brno Michel Fabrizio Xerox Ducati Brno WSBK 560x392

World Superbike racing is in the Czech Republic this weekend, and Cal Crutchlow has shown himself to be the man to beat at Brno. Leading through all three Superpole sessions, the British rider easily sailed into the #1 grid spot for Sunday’s races. WSBK continues to show diversity on the grid, with every manufacturer having a bike up front…except Kawasaki (only one Team Green bike made it into the second Superpole round). With Crutchlow looking for his first win, Haslam looking to make up ground on Biaggi, and BMW looking for a top-step on the podium, racing action at Brno should be good come Sunday.

Pirelli Personalizes WSBK Superpole Tires

06/27/2010 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Pirelli Personalizes WSBK Superpole Tires Pirelli WSBK Superpole labels tires 560x371

Starting this weekend at Misano’s Superpole, World Superbike riders will see something new on their tire sidewalls. Pirelli Diablo Superbike tires used during Superpole qualifying events now feature the track’s host nation’s flag on the sidewall as a promotion for the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa personalization program that we told you about back in April.

WSBK: Surprise Superpole Qualifying Excites Misano

06/27/2010 @ 3:36 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

WSBK: Surprise Superpole Qualifying Excites Misano Misano World Circuit 560x401

World Superbike hits Italy again this season, with WSBK stopping at Misano for its racing action. Sunday’s race should be a good one as there was a surprise result in Saturday’s Superpole qualifying event. Mixing it up on the front row is a glimpse of faces of old, some newcomers, and the usual suspects, which could sort itself out very interestingly in Sunday’s races. Find the full results after the jump.

WSBK: New Record Set During Superpole at Monza

05/09/2010 @ 1:00 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

WSBK: New Record Set During Superpole at Monza Max Biaggi Superpole Monza WSBK 560x382

Max Biaggi took his first career Superpole today (as well as Aprilia’s first Superpole), at his home track of Monza no less. As if that wasn’t enough for the Italian rider and his Italian team, Biaggi also set the fastest top speed for the track on a superbike (205 mph), as well as a lap record (1’42.121).

Superpole however wasn’t as kind to the other Italian manufacturer, with only Michel Fabrizio making it into the third Superpole round. Fabrizio finished 3rd for the day, but his teammate, Norikuki Haga, finished at the bottom of Superpole 2 in 16th position.

With Ruben Xaus finishing 6th in the Superpole, six different manufacturers will make up the top six riders on the starting grid come Sunday, which should make the races exciting for any fan. Check the full Superpole results after the jump.

WSBK: Assen Superpole Sees Surprise Front Row

04/26/2010 @ 8:45 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

WSBK: Assen Superpole Sees Surprise Front Row Troy Corser WSBK Superpole 560x373

World Superbike action came to Assen this weekend, and it didn’t take long for the Dutch track to claim it’s first victim. Seeing a rider crash in the first round, and a number of big names lost in the second round shuffle, the Superpole format clearly is still a quagmire for many teams. This didn’t stop a couple familiar names from making it onto the front row, but going into the WSBK round in Holland, you never would have guessed who these riders would have been.