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.

Video: Kawasaki Ninja H2R Demonstration at Suzuka

11/06/2014 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Video: Kawasaki Ninja H2R Demonstration at Suzuka kawasaki ninja h2r 10 635x396

The following is a rather long video of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R demonstrating earlier this week at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan (fast-forward to the 6 minute mark if you don’t want to watch the bike warm-up in the pits), taken during the All-Japan Road Race Superbike Championship.

To fully appreciate the video, it helps if you speak a bit of Japanese, but the what transcends all languages is the brute force of the supercharged 300hp the Ninja H2R, as it takes off — even in the hands of Kawasaki racer Katsuaki Fujiwara. We still think it’s pretty impressive, check it out after the jump.

Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin Wins the 2014 Endurance World Championship

09/22/2014 @ 11:01 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin Wins the 2014 Endurance World Championship yamaha france gmt 90 michelin ewc win 635x423

The 2014 Endurance World Championship has finally come to an end, as this past weekend played host to the Le Man 24-Hour motorcycle race. Winning the 2014 title was the French team of Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin, which also took second place at Le Mans (SERT finding its way to the top podium step).

Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin’s team of David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines have had a prominent position all season long in the EWC. Finishing second at Bol d’Or, ninth at Suzuka (second among the regular EWC entries), second at Oschersleben, and now second at Le Mans, Yamaha France’s position came about because of sheer consistency.

With Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki’s top teams having troubles at individual races (along with Yamaha’s YART squad), Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin showed that true endurance racing is done over the long term. The full 2014 Endurance World Championship results are after the jump.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Game Face, Race Day (Days 3 & 4)

08/08/2014 @ 4:26 pm, by Shelina Moreda6 COMMENTS

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Game Face, Race Day (Days 3 & 4) Shez Racing Suzuka 4 Hour Shelina Moreda Melissa Paris Race 03 635x423

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

It’s Day 3 at Suzuka. We had a short practice in the morning and very soon after, I had qualifying. I started out on the bike, got a few laps in, and then it was Melissa’s turn. I got the “Pit” sign on my pit board and came in to the pits, using my pit speed limiter for the first time in a race situation, and we practiced our pit stop. Melissa took off and wrapped up the rest of practice.

My qualifying came quick and it was a short one, I got something like seven laps total, including my out lap and in lap. We tried a bit different of a setup for me this time, handlebars out a little more and the shifter lower, so I was more comfortable.

In an endurance race, the bike has to be set up somewhere in the middle for both riders to be comfortable. We were riding Melissa’s setup, so they made it better for me for my qualifying. Wasn’t much time to get up to speed, but I was at least remembering the track.

When my session was over, I headed to our office and hopped in our big “kiddie” pool on the way, to test it out. The pool is situated just outside the office so we can get in it after our race stints to cool us down. It seemed so cold to me!! but I knew the next day during the race it would feel great.

We didn’t qualify as high as we had wanted, 52nd out of 69 teams, but we were both still getting used to the track and getting up to speed. We also had to realize we were up against teams who have ridden this track before, many locals, and almost all teams were from Japan, so had a home track advantage here.

That said, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Our main goal being to make our team and sponsors proud, race hard and move up. Our team and sponsors wanted to see us finish the race, that was their priority.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Practice Makes Perfect (Days 1 & 2)

08/06/2014 @ 8:03 am, by Shelina Moreda5 COMMENTS

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Practice Makes Perfect (Days 1 & 2) Shez Racing Suzuka 4 Hour Shelina Moreda Melissa Paris Day 1 2 13 635x422

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

“So How was Japan, Suzuka, Moriwaki?!” is the question of the week.

“Everything you think it should be and more” is the answer of the week. I’m still in awe of the week I have just had. The most amazing race I’ve done to date. Intensity like you wouldn’t believe.

I was practically in tears at the weight of the thing after the Le Mans-style start and then the most challenging, and coolest race I’ve had the privilege of competing in. I keep thanking SynergyForce, Moriwaki, and the FIM Women’s Commission for all they have done to make it happen.

My week started with a day in Tokyo, where I got to visit my Japanese family. We had an exchange student when I was a kid, and Miyuki is now grown up with kids of her own. This is the third time I’ve gotten to visit them. Last time was when I lived in Japan, right before I started racing.

Japan is really close to my heart. I lived in Okinawa for a year, and living away from home, and everything I knew, helped me decide that I really could go after anything I wanted to do in life. Japan helped me realize I could make anything I wanted out of life.

I got my racing license only one month after I moved home to California and set out to race professionally. Then it was just a dream people thought I was crazy for.

The opportunity to race in Japan is really special to me, especially because of this. Pair that with the legendary circuit of Suzuka, the distinguished team of Moriwaki, and my first endurance race ever taking place during the famous weekend of Suzuka 8-Hour: the whole thing is a dream come true.

2014 Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race Results

07/28/2014 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

2014 Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race Results MuSASHi RT HARC PRO 2014 Suzuka 8 Hour Takumi Takahashi 635x423

With heavy rain delaying the start, the Suzuka 8-Hour was more like the Suzuka 6-Hour, as only six hours and thirty-five minutes could be fit into the race’s time slot. Still, FIM Endurance World Championship fans were treated to a good battle, which unfortunately saw F.C.C. TSR Honda out early while in the lead.

Kosuke Akiyoshi gave F.C.C. TSR Honda its early lead, and strong stint from Jonathan Rea seemed to solidify the team’s position. But on his next outing, Akiyoshi had a massive crash at the 130R corner. Riding his Honda CBR1000RR back into the pits with a broken femur, Akiyoshi was the hero of the race, but F.C.C. TSR would have to settle for 40th overall.

The crash left the lead for MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team, which laid claim to the top step at Suzuka for the second year in a row. The Japanese team, which was comprised of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael van der Mark put in an impressive performance at the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance race, though only had roughly a minute’s gap at the finish line to show for it.

How to Watch the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race

07/25/2014 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

How to Watch the Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race suzuka circuit 635x357

UPDATE: Sorry folks, look like race day coverage is live-timing only.

I was trying to think this week how to frame how important the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race is for Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts and Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. It’s certainly more prestigious than any single MotoGP or WSBK round, and I would hazard that it is as big of a deal to the Japanese as the Isle of Man TT is to the Manx.

A race known for seeing factory teams staked with the top riders from around the world, this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours sees some of Japan’s finest joined by the likes of Kevin Schwantz, Jonathan Rea, Randy de Puniet, Josh Brookes, and Josh Waters. It can be hard to follow the race in Japan though, but we’ve got you covered for this year’s event.

The Suzuka Circuit puts up a live stream of the racing sessions on Ustream, and the link is right here. There is also an official Twitter feed in English which you should follow. We have embedded the Ustream into this post as well…because the internet is awesome.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — When a Plan Comes Together

07/16/2014 @ 4:06 pm, by Shelina Moreda11 COMMENTS

Shez Racing at Suzuka    When a Plan Comes Together ShezRacing Suzuka 4 Hours Shelina Moreda test 07 635x952

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo are making the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and will be campaigning a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. Race day is July 25th. -JB

If you know me, you know I like new adventures in racing. I want to do as much racing, in as many awesome places as possible, and hopefully find out where my niche is and find a home racing somewhere eventually, but I still hope I get to continue traveling for racing always.

Racing in Japan is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s something that came up about a year and a half ago, and I made it known that I really wanted to do it. We had a strong lead last year, but it couldn’t happen for some valid reasons.

Nobody gave up on it though, we kept pushing for it, and this year, to my surprise and awe, the well known and respected Team Moriwaki expressed a strong interest in putting together a team for the four-hour endurance at Suzuka. Everyone put it in high-gear to get the team together and to figure out all the details that go along with such a high-level event like this, with such a high-level team.

It’s been somewhat top secret, and the excitement, at least for me, has been pretty hard to contain. We’ve all been working diligently behind the scenes, and it seems we were all holding out breaths at this twinkling far-off dream of ours, watching it become a reality, until our test this week, where everything came together, and we all pinched ourselves and realized it’s real. Midori Moriwaki, Melissa Paris and I have spent some time laughing about this this week.

Kevin Schwantz Will Compete in the 2014 Suzuka 8-Hour with Yoshimura “Legends” Team

03/03/2014 @ 9:53 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Kevin Schwantz Will Compete in the 2014 Suzuka 8 Hour with Yoshimura Legends Team schwantz yoshimura suzuki suzkua 8 hour 635x481

After taking a podium in last year’s Suzuka 8-Hour with Team Kagayama, Kevin Schwantz has signaled his intention to race again at the iconic endurance race. Riding for the Yoshimura Legends team, Schwantz will be reunited with his teammate from the 1986 Suzuka 8-Hour race, Satoshi Tsujimoto.

The reunion of the former teammates will help Yoshimura celebrate its 60th anniversary; and since Schwantz & Tsujimoto finished third in 1986, they will be looking again to bring results for Yoshimura Suzuki.

In addition to the “Legends” squad, Yoshimura will also field the two-man Yoshimura Shell Advance Suzuki team, which will be comprised of BSB rider Josh Waters and All Japan Superbike Takuya Tsuda.

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.

Video Highlights of the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours

07/31/2013 @ 11:47 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Video Highlights of the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours musashi honda ewc suzuka 635x424

In case you missed watching this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours (the second stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar), and that is pretty much everyone outside of Japan, since no live stream was available on race day, we’ve got you covered.

Compressing eight hours of hard-fought endurance racing into four and a half minutes, you can witness Ryuichi Kiyonari’s nasty crash on the F.C.C. TSR Honda, Schwantz’s epic return to road racing, and the victory of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO Honda with Leon Haslam, Takumi Takahashi, and Michael Van Der Mark on-board.