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: Test Results & Photos from Day 2 at Sepang

02/02/2012 @ 1:21 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 2 at Sepang HRC Sepang Test Day 2 Casey Stoner 3 635x421

Testing continues in Sepang, as MotoGP riders continued their first week of shaking down the new 1,000cc era machines. For the second day of testing, teams spent the sessions comparing settings and parts to the previous day, looking for clearer paths of development. For Yamaha, this meant testing suspension and electronic settings, while Honda tried different chassis with Casey Stoner. With weather hot and humid, Stefal Bradl got baptized with his first MotoGP gravel trap excursion, though the German was thankfully uninjured from the spill.

Progress on the all-new factory GP12 continued in the Ducati Corse garage, though the Italian team was short a rider after Nicky Hayden parked his bike after 16 laps. The American rider has been struggling with his broken shoulder, which still lacked the strength to properly ride at the Malaysian track. Quiting the day’s session earliy, Ducati’s test rider Franco Battaini took over for Hayden, and completed the day’s work with Valentino Rossi. Photos and results after the jump.

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 1 at Sepang

01/31/2012 @ 10:20 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 1 at Sepang Ducati Corse Sepang Test Nicky Hayden 1 635x422

With rain the night before, MotoGP’s first day of testing in Sepang got off to a late start, with riders not taking to the Malaysian track until well into the day. Noticeably absent from the day’s test was reigning-World Champion Casey Stoner, as the Australian’s back seized during stretching before the first session. Casey is expected to ride Wednesday (Tuesday evening US time), though former-teammate Andrea Dovizioso is a question mark, as the Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider was too sick for a media debrief last night.

For the Ducati camp, initial results are looking positive, as the factory Ducati Desmosedici GP12 had its first shakedown from riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Still recovering from his broken shoulder, Hayden only put in 25 laps on the new GP12 “Phoenix” before calling it a day and letting test rider Franco Bataini finish the day’s testing for him. Rossi on the other hand had a full-day with the Ducati Corse’s GP12, and was already impressed with the bike and the progress Ducati had made with it.

“I’m happy because first impressions are important, and already in the first few laps, I could tell that I like the bike,” said the nine-time World Champion. “Ducati did a good job in a just a short time. The bike is beautiful, but more importantly, it’s nice to ride. The riding position has improved a lot, and it’s better on braking and corner entry. I can brake like I want to and take the lines that I like, and I feel comfortable in general.”

Colin Edwards Makes CRT Debut at Jerez

11/25/2011 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Colin Edwards Makes CRT Debut at Jerez Colin Edwards MotoGP CRT test BMW Suter 635x398

Likely to be marked as the start of significant chapter in MotoGP history, the claiming rule teams (CRTs) were out in Jerez the past three days testing their MotoGP machinery, which is comprised of production-motorcycle motors with custom-built chassis. While not the first time we’ve seen a CRT bike on the track, the outing was the first time that  a”top-tier” rider was on-board the new racing format motorcycles, as Colin Edwards lead the charge with his BMW/Suter machine with NGM Forward Racing.

Many in the MotoGP paddock have been waiting to cast their verdict on the CRT endeavor, withholding their judgments until a top GP rider took to the helm of a CRT machine and properly put the bike through its paces. With tests earlier in the year showing Mika Kallio on-board the BMW/Suter to be over six seconds off the pace of the 800cc-era machines, the CRT future of MotoGP looked to be in jeopardy. Those lap times improved over the year to be “only” four seconds off that 1,000-era bike pace, showing improvement, yet a gap  to the front-runners.

Now with Edwards finally swinging a leg over the BMW S1000RR-powered Suter prototype, surely more comparisons between the factory prototypes and CRT offerings are to ensue. Posting a best lap time of 1’40.188 at the Spanish GP earlier this year, Edwards was roughly 2.5 seconds off his own pace, finishing the three-day test with a best lap to f 1’42.6. That news seems discouraging on its face, though it should be noted that the team dropped 1.3 seconds between Wednesday and Thursday’s tests.

Edwards also rated the bike at about 65% of its potential, while the Texan’s own fitness was questionable, as Edwards was till recovering from the injuries he sustained at the Malaysian GP. WIth all those caveat, does this week’s test equate to excuses for a lackluster performance, or justify that more leaps and gains will be made before the start of the 2012 MotoGP Championship?

Honda Wraps-Up Domination at Third Day of Sepang

02/24/2011 @ 6:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Honda Wraps Up Domination at Third Day of Sepang Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda Sepang test MotoGP 635x421

“Veni, Vidi, Vici” might as well be stenciled on the four factory Honda RC212V race bikes of Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, and Simoncelli, as the foursome has dominated the Malaysian track over the past three days of MotoGP testing. Casey Stoner takes the top prize though, climbing once again to the top of the time sheets, with Dani Pedrosa right behind him as the only other man to crack under the two minute barrier at Sepang. While these results aren’t too surprising to those following the off-season closely, the time sheets speak an interesting story for the rest of the field.

The Top 13 riders are clumped by manufacturer, and who leads each group is a bit surprising. Ben Spies bested teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who also found himself behind Colin Edwards from the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad. In the Ducati camp, it was Hector Barbera who had the fastest time, ahead of Hayden and Rossi who both shared a best lap of 2:01.469 in Day Three. Even Alvaro Bautista’s Suzuki made a surprisingly quick journey around the track at Sepang, as the Spanish rider was 8th fastest overall for the day.

Honda Goes 1, 2, 3, at Second Day of Testing at Sepang

02/23/2011 @ 10:01 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Honda Goes 1, 2, 3, at Second Day of Testing at Sepang Dani Pedrosa MotoGP Sepang test Repsol Honda.jpg 635x421

The Honda boys were out in full-force today, as MotoGP testing continued at Sepang. With only Toni Elias outside of the Top 7, Honda’s race package for the 2011 season is looking very stout, despite the fact that chassis selections still haven’t been finalized. While landing at the top of the results list is about as useful as yelling “first” in the comments section, Casey Stoner just barely snatched the honor away from Dani Pedrosa in his final lap around the Malaysian circuit, leaving only .058 seconds between the teammates.

Like yesterday, the Yamaha Racing factory squad looked in good form as well, with Spies showing marked improvements despite crashing in one of the sessions. Jorge Lorenzo spent some time on two different bikes, confirming the direction his crew was going with developing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 for the new season.

Things weren’t progressing as well in the Ducati camp though, as all the teams struggled with front-end issues. Notably absent from the day was Valentino Rossi, who has come down with cold/flu like symptoms. He retired to the hotel, in the hopes of being well enough to ride in tomorrow’s last day of testing. Carrying the Corse flag alone, Nicky Hayden had a tough day that ended with gearbox problems. Still, the ever-positive American was hopeful for better fortunes on Thursday as the team seems to have worked out some chatter issues.

WSBK Concludes Three Days of Testing in Portimao

01/28/2011 @ 9:13 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

WSBK Concludes Three Days of Testing in Portimao Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda WSBK test Portimao 635x599

Posting the fastest time of the official World Superbike test in Portugal, Jakub Smrz was the fastest man at Portimao. A feat in its own right, Smrz’s accomplishment is compounded by the fact that the Portuguese track saw three days of continuously changing weather. In a climate that kept the bikes off the track, and the riders bored in the garages, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty rounded out the fastest three riders at Portimao, with times set also on Wednesday afternoon. The first day was fair, though conditions worsened greatly overnight, making Thursday morning entirely unappealing for test laps. Luckily, Friday dried out through the afternoon, but no one was able to best Smrz’s early mark of 1:43.503 during the testing sessions.

All too often winter testing provides plenty of data for the teams and riders, but not nearly enough for journalists and fans who wish to prognosticate. While teams might focus on a certain sector during one lap and another the next, they hide their own flaws and keep their best performances to themselves. Combined with poor weather conditions, a rider sitting out to recover from surgery (Chris Vermeulen), and an entire team testing at another location, the WSBK winter test leaves very little actual story to tell before the start of the racing season.

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