Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

Monday Summary at Jerez: Engine Braking, Soft Tires, & Beating Marquez

05/06/2014 @ 12:37 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Monday Summary at Jerez: Engine Braking, Soft Tires, & Beating Marquez Sunday Jerez Spanish GP Tony Goldsmith 04 635x422

The first MotoGP test of the season at Jerez is a tough one for the factories, coming as it does after three flyaway races on three continents, followed by a one-week hop back to Europe. Teams and engineers are all a little bedazzled and befuddled from all the travel, and have not had time to analyze fully all the data from the first four races of the season.

It is too early in the season to be drawing firm conclusions, and crew chiefs and engineers have not yet fully exhausted all of their setup ideas for fully exploiting the potential of the package they started the season with.

As a result, they do not have a vast supply of new parts waiting to be tested. The bikes that rolled out of pitlane on Monday were pretty much identical to the bikes raced on Sunday. The only real differences were either hard or impossible to see. Suspension components, rising rate linkages, and brake calipers were about as exotic as it got.

The one area where slightly bigger changes were being applied was in electronics strategies, with Yamaha and Honda working on engine braking, and Honda trying out a new launch control strategy. That new launch control system did not meet with the approval of Marc Marquez, however, and so will probably not be seen again.

Most of the teams spent their day revisiting things they had tried briefly during practice, but not really had time to evaluate properly. That paid dividends for Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Monster Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro, both of whom tried out the softer of the two tire options available.

MotoGP: Lap Times from the Jerez Post-Race Test

05/05/2014 @ 2:27 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Lap Times from the Jerez Post Race Test Sunday Jerez Spanish GP Tony Goldsmith 19 635x423

Marc Marquez was the fastest man at the Jerez post-race test, setting a quick lap early in the day which would not be beaten. The Repsol Honda man had a big gap to Jorge Lorenzo for most of the day, but the Movistar Yamaha rider closed the gap to just over a quarter of a second by the end of the day.

Valentino Rossi ended the day in 3rd, after a late lap put him ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who, like Marquez, stopped testing earlier in the afternoon.

Alvaro Bautista was the fastest of the satellite Hondas, leading Stefan Bradl by a fraction, the LCR Honda man being the last rider within a second of Marquez. Pol Espargaro was quickest of the Tech 3 riders, while brother Aleix was sandwiched between Pol and Bradley Smith.

Kevin Schwantz Tests Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Bike at COTA, While Randy De Puniet Matches Pace of Open Bikes

04/16/2014 @ 3:32 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

Kevin Schwantz Tests Suzuki XRH 1 MotoGP Bike at COTA, While Randy De Puniet Matches Pace of Open Bikes Kevin Schwantz Randy de Puniet Suzuki XRH 1 MotoGP COTA test 22 635x423

Suzuki’s MotoGP test team took advantage of the presence of the MotoGP paddock at Austin to plan a test directly after the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Under the watchful eye of team manager Davide Brivio, the team planned to have test rider Randy De Puniet put in three days of testing at a circuit, as the team had not yet tested the Suzuki XRH-1 at COTA, in a bid to gather more data ahead of their return to the series in 2015.

Unfortunately for Suzuki, very heavy hail and thunderstorms made testing extremely difficult on Monday, leaving the track very dirty and much slower than it had been for Sunday’s race. But testing resumed in earnest on Tuesday, with Randy De Puniet running through testing electronics and another back-to-back test of the two chassis options Suzuki has been working on.

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 3 Summary: Pedrosa Dominates & The Rest Fight Over the Spoils

02/28/2014 @ 6:26 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 3 Summary: Pedrosa Dominates & The Rest Fight Over the Spoils cal crutchlow ducati corse sepang motogp test 635x423

The big news on the final day of testing at Sepang was not what was happening on track, but rather what was happening off track. The announcement – trailed here and all around the media since early January – that Ducati would switch to the Open category was the talk of the paddock…and social media…and bike racing forums…and biking bars around the world, I expect.

Even though we knew this was coming, it is only now becoming clear just how much of a game changer this decision is.

The announcement was timed curiously, made at the end of the day when the bosses of Yamaha and Honda had already left the circuit and were unavailable to the press. Likewise, the press room had largely emptied out. It appeared to have been made to minimize the impact, especially on the other manufacturers.

Honda and Yamaha now have a couple of days to gather their PR might and put together a carefully worded position on the move by Ducati, which will both give the impression they are entirely disinterested in what Ducati have decided to do, while at the same time exuding a vague air of disapproval. Expect to see the verb ‘to disappoint’ in various conjugations.

On track, however, the situation was largely unchanged from the last couple of days of testing: interesting names at the top of the timesheet, belying the utter dominance of the Repsol Hondas, in the person of Dani Pedrosa. Valentino Rossi was the fastest man on the day, and leaves as the fastest rider of the test, pleased with the progress they have made.

But dig deeper, examine the times set during the long race simulations, and Dani Pedrosa comes out streets ahead, half a second or more quicker than the competition. Pedrosa’s average pace is faster than any other riders best lap on their long run.

Ducati Will Compete in MotoGP under the Open Option

02/28/2014 @ 2:51 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati Will Compete in MotoGP under the Open Option cal crutchlow ducati corse open option 635x423

After assessing its position during the two Sepang tests, Ducati Corse has decided to enter the 2014 MotoGP Championship under the “Open Class” rules, which means the factory Ducati team will have more fuel, more engines, and more importantly no engine development freeze for the 2014 season.

In exchange for those advantages, Ducati Corse will be forced to use the Magneti Marelli ECU package supplied by Dorna, rather than the company’s factory-developed electronics.

Explaining its decision, Ducati says that “after carefully considering the two options, [Ducati] has decided that the most suitable one for the current needs of the Bologna-based manufacturer is the Open one, which gives the possibility to the race department to continue the development of the bike and the engine throughout the entire season.”

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 2 Summary: The Old New Tire, Lorenzo’s Lamentations, & Ducati’s Future (Again)

02/28/2014 @ 1:37 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 2 Summary: The Old New Tire, Lorenzos Lamentations, & Ducatis Future (Again) dani pedrosa repsol honda sepang

A cleaner track made for better times at the second MotoGP test at Sepang on Thursday, but conditions remain far from ideal. The track was still greasy, and the added heat made the situation worse. That meant the track remained empty for large parts of the day, the riders waiting for temperatures to come down at the end of the day.

When the riders did go for their fast laps, the usual suspects raised their heads. Aleix Espargaro was quick, Alvaro Bautista was quick, but if anyone was in any doubt about where the real power lies on the MotoGP grid, Dani Pedrosa quickly disabused them of their misconceptions.

The Repsol Honda man posted two scorching laps, faster than anyone else was capable of riding. At nearly three tenths of a second, the gap was convincing. When Dani Pedrosa decides to exert his authority, the world listens. Especially when his teammate is absent.

Pedrosa spent the day working on the front of the Repsol Honda, and deciding on which of the two chassis to use for the rest of the year.

The quicker of the two options was also less forgiving under braking, meaning Pedrosa elected to pursue the slower of the two frames. Sacrificing a little bit of speed for more stability and less effort to ride seemed like a suitable trade off.

But the talk of the second day of the test was not Pedrosa’s speed; that is taken as a given. The biggest talking point of day two was the lack of speed from Jorge Lorenzo. The factory Yamaha rider ended the day down in ninth spot, sandwiched between the two Tech 3 bikes of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith.

He was over a second slower than Pedrosa, the biggest gap since the rain-hit race at Le Mans last May. Worse still, he was the fourth-fastest Yamaha, with the Open Yamaha of Aleix Espargaro and the factory bikes of his teammate Valentino Rossi and Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro ahead of him.

His problem is simple: he cannot get the new rear tire to work. Whatever they do to the bike, Lorenzo simply has no grip, and no confidence.

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 1 Summary: The Tire Pendulum Swings Against Yamaha & Ducati’s Open Future

02/26/2014 @ 10:49 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

MotoGP Sepang (2) Test – Day 1 Summary: The Tire Pendulum Swings Against Yamaha & Ducatis Open Future alvaro bautista motogp sepang test gresini

If the first Sepang test threw up a few surprises, the first day of the second test turned into a bit a shocker. Anyone putting money on Alvaro Bautista, Aleix Espargaro and his brother Pol being the top 3 at the end of the first day would very, very rich indeed.

Though all three had good reason to be further up front – Bautista has a new rear shock from Showa which is a big step forward, Aleix has been fast throughout, and Pol has the new seamless gearbox from Yamaha – their speed should not be seen as presaging a revolution in MotoGP.

A dirty track, and several riders not chasing times gave the trio a chance to shine, which they seized with both hands.

Sepang MotoGP Test (2) Preview – Intrigue Abounds Despite a Missing Marquez

02/25/2014 @ 11:34 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Sepang MotoGP Test (2) Preview – Intrigue Abounds Despite a Missing Marquez Sepang International Circuit SIC map 635x457

MotoGP returns to the track at Sepang in just a few hours, and the second test at the Malaysian circuit offers just as much intrigue as the first did. Interest at Sepang 2 centers on notable absentees, Ducati’s plans, and progress made so far. There is much to watch in Malaysia.

One thing we know for sure. Marc Marquez will not be the fastest man at the second Sepang test. The reigning world champion dominated the first test at the beginning of the month, but a training crash saw him fracture his right fibula.

Even in adversity, Marquez’s luck held, the injury being relatively quick to heal, the bone not being displaced. He will definitely be back in action at the first race of the year in Qatar, and he could possible attend the Bridgestone test at Phillip Island early next week, but he will be forced to miss Sepang 2.

With Marquez out, others will have a chance to shine, though the question of how any times set would hold up if the Repsol Honda man had been present will remain. Nobody had an answer to Marquez’s pace at the first test – especially when you compare his race pace on long runs – and his rivals will have to drop well under the two-minute mark to make an impression.

Marquez’s absence leaves the burden of testing in the Repsol Honda team to Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard had a relatively anonymous first Sepang test, working quietly while never stamping his authority on the test.

Work will continue on seeking more corner speed for the Honda RC213V, retesting the new chassis tried at the start of the month, and giving the latest rear Bridgestone tire another workout.

Sepang MotoGP Test Preview – Honda vs. Yamaha, Open vs. Factory, & What Will Ducati Do?

02/03/2014 @ 11:28 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Sepang MotoGP Test Preview   Honda vs. Yamaha, Open vs. Factory, & What Will Ducati Do? Sepang International Circuit SIC map 635x457

The test ban is over, and the MotoGP season is about to get underway. Bikes are already circulating, as the test riders put the first versions of the 2014 models through a shakedown to ensure that everything is in place, and working the way the engineers intended. In a few hours, we get the first glimpse of what the 2014 season could hold.

The rule changes for 2014, though at first glance are relatively small, could have a major impact. For the front runners, the fuel allowance is dropped from 21 to 20 liters, a change requested by the manufacturers to give them the engineering challenge they demand to justify their involvement.

All of the Factory Option (the designation for the bikes which have been referred to as factory prototypes for the last two seasons) entries must now use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU, but they retain the ability to develop their own software for the computer which sits at the heart of every modern vehicle.

That reduced fuel allowance will place a premium on fuel conservation, meaning the manufacturer who can reduce friction, thermal efficiency and combustion efficiency will hold the upper hand.

It’s not just the factory bikes that have a new designation. The CRT category has disappeared, replaced by the Open class. The change is not as big as the renaming would appear. Like the CRT bikes, they have 12 engines instead of 5 to last the season, and 24 liters of fuel to last each race. And like the Factory Option bikes, they must also use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU.

The difference, with both the Factory Option bike and last year’s CRT machines, is that now they must use the Dorna-controlled software, written by Magneti Marelli to Dorna specifications. The switch to control software means that the claiming rule, which defined the CRT class, has been dropped. Anyone can enter anything in the class, from modified Superbike (as long as, like Aprilia’s ART machine, it uses a prototype chassis) to full-fat factory engine, as long as they use the spec software.

What effect will the new rules have on the racing? Less fuel is rarely a positive factor in any form of racing. Of the various ways of limiting performance – engine capacity, rev limits, and fuel flow – fuel limits are invariably the most expensive, both in terms of engine development and in terms of the price riders pay to keep their weight down.

Casey Stoner Will Continue His Role as a Test Rider for HRC

12/20/2013 @ 2:54 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

Casey Stoner Will Continue His Role as a Test Rider for HRC Casey Stoner HRC test 2014 Honda RCV1000R RC213V 13 635x423

Casey Stoner is to continue as test rider for Honda in 2014. The Australian double world champion will once again take the track to help develop Honda’s RC213V during the 2014 season, according to British publication MCN.

Stoner took up his role as test rider in the middle of 2013, after HRC’s regular test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi broke his femur at a Japanese Superbike round. The Australian worked on the 2013 RC213V, as well as a rain-shortened test on Honda’s RCV1000R production racer.

According to the report on MCN, Stoner’s testing schedule for 2014 has yet to be fixed. It appears that Stoner will not be present at the special tire test put on by Bridgestone at Phillip Island, which all three factory teams will attend, but he will take on further testing duties at Motegi later in the season.