Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

A Preview of MotoGP’s Second Pre-Season Test at Sepang

02/25/2013 @ 4:22 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

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After an absence of some three weeks or so, the MotoGP teams once again return to action at Sepang for the second official test of the pre-season. The intervening period has seen a flurry of activity in the factories in Japan and Italy, and at CRT team headquarters around Europe.

The data accrued on the first visit to the Malaysian circuit has been analyzed, assessed, and more modifications made and ideas worked out for the second Sepang test. So what can we expect to see in Malaysia for the next three days? And what are the key details to keep an eye on?

2013 MotoGP Pre-Season Testing Starts at Sepang

02/01/2013 @ 5:19 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The long wait of so many MotoGP fans is nearly over. The 2013 MotoGP season is about to get underway, or rather, the phony war of testing, which is the first step on the road to the 2013 MotoGP season. In just a few hours’ time, the howl of the CRT machines will fill the grandstands at Sepang, joined two days later by the roar of the MotoGP prototypes.

The CRT machines have two extra days of testing ahead of the full test at Sepang, where the teams will have their first chance to test the new spec Magneti Marelli electronics system on track, after having first dialed the system on the dyno at their respective bases.

The system will be used by all of the CRT teams ,except for those running the Aprilia ART bikes, and so far, the reaction has been very positive to the capabilities of the system. This should come as no surprise, given that Magneti Marelli is the de facto standard in the MotoGP paddock, already in use by both Yamaha and Ducati, though both factories run their own custom software.

MotoGP: Suzuki Requests to Test in 2013

12/11/2012 @ 1:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Suzuki’s return to the MotoGP Championship continues to gain steam, as the Japanese company has submitted a request to Dorna for testing during the 2013 season. Talking to BBC Sport, Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta said “[Suzuki] are asking us to have some testing during the 2013 season and if everything goes well maybe we will see them in 2014.”

Suzuki is said to be looking to test its GP race bike with the MotoGP field, and perhaps even run a few wild cards in 2013, before launching a full program the following year. Many names have been linked to the Suzuki project, with Randy de Puniet the lastest MotoGP rider to be associated with the team, and tipped to be Suzuki’s test rider.

Norton V4 Gets Shakedown Test Ahead of Isle of Man TT

05/10/2012 @ 8:47 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

More news from Norton, as the British firm has begun track-testing its V4 road race bike, in preparation of the 2012 Isle of Man TT. Focusing on the bike’s handling, Norton has been working hand-in-hand with Öhlins and Dunlop developing the bike’s chassis. The trio has devised the highly sophisticated “165 mph no hands” test, which supposedly checks the stability of the bike, though we imagine Health & Safety would frown upon it.

With the bike’s Aprilia RSV4 motor putting out 195hp at the crank, and with the total race package weighing 419 lbs (195 kg) when it is sopping wet, the Spondon-framed Norton may not be exactly what fans of the famous marques were hoping for after seeing the very appealing Norton NRV 588, though it does seem to be a potent package.

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 3 at Sepang

02/02/2012 @ 5:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Day Three of testing at Sepang has concluded, leaving many on the factory prototype-side of the garage pleased with their week’s work. Once again, Honda is setting the pace, as Casey Stoner sent a message to the rest of the paddock as he smashed the lap record at Sepang aboard his Honda RC213V. A full half-second faster than his nearest competitor, Stoner is an Aussie on a mission already in the season.

“I’m still not feeling great with my back, but the bike is ok, so we’ve made progress in reducing the chatter a little more and trying a few different things, some small settings on the shock that we haven’t tried before amongst other points,” said Stoner. “So far it’s been pretty positive, we’ll just have to wait and see what we have for the next test and hopefully improve a little more. Now I’m looking forward to getting home to Switzerland to see Adriana and await the arrival of our baby!”

MotoGP: Test Results & Photos from Day 2 at Sepang

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

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

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.”

Ducati Corse Testing the 90% New GP12 This Week in Jerez

01/17/2012 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

In Spain right now, an assembly of Ducati Corse technicians, mechanics, and riders are tucking into bed after completing the first of three days of MotoGP testing at the Spanish track. After failing to debut its new Ducati Desmosedici GP12 at the 2012 Wrooom media event, Ducati Corse is holding some very private tests at Jerez to sort out the GP12 before Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden ride the 1,000cc format machine at the Sepang test at the end of the month. Details about the Desmosedici GP12 have been sparse, though Ducati Corse General Manager Filippo Preziosi did let it be known that the 2012 Desmo was 90% new in its design.

Ducati Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” Testing at Mugello

09/08/2011 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Testing at Mugello today and tomorrow, Ducati has very discretely (like that could actually happen) begun testing its Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” – a modified version of the GP12 that features an aluminum frame made by FTR. Replacing Ducati’s innovative carbon fiber “frameless” chassis, the twin-spar aluminum frame is an attempt by the Italian factory to bring more front-end feel to its riders (read David Emmett’s analysis of the Desmosedici’s troubles here). Testing today with Franco Battaini, we get these first photos of the Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” (or is it GP12.1?) testing at the Italian track.

WSBK: Vermeulen Preemptively Out for Miller Round

05/24/2011 @ 8:02 pm, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

Despite his perennially upbeat demeanor on Twitter, Chris Vermeulen’s recovery continues to progress slowly. The factory Kawasaki rider, who has yet to complete a race in the 2011 World Superbike season, will remain in Europe while teammates Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes travel to this weekend’s race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.Vermeulen has been attending recent races in Europe and participating in practice and qualifying sessions, but an off at Monza tore a hole in his elbow and added to the Australian’s injuries.

Vermeulen will test for the team at Motorland Aragon early next month, with a plan to return to racing at Misano for the June 12th weekend. “It is disappointing to not race in America but my injuries are still healing. The good thing is they are improving,” said Vermeulen.