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.

Cyril Despres Makes Switch to Cars for 2015 Dakar Rally

03/26/2014 @ 4:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Cyril Despres Makes Switch to Cars for 2015 Dakar Rally Cyril Despres Yamaha Racing Dakar Rally 08 635x423

We had to check the date on this one, because five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres has announced that he will not be on two-wheels for this year’s rally raid, and instead will campaign in the car class with Peugeot. The announcement comes as a bit of a shock, after Despres rocked the Dakar Rally world last year, announcing his switch from KTM to Yamaha.

After a difficult race in 2014, where Cyril still managed to finish fourth overall, it seems Despres is content with his five rally wins, though one cannot count the Frenchman out from future motorcycle engagements.

Signing a contract with Peugeot Sport, Despres will be leading the return of the marquee’s re-entry into rally racing, after taking a 25-year hiatus from the sport. Despres will be following in the footsteps of another French motorcycle rally raid racer, Stéphane Peterhansel, who like Despres moved from Yamaha Racing’s motorcycles into racing cars.

KTM Readying All-New 2014 Dakar Rally Race Bike

08/05/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

KTM Readying All New 2014 Dakar Rally Race Bike Ruben Faria KTM Dakar Rally 2013 635x423

The 2014 Dakar Rally is still five months away, but KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has tipped the Austrian company’s hand in an interview with KTM’s official company blog. With the goal of making a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine, KTM has been working on a ground-up redesign of its venerable adventure-racer.

Of course, KTM will still have to use a 450cc single-cylinder engine, per the Dakar Rally’s rules, but Pierer says the chassis will be significantly improved upon over the current iteration.

That goal seems easy enough, as the company CEO disclosed that the current 2013 race bike is essentially using the same chassis when The Dakar had a 600cc engine regulation for factory teams.

Modifying the old chassis to design simply to accommodate the new 450cc lump, KTM’s short-cut to building a new rally racing machine was crude, yet obviously effective.

HRC Sets Out To Win Dakar – Announces Team & New Bike

05/30/2013 @ 9:46 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

HRC Sets Out To Win Dakar   Announces Team & New Bike SJ10018 635x422

HRC has set its sights on winning the Dakar Rally in 2014 and today unveiled a new motorcycle and 5-man dream team here at Mugello.

The 2014 team comprises five riders: Helder Rodrigues (Portugal, age 34), Sam Sunderland (U.K., 24), Javier Pizzolito (Argentina, 33), Paulo Goncalves (Portugal, 34) and Joan Barreda (Spain, 29), shown above left to right while being interviewed by Team Director Martino Bianchi.

The 2014 Dakar begins on January 5th, 2014. In addition to familiar territory in Argentina and Chile, the 6th South American Dakar will add stages in Bolivia and finish on January 18th in Valparaiso, Chile, after 8,000 kilometers of racing.

Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally

05/30/2013 @ 1:59 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally Cyril Despres Yamaha Motor France 2014 Dakar Rally 10 635x418

When it happened, we were shocked to learn that Cyril Despres was left out of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s 2013 team announcement, though we American have a silver lining in the news as the five-time Dakar Rally winner was replaced by our own Kurt Caselli. However, with that upheaval, we were left to speculate as to the fate of the Dakar master.

Would Despres retire from rally racing, finishing his career at its peak? Or, would the Frenchman defect from KTM to another team, like say Honda’s upstart rally effort? Well, now we have the answer, as Cyril Despres has been outed as having joined the Yamaha Motor France rally team for the 2014 & 2015 Dakar Rallies.

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia

03/21/2013 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia 2014 dakar rally argentina bolivia chile

For the sixth year in a row, the Dakar Rally will race in South America, though the iconic rally race is mixing things up, and is dropping its route through Peru for one that includes Bolivia instead. The Dakar will keep Argentina and Chile on its 2014 course schedule, and the two countries will comprise the majority of the race’s torturous test of its competitors.

The 2014 Dakar Rally will have longer special stages, as well as several marathon stages (stages where only the competitor can do mechanical work on his/her machine, not the mechanics). Taking riders  and drivers though Argentina’s northwest canyons and sandy valleys, it should be an especially grueling edition of the historic race.

The 2013 Dakar Rally – Peru, Argentina, & Chile

03/21/2012 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The 2013 Dakar Rally   Peru, Argentina, & Chile cyril despres ktm dakar rally 2012 40 635x421

The Dakar Rally has already released its route for the 2013 Dakar, and the famous endurance race will once again compete in South America (Africa what?). Choosing to do a reversal of its previous routes, The Dakar will travel from north to south by starting in Lima, Peru and ending in Santiago, Chile.

Though this will be the fifth time the Dakar Rally has run in South America, the 2013 edition should be a grueling one right off the bat. Since the race is starting in Lima, it means competitors will be in the sand dunes of Peru right away — the first time the race has ever started in the desert. With all eyes watching to see if Cyril Despres can defend his 2012 victory against rival Marc Coma, racing action for the 2013 Dakar Rally starts Janurary 5th and ends January 20th.

Cyril Despres Wins Fourth Dakar Rally Title

01/16/2012 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Cyril Despres Wins Fourth Dakar Rally Title Cyril Despres KTM Dakar Rally 2012 44 635x422

After battling with KTM teammate Marc Coma for the entire duration of the 2012 Dakar Rally, Cyril Despres bested the Catalan rider on the final stage, and claimed his fourth Dakar title. Despres won only four stages of the Rally (compared to Coma’s five stages), but the Frenchman was able to cling to his overall lead, despite finishing behind Coma on the last stage. With The Dakar concluding in Lima for the first time in history, Despres’ triumph brought KTM its eleventh consecutive Dakar win. After a critical time penalty was levied against Marc Coma, Cyril Despres won the rally with a 53 minute margin, though the racing was decidedly closer than that number implies.

Sunday’s final stage was only 23km long (14.29 miles) and largely ceremonial, with Saturday’s penultimate round truly deciding who would win the 2012 Dakar Rally. With only several minutes of time separating the two riders as they entered the last true round of racing, Coma unfortunately damaged his gearbox after a big jump. Getting lost in the process, Coma was able to nurse his KTM back through the stage, though he had a 45 minute time penalty levied upon him for swapping-in his third motor, which cost the Catalan his chance of a fourth Dakar win, and allowed Despres to coast to victory during Sunday’s final round.

How Do You Get Halfway Through The Dakar?

01/12/2012 @ 1:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

How Do You Get Halfway Through The Dakar? Marc Coma KTM MRW Dakar Rally resouce infographic 635x449

The Dakar Rally might be one of the most grueling things you can do on two wheels, and for motorcyclists, it embodies the ultimate expression of adventure motorcycling. As if traversing thousands of miles while going full-tilt wasn’t hard enough, a proper Dakar Rally bid requires an enormous amount of resources to undertake. Crossing the halfway point this week, Marc Coma’s team released a nice infographic explaining the various resources the team has used in getting only half of the way through the rally.

With three more days of hard riding, Coma currently sits two minutes and twenty-two seconds behind his rival and fellow KTM rider Cyril Despres (the Frenchman explains his riding style in a video found after the jump). The KTM duo is now in the home-strech of the rally, and will be battling down to the wire for each rider’s fourth Dakar victory. Speaking after today’s stage, Coma is not optimistic about his abilities to catch Despres, but wisely warns that anything can happen during The Dakar.

Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally Cancelled

01/06/2012 @ 11:32 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally Cancelled 60346 Faria MM 050112 Dakar 7633 635x422

The world’s top adventure riders have been down in South America the past week, competing in the 33rd running of the Dakar Rally. Racing through South America since 2009, the 2012 Dakar will be taking competitors through some of the toughest terrain available in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as The Dakar continues to live up to its name as one of the toughest races in motorsport, and this year’s rally has tragically already claimed its first life, as motorcyclist Jorge Martinez Boero of Argentina died from a cardiac arrest, after crashing during the rally’s first stage.

For Stage 6 (Fiambala-Copiapo), the weather and terrain were apparently too inhospitable, even by Dakar standards. Set to cross the Andes Mountain Range for the seventh time in the rally’s history, snow and rain at the 15,420 foot Paso de San Francisco pass was too inclement for Chilean authorities to keep the crossing open. Accordingly, today’s stage will be a convoy of all the Dakar Rally vehicles, with the rally’s itinerary changed after the border crossing in Chile from Argentina.