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.

Friday Summary at Assen: Of Tricky Surfaces, Fast Riders, & Career Choices

06/30/2012 @ 12:33 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Assen: Of Tricky Surfaces, Fast Riders, & Career Choices Valentino Rossi Ducati Corse Assen 635x427

Assen’s surface is pretty good when it’s dry, and it’s not too bad when it’s wet, but this is 2012, and there’s a MotoGP race this weekend, so of course, the conditions are as bad as they can possibly be. For Assen, that means a few spots of rain here and there, just enough to create patches damp enough to catch out the unwary, or even the wary, as Casey Stoner found out this morning.

Heading down the Veenslang Stoner noticed the first spots of rain on his visor. Through the Ruskenhoek, it turned into drizzle, and he had already backed off into De Bult when he was flung from the bike in what he described as one of the worst crashes of his career. He took a knock to the head, banged his left shoulder and left wrist, and suffered a big and very painful contusion to his right knee, that left him hobbling around like an old man in the afternoon.

The problem is the asphalt. The current surface means it is impossible to see when the track is damp, rather than wet, meaning that it is easy to get caught out, Ben Spies said, an explanation later verified by Wilco Zeelenberg, Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager. The track is fine when it’s dry, and when it’s wet, the water sits pretty evenly, making for a predictable surface. But the first few spots of rain are lethal. If that were to happen in the race, it could make for a very dangerous situation, Spies said.

MotoGP: Stop-and-Go Qualifying at Assen

06/30/2012 @ 12:03 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

MotoGP: Stop and Go Qualifying at Assen Casey Stoner Repsol Honda Assen 2 635x421

With the Dutch TT taking place on a Saturday, instead of the customary Sunday afternoon for race days, the schedule for MotoGP has been shifted ahead a day, and accordingly qualifying comes to us from a Friday. A pleasant way to end the work-week, the Dutch weather apparently didn’t get the memo before filing its TPS report of off-and-on rain, which made for an interesting qualifying session. Giving riders fifteen minutes of dry track, a drizzle hit Assen, which quickly brought the riders back into the pit box.

Getting a second chance at things though, qualifying only had another 15 minutes of dry track, as qualifying was again interrupted by the rain. With the third time being the charm, riders thrice had a chance for a maximum-speed lap, though only five minutes remained in the session. Still for many, this was enough of an opportunity to get a few flying laps on the time sheets, making for a very sporadic, yet oddly entertaining show for the assembled Dutch fans.

Thursday Summary at Assen: It’s Not As Close As It Looks

06/29/2012 @ 3:30 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Thursday Summary at Assen: Its Not As Close As It Looks Ben Spies Assen MotoGP Yamaha 635x422

The times were close after the first day of practice, closer than they have been for a very long time. Just 0.471 seconds separates the top 11 MotoGP prototypes (Karel Abraham is barely fit enough to ride, after breaking fingers in his left hand, and is way off the pace), with Ben Spies leading Cal Crutchlow by just 0.006, just a tenth separating Nicky Hayden in 3rd from Dani Pedrosa in 6th, and less than a tenth between Andrea Dovizioso in 7th and Stefan Bradl in 11th. It has all the makings of a great race, right?

Not according to Cal Crutchlow. “Lorenzo will run away with it,” the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man opined. Everyone except for Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa had set their fastest time on the soft tire, Crutchlow explained. Lorenzo’s best time, a 1’35.057, was set in the middle of a run with a used hard tire, his race rhythm in the 1’35.0 while everyone else was running 1’35.3. Lorenzo was looking very smooth on the bike, team manager Wilco Zeelenberg saying he was pretty pleased with the bike and the way the first day had gone.

Wednesday Summary at Assen: Of Chatter, Silly Season Updates, And Expected Rule Changes

06/28/2012 @ 11:38 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Wednesday Summary at Assen: Of Chatter, Silly Season Updates, And Expected Rule Changes carbon brake disc ducati corse motogp scott jones

Three races in 15 days, right in the middle and most important part of the season. MotoGP lines up at Assen with one third of the season gone. By the time the triple header is finished at Mugello, just over two weeks’ later, we are half way through the season and the title is a lot closer to being settled. These three races are crucial.

Not that it changes anyone’s approach. During the press conference, I asked the riders if they took a more cautious approach, knowing that the cost of injury is much, much greater now than it is when there is more time to recover between races. They looked at me as if I were stupid – a conclusion they have some justification for drawing – and told me that they treat these three races the same as the first race, the last race, and every other race in between. Flat out, and trying to win. It is impossible to win championships without winning races, as Casey Stoner likes to point out, so it is better to focus on that than on worrying about what might happen.

WSBK: McCormick Recovering & Likely Out 2-3 Months

04/26/2012 @ 4:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

WSBK: McCormick Recovering & Likely Out 2 3 Months Brett McCormick Effenbert Liberty Racing WSBK Imola 635x423

Effenbery-Liberty Racing has released an update on the status of Brett McCormick, saying that the Canadian rider is still hospitalized in Assen, but should have no lasting effects from the injuries he sustained during World Superbike racing in Holland. Confirming that McCormick has fractured his 5th & 6th cervical vertebra, doctors in The Netherlands have also found that McCormick has a lumbar fracture, which means he will have to wear a collar and back brace the next few weeks to immobilize the injuries.

Photo: It Doesn’t Get Any Closer Than This at Assen

04/23/2012 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Photo: It Doesnt Get Any Closer Than This at Assen Assen Race 2 photo finish WSBK crop

If you haven’t seen World Superbike’s Race 2 at Assen yet, you will want to stop reading now. Battling for the last spot on the podium, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri, and Leon Haslam put on a great charge to the finish line. With Laverty getting some distant away from the two factory BMW Motorrad riders, Melandri and Haslam were left fighting for fourth and the bragging rights of beating the other.

WSBK: Race Results for Race 2 at Assen

04/22/2012 @ 3:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

WSBK: Race Results for Race 2 at Assen Jonathan Rea Honda WSBK Assen 635x395

In a role-reversal, Race 2 at Assen for World Superbike got underway with clear skies, and a Dutch track with only a few wet spots left to dry. With tire choice proving to be a critical component in the second race, the WSBK field ran the gamut with slicks, intermediates, and even full-wets making it onto the grid for the start. Lining up another exciting race, the fans in attendance were well-rewarded for enduring the rainy Race 1 at The Cathedral.

WSBK: Race Results for Race 1 at Assen

04/22/2012 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

WSBK: Race Results for Race 1 at Assen Tom Sykes Assen WSBK Kawasaki 635x423

As had been the case all week, World Superbike had to look to the skies before Race 1 at Assen to determine what the weather gods had in store for the Dutch track. Expecting fair conditions for Race 1, and rain expected for Race 2, teams again would have continue to have to juggle two different setups for their riders.

With the grid on slicks for the start of Race 1, things would come to crashing halt just nine laps later, as the rain made an early appearance. Red-flagged and restarted, Race 1 ended up being a very wet affair. Click past the jump for spoilers and results.

WSBK: “Wet” Superpole Qualifying at Assen

04/21/2012 @ 11:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

WSBK: Wet Superpole Qualifying at Assen WSBK Assen Tom Sykes Kawasaki wet 635x354

With the rain playing a factor during the Qualifying Practice sessions, riders like Max Biaggi were caught out, and left high and dry during an otherwise water-filled build up to today’s Superpole qualifying. As the Roman Emperor watched from the sidelines, World Superbike Race Direction deemed the Superpole a wet session, reducing the qualifying event to two twenty-minute sessions, with only the top eight riders going onto the second round. With the track actually dry for Superpole 2, all eyes were on Tom Sykes, to see if the Kawasaki rider could make a hat trick out of his qualifying streak.

Photo of the Week: The First of Many

06/28/2011 @ 9:09 am, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: The First of Many photo of the week Ben Spies Dutch TT MotoGP victory Scott Jones

At the 2011 Dutch Grand Prix, American Ben Spies became the only rider other than Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa to win a dry 800cc GP race. Spies led every lap in a fashion reminiscent of his days as 3-time AMA champion, where he was known as a rider so mentally tough from his years of being Mat Mladin’s teammate that once a lead was achieved, he could manage it until the end of the race without mistakes.

Spies also had great timing for his first MotroGP win, as Yamaha was celebrating 50 years of Grand Prix racing with a retro red and white livery and honored guests such as Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read in attendance. Congratulations to Ben and his crew, and to Yamaha for reaching the top of the podium on this historic occasion in the company’s history.