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 Qatar: The Myth of Fairness & Aleix Espargaro’s One-Man Revolution

03/21/2014 @ 11:08 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Qatar: The Myth of Fairness & Aleix Espargaros One Man Revolution 2014 Qatar GP MotoGP Friday Scott Jones 16 635x423

When was the last time a non-factory rider won a MotoGP race? Any MotoGP fan worth their salt will be able to give you year, track and rider: 2006, Estoril, Toni Elias.

Ask them why he won and they will give you all sorts of answers – Dani Pedrosa taking out Nicky Hayden in the early laps, Colin Edwards not being able to maintain his pace to the end of the race, Kenny Roberts Jr. misjudging the number of laps left in the race, or, as Valentino Rossi put it, because “Toni ride like the devil” – but none they can be sure of.

There is a less well-known explanation for Elias’ performance, though. Ahead of the Estoril race, Elias was given a set of the overnight special tires shipped in especially for Michelin factory riders.

In this case, Elias was handed a set of ‘Saturday night specials’ destined for Dani Pedrosa, but which Pedrosa had elected not to use, and so were going spare. Elias liked the same kind of soft carcass tire that Pedrosa was being offered, and went on to exploit the advantage it offered.

What does that have to do with Friday at Qatar? Two things. Firstly, it highlights exactly how important tires are in motorcycle racing. Tires dictate a huge amount of the performance of a motorcycle. They are the connection between the bike and the track, but that is a very full and complex function.

Tires determine how far a bike can be leaned, how much drive the bikes can get out of a corner, how well the power delivery of an engine transfers to the tarmac, how hard the bike can brake, they provide a certain amount of suspension, and they pass information about track surface, grip conditions and where the limits of braking and turning are for a motorcycle.

And that’s just the beginning. Tires are (quite literally) a black art. Their complexity cannot be underestimated.

Alstare Splits with Ducati in World Superbike

10/25/2013 @ 2:20 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Alstare Splits with Ducati in World Superbike alstare ducati pit laguna seca jensen beeler 635x421

After just one year of a two-year deal, Alstare and Ducati have agreed to terminate the contract between the Belgian Alstare team and the Italian Ducati Corse World Superbike effort. Today, the two parties made it known that they would not be continuing their collaboration, citing financial problems at Alstare and the loss of a major sponsor as the reason.

The split has long been expected, as Alstare team boss Francis Batta had made no secret of his unhappiness with the collaboration between his team and Ducati, not to mention the performance of the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13.

WSBK: Toni Elias Will Replace Michel Fabrizio

09/10/2013 @ 11:19 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

WSBK: Toni Elias Will Replace Michel Fabrizio image60 635x422

The 2013 Moto2 rider line up is proving to be rather fluid. The latest in a series of changes to the line up is the departure of Toni Elias from the Blusens Avintia Moto2 team, after a season of disappointing results: the 2010 Moto2 champion’s best finish this year was a 9th place at Jerez.

Elias is part of a chain reaction encompassing three different paddocks, and stretching into 2014. The catalyst was Michel Fabrizio, who is leaving his Red Devils Roma team in World Superbikes with immediate effect. Fabrizio has had a positively mediocre season so far, his only podium coming at the season opener at Phillip Island, a great disappointment as the Italian started as an outsider for the title.

After financial disagreements with the team, which arose at the Silverstone round of World Superbikes, according to GPOne.com, Fabrizio and the team decided to part ways before the season was over, rather than at the end.

Elias will now replace Fabrizio at the Red Devils Roma team for the final four rounds of the year, at Istanbul, Laguna Seca, Magny-Cours and Jerez, with an option to continue in 2014, should his debut be a success, according to Spanish website Motocuatro.com.

MotoGP: Hector Barbera Fractures Vertebrae at Indy

08/17/2012 @ 4:28 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Hector Barbera Fractures Vertebrae at Indy Hector Barbera crash Indianapolis GP 635x423

Hector Barbera will be forced to miss the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, after suffering a back injury during the morning session of Friday’s free practice for the MotoGP class. Barbera suffered a nasty highside at Turn 16, his rear wheel appearing to catch on a section of track which appeared still to be dirty, and in the ensuing crash, Barbera landed on his neck and fractured three dorsal vertebrae, D5, D6 and D8. He was taken to the local Indianapolis Methodist Hospital, and has been ruled unfit to race.

Trackside Tuesday: Third Time’s the Charm?

07/31/2012 @ 6:33 pm, by Daniel Lo5 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Third Times the Charm? toni elias crash laguna seca 635 7

Only a select few men in the world can say they have defeated Valentino Rossi in a last lap duel in a MotoGP race. On that very short list is one Toni Elias, who bested the Italian legend to the checkered flag for his first and only premier class victory at Estoril in 2006, on a satellite machine no less. Championship-deciding repercussions aside, the win granted Elias a contract extension at a time when his GP career was in doubt.

However, the onset of the 800cc era, coupled with the introduction of control tires the following year, would prove to be the start of a rough roller coaster ride for Tiger Toni. Five seasons, a Moto2 World Championship title, and two MotoGP exits later, Elias was given an extremely rare third shot at a premier class ride this past weekend as a replacement rider for the Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera. True to the up and down nature of his career in recent years, this opportunity came just a week after he parted ways with the Mapfre Apspar Moto2 team at the previous round in Mugello, after being unable to replicate his title-winning form back in the GP middleweight class.

Unfortunately, his latest attempt at challenging the fastest motorcycle racers in the world came to an abrupt and disappointing end after crashing out of the US GP on only his second lap. With no further confirmed top class appearances on the horizon, Toni’s tenure at the pinnacle of the sport appears to have ended in the gravel trap at Laguna Seca. However, a MotoGP race win will always be on his curriculum vitae, and that’s no small feat.

MotoGP: Barbera Breaks Leg Training — Elias in at Pramac

07/23/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Barbera Breaks Leg Training    Elias in at Pramac hector barbara pramac ducati silverstone scott jones

Breaking his left leg (fibula & tibia) during a training accident, Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera will be unable to ride for the next four to six weeks. Missing MotoGP’s stops at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pramac will replace Barbera with two-time former-MotoGP racer, Toni Elias.

Replacing his fellow countryman at the Laguna Seca round, and likely at the Indianapolis round as well, Elias himself has some interesting news, as the former-Moto2 Champion was ousted from his Moto2 ride on the Mapfre Aspar team. Elias’s results during his return to Moto2 have been anything but impressive so far this season, especially after his dominant Championship win in 2010.

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island

10/10/2011 @ 6:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island Alvaro Bautista Japanese GP Rizla Suzuki pit 635x422

Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear  from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP

09/19/2011 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP Honda Aragon 635x421

Make no doubts about it, Honda is set to make a statement at the rescheduled Japanese GP on October 2nd. After much hemming and hawing over whom would and would not race at Motegi, virtually every rider in the MotoGP paddock has been confirmed to be in attendance at Japan early next month, including Casey Stoner (according to Honda at least).

Whether it is because the riders have begun to believe the bevy of reports that Motegi and the Fukushima nuclear plant are safe, or the fact that the Twin Ring Circuit has already played host to several high-profile events, or even if it is the simple reality that Japanese companies like Honda and Yamaha have enormously long memories regarding issues of pride and honor, the fact of the matter is that not only will the MotoGP grid be as full as possible (there are question marks regarding Loris Capirossi’s shoulder), but Honda will field two more riders for the Japanese GP.

Toni Elias to Test with BMW Italia’s WSBK Team

09/12/2011 @ 6:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Toni Elias to Test with BMW Italias WSBK Team Toni Elias MotoGP LCR Honda Scott Jones

It’s not exactly a secret that Toni Elias has been having a tough season in MotoGP this year. Typically two to three seconds off the pace from the front-runners, you’d be hard pressed to remember that the Spaniard was once a rising start in the MotoGP paddock, and dominantly won the 2010 Moto2 Championship. Rumors of Elias’ exit from the LCR Honda have been going almost from day one it seems, though the down to Earth and pleasant rider continues to persist onward.

Though electrifying the crowds with his first race win in 2008, Elias appears to be on his way out of MotoGP…for the second time in his career. Unable to do anything with the LCR Honda that Randy de Puniet confidently rode in 2010, Elias is now reported to be testing at Misano this week with the BMW Italia World Superbike squad, which in-turn recently just lost James Toseland to a career-ending hand injury. With WSBK becoming the home from MotoGP’s Lost Boys, a move to the premier production motorcycle racing class seems almost fitting for Elias, but is that in the cards?

Ben Bostrom to Wild Card Laguna Seca with LCR Honda

07/19/2011 @ 9:21 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Ben Bostrom to Wild Card Laguna Seca with LCR Honda Ben Bostrom LCR Honda Laguna Seca 635x544

American rider Ben Bostrom will have double the duties this coming weekend at the US GP at Laguna Seca, as he’ll ride as a wild card in MotoGP with the LCR Honda team, alongside Toni Elias. Bostrom will also be honoring his commitments with the Jordan Suzuki AMA team, riding the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the AMA Pro Superbike races held in conjunction with MotoGP’s first US stop of the season.

“Words can’t express how excited I am to get this amazing opportunity to race on my home track in front of the whole world,” said Bostrom. “I have to thank Michael Jordan Motorsports and American Suzuki for allowing this to happen. The collaboration between Lucio, LCR and the MJM team has been terrific. I’m going to get on the GP bike and put it as close to the front as possible. Then I’m going to hop on my Jordan Suzuki bike and try to create even more magic.”