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.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

09/06/2014 @ 1:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

TrakTape   Track Riders, Youll Want to See This TrakTape motorcycle covers 03 635x328

I’ve been riding track days for almost as long as I’ve owned a motorcycle. It’s something that goes hand-in-hand with my motorcycle experience, and probably is the reason why Asphalt & Rubber has such a sport bike / racing slant when it comes to our story-mix. So, I know all too well the trials and tribulations of taping up a bike before heading to the track.

Some track groups don’t require tape, as long as you pull the fuses to your headlight, tail light, and turn signals. Some track groups recognize that the plastic used on these lighting systems is brittle, can easily shatter, and thus need some tape over them for the unthinkable. Regardless, I guarantee that if you do enough track days with anything but a dedicated track bike, you will learn the hassle of taping a headlight at some point in time.

When it comes time to doing this right of passage, there are two schools of thought: 1) duck it and fuck it, and 2) razor blade artistry. The prior involves just slapping tape (usually horrid blue masking tape) in one easy but sloppy job, while the latter means painstakingly applying perfectly measured strips of matte black gaffer tape, and then trimming the excess with a razor blade. One theory is quick and easy, while the other can mean attractive track photos, but hours of your life lost.

That’s not the case anymore though, dear track day enthusiasts. Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process.

SF: Could Andrea Iannone Be at Your Next Track Day?

04/12/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

SF: Could Andrea Iannone Be at Your Next Track Day? Friday Qatar GP MotoGP Scott Jones 13 635x423

Graduating from the Moto2 Championship, which does not come across the pond for the US GP at Laguna Seca, Andrea Iannone is one of a few riders in MotoGP this year that have never seen the Corkscrew and the Californian circuit’s other ten turns.

Not wanting to be at a disadvantage come race day, the Ducati rider will take a page out of Stefan Bradl’s playbook, and participate in a track day at Mazda Raceway this week, ahead of the Americas GP in Austin, Texas.

Lap the Circuit of the Americas on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/22/2013 @ 3:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Lap the Circuit of the Americas on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R Ducati 1199 Panigale R wheelie Circuit of the Americas 635x423

I just arrived back in California, after spending the last few days in Austin, Texas — taking part in the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch at the new Circuit of the Americas race course.

As I put the finishing touches on my reports about Ducati’s new homologation-special, as well as the newest MotoGP circuit in the United States, I thought I would share a view not too many track day enthusiasts will get a lap to see: a lap around the Circuit of the Americas.

Unless you are one of the few lucky riders who will attend the very limited number of events COTA has to honor this year, riding on this purpose-built GP circuit is going to be an expensive proposition.

That is a real shame because the Circuit of the Americas is a first-rate facility, and once you get the hang of this very-unstraight-forward track, COTA is a very rewarding course to ride on two wheels.

Want to Have a Track Day at the Circuit of the Americas?

02/25/2013 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Want to Have a Track Day at the Circuit of the Americas? circuit of the americas 635x423

If you are anything like me, you can’t wait to take a few laps around the new Circuit of the Americas (COTA) facility outside of Austin, Texas. The only purpose-built GP course in the United States, COTA will host MotoGP for the first time ever this April, giving motorcycle racing fans three races in the United States this year.

If MotoGP is anything like Formula One, then COTA will also attract a number of international fans as well, as last year’s F1 race attracted a number of Mexican fans, along with a number of fans from Latin and South America — so much so that CRT-rider Yonny Hernandez might have to consider COTA his home round.

While Asphalt & Rubber will make the trek out to Texas later this year to see MotoGP race at this new circuit, and witness first-hand the dinosaur-shaped observation tower, tastefully painted curbs, and general Southern hospitality, that fresh tarmac beckons us.

Taking a few laps on this 20-turn circuit will be difficult though, as COTA offers only a limited-number of dates for track rentals, and more importantly, the going rental price is $50,000 per day (lunch included). Ouch!

Video: That Guy at the Track Day

10/01/2012 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Video: That Guy at the Track Day Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha MotoGP 635x475

Surely by now you have seen these text-to-voice animation videos that seem to proliferate in just about every niche possible on the interubes, and while this video is a bit of an oldie but goldie, it still had us in stitches during this weekend’s track day excursion to Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch. In-between us “throwing down some blazing hot laps” on the Nevada circuit, it didn’t us take long to find members in the Pahrump paddock that mimicked the protagonist portrayed here in this short YouTube clip.

If you have ever been to a track day (heaven forbid, a track day in Southern California), then surely you have witnessed first-hand the phenomenon of the rider with all the go-fast parts, bumping around the novice group, going turn-for-turn in search of something resembling a clue. It can be frustrating to witness, but next time you encounter some squid who is bragging about how he drags his elbows like Ben Spies or dangles his leg like Valentino Rossi, remember this video. And please, please, be sure to attend the riders’ meeting.

Was LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl at Your Last Track Day?

06/07/2012 @ 9:32 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Was LCR Hondas Stefan Bradl at Your Last Track Day? Stefan Bradl Laguna Seca Track Day 635x422

If you were in attendance at PTT’s track day at Laguna Seca on May 28th, you may have been rubbing kneepucks with MotoGP’s sure-to-be Rookie of the Year, Stefan Bradl.  The reigning Moto2 World Champion, Bradl was at the Californian track learning the circuit’s 11 turns, the most notable of which being the infamous Corkscrew. With Moto2 skipping the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, letting AMA Pro Racing fill in as the support class, this was the LCR Honda racer’s first chance to ride the circuit outside of a video game.

With American Honda providing Bradl with a bone-stock 2012 Honda CBR1000RR in HRC colors, the MotoGP racer is said to have been lapping in the low 1:30’s as he “learned” the course, which is a fairly respectable time for an AMA Superbike mid-packer will a full race-prepped bike.

Ridge Motorsports Park Coming to the Pacific Northwest

04/27/2011 @ 4:02 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Ridge Motorsports Park Coming to the Pacific Northwest Ridge Motorsports Park 3 635x350

The Pacific Northwest is about to get a new track day venue, as the Ridge Motorsports Park has won its special zoning permit, and begun construction in Mason County, Washington. Ridge Motorsports Park will feature a 2.5 mile road course that incorporates the topography of the area to create a venue with undulating elevation, which should make for a fun and challenging track for car and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.

Judging from the track layout, there appears to be three different configurations for the park’s road course, with the full course comprising of 18 turns with the optional front chicane adding a 19th. Complimenting the 2.5 mile road course is a separate ¼ drag strip, which should appeal to those whole like to take their motorsports in a single vector only.

Save the ‘Ring

12/27/2010 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Save the Ring Nurburgring Nordschleife track map 635x476

No, we’re not encouraging you to step away from any planned New Years Eve wedding proposals, but the Nürburgring Nordschleife does apparently need your help. Known throughout the motorsports community simply as the ‘Ring, the Nürburgring Nordschleife track plays host not only to car and motorcycle enthusiasts, but also serves as a formidable test track used by many OEMs when developing new vehicles (recently the track has also been a place for manufacturers to lay bragging rights for quickest lap times in sports cars).

It seems however that the ‘Ring, despite its popularity with track enthusiasts, is not the profitable endeavour that the German government thought it would be. Four years ago plans began to be implemented that would see other attractions added to the Nürburgring venue, which have reportedly done nothing to help boost the profitability of the track, and now in May of this year the ‘Ring was turned over to the same pair of businessmen responsible for that transformation, with the goal of boosting the track’s revenue, and that’s where the controversy starts.

When You See it, You’ll…

06/16/2010 @ 11:58 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

There’s an internet meme that’s appropriate for this video. Here’s to hoping your next track day goes better than this guy’s.

Rent Öhlins Suspension at Your Next Track Day

06/10/2010 @ 9:42 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Rent Öhlins Suspension at Your Next Track Day Ohlins rear shock suspension 560x420

NESBA, a track organization near and dear to our hearts here at Asphalt & Rubber, is trying out a new program that will allow its track day enthusiasts to rent Öhlins shocks during its track days. The program, which is sponsored by Spiegler Performance, costs only $150 and includes help from an Öhlins certified technician.