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.

Trackside Tuesday: Factory Futures

09/16/2014 @ 2:11 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Factory Futures Pol Espargaro Tech 3 Yamaha Le Mans Scott Jones 635x423

Marc Marquez is only 21-years-old. Likely to win his second premier class title in as many tries, his is a future of on-track tyranny. Assuming he continues to improve and mature with experience, he has the potential to be the Michael Schumacher of motorcycle racing.

That’s good for Honda, assuming Marquez is content to keep on winning with Honda equipment. HRC has probably learned “The Rossi Lesson” well enough to make sure Marquez is happy, and will do everything required to keep him from exploring other manufacturers’ offerings.

As Marquez romps through season after season, Honda has Dani Pedrosa as wingman for another two years, and next year Scott Redding can show what he’s truly got on a leased RCV213 with MarcVDS. Pedrosa’s spot is Redding’s for the taking should his results in the next two seasons earn him an orange and red Alpinstars outfit.

Honda has the youngest and brightest rising stars already wrapped in its warm (and Repsol-funded) embrace. Alex Marquez, Alex Rins, and now Fabio Quartararo are being groomed to take over for Marc when his time at the top comes to an end.

But at 21, Marquez could continue to be, if not a title favorite, at the very least a title contender for another nine or more years! So where does that leave other factories?

Trackside Tuesday: A Manx Perspective on the Classic TT

09/02/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: A Manx Perspective on the Classic TT Classic TT Isle of Man Road Racing Tony Goldsmith 12 635x422

The dust has now settled on this year’s Classic TT. For those unfamiliar with the event, the Classic TT was born from the ashes of the old Manx Grand Prix. Run on the same Mountain Course as the TT, the Manx as it was affectionately known, featured racing on modern and classic machinery.

Originally created as the amateur rider’s TT,  TT legends such as Steve Hislop and Philip McCallen first cut their teeth at the Manx before moving on to the TT. Multiple World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty won at “The Manx” in the 1985.

As media interest in the old Manx Grand Prix format dwindled, the Manx government started looking at ways to improve its marketing appeal and increase visitor numbers.  Early proposals to cut the amount of modern classes were met with protests by some local fans, but a new format was eventually agreed and the Festival of Motorcycling was born.

Trackside Tuesday: The Ulster

08/05/2014 @ 3:54 pm, by Tony Goldsmith10 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Ulster guy martin ulster grand prix tony goldsmith 635x422

Ask someone to name a motorcycle race held on public roads, chances are they will say the Isle of Man TT. The TT is not the only road race, far from it. In fact in a little over a week, practice for the Ulster Grand Prix begins, one of the most popular races on the road racing calendar.

For those of you not familiar with the event, it is held on the 7.732 mile Dundrod circuit near Belfast in Northern Ireland. The Ulster, as it’s referred to by road racing fans, was part of the inaugural Grand Prix motorcycle racing season in 1949, a place it held until 1971.

Unlike the TT’s time trial format, it’s a mass-start race and in recent years has been given the tag “The Fastest Road Race in the World”. The lap record currently stands to Bruce Anstey at an average speed of 133.977mph. Road racing legend Joey Dunlop holds the record for most wins with 24.

Trackside Tuesday: Rookie Rule Redux

07/29/2014 @ 11:23 pm, by Scott Jones39 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Rookie Rule Redux Jack Miller Qatar Losail 2014 635x423

For all the good that accompanied Marc Marquez’s arrival in the premier class, there was one casualty that we should consider reviving: The Rookie Rule.

A brief recap if you don’t recall the details: In 2010 the Grand Prix Commission approved a rule stating that no riders entering the premier class for the first time could ride for factory teams.

This was partly intended as a cost-saving measure and partly intended to placate satellite team owners who complained that without the rule, they would never have a chance to hire top rookie riders.

For several years The Rookie Rule worked nicely with one glaring exception, that of keeping Ben Spies out of the Factory Yamaha squad. Spies came to MotoGP as a multiple national series champion (AMA Superbike), as reigning WSBK champion, and most importantly, at 25-years-old.

Though he’d not ridden all of the GP tracks and didn’t know the Bridgestone tires, his experience with pressure and media attention made him the rookie perhaps most suited to going directly to a factory team. Cal Crutchlow could’ve also made a strong case based on his experience and maturity.

Jorge Lorenzo joined the Factory Yamaha team the year before the rule was adopted, but in my opinion became one of the best case studies to support the Rookie Rule.

Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy

07/23/2014 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy photogp lens scott jones 635x423

A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.

I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.

As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.

For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.

I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.

I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.

Trackside Tuesday: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

07/08/2014 @ 11:51 pm, by Scott Jones20 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times 2014 MotoGP 07.5 Catalunya Test 0337 635x422

Marc Marquez, 2013 MotoGP World Champion in his rookie season. In 2014, eight wins in eight races. Each day of his life garners another how many thousand fans? He seems able to win any race, to succeed in any situation. He looks bulletproof, invulnerable.

But he’s not the first to appear so in control of his own skills and talents that he can do nothing but succeed. Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 Championship season seemed (until 2014, anyway) about as perfect a campaign as was possible in the current MotoGP environment.

First or Second in all but two races? Lorenzo looked like a machine designed to win titles, unstoppable when things went his way, and savvy enough to grab second place when things didn’t.

He probably would have repeated in 2013 had Marquez not shown up to exceed expectations by such a dramatic degree. And to the previously unflappable, metronomic Lorenzo, Marquez has become something like kryptonite.

Trackside Tuesday: A 14,000 Foot Perspective

07/01/2014 @ 4:39 pm, by Jamey Price6 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: A 14,000 Foot Perspective bobby goodin pikes peak international hill climb 2014 jamey price 635x422

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one event I always look forward to on my annual calendar. It’s an event like none other on the globe. The 14,110 ft mountain is my canvas to do as I wish. It is refreshing. Fun. Exhausting. Frustrating. Dangerous. Nearly every emotion that could be thrown at a person in one week is something you are guaranteed to feel on this mountain.

My first year, 2012, I was in sheer awe of the mountain and the event itself, and it was even more special working with Ducati. My second year, 2013, I was overwhelmed with a sense of being part of history as Sebastian Loeb rocketed past me in his special built Peugeot 908 on course to obliterate the standing record. But this year, the mountain had a different feel. And not in a better way.

I was back working with Ducati. I love the team. I love the company. I love the brand. I don’t get to shoot motorcycle racing much, but when I do, it find it to be an exciting and exhilarating challenge. But this year, the mountain had changed. The race was soulless. It had no energy. It had no atmosphere.

What I do not want to do is make this a smear post. Or rain on the parade of a 92-year-old race. But change is needed. Some of you may have read my series of tweets from Sunday afternoon. I stand by what I said. Nothing was said in anger. Only frustration for the event that I very deeply care about. So what has changed?

Trackside Tuesday: Out with the Old?

06/17/2014 @ 3:18 pm, by Richard Mushet2 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Out with the Old? dean harrison ballaugh bridge photo merge Richard Mushet 635x423

With Michael Dunlop’s second successive year taking the lion’s share of silverware at the TT, a changing of the guard appears to be taking place as a new generation of riders lay claim to the podium places on the famous Mountain Course.

Debut victories by James Hillier and Dean Harrison, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and John McGuinness’ pair of solitary trips to the top step of the podium in the same years appear to confirm this.

Before any cries of ageism are thrown in my direction, the age of a rider bears no relation to whether they belong in the old or new guard. Experience around the course is what separates the old from the new.

With over 200 apexes to learn and countless lumps, bumps and cambers to memorise, it’s believed by many who have raced it, that the Mountain course takes years to truly learn, even with the advent of HD-quality on-board videos to study.

Trackside Tuesday: Anstey Ups the Ante

06/10/2014 @ 2:52 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

Trackside Tuesday: Anstey Ups the Ante trackside tuesday bruce anstey lap record tires 635x952

Now the dust has begun to settle on this year’s Tourist Trophy, the obvious headlines are taking up most of the page space in the motorcycle press. Michael Dunlop’s quadruple wins, John McGuinness’ hand injury issues, Dave Molyneux’s 17th victory, and any potential speculation and hearsay that they believe print-worthy dominates the news.

After an interrupted week of practice, due to weather and on-course incidents, Michael Dunlop laid his intentions down for all to see by breaking McGuinness’ long-standing lap record on the first two laps of the race at 131.730mph and 131.810mph.

Riding the Superbike-spec BMW S1000RR that was deemed to be the unknown element in Dunlop’s fortnight-long campaign at the TT, Michael broke his rivals and silenced the doubters before he had even completed his first pit stop. These laps bettered the lap record that had stood since John McGuinness set the marker of 131.671 mph during the 2013 Senior race.

While much of the focus was on Michael’s cruise to victory over Guy Martin and Connor Cummins, Bruce Anstey was wrestling his way to the fastest-ever lap of the Mountain Course by bettering Dunlop’s freshly-set lap record by over three seconds.

Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racing’s Pound of Flesh

06/03/2014 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racings Pound of Flesh isle of man tt trophy daniel lo 635x423

Motorcycle racing is a dangerous endeavor, something we have been reminded of heavily in the past few weeks. Losing Simon Andrews in the North West 200, as well as Bob Price and Karl Harris at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the usual debates have once again surfaced, namely that motorcycle road racing should be abolished because of the toll of dangers, injuries, and fatalities it demands.

Despite death’s inevitability, the Isle of Man TT is a spectacular event, just ask anyone who has sat on a Manx hedgerow and watched these two-wheeled gladiators race past. The speeds on city streets are astounding, the atmosphere in the paddock is warm and friendly, and the Isle of Man itself is a picturesque locale that could come from some child’s storybook.

Modern media does a great job of translating the first-hand experience of the Isle of Man TT into an approachable hour-long TV format, but it still falls short of the genuine article.

Through a television set, you can’t breathe the fumes of unbridled horsepower from the racing machines, you can’t see past the riders’ determination through their helmet visors, and you don’t witness the hours of determined work, sweat, and sacrifce that occur in the paddock to get a racer to the starting line.

I would challenge any person, motorcycle enthusiast or not, to lay witness to a TT fortnight, and still walk away unimpressed with the spectacle that they have laid witness to — there is simply nothing else like it on Earth. It’s almost spiritual.

But why is it though? Scratch the surface a little deeper on the idea why the TT is so special, and you arrive at the notion that the Manx road race holds our wonderment in captivity because of how far outside the standard deviation of safety it operates — even under the skewed perspective of risk management that occurs in motorsport — and that forces us to take some major stock in our own mortality.