Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2R Pricing Revealed

Even though the Kawasaki Ninja H2R debuted in October at the INTERMOT show, and the Kawasaki Ninja H2 debuted a few weeks ago at the EICMA show, Kawasaki was a bit slow to release the pricing and availability details of its two supercharged machines. Releasing now details for the US market, we can quote pricing for the H2 and H2R throughout the world. In the United States, the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R will cost $25,000 and $50,000 respectively. Interested parties will have to special order the bikes, before December 19th, from their local Kawasaki dealership, and buyers should note that the H2R comes with certain restrictions.

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.

Trackside Tuesday: Great Expectations

07/16/2013 @ 5:47 pm, by Scott Jones11 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Great Expectations cal crutchlow crash sachsenring motogp scott jones 635x422

After Jorge Lorenzo’s heroic ride at Assen, where he’d broken his left collarbone only two days before, the German GP had many of us asking “how much is too much?” in terms of riding with injuries.

Two weeks after Lorenzo had risked, perhaps not ‘everything’ but certainly ‘a lot,’ to limit his injury’s effect on the championship standings (he finished 5th, one place behind a struggling Dani Pedrosa), the topic came up in Thursday’s Press Conference at the German GP. Cal Crutchlow remarked that Lorenzo’s decision at Assen had raised the bar for all riders facing the question: Should I race with this injury?

Ironically, or perhaps not, Crutchlow himself had raised this bar at Silverstone last season when he slipped past the medical exam process to turn in his own amazing ride through the pack with a broken ankle. He pointed out that now more riders would be using Lorenzo’s Assen ride as a precedent: if he was allowed to ride at Assen, why can’t I?

Lorenzo didn’t like the sound of that, saying other riders should not use him as an example and instead listen to their own bodies to determine if they should sit out or compete while injured.

All weekend I heard different responses to the situation, from respect for athletes who push through pain, to scorn for the willingness to put others at risk by competing at well below 100% fitness.

One paddock insider expressed the opinion that riding a MotoGP bike is difficult enough at full fitness–any physical or mental weakness is a liability that increases the risk of crashing, and thus increases the chances of a crash involving other riders.

Trackside Tuesday: From Over the Hedge

06/25/2013 @ 12:20 pm, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: From Over the Hedge Trackside Tuesday Isle of Man TT 2013 Tony Goldsmith 04 635x421

The Isle of Man TT is widely acknowledged as the most demanding motorcycle road race on earth for both rider and machine.  For a motorsport photographer the 37.75 mile course offers a wealth of opportunities as well as a unique challenge.

The opportunities are obvious: stunning scenery, spectacular jumps and spectators literally within arms-reach of the riders as they blast through towns and villages.

It goes without saying that capturing a sharp image of a 200bhp motorcycle can be tricky even when they are not moving particularly quickly.  In my opinion, the difficulty level at the TT is greater due to the sheer speed the bikes are travelling at.

The key to successfully photographing the TT has nothing to do with technical ability or gear, it is, as with most things in life, down to experience – although a bit of location planning and local knowledge doesn’t hurt either.

Trackside Tuesday: Do Motorcycles Dream of Electric Sheep?

06/18/2013 @ 1:09 pm, by Richard Mushet14 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Do Motorcycles Dream of Electric Sheep? OSU Rob Barber TT Zero Isle of Man TT Richard Mushet 635x424

Now the dust has settled on another TT, a look back over the numerous pages of lap times and race results can only tell us so much. With so many incredible stories to be told it is difficult to choose one for this article.

From the blatantly obvious, such as; Dunlop’s incredible four wins, McGuinness’ new outright lap record or Ian Lougher rounding out his career on the Mountain course, which spanned four decades, tallying nine wins plus an additional nineteen podiums.

To the equally awe-inspiring, like; David Johnson’s impressive return to the island on privateer machinery, Dave Madsen-Mygdal completing his 100th TT race, and the first ever Chinese competitor at the TT, the likeable Cheung Wai-On.

Above all these, one team’s story caught my eye – the Buckeye Current team from the Ohio State University’s College of Engineering, whose Honda CBR1000RR-based electric motorcycle was tackling the Mountain course.

Consisting of a number of students from various science and engineering programs, the team’s RW-2 bike was the sole American entry from an educational institute and was pitting itself against three other teams from similar institutes and six non-collegiate teams from across the globe.

Trackside Tuesday: The Mind-Killer

06/11/2013 @ 10:57 am, by Scott Jones16 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Mind Killer marc marquez mugello crash face motogp scott jones 635x422

The more time I spend photographing MotoGP, the more fascinating the riders become. In the past few years I’ve come to believe that, while superior physical differences (their reflexes and fine motor skills) are significant, it’s the mental differences that are the most interesting.

I suppose anyone who has ridden a motorcycle even a bit beyond one’s comfort zone can appreciate some part of the physical aspect of riding a racing bike. For most of us, even the speed of racers in local events is impressive compared to our street riding.

By the time we consider Grand Prix riders, their level of performance is so high that I suspect most of us have very little idea how challenging it is to move a motorcycle around a track that deftly.

While the skills with throttle, brakes, and balance are on a level similar to the best athletes in other sports, I think that what really sets motorcycle racers apart is their ability to overcome fear.

Trackside Tuesday: The Dunlop Dynasty Rides On

06/04/2013 @ 12:42 pm, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Dunlop Dynasty Rides On Michael Dunlop Trackside Tuesday 635x952

After three increasingly impressive performances in the first three solo races at this year’s Isle Of Man TT, the Michael Dunlop we have been watching tackle the Mountain Course this week seems to be signalling a clear message of intent to the rest of the road racing field.

Following in the footsteps of his father Robert and his uncle Joey, who achieved a combined record of 31 wins and 54 podiums at the TT, and an astronomical amount of wins on road circuits across the world, Michael had already won three races on the island before this year’s event.

Despite this already impressive record on the Island, his frustration (and clear intent) was always apparent when it came to the Superbike class, as his two wins in Supersport and one in the Superstock class might have been perceived as “easier” wins by more cynical men than myself.

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season

05/21/2013 @ 11:06 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season ben spies laguna seca suzuki gsv r wild card scott jones 635x423

As Randy de Puniet heads to Japan to test Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP bike, the possible availability (some won’t be convinced it’s a reality until a pair of Suzuki motorcycles appear on the grid in Qatar next April) of two new factory seats has spawned a Silly Season unto itself.

If that possibility entailed another satellite prototype team, the furor would be considerable, but that it’s a new factory team means reason and rationality are running for their lives.

So once again we have the chance to observe the unique mindset of the top level motorbike racer. To that mindset, at least in this modern era, the factory ride is the Holy Grail of motorcycle racing. It’s easy to see why this has happened.

After the days of the 500cc two-strokes, when a highly-developed formula meant a privateer team could compete with the deep-pocket teams, the four-stroke era has seen costs skyrocket, and factory-deep pockets dominate the win column. It’s for very good reasons that riders feel you have to be on a factory bike to win races. But the thing is, not all factories are equal.

Trackside Tuesday: Is COTA Tilke’s American Masterpiece?

04/30/2013 @ 10:25 pm, by Jules Cisek23 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Is COTA Tilkes American Masterpiece? ben spies cota front straight motogp jules cisek 635x357

On the Thursday before the Americas GP, I stood at the top of T1 looking down onto the straight from the height of 13 stories. Feeling more than a touch of vertigo, and thinking, that if anything, Hermann Tilke captured the unwritten law that everything in Texas has to be big.

From the massive elevation changes, to the one kilometer back-straight leading to the massive stadium section, to the 77 meter observation tower…the track and the entire facility is breathtaking in its hugeness and character.

Trackside Tuesday: An Embarrassment of Riches

04/23/2013 @ 1:53 pm, by Scott Jones23 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: An Embarrassment of Riches cal crutchlow cota blur motogp scott jones 635x423

Marc Marquez stole several things this past weekend at the Circuit of the Americas. Freddie Spencer lost two records (youngest rider to set pole and youngest rider to win a premie-class GP race), and Cal Crutchlow lost a great deal of attention he deserved for a fantastic performance, in some ways his best since coming to MotoGP.

So many members of the media were focussed on Marquez’s record setting that few of us gave due attention to how remarkable a job Crutchlow was doing on his first visit to this new facility. Marquez, Pedrosa, and Lorenzo were fastest in qualifying, helped by the experience at COTA that was gained during the pre-season test in March — also along for that test were Valentino Rossi and Stefan Bradl.

But, Crutchlow did not make that trip, and thus put in his first laps at Circuit of the Americas on Friday. Those first laps were after a garage fire had dealt Tech 3 the wild cards of drenched equipment that, though thoroughly dried by the hard-working crew, remained of questionable reliability given the soaking they had received Wednesday night.

While Marquez rightly had the majority of our attention, consider the performance of a satellite rider on his first weekend at a new track.

Trackside Tuesday: The Calm Before the Storm

04/16/2013 @ 3:14 pm, by Scott Jones27 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Calm Before the Storm jorge lorenzo motogp yamaha racing qatar wheelie scott jones 635x422

The second half of the 2012 MotoGP season generated a tale of sound and fury: Casey Stoner’s retirement, Valentino Rossi’s pending return to Yamaha, Dani Pedrosa’s late season charge to threaten for the premier-class title, and the coming of Marc Marquez to Repsol Honda, all seemed to add up to a 2013 that would make for one of the most interesting MotoGP seasons of the modern era.

But as the storm raged around him, Jorge Lorenzo got quietly down the the business of being a fast, and perhaps more importantly, consistent, points claiming machine, that fended off a revitalized Pedrosa and claimed the 2012 crown.

Trackside Tuesday: The Story Begins

04/09/2013 @ 4:21 pm, by Scott Jones8 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Story Begins Scott Jones MotoGP Qatar Valentino Rossi Grid 635x423

When I photograph a race, I get only portions of the story: the beginning, snippets of the middle, and the end. It’s something like reading a novel by skimming every third or fourth chapter until arriving at the last page and having someone summarize it. (I get the end if, that is, I can see the results on the tower as in Qatar. At some tracks I don’t know for sure who won until I get back to the media center.)

Each January we say “This season is going to be great!” and for 2013 there seems to be more reason to believe that than ever, which is how the weekend’s story began. When we arrived at Losail, there was more anticipation in the paddock for a great season of racing ahead than I can remember.

Even with Casey Stoner gone, pre-season testing had raised expectations for Marc Marquez even higher than they had been at the end of 2012. We knew Pedrosa would be fast and win races. And we knew Lorenzo would be the man to beat.

What we didn’t know was how competitve Valentino Rossi would be after his two years at Ducati. There seemed to be a visceral need in the paddock for him to return to form, to be Valentino again. After ups and downs in the practice and qualifying sessions, he would start from seventh place on the grid, with Lorenzo on pole and likely to run away into the night.

Would we see a return of the Rossi flair that has inspired millions of fans around the world? Or would the fairy tale turn out to be a tragedy?

One thing was for sure as we stood on the grid after a very long winter break, waiting to find out the answer to this question: The crowd, even though largely Spanish and there to support top riders in all three classes, was even more ready to see Rossi go fast again than those in the paddock.

The track announcer introduced the various riders, and when he came to Rossi, the sudden rise in enthusiasm hit like a wall of sound. Official attendance for Sunday was a paltry 9,704 fans, but it sounded like all of them were on their feet cheering as Rossi turned and waved.