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: The One That Got Away

12/18/2012 @ 2:20 pm, by Daniel Lo4 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The One That Got Away guy martin interview 1270 635x423

Other than the profound experience of being at the TT for the first time, my time on the Isle of Man was also unique in that I knew the photographs I was taking were for the express purpose of being used in a book. Throughout the fortnight, there was a fair amount of photos that I would mentally earmark to make an appearance in ink and paper form. The above image was one of them.

As I have mentioned before, the premise of my book project was originally centered on Guy Martin. Even after four events of no podium finishes and the Senior TT getting canceled, I still loosely held onto the original topic and continued to document Guy as much as I could which included his post-TT interviews.

Trackside Tuesday: Growing Expectations

12/11/2012 @ 10:45 am, by Scott Jones29 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Growing Expectations marc marquez trackside tuesday scott jones

Valentino Rossi’s amazing run of nine world titles was aided, in some part, by the level of those whom he had to fight for wins. With all credit given to Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau, his two main rivals until the modern class of “aliens” arrived in MotoGP, neither of these two riders was on the same level as Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, and Jorge Lorenzo.

My colleague David Emmett has commented several times that these three riders came up through their development years knowing that to win they would have to beat Rossi. They alone managed to elevate their skills to a level that could challenge him over the course of a season, where as Biaggi and Gibernau, as good as they were, could not manage the same growth as mature riders.

I’ve often considered how, to win as many titles as Rossi and Agostini have done, you need some help in the opponent department. Agostini benefitted from Mike Hailwood’s career choices and own bad luck when it came to finding a good fit on a competitive bike.

Rossi benefitted from arriving in MotoGP long before riders as good as Stoner, Lorenzo, and Pedrosa were around to fight him. If those three had been present in 2001 and riding at their full potential, it’s a safe bet Rossi would not have seven premier class titles in his pocket.

Trackside Tuesday: Casinos, Armco, and Road Racing

11/27/2012 @ 10:55 am, by Tony Goldsmith4 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Casinos, Armco, and Road Racing Micahel Rutter Macau GP Tony Goldsmith

Take the Monaco F1 without the glitz and glamor, throw in a Vegas casino or two, add some Chinese culture, with a nod to Portugal, and you have got a rough picture of Macau and the Macau Grand Prix. A former Portuguese colony with gambling revenue that surpasses Las Vegas, Macau remains an anomaly in this area of the world, where conformity to the Chinese central Government is more the norm.

The racing takes place on the 3.8 mile armco lined Guia Circuit, a street circuit with long wide fast straights leading into tight corners that snake past casinos and high-rise buildings. Part of the thrill of watching real road racing is the ability to get up close to the action, sadly that is not possible at Macau mainly due to the tight nature of the track. Spectating is therefore pretty much limited to three large grandstands all within the first mile of the track, unless of course you are fortunate enough to have a media pass.

Given the obvious dangers, it takes a certain breed of motorcycle racer to race at Macau. A glance through the list of past winners reads as a recent who’s who of road racing legends, who between them boast more wins at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200 than I can count. There is even a former World 500cc Champion and multiple World Superbike Champion included in the list.

Trackside Tuesday: Our Most Precious Resource

11/20/2012 @ 1:08 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Our Most Precious Resource Bankia MotoGP Valencia Scott Jones

It’s easy to forget that motorcycle racing is a sport for children. Their courage on track is remarkable, and even more so because of their young age. They start at five, four, sometimes three, riding their tiny motorbikes around the paddock or on dirt tracks in rural towns and lonely desert spaces and sometimes in organized series such as the Cuna Campeones Bankia.

At this moment there are thousands of kids either on their little machines or wishing they were riding, counting the minutes until they get to put the helmet back on and ride, perhaps just for the joy or perhaps with dreams of a world championship.

They have various levels of support from adults, ranging from the tolerant, to the indulging, to the demanding. As in all endeavors, most of the individuals either don’t reach their potential due to other demands on their time, energy or budget, or they approach that potential, and are judged to have too little talent in their bodies and minds to warrant moving to the next level.

Those who have the talent and desire, and are lucky enough to be recognized as such, might receive the support to compete at higher and higher levels. And sometimes by the onset of adolescence these kids are worldly and experienced in the ways of competition, travel, sponsorship, and so on.

Trackside Tuesday: There’s No Place Like Home

10/30/2012 @ 3:06 pm, by Scott Jones12 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Theres No Place Like Home Casey Stoner Phillip Island MotoGP podium Scott Jones

This past weekend at Phillip Island was a memorable experience in two distinct but related ways. It was my first visit to this famous track, and I arrived with high expectations, but figured I’d be at least a little disappointed. For all the hyperbole heaped on Phillip Island’s GP course, how could it be that great?

But as I explored the track, which immediately reminded me of one of my favorite courses in the world, Donington Park, I found that once again, TV fails to deliver the full picture. Phillip Island not only has interesting and exciting turns and elevation changes, but is also set in a gorgeous landscape of green and blue.

It has few of the eyesores than usually adorn race tracks. There are no giant wire fences, very little Armco away from the pit lane, few trackside porta-potties or trailers, and from what I saw, no orange cones. Instead there are lush grasses and dense forests of trees, or blue ocean water with sea birds in the air.

Spectators are allowed close and unobstructed views of the track and we photographers are allowed even closer. If a TV stand or food vendor is spoiling your background, you can often move to a different position and make the distration disappear from the shot. When I first arrived I asked in the Media Center for a map of the Red Zones, places around the track they don’t want us to go.

I got a puzzled look and this reply: “Ummm, I don’t think there are any. Just go where you want unless a marshall objects.” There seems to be only one general rule: if you see a row of tires, don’t stand between the those tires and the track. If you can respect that amount of common sense, pretty much anywhere else is available.

So working there was a pleasure and I seemed to be in a land of nearly endless possibilities for images. I can imagine it would take years of shooting there regularly to be confident you’d found most of the really good perspectives.

Trackside Tuesday: Obstacles

10/16/2012 @ 1:28 pm, by Scott Jones8 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Obstacles Silverstone MotoGP Scott Jones 01

I get e-mails each month asking how to get started in MotoGP or motorsports photography in general, and from time to time it occurs to me how little about this subject I knew before I started getting experience for myself.

For example, when I was imagining how incredible it would be one day to have a photo pass, one thing I never anticipated was the kind of obstacles I might have to negotiate to get to a spot I wanted to shoot from. I thought having a pass meant easier access to great spots, not more challenges to face.

Trackside Tuesday: The Face of a Champion

10/09/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Face of a Champion Max Biaggi Miller Motorsports Park WSBK Scott Jones

Even before I met Max Biaggi in 2011, I had the sense that here was someone who takes himself and his racing pretty seriously. From the immaculately trimmed facial hair, to his manner in the pit box, to his long career as a motorcycle racer, if there is anything he takes lightly, it is certainly not racing.

Some riders are approachable, quick to smile, who naturally put others at ease even on race weekends. Biaggi is not among this group. But I didn’t appreciate just how intense he is when he’s at work until, as one of my contributions to benefit Riders for Health, I decided to ask him to sign a print I was donating at last year’s Miller WSBK round.

I had brought a matted print of Biaggi from 2010 with me, and as I approached the track on Saturday morning I considered that it would likely fetch a higher price, and thus a greater donation to Riders for Health, if it bore Max’s signature. So I set about getting that done with no idea how easy or difficult it might be.

First I approached the Aprilia media officer, a pleasant fellow who worked with me, half in Italian and half in English, to come up with a plan to approach his star rider. He suggested we talk to someone in the pit box, someone who knew Max better than he did in his recently acquired role with the team.

We descended into the Aprilia garage and found someone whose exact role I never understood, but who also liked the idea of doing something for Riders for Health. He did not, however, care to be the one to bring it directly to Max. The three of us considered the situation and appealed to one of the senior mechanics, who gave us a sympathetic look and said in gestures instead of words that he wanted no part of the business.

We stood to the side of the box, waiting for inspiration, and I wondered if the plan were doomed. Max spoke to mechanics as if discussing matters of life and death. Team members approached him respectfully, presented their concerns for his comment, and left him alone. In some garages the guys joke and there is music in the business of racing motorbikes. In Max’s garage, it’s more like a war room, its business deadly serious.

Trackside Tuesday: Long Live World Superbike

09/25/2012 @ 8:11 pm, by Scott Jones22 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Long Live World Superbike Tom Sykes Kawasaki World Superbike Scott Jones

As the other motorcycling World Championship, World Superbike has its own amazing stories to tell, stories often very weird relative to what we are used to in MotoGP. When I went to shoot WSBK for the first time, some of my MotoGP buddies told me the same thing: don’t get spoiled, it’s a different world there. Indeed, one MotoGP veteran left Grand Prix to make his new home in WSBK and hired someone else to cover the Aliens on his behalf.

Instead of three riders on the grid fighting among themselves for the victory, WSBK saw six different winners in the first six races of the 2012 season. Instead of three manufacturers (well, two, really) fighting for wins in MotoGP, five stood atop the WSBK podium in those first six races. With one race weekend to go, nine riders have won races. Compared to MotoGP, talk about weird!

Instead of riders over 30-years-old being hounded by lightning-fast 20-somethings, riders seem to bloom around 40, enjoying second or even third winds in their careers. The lower level of technology allows rider experience to count against the raw physical talent of youth. The playing field is more even, the racing is less about having the latest parts that separate the factory teams from the satellite ones.

Tom Sykes is a motorbike racer who could be the next WSBK world champion, and a protagonist in a story remarkably different from the usual MotoGP fare. Sykes is 30.5 points behind Biaggi with one round, two races, and 50 points to go.

Trackside Tuesday: Dani Pedrosa’s Misano Nightmare

09/18/2012 @ 3:06 pm, by Scott Jones15 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Dani Pedrosas Misano Nightmare Dani Pedrosa Misano Nightmare Scott Jones

It is a tribute to the skill of MotoGP mechanics how easily we can forget that motorbike racing truly is a team sport. Though the rider is the most visible member of the team, the one who captures the hearts of fans and the one whose talents are most likely to inspire us, without top level support from a team, the rider is helpless. On the rare occasion that the team fails their rider, only then are we likely to recognize how good a job they do the rest of the time.

Dani Pedrosa’s nightmare in Misano was a painful example of this. On pole position, 13 points behind Jorge Lorenzo, having finished every race so far this season, and with his best chance ever finally to win a premiere class title, Pedrosa was forced to start from the back of the grid after his team couldn’t free the front tire warmer and had to move his bike from the grid to pit lane. From outside HRC, we don’t know exactly what happened.

Trackside Tuesday: Chemin Dangereux

09/04/2012 @ 7:02 pm, by Scott Jones8 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Chemin Dangereux Ben Spies Rizla Suzuki Donington Park MotoGP Scott Jones

Going through images of the 2008 British GP at Donington Park, I got to thinking about what a strange road it has been for Ben Spies. It started when Loris Capirossi was injured and Suzuki needed a rider to wild card at the event. Ben was their hot young AMA Superbike champ, and together with Mat Mladin, accounted for years of utter Suzuki dominance in the class.

I spoke briefly to Ben that Thursday as his #11 was displayed to replace Capirossi’s #65 for the first time. As soft-spoken and affable as ever, Ben didn’t seem over-awed by MotoGP, but just got about his job of not crashing Loris’ motorcycle. He would later go on to win the World Superbike title, and was rookie of the year at Tech 3. Again, all with his typical composure.

Since then we have seen his rising star take a sharp turn to port. He has managed to show signs of his potential, such as his win at Assen last year. But this year in particular he has been a frightful reminder that talent, hard work, and a good machine are not quite enough for success as a motorbike racer. As Ben’s bad luck has refused to come to an end, I’m not the only one in the paddock thinking about it. In Ben, the riders have another walking reminder of the uncertainties they face.