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.

First Look: Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳)

04/17/2013 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

First Look: Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳) Mugen Shinden Ni test 01

With the start of the racing season just barely into its second round for many of the world’s various series, it is hard to believe that we should start hearing about entries for the 2013 Isle of Man TT, but June is truly just around the corner. Returning for the TT Zero race, Team Mugen returns to the Isle of Man with its new Shinden Ni electric motorcycle.

Piloted last year by the King of the Mountain himself, John McGuinness returns to Team Mugen where he hopes to improve upon his second place finish, and the 102.2 mph average lap speed he posted during last year’s competition.

IOMTT: Team Mugen is Back for the 2013 TT Zero – New Lighter “Shinden 2″ & Same-Sized John McGuinness

02/07/2013 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Team Mugen is Back for the 2013 TT Zero   New Lighter Shinden 2 & Same Sized John McGuinness mugen shinden tt zero 21 635x423

Runners-up in the 2012 TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, newcomer Team Mugen made quite the stir with its Shinden (神電) electric race bike, which was piloted by none other than TT great John McGuinness.

Announcing its intention to return for the 2013 TT Zero event, Mugen again confirms McPint as the team’s rider, and boasts of an even lighter and more refined Shinden Ni (神電弐つ), or Shinden 2, electric motorcycle.

Light on details with its new race bike, Mugen only mentions that the team has developed the Shinden Ni from the original Shinden, which has resulted in the weight of the motorcycle body and electric systems being reduced (read: less battery mass).

Mugen also says that the electric motor and aerodynamics of the motorcycle have also been analyzed and modified to make the Shinden Ni a more potent adversary.

IOMTT: Watch the 2012 Isle of Man TT Right Here

06/08/2012 @ 1:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Watch the 2012 Isle of Man TT Right Here John McGuinness Ballaugh Bridge IOMTT 635x425

I’m going to put my fingers in my ears and go “lalalala” on this one, since someone has ripped ITV4’s coverage off the telly and put it onto the intertubes. With television networks not getting Friedman’s memo about the world being flat, those of us with an IP address outside of the United Kingdom are SOL when it comes to watching the FREE COVERAGE of the 2012 Isle of Man TT episodes on ITV4’s website. Thankfully, a more enlightened individual has put the coverage up on YouTube for those outside of the Queen’s domain to view. Enjoy it while it lasts.

IOMTT: Q&A with Michael Czysz on the 2012 Mo’Czyzzle

06/06/2012 @ 5:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Q&A with Michael Czysz on the 2012 MoCzyzzle 2012 motoczysz e1pc 23 635x425

Getting a chance to sit down with Michael Czysz, ahead of the 2012 SES TT Zero race, we asked the designer of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc and CEO of MotoCzysz a few questions about the Segway MotoCzysz Racing team’s latest machine, as well as his thoughts on the 2012 season and the state of electric motorcycle racing. With aerodynamics being the centerpiece for the team’s 2012 entry, there’s a lot of reading between the lines between Michael’s comments on the bike’s technical aspects, which become fairly apparent when closely examining the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc u-close. And yes, we of course even asked the form-driven motorcyclist his thoughts on the bike’s aesthetics.

Kidding aside, Michael provides a ton of insight not only into the Segway MotoCzysz team, but also the state and trajectory of electric motorcycle racing as a whole. Developing new systems for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the bar for electrics is constantly being pushed farther, and with several potent entries this year, the TT Zero competition has never been fiercer. Like John McGuinness said to me earlier in the week, in five year’s time or so, everyone will be racing these.

Up-Close with the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/01/2012 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Up Close with the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc 06 635x425

More evolution than revolution, it is easy to see the lines of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc peaking out from underneath the complex shapes of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc. Building upon the design that won his company the 2011 SES TT Zero, Michael Czysz says he has finally had time to truly address the aerodynamic aspect of his designs, though he admittedly had to make some aesthetic concessions to find the right aerodynamic package for the job.

These concessions cause the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to have a bit of Buck Rogers feel to it at first glance, as the winglets, ducts, and neon colors hit you all at once. While it all seems a bit over the top, there is some method to the madness. Relying on computational fluid dynamics to develop his designs, Czysz’s designs aim to make the 2012 E1pc as slippery as possible in the wind, but also serve to allow the team to continue a design philosophy that first started way-back with the MotoCzysz C1 project.

2012 MotoCzysz E1pc Breaks Cover at the Isle of Man TT

06/01/2012 @ 8:00 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

2012 MotoCzysz E1pc Breaks Cover at the Isle of Man TT 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc IOMTT pit 10 635x425

Making its debut at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc was unveiled  today, ahead of the first TT Zero practice session on Saturday. Campaigned again by the Segway MotoCzysz Racing Team, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc is based heavily off its 2011 counterpart, but with obvious aerodynamic changes, as well as subtle system improvements. Boasting 200+ peak horsepower and 14kWh of battery pack, the new MotoCzysz E1pc tips the scales at 525 lbs — a full 45 lbs lighter than its main competitor, the Mugen Shinden.

Defending his #1 plate, Michael Rutter returns to Team Segway MotoCzysz, as well as American Mark Miller, who has been with the squad since its first TT race four years ago. Unlike last year, both riders will be on the same spec race bike, as MotoCzysz is racing to be the first team to crack the 100 mph average lap speed barrier. The Isle of Man government has put up £10,000 to the first rider to crack the 100 mph mark, which nearly went to Rutter in the 2011 SES TT Zero race.

Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電) Mugen Shinden TT Zero 01 635x423

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing Mugen Shinden electric motorcycle 15 635x476

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Kawasaki Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK Kawasaki Zytek TT Zero electric motorcycle 635x423

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

Did Kawasaki Just Enter TT Zero Without Anyone Noticing?

04/24/2012 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Did Kawasaki Just Enter TT Zero Without Anyone Noticing? James Hillier Bournemouth Kawasaki 2011 Isle of Man TT 635x423

The Isle of Man TT sent out an interesting press release yesterday, where it cited the largest competitor entry list in the TT Zero’s race history (lawyer’s crafty word choice note: this does not include when in 2009 the race was run under the TTXGP banner and 23 competitors allegedly entered). With 18 competitors signed up for the single-lap electric motorcycle race around the Mountain Course, we can surely expect the field to dwindle, as virtually none of the electric series have been able translate large entry lists into large starting grids, sans maybe the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca, which TTXGP is now piggy-backing off of as well.

Announcing the return of MotoCzysz and its two-rider team of Mark Miller and Michael Rutter, the Isle of Man TT also gave a nod to the Mugen entry, which is widely believed to be a front for Honda’s own electric motorcycle racing program. Having 17-time TT race winner, and long-time factory Honda rider John McGuinness at the helm of the Mugen Shinden has only added further credence to the rumor. However getting only one sentence in the press release was perhaps the most intriguing entry to the list of competitors: Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive, which will race the team’s Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike.