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.

Ben Spies’s Track Notes at Laguna Seca

07/25/2011 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Second Half of the Season Kicks off with US GP

07/24/2011 @ 7:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Second Half of the Season Kicks off with US GP US GP Laguna Seca MotoGP

The Golden State played host to MotoGP this weekend, with the premier class racing under perfect California weather (despite a typically dreary coastal morning). With riders having to contend with the cold mornings and hot afternoons, the record gate-atteneded Laguna Seca circuit, with its roller-coaster Cork Screw turn, threw every trick it had at the GP racers.

Despite its best efforts, Seca could not get the better of Jorge Lorenzo, who had been strong all weekend and sat on pole for Sunday’s race. Despite being joined by Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner on the front row, Lorenzo looked ready to take on the Repsol Honda squad single-handedly, though teammate Ben Spies sat right behind the reigning World Champion in the fourth grid spot.

With Spies seemingly finding the extra half second he needed during the warm-up session, all eyes were on the Texan to see if he could win in front of a home crowd, find out how he and the other MotoGP riders lapped after the jumped.

Saturday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/23/2011 @ 11:36 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

MotoGP: Yamahas vs. Hondas During Qualifying at MotoGP

07/23/2011 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

MotoGP: Yamahas vs. Hondas During Qualifying at MotoGP Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP Qualifying Laguna Seca

MotoGP comes to America this weekend, as Laguna Seca played a sunny host to the premier class of motorcycle racing today. Showing cold mornings, and hot afternoons, riders and teams have had to contend with a variety of conditions while preparing for the US GP. With Ducati continuing to struggle with front-end woes, eyes turned towards Yamaha to see if Iwata’s riders could find luck with their 50th Anniversary livery and put some pressure on the Factory Honda riders.

Answering the call was a very fast Jorge Lorenzo on Friday, and the Spaniard continued his front-running pace through-out all of the sessions, never letting Stoner, Dovi, and Pedrosa out of his sights. Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies struggled however, consistently half a second behind the leading group of riders. Knowing that his bike had another five tenths in it, Spies was confident going into qualifying that he could put the M1 on the front-row, and put on a show for the American crowd.

Lorenzo Cleared to Race after Free Practice Crash

07/23/2011 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Lorenzo Cleared to Race after Free Practice Crash Jorge Lorenzo crash Laguna Seca

Jorge Lorenzo had a spectacle of a highside during the cooldown lap after MotoGP’s Free Practice 3, sending the Spanish rider into the air and his Yamaha YZR-M1 motorcycle tumbling after him. Stopping to do a practice start, the traction control on Lorenzo’s M1 was disabled, which is normal during such an event. Failing to re-engage the TC system after his start by downshifting (as would happen going into Turn 1 after a start), Lorenzo entered the next turn without his rider aids.

Cracking the throttle wide-open on the corner exit (as is the custom now with GP bikes), the Yamaha recieved full-power to the rear wheel, resulting in the accident. Hitting the ground hard, Lorenzo recieved further injury from his M1 also colliding with him, resulting in the Spaniard grabbing his knee and being slow to get up from the gravel trap. Helped off the track by corner workers, Lorenzo was already recovering from the incident by the time he got to the Clinca Mobile.

Friday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/23/2011 @ 1:22 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Jorge Lorenzo: Japan Yes, Motegi No

07/21/2011 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Jorge Lorenzo: Japan Yes, Motegi No Jorge Lorenzo Motegi boycott

Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you live from Laguna Seca for the rest of the week and weekend, and upon our arrival at the historic Californian track, we had a moment to talk to Jorge Lorenzo about his recent statement that he would not race at Motegi, even before Dorna’s independent safety review of the Japanese track was published.

Responding to the criticism that his statement ran counter to the “With You Japan” message Yamaha and the rest of the MotoGP paddock have been showing, Lorenzo made his position clear that he was for Japan, but not Motegi. Perhaps hinting that another circuit should be chosen for the Japanese GP.

Monday at Miller Motorsports Park with Scott Jones

05/30/2011 @ 6:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

WSBK: Sunshine Blesses Race 1 at Miller Motorsports Park

05/30/2011 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

WSBK: Sunshine Blesses Race 1 at Miller Motorsports Park WSBK Race 1 MMP Scott Jones

After a rainy Saturday Superpole, the sun blessed the Miller Motorsports Park for World Superbike’s Race 1. Carlos Checa returned to the Utah track in dominant form, though problems early on in the weekend gave glimpses of last year’s mechanical snafus. With both the factory Yamahas and Liberty Ducatis looking very quick in Superpole and in the practice sessions, Checa’s dominance for this year remained to be seen, with the pre-race predictions being anyone’s guess. Having standing water still in Turn 5 or the “Black Rock Hairpin” as it is called here at Miller, and mud at virtually every run-off, the Outer Course had a few tricks still up its sleeve for this race day Monday, despite the improved weather conditions. Click past the jump for spoilers on how it all panned out.

Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park with Scott Jones

05/29/2011 @ 9:06 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off