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.

Video: An Intimate Look at the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

05/23/2014 @ 1:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Video: An Intimate Look at the Ducati 1199 Superleggera Ducati 1199 Superleggera EICMA detail 13 635x421

The Ducati 1199 Superleggera is finally here, Ducati’s exclusive 500 customers are starting to receive their bikes, and Ducatista around the world are acting like its Christmas in May. We can’t blame them; after all, the Superleggera is a rolling showcase of what the engineers at Borgo Panigale can do with a street-legal machine.

Our friends at Moto Corsa were lucky enough to get three fine specimens in the first wave of deliveries — the Portland, Oregon shop will receive nine Superleggeras in total — a pretty sizable sum when you consider that less than 200 will make their way across the pond to US soil.

Naturally Arun and his cohorts took the opportunity to examine up-close what $200,000 worth of carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum looks like. Even better, they documented the experience, for our viewing pleasure of course.

Up-Close with the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Race Bike

11/13/2013 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Suzuki XRH 1 MotoGP Race Bike Suzuki MotoGP race bike EICMA 09 635x421

One of the advantages of actually going to the yearly EICMA show, as opposed to phoning it in like some other outlets do, is that you get see things that don’t find their way into a press release.

Take for example the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP race bike prototype that Randy de Puniet has been developing and Davide Brivio has been heading. On display at the Suzuki stand, it was perhaps the most technologically advanced motorcycle at EICMA, yet you would only know that if you went to Milan last week.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago

11/07/2013 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Up Close with the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago MV Agusta F3 800 Ago EICMA 06 635x421

What would an EICMA show be without a special commemorative machine from that little company in Varese? Behold the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago, a special edition motorcycle to celebrate one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time, Giacomo Agostini.

On hand for the unveiling of his special edition machine, Mr. Agostini signed the very first model, which sports his signature Tricolore and gold racing livery, and is fitted with copious carbon fiber bits.

No mechanical work has been done to the MV Agusta F3 800, though we think the effect from the paint and carbon is very fetching. A small collection of photos are after the jump.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800

11/06/2013 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Up Close with the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 2014 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 12 635x421

MV Agusta’s big announcement at the 2013 EICMA show was of course its new sport-tourer, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800. Based around the Italian brand’s 800cc three-cylinder engine, the Turismo Veloce is a big step for MV Agusta, though one taken cautiously both in terms of progress and design.

Borrowing heavily from the firm’s F3 and F4 sport bikes, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce feels like its stuck in the Varese company’s past, though in many ways it is MV Agusta’s future.

We are sure that the sport-tourer is just the first of many line-extensions for MV Agusta that will borrow from the same common elements found in all the current MV Agusta motorcycles, but the real highlight of the Turismo Veloce 800 is that it debuts a number of new technologies for MV Agusta, which have all been packaged into the MVICS 2.0 system.

Despite the impressive advancements made with the MVICS 2.0 system, as with all MV Agusta motorcycles, the real connection with the machine is a visual one, and the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 certainly makes an impression.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

11/05/2013 @ 10:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Ducati 1199 Superleggera ducati 1199 superleggera eicma detail 36 635x421

The highlight of the 2013 EICMA show has to be the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, which Ducati formally introduced to the press last Monday night. The “super light” street bike may not have the dynamism of being a completely new machine, as was the case with the Desmosedici RR, but the 155kg (dry) Superleggera is just as impressive when you pause to take a moment and examine all of its details.

With only 500 units being made, Ducati says roughly only 50 are unspoken for as of Sunday morning — a pretty impressive figure considering that up until that moment, only a handful of people had actually seen the Ducati 1199 Superleggera in the flesh. Once the 500th bike is sold, that will be it for the Superleggera, Ducati having learned its lesson from the Desmosedici launch.

The most obvious part about the Superleggera is its orange-red paint scheme, which matches the Rosso Corsa paint found on the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. If you only examined the Ducati 1199 Superleggera skin-deep, this would be your big takeaway from the experience, but the beauty really resides in the details.

Up-Close with the 2013 Honda RC213V

07/29/2013 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

Up Close with the 2013 Honda RC213V Honda RC213V MotoGP Laguna Seca Jensen Beeler 3 635x421

The Honda RC213V and its predecessors have always been formidable machines in MotoGP, but for 2013 HRC has truly managed to make a peerless motorcycles for its four riders: Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Stefan Bradl, and Alvaro Bautista.

In the past, the Honda was all about its motor and its ability to rocket out of the corners, whereas the Yamaha YZR-M1 was more about its chassis and the ability to have supreme edge-grip through the turns.

This dichotmy created two bikes that required two very different riding styles to be fully utilized; and also it meant sometimes the Honda was the weapon of choice, and sometimes the Yamaha was the better tool for the job — depending on the track, of course.

But all that changed this past season and a half. Finding a solution to the RC213V’s chatter problem (a problem that was courtesy of the raised minimum weight requirement for 2012), in the latter part of last season, HRC watch Dani Pedrosa storm after Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship points.

Helping the Repsol Honda rider was of course HRC’s seamless shifting gearbox, which at some tracks on the calendar is good for a tenth or two per lap, but what really spurred on Pedrosa was engineers at Honda overcoming the one weakness in the RC213V’s design.

No longer was the race between a bike with power and the other with handling — now the Honda had both; and better yet, Yamaha had no reply for this development.

While Yamaha Racing is still hoping to debut its own seamless gearbox during the 2013 season, it will likely do little to change the course of events in the Championship standings. The 2013 Honda RC213V is a matchless machine right now, and it is the hands of two very formidable riders.

Don’t count Jorge Lorenzo and his Yamaha YZR-M1 out of course, but the reigning World Champion has more than hisfill when it comes to fending off the two Repsol Honda riders.

Making it a point to capture this fine machine in detail at the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, I dodged bikes in the very busy MotoGP pit lane to bring you a bevy of high-resolution photos of the 2013 Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, which are waiting for you after the jump (be sure to check-out my similar photo sets of the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 and Yamaha YZR-M1 from Austin, TX as well).

Up-Close with the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/05/2013 @ 12:54 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Up Close with the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc Isle of Man TT Zero 45 635x423

In a few hours, the TT Zero race will kickoff for the 2013 Isle of Man TT, and if the practice and qualifying sessions are any indication, it should be a close-fought race between the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni of John McGuinness and the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc race bikes of Michael Rutter and Mark Miller (Update: The SES TT Zero race report can be found here).

McGuinness has been fastest so far with the Mugen Shinden Ni, posting a 109.038 lap during Monday’s qualifying session, while Rutter and Miller posted 107.817 mph and 105.806 mph laps, respectively. On the course, this means McGuinness is roughly 16 second faster than Rutter, a notable difference, but not a huge margin in this class, which sees huge (by TT standards) speed leaps from session to session.

Hoping to make it four wins in a row, it goes without saying that the MotoCzysz crew is working hard to close the gap. However, having Team Principal Michael Czysz stuck back in the US, undergoing cancer treatments, must certainly add another level of motivation for the on-island MotoCzysz crew.

Making time in their busy schedule, Asphalt & Rubber got to take some up-close photos of the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc. Check them out after the jump, you won’t see better photos of the ’13 E1pc anywhere else.

Up-Close with the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳)

05/31/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Up Close with the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳) Mugen Shinden Ni up close Richard Mushet 13 635x952

At the 2013 Isle of Man TT, when it comes to the TT Zero race, there are really only two entries being talked about: MotoCzysz and Mugen. Rumored last year to be a black hat electric superbike project for Honda, Mugen of course denies such involvement, though admits that company’s share a very special and close relationship.

Whether you believe that an association exists or not, the paddock gossip says that Mugen (or Honda) has spent nearly $4.3 million on its electric bike project, and that sounds like a number that is well within the ballpark. With John McGuinness at the helm, Mugen is taking the TT very seriously, and looking at the 120 hp Mugen Shinden Ni, you can see that the Japanese squad has spared no effort in giving McPint the most potent weapon possible.

Up-Close with the 2013 Yamaha YZR-M1

04/29/2013 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Up Close with the 2013 Yamaha YZR M1 Yamaha YZR M1 MotoGP Valentino Rossi Up Close 5 635x423

In case you missed our exhaustive coverage of the Grand Prix of the Americas, those fools at Dorna gave me pit lane access this MotoGP season. So while the whole paddock waits for the Spaniards to come to their senses, I don’t plan on wasting the opportunity to share with our readers our extreme access to motorcycling’s premier racing class. Accordingly, here comes another installment into our ever-continuing “Up-Close” series, featuring the very finest Iwata has to offer: the Yamaha YZR-M1.

Over the past few seasons, Yamaha has managed the power-deficit created by the Honda and Ducati machines by having ballerina like handling. Truly at home only when the machine was tipped-over to the extreme, the edge-grip and handling of the Yamaha YZR-M1 has been its counterpoint in the ongoing MotoGP-design argument.

A true GP bike, in the sense that it requires a riding style that has been cultivated from years of 125cc & 250cc two-stroke racing, the flowing lines of the M1 on the race track have been a stark contrast to the harsh point-and-shoot styles seen more so on the Ducati Desmosedici, but also more recently on the Honda RC213V as well.

However now with HRC having developed a seamless gearbox for the RCV, the battle of Honda’s motor vs. Yamaha’s chassis has changed. Where Yamaha riders used to beg the Japanese factory for more horsepower (they still do, by the way), they know find themselves asking for parts to combat the Honda’s ability to get on the power while still at extreme angles — an attribute once reserved only for the Tuning Fork brand.

Thirty 2000px-wide photos are waiting for you after the jump.

Up-Close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13

04/25/2013 @ 12:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 2013 Desmosedici GP13 COTA MotoGP 15 635x423

It’s hard to get up-close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. For starters, she’s always traveling somewhere — a slave to her jet-setter lifestyle. And, when she finally touches down long enough for you to get a glimpse of her, she’s surrounded by men in red uniforms, who whisk her out of sight almost immediately.

Occasionally though, she gets all buttoned-up and makes a public appearance, and if you have the right credentials (not an easy feat in its own right), you can elbow your way in for a look at her scarlet glow.

Dodging other bikes, riders, and mechanics in the hot pit lane of the Grand Prix of the Americas, we had such a brief opportunity, and thus bring you our spoils from the moment. We have been up-close with a number of race bikesexotics, and even exotic race bikes, but the Desmosedici GP13 stands out even in that prestigious crowd.

A rolling piece of unobtanium, with the very best of what is available in the two-wheeled world gring its chassis, and yet Ducati’s four MotoGP riders struggle mightily with the machine. Maybe if we look closely enough, we can figure out why. Twenty-two 2000px-wide photos are waiting for you after the jump.