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.

Sunday Summary at Laguna Seca: Contrasting Styles, Racing Softs, & A Decision is Nigh

07/30/2012 @ 5:04 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Laguna Seca: Contrasting Styles, Racing Softs, & A Decision is Nigh Laguna Seca MotoGP US GP 2012 Scott Jones 141

Laguna Seca has a habit of throwing the Championship a curveball. The epic race between Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi in 2008 was a prime example, a turning point in the Championship when Rossi halted what looked like the inexorable rise of Casey Stoner. Last year, too, Laguna proved to be key moment in the Championship, when Stoner stopped Jorge Lorenzo’s resurgence with one of the bravest passes in racing for a long time, through the ultra-fast Turn 1. With Laguna Seca the last race going into the summer break, winning or losing at the US GP can have a dramatic effect on the momentum of the Championship.

Whether the same will be said of Laguna Seca in 2012 will only be clear at the end of the season. But it has all the signs of being a significant moment, for more than just the five points Casey Stoner clawed back from Jorge Lorenzo. The race, if not thrilling, was at least tense: there was little between the two men for most of the race, Stoner shadowing Lorenzo closely, snapping at his heels but not quite able to attempt a pass. The turning point came on lap 18. As the leading pair plunged down the Corkscrew, Lorenzo’s sliding rear tire almost threw him out of the saddle. “I closed my eyes during the highside,” the Yamaha man said afterwards, “and I was happy to still be in the seat when I opened them again.”

MotoGP: Crashes Define Race at Laguna Seca

07/29/2012 @ 5:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Crashes Define Race at Laguna Seca Casey Stoner MotoGP Laguna Seca Scott Jones

Another foggy Californian morning, another sunny Californian afternoon. MotoGP is in Laguna Seca this weekend for the US GP, which started off with the surprise announcement that Ben Spies would not be returning to the factory Yamaha squad next season. With Spies’ departure from Yamaha, his seat at the factory team is officially up for grabs now, which has lead to increase in speculation that Rossi could return to the Japanese factory.

Whether that is wishful thinking by loyal fans, or a prudent insight into the Italian’s options and future remains to be seen, but the topic has certainly dominated this weekend at the coastal Californian track. One thing is for certain, fans want to see Rossi be more competitive on race Sundays, and the thought process by many is that this means a more sorted motorcycle for the nine-time World Champion.

Right now, that motorcycle is the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1, which Jorge Lorenzo put on the pole-position during Saturday’s qualifying. Followed by the Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, all three riders had a race pace that was vastly superior to the rest of the field, though Stoner cited lapped traffic as the cause for his diminished qualifying time. Sunday’s race would prove whether that statement was excuse or reality.

Saturday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/29/2012 @ 10:57 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Laguna Seca: Lorenzo’s Blistering Pace, Stoner’s Traffic Problems, and Rossi’s Ducati Offer

07/29/2012 @ 10:28 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Laguna Seca: Lorenzos Blistering Pace, Stoners Traffic Problems, and Rossis Ducati Offer 2012 MotoGP 10 LagunaSeca Saturday 0432

Despite dominating the Championship so far, Jorge Lorenzo does not get a lot of pole positions. Except at Laguna: though this was only his third of the season, Saturday’s pole position was Lorenzo’s fourth in a row at the circuit, and he secured it in convincing style. The circuit record tumbled – it had stood since 2008, set by Casey Stoner when he looked on his way to dominating the US GP at Laguna, before his run in with Valentino Rossi of course. There has been much complaining about the Bridgestone tires of late, yet both Lorenzo and Stoner beat the pole record on the tire they will probably race on, a pole record set on super-soft special qualifiers, which at a track like Laguna Seca you could just about eke two laps out of before they were finished. In reality, there is not so much wrong with these tires.

The pole record could have been beaten by a lot more, but Casey Stoner kept running into traffic each time he went for a fast lap. Up by a tenth or more at each split a number of times, he would suddenly run into a rider cruising, or a CRT machine on a hot lap, and lose out. On his last attempt, he ran into Danilo Petrucci just before the final corner, working his way swiftly past to take pole from Lorenzo with a couple of minutes to go. But Lorenzo would not be denied, pushing hard in the final sector to get pole back from Stoner in the dying moments.

MotoGP: Lap Record Falls During Qualifying at Laguna Seca

07/28/2012 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Lap Record Falls During Qualifying at Laguna Seca Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP Laguna Seca Scott Jones

For those that are not familiar with the weather patterns of Northern California’s coastal areas, Saturday at Laguna Seca was a good example of the foggy morning gloom we natives must endure in order to be showered with the Golden State’s eternal afternoon sunshine. With FP3 nearly delayed because of low cloud cover, qualifying for the US GP at Laguna Seca couldn’t have conditions more opposite than this morning. Click past the jump for full-of-sunshine qualifying results.

Friday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/28/2012 @ 10:20 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

Officially Official: Ducati Corse Signs Nicky Hayden for 2013 MotoGP Team

07/27/2012 @ 12:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Officially Official: Ducati Corse Signs Nicky Hayden for 2013 MotoGP Team Nicky Hayden Ducati Corse 635x438

Confirming what we already reported yesterday, Ducati Corse has officially made it official that Nicky Hayden will officially be riding in the official factory Ducati team next season, officially. His tenth season in MotoGP, and his fourth with Ducati, Hayden has re-signed for another one-year stint with the Bologna brand. An important figure for Ducati’s North America efforts, Ducati Corse heavily mentions Hayden’s influence on American owners as its reason for retaining the Kentucky Kid in its press release.

Generally said to be the hardest working rider in the MotoGP paddock, Hayden not only is a workhorse for the Ducati Corse team, as it tries to bring the GP12 and its progeny into the competitive fold, but Hayden is also an active figure for his and the team’s sponsors. With that sort of work ethic and only eight points separating him in the Championship from teammate Valentino Rossi, Hayden’s re-signing seemed like an obvious choice, though Ducati is said to have offered the American’s seat to Cal Crutchlow earlier this season.

Thursday Summary at Laguna Seca: Silly Season Reopened, & Edwards Entertains

07/27/2012 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Laguna Seca: Silly Season Reopened, & Edwards Entertains Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP 635x423

As a MotoGP rider, dealing with the press can be a lot like boxing against a stronger opponent: put in a quick attack, and then grab on and defend for dear life. At Laguna Seca, Ben Spies showed he had mastered the art perfectly. After dropping the bombshell that he would be leaving Yamaha on Tuesday — on Thursday Spies was in full defensive mode, deflecting questions and saying that he would not be discussing the situation and what had motivated his decision “until I’m ready to talk about the future.” To carry that off, and persist in your position in a room full of journalists hell-bent on wheedling the truth out of you, is quite an achievement.

Fortunately for Spies, his announcement had given the assembled media hordes – well, not quite a horde, as dwindling print sales, economic stagnation in the key markets of Spain and Italy, and a few broader issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down – had plenty of other issues to sink their teeth into. Spies leaving Yamaha opens up another seat, and with the Texan looking almost certain to switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia squad next season, an extra factory prototype, something of increasing scarcity in these days of dwindling factory involvement.

Naturally, with Spies out of the equation, the media and fans have joined in an epic game of fill-in-the-blanks to try and slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited space for available rides.

Yamaha Does Another MotoGP Video for Laguna Seca

07/27/2012 @ 10:53 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Yamaha Does Another MotoGP Video for Laguna Seca Yamaha MotoGP video Laguna Seca

Yamaha USA is keeping its Laguna Seca video tradition alive and well with another short flick that features the company’s MotoGP riders. Headlined by Jorge Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, and Andrea Dovizioso, the Yamaha foursome is joined by MotoGP commentators Nick Harris and Gavin Emmett.

Not quite the comedic gold we’ve seen in the past, there is a tongue-in-cheek element to watching the video knowing that Spies dropped the bombshell about his leaving Yamaha, right around the time this video was being filmed.

From our seats, Dovi stole the show…as that grin is surely the same one he will be wearing if/when he gets the nod to the Yamaha factory team. As for Cal, don’t quit your day job mate. Video after the jump.

MotoGP: Ducati Expected to Re-Sign Hayden at Laguna Seca

07/26/2012 @ 7:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Ducati Expected to Re Sign Hayden at Laguna Seca Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Saturday Jules Cisek 141 635x423

Making the rounds in the MotoGP paddock today at Laguna Seca, several sources close to the matter revealed to Asphalt & Rubber that Nicky Hayden is to announce a contract extension with Ducati Corse for the 2013 season this race-weekend. Pegged to be a one-year renewal, Hayden’s place at Ducati has been in a precarious position, ever since it was revealed that Cal Crutchlow had received an offer from the Italian team.

A workhorse for the Ducati, in addition to his personal sponsors, Hayden has been an integral member of the Italian brand ever since he joined the team back in 2009. With the United States now Ducati’s most important market in terms of sales, having an American on the company’s MotoGP team has been an important consideration for Ducati Corse, and the re-signing of Hayden to the Ducati Corse squad bodes well that Bologna has finalized its 2013 plans as well.