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.

MotoGP: Bradl on a Factory-Supported Honda Thru 2014

11/14/2012 @ 1:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Bradl on a Factory Supported Honda Thru 2014 Stefan Bradl LCR Honda Valencia Scott Jones

HRC has announced that it has signed Stefan Bradl as a “factory-supported” rider through the 2014 season. The move is surely a reward for Bradl, who easily claimed MotoGP’s “Rookie of the Year” distinction, and perhaps more importantly, showed extreme talent aboard the Honda RC213V.

Said to already have been using a factory-spec frame (Dani Pedrosa’s rejects) for the latter part of the season, it is not clear how much this announcement will change Bradl’s true support from HRC, but it certainly can’t hurt the young German’s chances. Bradl will stay within the LCR Honda team in 2013 & 2014.

Tuesday Summary at Valencia: Of Debuts, Jealousies, & the Confounded Weather

11/13/2012 @ 7:10 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Tuesday Summary at Valencia: Of Debuts, Jealousies, & the Confounded Weather 2012 MotoGP Valencia Test 0089

If there is one subject that is getting mind-numbingly tedious to have to write about in motorcycle racing right now, it’s the weather. Almost every race this year has lost at least one session to difficult conditions, and we had hoped that the 2013 season might start off a little better. No such luck.

After a dry, clear night, the first rain showers arrived shortly before 10am, when the track was due to open for the test. By the time the track opened, enough rain had fallen to make it slick, greasy and extremely difficult to ride. That put an end to almost everyone’s carefully laid plans, leaving large groups of people wandering around and alternating between looking to the skies and carefully examining the track.

A few brave souls ventured out on to the track – including Valentino Rossi, at a few minutes after ten, the earliest he has ever taken to the track during testing since I’ve been following MotoGP, Rossi notoriously ill-disposed to mornings (as, I must admit, am I) – but for the most part, silence prevailed.

This was perhaps toughest on the TV commentators. Because of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, the first couple of hours of the test were streamed live on the MotoGP.com website, as well as broadcasted on both Italian and Spanish TV.

There was virtually nothing to show, though, except images of crowds milling in pit lane, riders wandering around chatting, some in leathers, some not, and endless repeats of slow-motion shots from the few bikes that had turned a lap in the morning, leaving commentators racking their brains for subjects to discuss, leading at one point to a surprisingly long discussion about fruit, and the riders who eat it.

Tuesday at Valencia with Scott Jones

11/13/2012 @ 2:42 pm, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

MotoGP: First Shots of Rossi Back on the Yamaha YZR-M1

11/13/2012 @ 1:48 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

MotoGP: First Shots of Rossi Back on the Yamaha YZR M1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha MotoGP 635x423

Here’s one for the Rossi fans, the first photo of Valentino Rossi on-board the 1,000cc Yamaha YZR-M1 at the Valencia test (snagged by Monster Yamaha Tech 3 mechanic Steve Blackburn).

Apparently, the weather is being less than co-operative in Spain, with sprinkles of rain being reported, but that didn’t stop The Doctor from getting on-board “his” bike.

After the jump, there are 17 photos of Rossi’s maiden voyage back on the Yamaha YZR-M1 — all courtesy of photographer extraordinaire, Scott Jones.

Monday at Valencia with Scott Jones

11/12/2012 @ 11:33 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off

Caption This Photo: Like a Boss

11/12/2012 @ 6:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Valencia MotoGP Test Preview: Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Ducati, & The Future

11/12/2012 @ 5:24 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Valencia MotoGP Test Preview: Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Ducati, & The Future Valentino Rossi 46 Yamaha Racing 635x476

The sense of expectation in the air at Valencia is wound so tight it hums. Tomorrow morning, some time after 10am, some of that expectation will start to dissipate as we get the first glimpses of answers that have preoccupied MotoGP fans for the past few months.

Two things we hope to see: a glimpse of the past and a glimpse of the future. After two long, hard years, the army of Valentino Rossi fans will be hoping to see something they haven’t since 2010, or maybe even 2009: a flowing, comfortable, aggressive Valentino Rossi at one with the machine underneath.

That was something he never showed while riding the Ducati, the figure in the Rossi replica helmet sitting on the Ducati always looking more like a club racer had sneaked into the back of the Ducati garage to take the bike out for a spin, terrifying himself in the process. Rossi looked stiff, awkward, uncomfortable, his back arched like a cat negotiating a dog-infested yard.

Sunday Summary at Valencia: Of Marquez’s Talent, Pedrosa’s Gamble, Lorenzo’s Crash, & A Debt Left Open

11/12/2012 @ 3:30 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Valencia: Of Marquezs Talent, Pedrosas Gamble, Lorenzos Crash, & A Debt Left Open Valencian GP MotoGP Sunday Scott Jones 131

So the 2012 MotoGP season is over, and someone with a great deal of courage and a little bit of money to wager could have ended the year rich beyond their wildest dreams at Valencia. If you could have found someone to take your bet seriously, you would have got a very, very good return on one race being won from the back of the grid, and the other from a rider starting from pit lane. Just one of those events is highly unusual, having both of the happen on the same day is unheard of.

The odds on Marc Marquez winning from the back of the grid were probably disappointingly short. By now, every bookmaker in the world will have seen the onboard clip of Marc Marquez stalling his bike on the grid at Motegi, and the way he disposed of twenty Moto2 competitors in the space of half a lap.

The first lap at Valencia is likely to create as much of a sensation – or at least it would, if Dorna would either resist the temptation to take down YouTube videos before they go viral to keep their TV rights holders happy, or make the videos available free of charge on the MotoGP.com website so that they can go viral while retaining control – as Marquez passed another twenty riders in the space of five corners.

MotoGP: Dovi Meets the Desmo

11/12/2012 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Dovi Meets the Desmo Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse Desmosedici GP13 01 635x422

Tomorrow is like Christmas for motorcycle lovers, as Tuesday is the first official day of the EICMA show in Milan, and it is also the first day of the post-season MotoGP testing at Valencia. With more than a few riders swapping seats for next year, one of the most anticipated transitions is Andrea Dovizioso to the Ducati Corse factory team.

The third wheel at the Repsol Honda team in 2011, Dovi made the jump to the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage for 2012, with the hopes of auditioning for a seat on the factory Yamaha YZR-M1 next season. A certainly Valentino Rossi ruined that plan, so Dovi did the next best thing…he took Rossi’s seat at Ducati.

With the Ducati Desmosedici labelled as a career-ending machine, the GP11/GP12 nearly did The Doctor in, making the move by Dovizioso a brave one. Apparently trusting the words of Ducati’s new owner Audi, we will get our first glimpse of Dovi on the Ducati tomorrow, but for now we get our first photos of the pair’s preliminary introduction.

Sunday at Valencia with Scott Jones

11/12/2012 @ 2:35 am, by Scott JonesComments Off