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.

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.

Audi Bought 100% of Ducati’s Stock

04/19/2012 @ 2:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Audi Bought 100% of Ducatis Stock ducaudi 635x485

With the Volkswagen Group’s Board of Directors meeting done, ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting which is also now complete, details of Audi’s acquisition of Ducati are starting to emerge.

Paying €860 million ($1.1 billion) for the Italian motorcycle company, perhaps the biggest shocker to come from Audi’s acquisition is not the price, but the unconfirmed reports that Audi AG has bought 100% of the Ducati’s stock, meaning Borgo Panigale will now come under complete German control.

This news means that Audi not only bought out the 70% ownership of Investindustrial, but also the 30% remainder that was held by private equity fund BS, the Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan, and other minority shareholders.

Officially Official: Audi’s Board Approves Ducati Acquisition

04/18/2012 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Officially Official: Audis Board Approves Ducati Acquisition audi ducati 635x347

As expected from yesterday’s news, Audi’s Board of Directors has approved the German car company’s acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding. While the grumblings from Ducati owners have already emerged over the news breaking yesterday, in reality the move is a boon for Ducati, which will receive access to an almost limitless bank account, global business expertise, and advanced manufacturing techniques.

Selling 42,000 motorcycles last year, Ducati has typically struggled to sell more than 30,000 units annually, a figure which is highly regarded as the Italian company’s break-even point. Historically selling under that amount, Ducati has racked up considerable debt from its operation, hence why nearly a quarter of the company’s purchase price is going to its outstanding financial liabilities.

For Ducati owners and Ducati fans around the world, the acquisition by Audi and the Volkswagen Group should be met with more resounding praise, as it means an increased layer of stability has been added to the Italian brand. While the hyperbole has been flowing online, we imagine that the first motorcycles sales success to come from the company post-acquisition will silence any resistance to the company’s new German ownership.

As irrelevant as that metric actually is in business terms, the reality is that Audi’s influence over Ducati will take several years to be fully realized, as it takes a considerable amount of time for new products to come to market, and business plans to be implemented. Press releases from both Investindustrial and Audi are after the jump.

Audi Buys Ducati for $1.1 Billion

04/17/2012 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Audi Buys Ducati for $1.1 Billion Ducati Monster 1100 EVO 635x423

UPDATE: Audi’s Board of Directors has announced its approval of the acquisition of Ducati.

According to reports, Audi has finished its acquisition of Ducati Motor Holdings, to the tune of €860 million ($1.128 billion), and will announce the purchase tomorrow at is annual shareholders meeting. The deal reportedly sees Audi, through its parent company the Volkswagen Group, acquiring Ducati for roughly seven times what it earned in revenue last year, but Audi is also assuming all of Ducati’s debt, which has been rumored as high as €200 million, making the revenue multiple significantly smaller.

Audi to Announce Purchase of Ducati Next Week

04/11/2012 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Audi to Announce Purchase of Ducati Next Week ducati meccanica logo 635x508

Reports are coming in that Audi’s acquisition of Ducati is all but done, and just needs to the ink to dry. With the announcement of the purchase expected to come next week (Wednesday if you believe some reports), the German manufacturer has reportedly finished its due diligence on the acquisition, and found no major obstacles to the purchase.

With previous reports going back and forth as to whether Audi (read: the Volkswagen Group) would purchase only a controlling interest in Ducati Motor Holding, or would completely buyout Investindustrial’s 70% stake in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer, other reports are now saying that Investindustrial is only interested in talking to Audi about the acquisition.