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.

How to Watch the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race

07/25/2014 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

How to Watch the Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race suzuka circuit 635x357

UPDATE: Sorry folks, look like race day coverage is live-timing only.

I was trying to think this week how to frame how important the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race is for Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts and Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. It’s certainly more prestigious than any single MotoGP or WSBK round, and I would hazard that it is as big of a deal to the Japanese as the Isle of Man TT is to the Manx.

A race known for seeing factory teams staked with the top riders from around the world, this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours sees some of Japan’s finest joined by the likes of Kevin Schwantz, Jonathan Rea, Randy de Puniet, Josh Brookes, and Josh Waters. It can be hard to follow the race in Japan though, but we’ve got you covered for this year’s event.

The Suzuka Circuit puts up a live stream of the racing sessions on Ustream, and the link is right here. There is also an official Twitter feed in English which you should follow. We have embedded the Ustream into this post as well…because the internet is awesome.

Honda TT Legends 2013 Season Preview

04/09/2013 @ 2:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Honda TT Legends 2013 Season Preview john mcguinness honda tt legends 635x423

While many of us are counting down the start to the second rounds of World Superbike and MotoGP, the season-opener for the FIM Endurance World Championship is just around the corner as well. Starting the season with the Bol d’Or 24 Heures at Magny-Cours on April 20th, the Honda TT Legends dream team was out in Albacete, Spain getting some last minute practice in with their Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.

Built around the relatively low-tech Honda CBR1000RR street bike, the TT Legends crew have fitted the CBR with a MoTeC ECU, which provides traction control, wheelie control, and other electronic rider aids. Though the system is not necessarily increasing the top lap times of riders John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Michael Dunlop, and Andrew Simon, the MoTeC ECU does allow for the riders to ride within a more comfortable margin of safety and use less energy while on the bike.

In the game of endurance racing, managing riders’ energy is just as crucial of a component as is keeping the bike out of the kitty litter. Addressing both those concerns with their modifications, the Honda TT Legends team should be better equipped to challenge for the podium in the four-round Championship, especially at the longer 24-hour races like the Bol d’Or and Le Mans.

Helping us gear-up for the incoming season, there is some dubstepped video goodness after the jump. Enjoy.

Dunlop Replaces Donald on Honda TT Legends EWC Team

03/11/2013 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dunlop Replaces Donald on Honda TT Legends EWC Team Michael Dunlop Honda TT Legends EWC 635x423

With Cameron Donald and Honda TT Legends parting ways two weeks ago, and Michael Dunlop testing with the outfit’s World Endurance Championship squad in Albacete, Spain last week, the logical conclusion of those two events has occurred, with Dunlop singing on to ride with Honda TT Legend’s in the team’s two 24-hour races (the Bol d’Or 24 & the Le Mans 24-hour), riding alongside John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews.

Racing as well for the Honda TT Legends team in its road racing events at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200, Dunlop will also act as the reserve rider the HRC-backed squad at the Suzuka 8-hour race. For the young Irishman, it will be a bit of change from road circuits to proper race tracks, but the added exposure of another international series should certainly be a boon to his already promising racing career (Dunlop has three TT race wins under his belt already).

Michael Rutter Breaks Leg in Training Crash

03/07/2013 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Michael Rutter Breaks Leg in Training Crash Michael Rutter IOMTT Daniel Lo

Isle of Man TT star and World Endurance Championship rider, Michael Rutter injured himself this week while training with the Honda TT Legends EWC squad in France. Crashing on his Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike, Rutter broke his leg at Dunlop’s Mireval test track, and was diagnosed with a crack at the base of his tibia.

“It didn’t feel too bad at first and I was walking around after the crash but we thought it was best to get an x-ray done just to be sure,” explained Rutter. “That revealed a crack at the base of my tibia near the ankle joint. I was given crutches and a temporary cast so I can get back to the UK and get it sorted out. Hopefully it won’t take too long to heal and I’ll be back on the bike as soon as possible.”

Cameron Donald Out of Honda TT Legends EWC Team

02/27/2013 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Cameron Donald Out of Honda TT Legends EWC Team Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR 635x423

After announcing a “dream team” line-up for its 2013 season, Honda TT Legends has had to revise its rider-entry list, after coming to a mutual decision with Australian racer Cameron Donald, who will not not race with the Honda TT Legends World Endurance Championship squad this year.

Citing personal reasons, namely the desire to spend more time with his family, Donald’s absence from the Honda TT Legends team means that the HRC-backed squad will field a three-rider effort in this year’s four endurance rounds, leaving John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews to campaign on the Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.

Oh, So This is What a Motorcycle Pitstop Looks Like?

09/10/2012 @ 3:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Oh, So This is What a Motorcycle Pitstop Looks Like? BMW Motorrad France Thevant EWC Le Mans 635x422

Whether your four-wheeled racing fetish comes in the form of NASCAR or Formula One (maybe you tick the box for “other”?), chances are that you are accustomed to the concept of a pitstop. The idea is a bit lost on motorcycle racing though, as most circuit-racing is done on a single-tank of gasoline, e.g. MotoGP, WorldSBK, AMA Pro Racing, BSB, etc. At road racing events, like the Isle of Man TT though, pitstops become again the status quo, but the nature of the TT fails to bring a certainly level of sophistication to the process — the same cannot be said for the World Endurance Championship.

We already showed you today the oddity of a motorcycle chasing down a headlight on a race track, and we’ll bring you another interesting video from the WEC: a bonafide well-choreographed motorcycle pitstop. Showing us here a nearly textbook refueling, tire change, and rider swap, BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent’s total time in the pitbox was 17 seconds (a few seconds lost to some trouble getting the refueling system hooked up to the bike). Not bad.

With riders Sébastien Gimbert, Damian Cudlin, Erwan Nigon, and Hugo Marchand finishing second in the FIM World Endurance Championship, and third at Le Mans (a crash by Gimbert two hours into the race took the team off its pole-setting pace, and dashed hopes for an outright Championship win), the upstart French team is representing its German brand well. Hopefully they will be back next year to give those boys at SERT another run for their money.

Video: John McGuinness Does a Lap in the Dark at Le Mans

09/10/2012 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Video: John McGuinness Does a Lap in the Dark at Le Mans John McGuinness Le Mans Pit 635x423

We’re used to seeing on-board footage of John McGuinness riding his Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR race bike, though usually those videos include a certain island in the middle of the Irish sea. Well, McPint and crew were in Le Mans this past weekend, participating in the last World Endurance Championship round, and have provided us with a knew perspective on road racing.

Completing 24 hours of competition, the Honda TT Legends team finished a respectable fifth place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which allowed them to post a fourth overall in the WEC season standings — one of only two teams to finish every round of the WEC season, we might add.

Taking us around for a lap on the historic circuit at night, McGuinness drags some knees inthe  pitch black night, with only the headlight of his CBR1000RR and a spattering of flood lights to show him the way around the French track. This isn’t your typical track footage.

Photos: Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART)

04/18/2012 @ 3:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Photos: Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) 2012 Yamaha Austria Racing Team YART 20 635x952

Campaigned by Yamaha’s Austrian subsidiary, the Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) has an impressive history in the FIM World Endurance Championship. Finishing third at the 76th Annual Bol d’Or 24 hour race, YART was the top Yamaha squad on the rostrum, and even upset the Yamaha France’s factory team: Team Yamaha GMT94 Michelin Yamalube.

YART was the 2009 WEC Champion, and over the last 10 years, the Stryia-based squad has finished in the Top 5 eight times. Not quite the pedigree that comes with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), but YART is a serious contender for the 2012 World Endurance Championship and is already giving the factory Suzuki squad a run for its money. It also so happens, that their 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 is one trick looking race bike — photos after the jump, naturally.

Yamaha France’s World Endurance YZF-R1

04/03/2012 @ 4:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Yamaha Frances World Endurance YZF R1 Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube 05 635x422

If you haven’t caught on yet, the French love them some endurance racing. So, it goes without saying then that Yamaha France is campaigning its own entry into the FIM World Endurance Championship (WEC). Officially titled the Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube Team, the team’s riders are David Checa (yes, the brother to reigining-World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa’s), Matthieu Lagrive, and Kenny Foray.

Getting to use traction control for the 2012 season, Yamaha France has a strong entry for the season, but will have to contend with the Honda TT Legends factory team, as well as the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), who have dominated the sport since its inception. Debuting the bike and team at the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race practice, we of course have a bevy of photos for you after the jump. Happy Tuesday.

2012 SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 Debuts at Bol d’Or Practice

03/27/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

2012 SERT Suzuki GSX R1000 Debuts at Bol dOr Practice Suzuki Endurance Racing Team SERT GSX R1000 17 635x423

With 33 years of history surrounding the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), the Japanese manufacturer has one of the winningest legacies in the FIM World Endurance Championship (WEC). Set to start again with the 24-hour-long Bol d’Or race at Magny-Cours on April 14th-15th, WEC teams were out at the French track this week, with many debuting their 2012 squads. Winning nine of the last ten runnings of the Bol d’Or, SERT is of course this year’s favorite to win again.

A spectacle in its own right, the World Endurance Championship and its rounds like the Bol d’Or are more of a novelty for motorcyclists on this side of the pond, and provide often only the rare glimpse of race-trim bikes with headlights. As such, we get out first proper look at SERT’s Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000, which will be ridden by Fabien Foret, Vincent Philippe, and Anthony Delhalle — three Frenchmen with no intention of losing at their home race.