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.

Nobody F*cks with The Dorna – Ezpeleta Puts PI on Notice

01/14/2011 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Nobody F*cks with The Dorna   Ezpeleta Puts PI on Notice big lebowski jesus quintana 635x352

In the background of MotoGP, a quiet battle has been raging since the Australian GP at Phillip Island. A venue always threatened with inclement weather, the Australian track always manages to muster sunshine on race Sundays, despite the fact that they have all the makings weather-wise for a good regatta, not a motorcycle race. Despite this reality, the issue of running the Australian GP earlier in the race season comes up every time MotoGP gets a whiff of rain, wind, or kangaroos that could threaten the coastal track, as the late scheduling of the GP has historically been during the country’s rainy season.

Pressure to move the Australian GP to earlier in the season seemingly found its stride this past season, as Valentino Rossi and a number of other riders openly expressed their frustration with the circuit’s weather, and the pending safety concerns it meant for the riders. Talking during last season’s race, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta seemed all but certain that the venue would find an earlier slot in the calendar for 2011, despite the scheduling conflicts with WSBK and Formula 1 in the earlier months of this new year, and the nagging problem that Phillip Island doesn’t want to move the venue date.

Fielding questions at the Ducati/Ferrari Wrooom event, Ezpeleta again was asked about the issue with Phillip Island, and his response to the track’s position that its contract with Dorna prevents a change in the calendar positioning (PI is contracted until 2016). Talking to the assembled press, Ezpeleta fired a clear warning shot across the bow of the Australian track when he said the track’s homologation could come into question if calendar changes aren’t accepted. “We are talking with them.  It’s true, they have a contract, but their circuit is subject to homologation,” said Ezpeleta. “If it (the Phillip Island track) is not homologated, the contract will be void.”

Ducati Desmosedici GP11 – Christmas Comes Late in Italy

01/12/2011 @ 4:57 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Ducati Desmosedici GP11   Christmas Comes Late in Italy Valentino Rossi Scream Ducati Desmosedici GP11 635x423

If you are a Ducati owner, Valentino Rossi Fan, Italian, or have more than a passing interest in MotoGP, then today is the day you’ve had marked on your 2011 calendar (with perhaps the Valencia test being the date of 2010). Finally released from his contractual obligations with Yamaha, Valentino Rossi can officially begin his duties working for Ducati Corse this week, and Ducati has already capitalized on the moment by showing off Rossi’s new leathers to great fanfare. Now the pièce de résistance and the end to our torment, Ducati has finally debuted the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 at the 2011 Wrooom media event, a joint launch event between Ferrari and Ducati held in the Dolomite Mountains.

First Glimpse of the Ducati Desmosedici GP11

01/12/2011 @ 3:59 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

First Glimpse of the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 First Glimpse Ducati Desmosedici GP11 635x474

Remember the good old days when the print saturated media that cover MotoGP would take months to show us the first photos of the new season’s race bikes? If a magazine wasn’t on its game, there used to be a good chance you’d get your first glimpse of a team’s new race livery at the season opener before you’d see it in your next issue of (insert publication name here).

Well the internet is changing all that, and now do we not only get near-live coverage of Ducati & Ferrari’s Wrooom event with press releases and media photos, but tools like Facebook and Twitter are adding a dimension to the experience that not only brings us information and media faster, but adds an element of depth to the single-perspective reports we’d normally receive.

Such is the case with Valentino Rossi’s Ducati Desmosedici GP11 race bike (first teased here), as MotoGP commentator Toby Moody snapped this camera phone photo of the bike as it was being carted around at Wrooom. Neon seems to be the name of the game, which is probably due to a combination of making the bike TV ready (there’s an interesting discussion on Wikipedia about how the standard Rosso Corsa red color scheme has changed over the years because of TV quality and saturation), and integrating Valentino Rossi’ unhealthy obsession with the color neon yellow into the Ducati Corse style. A shot of Nicky’s bike awaits you in the gallery after the jump.

Teaser: 2011 Ducati Desmosedici GP11

01/12/2011 @ 2:38 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Teaser: 2011 Ducati Desmosedici GP11 Valentino Rossi D16 Ducati Desmosedici GP11 teaser 635x420UPDATE: It looks like we can thank Valentino Rossi himself, as the photo comes directly off his personal website.

Somewhere in a locked room, a select number of photographers are snapping photos of the Ducati Desmosedici GP11, the V4 MotoGP racing machine that Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden will ride in the upcoming GP season. Leaked ahead of its unveiling, this photo has made it onto the interwebs showing a glimpse of the GP11 with some frustrating cropping (aww…nuts!). We’ll have to wait a few more hours before we can unveil the new D16 race bike, so this photo will have to suffice until then, but is that a black and yellow tail we see? Interesting, very interesting.

Source: Valentino Rossi (Personal Website) via MotoBlog.it

Ducati Completes Three-Year Strategic Plan

01/11/2011 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Ducati Completes Three Year Strategic Plan Ducati Logo Diavel Carbon 635x423

Amidst all the fanfare over seeing Valentino Rossi wearing Rosso Corsa and sporting his new Dainese leathers, which surprisingly aren’t being sponsored by McDonald’s, one announcement has gotten little attention (and no, we’re not talking about Nicky Hayden). The 2011 Wrooom event signals the end of a three-year strategic plan that’s been going on internally at Ducati, which has seen the Italian company release 12 new models, increase sales across the board, and ship 36,200 motorcycles in 2010 alone.

Valentino Rossi All Dressed Up for Work at Ducati Corse – Finally Talks on the Ducati Desmosedici GP11

01/11/2011 @ 3:36 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi All Dressed Up for Work at Ducati Corse – Finally Talks on the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 Valentino Rossi Ducati Corse Leathers colors1 635x839

Holding a press conference this morning at the Wrooom media event in the Dolomite Mountains, Valentino Rossi finally got a chance to officially talk to the press about his experience testing the Ducati at Valencia late last year, and his general impressions on riding with Ducati Corse. Commenting that “the Ducati is different from all the other bikes, it’s a proper prototype, the concept is different from the Japanese factories,” Rossi went on to explain that “you need a bit of a ‘dirtier’ style to ride the Desmosedici.”

In addition to his thoughts, official photos of Rossi’s leathers (Nicky Hayden’s as well, but to less fanfare) have been released by Ducati Corse, which see Rossi’s neon yellow color scheme mixed in with the red and white of Ducati Corse. The clashing colors might not please the aesthetically critical, but we have a feeling people will get used to the arrangement. Photos of the GP11’s race livery are expected tomorrow (Wednesday).

Wrooom 2011: Valentino Rossi Finally in Corse Colors

01/10/2011 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Wrooom 2011: Valentino Rossi Finally in Corse Colors Valentino Rossi Nicky Hayden Wrooom 2011 635x481

Ducati Corse’s joint launch with Ferrari kicked off today (not really, the official opener had to be postponed because of weather), and with it we get the first glimpses of Valentino Rossi in true Ducati colors, and not the yellow and black livery he had to wear during the Valencia test. Taking part in the Wrooom 2011 media event in the Dolomite Mountains, Rossi joins teammate Nicky Hayden in starting the new racing season with Ducati Corse.

Somewhere in between the skiing-filled days, and jacuzzi-soaked nights, a few things resembling a press conference will take place where Rossi will talk about his thoughts on the Desmosedici (scheduled for Tuesday), and Ducati will unveil the GP11 race bike (Q&A on the bike is scheduled for Wednesday), which may or may not feature a Big Bang motor (we think it will though).

For the week’s activities, Rossi and Hayden are joined by Ferrari’s Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who will be doing similar media maneuvers for Ferrari this week. The foursome is schedule to compete in a head-to-head skiing battle on Friday, but we don’t expect Rossi to actually take to skis this year with his recovering shoulder (good money is on Alonso as Massa has never seen snow before, and most things that pass for skiing in Kentucky involve a car, a rope, and a McDonald’s food tray).

Ducati Corse Adds Diesel to Partnership List

01/10/2011 @ 8:41 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse Adds Diesel to Partnership List DIESEL LOGO 635x348

Ducati Corse is slowly becoming the Lord of the Rings in MotoGP — bringing together some of the largest brands outside of the industry into the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. Already announcing Mercedes Benz’s tuning house AMG as its official car sponsor to the Marlboro Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati announced ahead of today’s start to the Wrooom event that apparel company Diesel would be added to the team’s rostrum of sponsors.

The maker of tight skinny jeans and other fashionable items, Diesel will be adding its “Made in Italy” brand to Ducati’s Italian bikes, and will also supply the Ducati Corse team with apparel for the 2011 season, which we can also only imagine will be made available to the public as well with a modest mark up on the not so modest base prices. Still say what you will about Italians and their fashion, one thing remains impressively true: Ducati is crushing it right now when it comes to finding dollars to go race in MotoGP.