Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Photos: Ducati Desmosedici GP15

The Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is a machine that has been long in the making. It represents Gigi Dall’Igna’s next step forward for the wayward Ducati Corse MotoGP team, and it is the dubious honor of holding the hopes of Ducati fans around the world, who see the machine as the silver bullet that will return Ducati to the forefront of racing prowess — no pressure. The most obvious change that can be seen on the GP15 is the re-routing of the exhaust, with the undertail pipes collecting on the right-hand side of the machine, rather than coming in from both sides and meeting in the middle. Can you spot any other changes in the high-resolution photos after the jump? Let us know in the comments.

Politics & Corruption: Why There Isn’t a Race in Indonesia

If anyone needed any further proof that Indonesia is important to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the fact the Repsol Honda team chose Bali as the location to launch their 2015 MotoGP project should remove any doubt. But if Indonesia is so important to the manufacturers, and to MotoGP, why is there not a race there? Over the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, I had a few conversations with people on the subject. On the record, the story was always the same: we need a suitable track, and as soon as one exists we will be happy to go there. Off the record, however, they were much less optimistic.

A Requiem for Kenji Ekuan & The Kando of GK Design

Industrial design is not a commonly known, much less well understood, profession. To some it suggests arranging equipment inside factories, to others it means some kind of product engineering. In reality it is the search for, and expression of, human satisfaction in inanimate objects that are mass produced. That’s quite a mouthful, and to the average person it may sound like jiberish written for some pretentious coffee table book, but it is the truth. At least, it is one version of the truth as seen by the GK Design Group of Tokyo, Japan. If you ride motorcycles, then you are intimately familiar with the work of this large and internationally respected studio. Since only its second production bike, the indigenously designed YA-1, every Yamaha motorcycle since 1958 has been crafted by GK.

Are You The MV Agusta F4 RC?

What look to be official photos of the MV Agusta F4 RC have leaked out onto the internet, along with a slide from MV Agusta’s media presentation on the machine. The photos give us our first glimpse into Varese’s homologation special, complete with a special two-can exhaust by Termignoni. The leaked slide confirms some of the numbers being thrown around about the F4 RC, namely that it will have 212hp, 81.86 lbs•ft of torque, weigh 175kg dry, and cost €36,900 (we already know that the MV Agusta F4 RC will cost $46,000 in the USA). Information from a leaked slide last year has already told us that MV Agusta has radically overhauled the F4 RC’s engine, designing a new cylinder heard, new crankshaft, new camshaft, as well as adding bigger fuel injectors, lighter pistons, and titanium connecting rods.

Kenji Ekuan, Designer of the Yamaha VMAX Has Died

Mainstream news is mourning the death of Kenji Ekuan today, as the 85-year-old Japanese industrial designer is one of the most influential artists in Japan’s modern era, and is most well-known for his designing of the iconic Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Ekuan’s lesser-known works though include a number of motorcycle designs for Yamaha, including the now 30-year-old Yamaha VMAX motorcycle, which makes his passing even more meaningful to motorcyclists around the world. Kenji Ekuan founded GK Industrial Design after WWII, and his company helped shape the way Japan rebuilt itself after the world war.

Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure

Despite its huge dimensions, not to mention a 30 liter fuel tank, the 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure never looks big or bulky. In fact, it is only when you mount the hard luggage that you can tell this bike can really cover long distances. Apart from a dorky little exposed wire from the heated grips near the throttle, the fit and finish is very high-end, especially the integrated curved lighting in the tank — it is quite a sight. At first glance the Super Adventure doesn’t have the massive personality and stance of its German rival, the BMW R1200GS Adventure, but that is in part due to the white color scheme and the absence of the typical beak as a front mudguard. KTM is going about things differently, and that is something that appeals to many riders…including us.

Yamaha VMAX Carbon – Celebrating 30 Years of VMAX

It is hard to believe that the venerable Yamaha VMAX has been around for 30 years (it is even harder to believe that the VMAX has only seen one design revision in that timeframe as well), and so Yamaha is bringing out a special edition model to celebrate this special motorcycle. The 2015 Yamaha VMAX Carbon is exactly as the name implies: a VMAX drag bike laden with lightweight carbon fiber. In total, the VMAX Carbon’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all made from carbon fiber. Yamaha has teamed up with Akrapovic as well, and as such the Slovenian company’s slip-on mufflers complete the exhaust system and the changes to this beastly drag bike.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

2012 MotoGP Calendar Updated

12/14/2011 @ 1:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Finally finalized, the 2012 MotoGP calendar hasn’t exactly seen a huge revision from last season’s schedule, though it does put to rest some outstanding issues. Previously only listing Germany as a stop for MotoGP action, the Sachsenring’s name has been inserted as the venue to host the German GP, subject to the circuit coming to terms with Dorna of course.

Also still subject to contract, Estoril has yet to come to a full agreement with the MotoGP rights holder. Other changes include the confirmation of the Spanish GP at Jerez, and that the season-opener at Qatar will come a week earlier than last season. For 2013, MotoGP’s calendar will include a stop in Argentina, as well as an additional round in the United States.

Carlos Checa Re-Signs with Althea Ducati…Finally

10/17/2011 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Good news for Carlos Checa, as the Althea Ducati race team has finally extended the reigning-World Superbike Champion a contract for the 2012 season. Recently, Checa was in the precarious position of having clinched the 2011 World Superbike Championship, and yet had no contract for the 2012 season. Stuck in the tug-of-war between Althea Racing and Ducati Corse, as well as the scandal currently gripping Althea Ceramics, Checa’s future with the Ducati squad was in question to such an extent that the BMW Italia team offered the Spaniard €800,000 to ride one of its BMW S1000RRs in 2012.

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island

10/10/2011 @ 6:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear  from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

Dovizioso Signs with Monster Tech 3 Yamaha for 2012

10/08/2011 @ 9:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Another seat in the silly season game of musical chairs has been snatched, as Andrea Dovizioso has signed a contract with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad for the 2012 season. Shit out of luck, in more common vernacular, Dovizioso found himself the odd-man out after Honda announced that it would only have three factory riders for the upcoming season. With Stoner and Pedrosa still under contract through that term, this news meant a tough choice between Dovi and rival Marco Simoncelli. Though consistently placing higher than his fellow Italian, Dovizioso lost out to SuperSic’s bold track moves and likable off-track demeanor.

While bad news for Dovi, the falling-out from Honda meant good news for the rest of the MotoGP teams who were anxious to retain the services of the potently quick Repsol Honda rider. Hervé Poncharal’s Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team seemingly won the battle of the offers, as it’s being reported that the French team has signed Andrea Dovizioso for the 2012 season, beating out the many other offers Dovi had on the table, including a reportedly factory-spec Honda at LCR Honda.

WSBK: Melandri to BMW Motorrad for 2012

10/02/2011 @ 4:08 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

Marco Melandri will join Leon Haslam at BMW Motorrad for the 2012 World Superbike season, leaving Troy Corser presumably out of the factory team. The Italian’s maiden season this year at Yamaha proved to be an excellent one, as he his Championship battle with Carlos Checa come down to this penultimate race weekend. Over the 2011 season, Melandri won one pole out the twenty-three races run so far this season, and has three race wins to his credit. Earlier in his career, Melandri won the 2002 250GP Championship, and seemed to find a home in WSBK this season. However, he and fellow WSBK rookie rider Eugene Laverty were left in the cold when Yamaha announced that they were shelving their WSBK effort in 2012.

“We are really looking forward to working with Leon and Marco. I am convinced we will have arguably the strongest rider’s line up in the Superbike World Championship field,” said Bernhard Gobmeier, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director. He continued, “We are delighted to have two riders who are both hungry and experienced for the coming season. That is the next important step for our team.” There is no word yet on where current BWM rider Troy Corser will land, nor Laverty.

2012 Provisional MotoGP Championship Calendar Released

09/15/2011 @ 7:43 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The 2012 provisional MotoGP calendar is out, and while all the basic locations remain the same, next season does see some shuffling in the order of things. While everything is still subject to some change, perhaps the biggest change on the roster for next year are the back-to-back US rounds, which sees the Indy GP moved up a week, and the Czech GP moved down the calendar to accommodate for one solitary trip to the United States. Allowing for a more streamlined supply chain for the MotoGP traveling circus, this change should be a welcomed one in the GP paddock as teams, journalists, and support crew won’t have to make two trips to the US in quick succession.

The other big change of note is the “TBC” for the venue to host the German GP. With Sachsenring reportedly out of the 2012 calendar because of event unprofitability, it remains to be seen whether Hockenheim or Nurburgring will replace it for next year. Should another German venue not be secured, it is entirely possible that we could see the German GP dropped from the MotoGP calendar in perpetuity. Speaking of dropping off the calendar, with Jerez still dealing with its creditor issues, it is also entirely possible thst we could see the Spanish round dropped from the final calendar as well, making this provisional calendar carrying a heavy emphasis on the word provisional.

Kawasaki Tightening Control Over WSBK Team in 2012 – Paul Bird Motorsport Out

09/13/2011 @ 10:20 am, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

Kawasaki will not renew its World Superbike contract with Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM) for 2012, instead focusing on bringing the race team further under the control of the Japanese manufacturer. Kawasaki had invited bids for teams interested in the 2012 and beyond contract, and received as many as six offers. Just days ago though, Kawasaki European Race Planning Manager Steve Gutteridge indicated that a decision between PBM and current Kawasaki factory World Supersport team Provec would be forthcoming.

Now stating that is has made the decision not to renew PBM’s contract, Kawasaki’s announcement is also devoid of naming the Provec team as the bid winner. “We have enjoyed three valuable years alongside the Paul Bird Motorsport team and would like to put on record our sincere thanks for the time, effort and dedication they have shown to the Kawasaki World Superbike racing programme,” said Race Manager Ichiro Yoda, as he indicated that there would be no contract renewal.

Yamaha Withdrawing from WSBK at the End of the Season

08/01/2011 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

In a shocking statement made today, Yamaha has announced that it will be withdrawing its official presence from FIM Superbike World Championship at the conclusion of the 2011 season. After reviewing its marketing operations within Europe, Yamaha Motor Europe (the driving force behind the company’s WSBK effort) has decided its euros would be better spent on other events that directly engage potential Yamaha customers.

Yamaha says it remains committed to seeing Marco Melandri (3rd) and Eugene Laverty (4th) win the 2011 World Superbike Championship, though with four rounds remaining that would seem a tall order as Carlos Checa leads both Yamaha riders by 71 & 135 points respectively. Checa, of course, is on the “satellite” Althea Ducati team, which is rumored to have more links to Bologna than a sausage cook-off held in Ducati’s factory parking lot.

WSBK: Melandri Re-Signs with Yamaha for 2012

07/26/2011 @ 6:59 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

Marco Melandri has renewed his contract with the Yamaha World Superbike team for 2012, resulting in an unchanged line-up for the factory team next season. Teammate Eugene Laverty had signed a two-year contract with the Japanese team after moving up from nearly winning the World Supersport championship in 2010. The Italian, the 2002 250 GP world champion, has fared well in his rookie WSBK season and won three races to this point.

“Next year I’ll still be here in Superbike,” said Melandri. He continued, “After changing four bikes and four teams in the last four years I am very happy to be able to build something that will last rather than having to start over again every time.” He must also be happy with his results on circuits both familiar and new, having won pole once and been on the podium nine times in so far, including recent duels at Motorland Aragon and Brno with Max Biaggi.

Pikes Peak to be Fully Paved by 2012

07/18/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Probably the worst kept secret on the mountain, the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will occur on a fully-paved race course. Responding to legal and safety pressures, Pikes Peak has slowly been paving its dirt sections, which during the hill climb week made for spectacular plumes of dust and breath-taking slides from cars and bikes alike. With under 3 miles of dirt section currently remaining on the course, Pikes Peak has slowly been adding more asphalt sections over the past few years, which in-turn have been a major contributing factor to the hill climb seeing records smashed across virtually all classes each year.

While the remaining dirt section resides in a lower portion of the race course (between mile markers 10 & 13), which is relatively safer than the higher elevation sections (do NOT look over the edge), Pikes Peak has been under pressure to increase the safety of the mountain, adding guardrails and paving dirt sections. Even in its current form, our initial impression of the course was that there were seriously risky corners that we couldn’t imagine taking at speed, let alone with a dirt surface.