Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

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.

Why Crutchlow’s Move to Ducati Is Smarter Than It Looks

08/10/2013 @ 9:46 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

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The news that Cal Crutchlow has signed a two-year deal with Ducati led to howls of despair from MotoGP fans, especially among those in the UK. Why, they asked, would Crutchlow willingly leave the Tech 3 Yamaha team and the as-near-factory-as-possible M1 to take on the miserable task of taming the Ducati?

Why throw away another year on a bike which he knows he can score podiums, and perhaps even wins on, in exchange for riding a bike which has been a proven failure since Casey Stoner last climbed off it and headed next door to the Repsol Honda garage?

If Valentino Rossi, the biggest name and most politically powerful rider in motorcycle racing couldn’t make the bike competitive, what chance does Crutchlow stand?

Though only Crutchlow himself fully understands the motives behind his choice, he has left plenty of evidence offering some insight into why he has signed for Ducati. Though fans around the world have tried to point to a single reason – usually either money or having a factory bike – the decision-making process is far, far more complex than that.

It is a case study of the complex thought process that lies behind the decisions a rider must make when steering his career. With so little time spent at their peak, and so many factors outside of their control, the decisions a rider makes are not as clear-cut and simple as the fans would like them to be.

MotoGP: Yamaha Debuts Seamless Gearbox at Brno Test – Shift Times 58% Quicker than Conventional Gearbox

08/08/2013 @ 1:22 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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It had been widely rumored that Yamaha would have some important updates to test at its private test being held yesterday and today at Brno.

The biggest expected update to be tested was a seamless gearbox, but though Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis had hinted they might be testing the new gearbox, it was far from certain.

As the test at Brno was a private one, no media were invited who would be able to verify whether the seamless gearbox was being tested or not.

Fortunately, however, the Brno circuit was allowing visitors in to watch the test. And among those was Pavel, who runs the Czech Valentino Rossi fansite http://www.rossi-yamaha.cz/.

Pavel shot some video footage of the private test – thankfully not covered by the blanket ban Dorna has on all coverage of the official tests – and was kind enough to send us the audio from the recordings.

Armed with that audio, we were able to analyze the sound, as we have done previously (on both the Honda and the Yamaha), to try to judge whether Yamaha was indeed testing a seamless gearbox, and if it was, what advantage it was giving the riders.

MotoGP Engine Usage at the Halfway Mark: Yamaha Struggling, Honda Dominating, & Ducati Managing

08/06/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.

In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.

For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.

Analysis: Ducati’s Non-MSMA Entry Machines for MotoGP – A Great Gamble with the New Regulations

07/01/2013 @ 4:15 pm, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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At Assen, Ducati MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti revealed that they too will be offering bikes for non-MSMA teams in 2014. While Honda is selling a simplified production racer version of the RC213V, and Yamaha is to lease M1 engines, the package Ducati is offering could turn out to be very interesting indeed.

Instead of producing a separate machine, Ducati will be offering the 2013 version of the Desmosedici to private teams, to be entered as non-MSMA entries, and using the spec-electronics hardware and software package provided by Magneti Marelli.

Although the current 2013 machine is still far from competitive – at Assen, the two factory Ducatis finished 33 seconds behind the winner Valentino Rossi, and behind the Aprilia ART machine – the special conditions allowed for non-MSMA entries make the Desmosedici a much more interesting proposition.

Honda vs. Yamaha: Cal Crutchlow Helps Explain Why the First Corner Decides a MotoGP Race

06/21/2013 @ 1:13 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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Jorge Lorenzo has won the last two MotoGP rounds in utterly dominating style. Though his win at Mugello was by a greater margin, the victory at Barcelona was one of the most impressive of his career. Afterwards, both Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg and Monster Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow said of the Barcelona win that it was probably one of the best races he had ever ridden. Lorenzo had made only one mistake, the Spaniard said afterwards, and it was so small it did not even show up on the data.

As he had done at Mugello, Lorenzo ensured that he won the drag race to the first corner, aggressively outbraking Dani Pedrosa to take the lead. From that point, he held the Honda’s at bay until Dani Pedrosa finally broke, the Yamaha man going on to win by nearly two seconds. It was the second race in a row which Lorenzo had led from the start and gone on to win the race.

In fact, all three of Lorenzo’s wins, at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, have come in the same manner: Get into the first corner in the lead, push hard in the early laps, and ride as perfectly, and as fast, as possible throughout the entire race. There is simply no one else in the world capable of riding a motorcycle for 25 laps at full speed as well as Jorge Lorenzo at the moment.

As impressive as Lorenzo’s wins have been, the one thing they have lacked is spectacle. There has been no drama, no battles, no need to defend, and the only place Lorenzo has needed to attack has been off the line, an area perhaps aided by the new clutch Yamaha have been using for this year.

Does Lorenzo not enjoy the battle, is he incapable of holding his own in a battle, or is it down to the bike? It is a question which is debated by fans around the world, with an answer apparently hard to give.

Analyzing MotoGP’s Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test

06/17/2013 @ 10:18 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn’t rained off that is.

Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top.

The Factory Yamaha man had been working on setup, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.

On the other side of the garage, Valentino Rossi was once again pursuing weight distribution changes to improve his feel with the bike, especially to help him in braking. A more radical change was planned for the afternoon, but a fast crash at Turn 3 left the bike damaged, meaning that plan had to be abandoned.

Rossi returned to the track at the end of the day to test the new rear tire Bridgestone had brought, and was positive about the feel of the tire. The new construction hard rear tire was a clear improvement, Rossi said, and it was good for the hard rear to once again be an option.

So far this year, the only tire that has worked at most tracks has been the softer option, leaving the riders with a de facto rear allocation of just seven rears for a weekend.

MotoGP: Lap Time Analysis from De Puniet’s Suzuki Test

05/26/2013 @ 1:53 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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Randy de Puniet has completed his first two-day test on Suzuki’s MotoGP machine. The Frenchman flew to Japan directly after the French round of MotoGP at Le Mans, to take part in the test organized at Motegi’s Twin Ring circuit, home of the Japanese round of MotoGP, and a circuit owned by Honda.

Under the terms of his testing contract, De Puniet is unable to say anything official, his manager Eric Mahé telling the French magazine Moto Journal only that the test “went well”. Suzuki did not publish any times from the test or provide any other information, but as the MotoGP test teams from both Yamaha and Honda were present, it was inevitable that times would leak out. German-language website Speedweek claims the scoop, with times also to be published in the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, which is out on Tuesday.

According to Speedweek, the test took place in excellent conditions, with temperatures of 28°C and a dry track. The German website reports De Puniet as having posted a time of 1’47.0 on Suzuki’s new inline four MotoGP machine, though no other confirmation of that time has been forthcoming. In comparison, that is as fast as Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi on the day, and half a second quicker than Yamaha test rider Katsuaki Nakasuga.

MotoGP: Defective Tire Or Setup Error – Why Did Jorge Lorenzo Struggle at Le Mans?

05/24/2013 @ 10:05 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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Jorge Lorenzo’s disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans has been the cause of some debate. The factory Yamaha man finished a lowly seventh, his worst finish (other than DNFs) since his rookie season in 2008, and finishing off the podium for the first time since Indianapolis in 2011. To say this was an uncharacteristic performance from Lorenzo is something of an understatement.

So what went wrong? Immediately after the race, Lorenzo made it clear that he believed the problem was with his rear tire. He had had no grip whatsoever, and been unable to get any drive from his rear tire.

He told the press afterwards that the only logical explanation he could think of for his problems was a defective rear tire. Lorenzo had been fast in the morning warm up, though it was a little drier then, and the set up used was very similar to then. In 2012, Lorenzo had won at Le Mans by a huge margin, so he could not understand why he was struggling so badly in France.

Bridgestone naturally denied there had been a problem with Lorenzo’s tire. After the race Bridgestone officials told the press that they had examined the tire together with Yamaha engineers and found nothing wrong with it.

In their customary post-race press release, Bridgestone’s Motorsport Tyre Development Manager Shinji Aoki reiterated this stance. “As is always the case in these situations, his engineer thoroughly examined Jorge’s race tyres which were found to be in good working condition,” he is quoted in the press release as saying.

“In addition, I examined the tyre myself and personally discussed the matter with the Yamaha engineers and we all agreed that Jorge’s lack of rear grip was not attributable to his tyre.”

What do we know ourselves? Though nobody is saying anything other than official statements, there are still some clues we can piece together from the data available. The key fact is visible from the race footage, available to those with a MotoGP.com video pass on the official MotoGP website.

The First Steps on Ducati’s Long Road to Redemption

04/15/2013 @ 3:54 pm, by David Emmett35 COMMENTS

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“This is the reality,” factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso told the media after finishing 7th at Qatar, some 24 seconds off the pace of the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. Hopes had been raised on Saturday night, after the Italian had qualified in fourth, posting a flying lap within half a second of polesitter Lorenzo.

While Dovizioso’s qualifying performance had been strong, he had at the time warned against too much optimism. The Desmosedici is good on new tires, but as they begin to wear, the chronic understeer which has plagued the Ducati since, well, probably since the beginning of the 800cc era, and maybe even well before that, rears its ugly head and makes posting competitively fast laps nigh on impossible.

The problem appears to be twofold. Firstly, a chassis issue, which is a mixture of weight distribution, gearbox output shaft layout, frame geometry, and to a lesser extent chassis flexibility. And secondly, a problem with engine response, an issue which is down in part to electronics, and in part to Ducati still using just a single injector per throttle body.

Crunching the Numbers: Lorenzo vs Rossi – Marquez, Pedrosa, & Crutchlow – The Race Pace at Qatar

04/11/2013 @ 6:00 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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Much has been made in the days since the thrilling MotoGP season opener at Qatar of the charge of Valentino Rossi through the field and the pace he ran to catch the group behind Dani Pedrosa.

Speculation has been rife that had Rossi got a better start – and more importantly, got a much better qualifying position – he could have matched the pace of Lorenzo, and taken the fight to him. But just how realistic is the idea that Rossi could have run with Lorenzo at Qatar, and that Rossi could have matched the pace of his teammate? Reality, or just wishful thinking?