XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

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.

WSBK: Sylvain Guintoli & Liberty Racing Part Ways

07/20/2012 @ 3:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

World Superbike in Brno this race-weekend, the home round for the Czech-based Effenbert-Liberty Ducati team. Once again in the spotlight after its dust-up following the Monza round, Effenbert Liberty rider Sylvain Guintoli took to Twitter ahead of WSBK’s stop in Brno, announcing in a string of messages that that Czech team had breached its contract with him by not providing a bike for the Czech round, and as far as the French rider was concerned, the contract had been nullified.

Giving its side of the situation several days later, Liberty Racing first cited an issue with Guintoli’s technical team, but later amended that statement by blaming Guintoli’s lackluster results as the reason for why the French rider had been sacked. This is of course in spite of the fact that Guintoli has been on the podium three times this season so far, including a race win in Holland. Guintoli is currently eighth overall in the Championship, and is the first Liberty Racing rider to have won a race in WSBK.

Photo: Two-Wheel Drive for Ducati Corse?

08/18/2011 @ 10:54 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Naw…we’re just having some fun today, but not as much fun as Nicky Hayden’s pit crew during the Brno test. Staging this photo of the team supposedly starting up the Desmosedici’s new two-wheel drive system, the photo plays right into the rumors that Ducati is literally trying anything under the sun to make the GP11 work for Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. With Filippo Preziosi essentially saying there are no sacred cows at the Italian racing effort, we honestly wouldn’t put it past Ducati Corse to give the two-wheel drive system a go…too bad its banned by MotoGP rules.

Source: GPone (whose post is far funnier than ours)

First Shots: 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1

08/15/2011 @ 7:21 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With yesterday’s race out of the way, MotoGP’s riders spent their Monday back at the Cardion AB circuit in Brno, testing their 800cc & 1,000cc machines. While we’ve already seen the 2012 Honda RC213V and the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, making its first public appearance was the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies tested the new M1 at Brno; and additionally, the duo also put in laps on their current M1 machinery, which received a more powerful version of their 800cc motor.

With both Yamaha riders happy with the upgraded motor on the 800cc machine, and the package coming together for 2012, Yamaha’s reintroduction into 1,000cc racing can be marked down as a success. However, it was Casey Stoner on his RC213V, with its newly revised chassis for Brno, that was fastest for the day, and easily surpassing Dani Pedrosa’s qualifying time from Saturday during the test.

Also making progress was Mika Kallio on the Suter CRT machine with its BMW motor. The claiming rule team (CRT) has clearly made some improvements, being only 4.3 seconds down on Stoner’s time. Suter still has a long way to go, but can walk away from Brno having saved more face than they did at Mugello a few months ago.

MotoGP: Decisive Racing at the Czech GP

08/14/2011 @ 9:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The weather continued to shine on Brno for the Czech GP (we’ll see if it holds off for Monday’s 1,000 bike test), as the MotoGP riders geared-up for one of the paddock’s favorite circuits on the calendar. With MotoGP dodging a bullet on what’s been a rain-filled season, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Casey Stoner lead the 17 rider grid with their front-row qualifying lap times. While Pedrosa seemed to be uncatchable all week long, Lorenzo and Stoner seemed up to the task of at least being road blocks to the flying Spaniard, and in the process grasp some desperately needed strong finishes for the Championship title.

With precious Championship points on the line, Brno held the possibility for several riders to mount their assault on the leader board, including third-row starter Andrea Dovizioso. For Stoner on the other hand, the Czech GP was an opportunity to put some breathing room between himself and the competition, especially as the Australian considers whether he will forgo the Japanese GP round at Motegi later this October, surely losing position on the Championship in the process. With so much riding on their performance at Brno, MotoGP racing didn’t disappoint in this well-fought race.

MotoGP: Sunshine & Qualifying at Brno

08/13/2011 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

After a soggy Free Practice 3, the sun in Brno came out and helped dry the Czech circuit in-time for MotoGP’s qualifying session. In a day that saw a plethora of crashes, both in the wet and in the dry, no one was more devastatingly affected that John Hopkins, as the Anglo-American broke three fingers in his right hand, meaning the wild card rider would have to sit out the Czech GP. On the other spectrum of fortunes, Dani Pedrosa resided on a different level from the rest of the MotoGP field, having been lightning quick all week.

With eyes on Pedrosa going into qualifying, questions began to rise as to how the Spaniard would factor into the Championship standings. Out of contention for the title, Pedrosa can still play a large determining role as to whom, Casey Stoner or Jorge Lorenzo, will be the 2011 MotoGP World Champion. Also still technically in title contention is Repsol Honda’s third rider, Andrea Dovizioso, and though a long-shot for the Championship, is well within striking distance for second place. With Brno the 11th stop of this 18 round season, riders are looking to wrap-up the loose ends of the Championship this weekend. Find out how they qualified after the jump.

Karel Abraham’s Track Notes at Brno

08/12/2011 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Stoner Waivers on Motegi – Announces Baby is on the Way

08/12/2011 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The MotoGP World Championship resumed in full-force on Thursday in Brno, as the summer break concluded and the Czech GP began. The first gathering of the MotoGP riders since the official independent report on the safety concerning the Motegi circuit, all eyes were on Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo to see if their stance had changed regarding the postponed Japanese GP. With both riders softening their stance on boycotting the Japanese MotoGP round, it was Stoner who dropped the bigger bombshell, announcing that he and wife Adriana were expecting their first child. Saying that he would further consider racing at Motegi, Stoner admitted that the news he was about to become a family man influenced his decision to race at Motegi.

Who is Karel Abraham?

07/28/2011 @ 4:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The lower ranks of GP racing, 125GP, 250GP, and Moto2, are not as well-followed in the United States as MotoGP, so when the Czech Republic’s Karel Abraham climbed aboard a Ducati Desmosedici GP10 and started putting down impressive lap times, a collective “who the heck is Karel Abraham?” was uttered out-loud. The 21-year-old law student got a proper roasting on his introduction to the premier class by english-speaking journalists (ourselves included), as it was revealed quickly that Karel Abraham is actually Karel Abraham Jr., where Karel Abraham Sr. is the owner of the Brno race circuit and the Cardion AB race team. Touching on a vein of nepotism, yes…daddy bought him a MotoGP race team was uttered by us.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this season at Qatar though, where I was standing on the wall at Turn 1 at the Arabian track during MotoGP’s last testing session before the 2011 season, and watched a young Ducati rider hold his own against the MotoGP field. Granted, the junior Abraham was not setting the desert sands on fire like Casey Stoner, but he was no slouch either…and this was on “the wrong bike” in the GP paddock. Throughout the season, he’s shaken things up a number of times, and on several occasions been the fastest Ducati in a session. When you consider that all of this is occuring in the 21-year-old’s first entry in the big show, Karel becomes an increasingly impressive rider.

Did his father buy him a MotoGP team? That may be the case, but the Czech rider is anything but a spoiled brat. Down to earth, friendly, and funny during our 30 minute conversation, Karel is perhaps an example of how MotoGP riders should be during interactions with fans and media. In a sport where riders switch into PR-zombie mode as soon as a journalist shows up, it can be incredibly difficult to get the true perspective inside the MotoGP paddock, but talking to Karel proved to be a refreshing reminder that MotoGP riders after all people like the rest of us.

It’s perhaps unfair that Abraham came into the MotoGP Championship with this stigma attached to him, as he showed to me this past weeekdn that he is at least one of the most relatable riders in the paddock. As for his raw talent and skill, the results speak for themselves really, as Karel is on his way to becoming MotoGP’s Rookie of the Year (sorry Crutchlow fans), and is currently ahead of Alvaro Bautista, Toni Elias, Cal Crutchlow, Loris Capirossi, and Randy de Puniet in the 2011 MotoGP Championship standings. That all being said, enjoy A&R‘s Q&A with Karel Abraham after the jump.

MotoGP: Hopper Also to Wild Card at Brno for Rizla Suzuki

07/21/2011 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

John Hopkins is a busy man with his duties to Crescent Racing. Not only is the Anglo-American riding as a wild card at World Superbike’s next round at Silverstone, but the former-MotoGP racer will also ride Álvaro Bautista’s back-up Suzuki GSV-R at the Czech GP in three weeks’ time (the same course where Hopkins secured a second place finish in 2007, his best-ever results in MotoGP).

The outing will be Hopper’s second cameo appearance in the teal blue colors of Rizla Suzuki this year, as he filled-in for Bautista at the Spanish GP in Jerez, after the factory rider broke his femur at the Qatar GP. Hopkins is currently second in the British Superbike Championship, in a season that many are tipping as a trial-point for Hopper’s return back to MotoGP.

WSBK: Race 2 a Chess Match in the Czech Republic

07/10/2011 @ 7:27 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Max Biaggi won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Brno during Saturday’s Superpole sessions, beating out Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa, and Eugene Laverty, who join him on the front row for the second race of the weekend. Biaggi’s teammate Leon Camier was not so quick, though he did manage to move on to Superpole 3 after a late crash in the first third nearly kept him from setting any time at all. Neither Castrol Honda moved on beyond the final Saturday qualifying practice, nor did most of the Kawasaki riders fare terribly well.

Multiple riders sat out this weekend’s racing, with Lorenzo Lanzi replacing James Toseland at BMW Motorrad Italia, Alex Lowes in for Jonathan Rea at Castrol Honda, and no one filling in for Troy Corser at BMW Motorrad. Toseland rode in the Friday free practice, but was forced to give up his seat after his wrist injury continued to cause problems. Ruben Xaus was also forced to sit out Race 2 after a massive crash in Race 1 on Sunday. Though he did not have any broken bones, he did not race. Chris Vermeulen also did not start the second race.