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.

Casey Stoner Rules Out a MotoGP Return…Again

06/15/2013 @ 1:04 am, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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Casey Stoner has quashed rumors that he could make a return to MotoGP. In an interview with the British magazine Autosport, he says he will not come back to Grand Prix racing while it continues in the direction it is heading in. “I’m closed. I’m done with it,” Stoner told Autosport.

There have been persistent rumors that Stoner could come back for a couple of wildcards at the end of the season, though the Australian has denied he would be interested in coming in as a wildcard.

More outlandish rumors surfaced a month ago, claiming that Stoner was close to making a shock return to Ducati, and that the Italian company’s new German ownership had offered him a large sum to race again.

Casey Stoner To Wildcard at Phillip Island and Motegi?

02/17/2013 @ 12:30 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Wherever racing paddocks assemble, rumors accumulate. The latest piece of gossip to hit the racing grapevine concerns Casey Stoner, and is emerging from the paddock he has just entered – the Australian V8 Supercars series – and involves the paddock he has just left, MotoGP. According to the V8 gossip*, Casey Stoner is to wildcard in at least two MotoGP races in the 2013 season, aboard a Honda RC213V.

The paddock gossip was picked up by the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, who contacted Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo for confirmation. Suppo denied any knowledge of such an agreement, though he did state that Stoner would be more than welcome to race as a wildcard for Honda, should he wish to do so.

The rumors do not exist only in the V8 Supercar paddock. The rumors are also doing the rounds among those with connections to Honda in the MotoGP paddock as well. Anonymous sources suggest that Stoner has been signed to do all three flyaway races – Sepang, Phillip Island, and Motegi – as well as private testing for HRC.

MotoGP: HRC’s Shuhei Nakamoto Looks Back At 2012

01/11/2013 @ 11:39 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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With the kickoff to the 2013 season growing ever closer, those involved in motorcycle racing are starting to look back at 2012 and look ahead to 2013. After yesterday’s review from Bridgestone, Honda are the next organization to issue a press release interview with a senior management figure. The press release interview with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto makes for fascinating reading, providing an insight into the 2012 season and expectations of 2013.

The interview covers the preparations for the switch to 1,000cc, and the confidence with which HRC went into the new era. However, Honda soon ran into trouble, with the increase in the minimum weight added in December 2011, and the revised construction of Bridgestone tires supplied for the 2012 season, both the softer rear tire and the revised front tire (for additional detail into why the weight increase was announced so late, see my note below the interview).

Nakamoto provides some interesting details on how HRC dealt with the extra weight and the revised tires, revealing that it cost them half a season to solve the problems they had created. The HRC boss also explains why he believes that having multiple tire manufacturers is a better solution for all involved, creating more competition and allowing multiple solutions for different bikes. Nakamoto states that he believes this is one of the reasons why MotoGP racing has become so predictable.

Nakamoto also has very high praise for both Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez, the man brought in to replace him. His compliments on Marquez approach and talent are telling, Nakamoto revealing that at the HRC test in Sepang, Marquez was already lapping at the same pace that Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were running. Nakamoto also provides insight into why he will miss Casey Stoner, and exactly how important the Australian was to Honda’s racing program. Nakamoto rates Stoner above any other rider in the MotoGP paddock.

The interview is an absolutely fascinating read, with one of the most intriguing and interesting characters in the MotoGP paddock. Highly recommended:

MotoGP: Phillip Island Resurfacing Project Commences

12/10/2012 @ 11:32 am, by David EmmettComments Off

After several years of steady deterioration, the surface at Phillip Island is about to get fixed. According to reports from Australia, work commences on resurfacing the iconic Australian circuit on Tuesday morning (Monday USA time), and over a period of two days, the track will receive a fresh layer of asphalt, for the first time since 1998.

The new surface is to be laid over a flatter substrate, with 40mm of the old tarmac already having been removed to make way for the new asphalt. The aim of the project is to remove the bumps which have accrued over the years, as the track has taken punishment from MotoGP, World Superbikes, Australian V8 Supercars, and the many track days and other events which happen at the circuit nearly all year round.

Saturday Summary at Valencia: Of Lap Records, Hunger For Success, & Giving Factories Enough Rope

11/11/2012 @ 1:12 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

The last of the 990cc pole records finally went at Valencia, along with the last record held by Valentino Rossi at any of the tracks currently on the calendar. Dani Pedrosa’s astonishing last lap was inch perfect, and put him 0.158 seconds faster than Rossi’s time, set in 2006 at the infamous season finale in which Rossi got a dismal start, then fell off trying to catch Nicky Hayden, handing the American the world championship in the process.

Pedrosa’s lap really was something special, though the Spaniard was not as impressed as the onlookers. He had had a few good laps in his career, he told the press conference, and this was definitely one of them. Pedrosa has looked ominous all weekend – actually, since Indianapolis – and if it were going to stay dry, then you would be hard put to think of anyone who could beat the Repsol Honda man.

Jorge Lorenzo is keen to try, and is fast all the way round the circuit to the final sector, but is losing a couple of tenths just in the acceleration out of the final corner and towards the line. The Hondas dominate there, good round the long left before the final corner – both Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were hanging the rear out all round that turn, showing a hint of the old tire-smokin’ 990 days – but absolute missiles on acceleration.

That has been Lorenzo’s complaint all year, not sufficient acceleration and not the wheelie control which the Hondas appear to have. If Lorenzo arrives at the final corner with a Honda behind him, he will fear for his position.

MotoGP: A Qualifying of Eras at the Valencian GP

11/11/2012 @ 12:44 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

With some cooperation from the weather at the track in Valencia, MotoGP enjoyed its last dry qualifying session of the season. Saturday’s afternoon session was a stark contrast to Friday’s Free Practice sessions, which had mostly been a wasted day for the GP riders. With nothing on the line for the Valencian GP, riders in MotoGP are mostly racing this weekend for pride and bragging rights.

Casey Stoner’s last race in MotoGP, the Australian is surely looking for a good result, though there are question marks regarding his ankle. His teammate Dani Pedrosa is also looking for a strong result in his home country, with the Spaniard now out of the Championship hunt, but looking to end what has been a stellar second-half of a season in the Repsol Honda squad.

The man to stop though is his once bitter rival Jorge Lorenzo, who will carry the #1 plate next year. For Lorenzo, Valencia is about winning the most races in the 2012 season, with him and Pedrosa tied at six a piece.

For many of the other riders, Sunday’s race marks the last time they will be in the premier class, with their current teams, or even on the same kind of race bike. Perhaps the biggest piece of anticipation for the race, is the post-season testing the follows it. But, first things first.

Thursday Summary at Valencia: Of Anticipation, Determination, Preparation, & New Rules for 2014

11/08/2012 @ 10:37 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

The atmosphere in the paddock at Valencia is an odd mixture of fatigue, excitement and anticipation. Fatigue, because it is the end of a long season, and the teams and riders are barely recovered from the three back-to-back flyaway rounds; excitement, because this is the last race of the year, and the last chance to shine, and for some, the last chance to impress a team sufficiently to secure a ride next year; and anticipation, because with so many riders switching brands and classes, they are already thinking about the test to come on Tuesday.

Or in Casey Stoner’s case, thinking about a future outside of MotoGP. As his departure from the championship grows near, it is clear that he has had more than enough of the series. Asked if he was worried about the politics in V8 Supercars, where he is headed in the near future, he said he wasn’t, because he understood that V8 Supercars is a different kind of championship.

MotoGP, though, was supposed to be a professional championship, and in his opinion, it was ‘a joke’. Four races in Spain, another just over the border in Portugal, this was not a truly world championship, Stoner said. Instead, MotoGP is too much of a European championship, and it needed to rediscover its roots.

Wednesday Summary at Valencia: Of a Last Chance to See

11/08/2012 @ 12:29 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

In an ideal world, championships are settled in a straight fight between the main contenders in the final race of the season. Unfortunately, the world we live in is far from ideal – as the ever-dwindling stock of prototype machines on the grid testifies – and so the last race of the year can be a bit of a formality. In 2012, with the champions in all three classes securing their titles during the flyaways, there is not much more at stake at Valencia. Except pride.

Given that pride is what motivates a motorcycle racer above all else, that means that there is every reason to hope for a real treat at Valencia on Sunday. This is the last race of the season, the last chance to prove your worth, to silence your doubters, to settle those scores before the long winter begins.

No need to be conservative here, no need to calculate the odds. You can take that chance, take a risk and crash out trying. At the last race of the season, you go all in, as Nicky Hayden’s leathers proclaimed at Valencia in 2006, when it looked like he might miss out on his first ever MotoGP title. And there is a lot of pride at stake.

Trackside Tuesday: There’s No Place Like Home

10/30/2012 @ 3:06 pm, by Scott Jones12 COMMENTS

This past weekend at Phillip Island was a memorable experience in two distinct but related ways. It was my first visit to this famous track, and I arrived with high expectations, but figured I’d be at least a little disappointed. For all the hyperbole heaped on Phillip Island’s GP course, how could it be that great?

But as I explored the track, which immediately reminded me of one of my favorite courses in the world, Donington Park, I found that once again, TV fails to deliver the full picture. Phillip Island not only has interesting and exciting turns and elevation changes, but is also set in a gorgeous landscape of green and blue.

It has few of the eyesores than usually adorn race tracks. There are no giant wire fences, very little Armco away from the pit lane, few trackside porta-potties or trailers, and from what I saw, no orange cones. Instead there are lush grasses and dense forests of trees, or blue ocean water with sea birds in the air.

Spectators are allowed close and unobstructed views of the track and we photographers are allowed even closer. If a TV stand or food vendor is spoiling your background, you can often move to a different position and make the distration disappear from the shot. When I first arrived I asked in the Media Center for a map of the Red Zones, places around the track they don’t want us to go.

I got a puzzled look and this reply: “Ummm, I don’t think there are any. Just go where you want unless a marshall objects.” There seems to be only one general rule: if you see a row of tires, don’t stand between the those tires and the track. If you can respect that amount of common sense, pretty much anywhere else is available.

So working there was a pleasure and I seemed to be in a land of nearly endless possibilities for images. I can imagine it would take years of shooting there regularly to be confident you’d found most of the really good perspectives.

Sunday Summary at Phillip Island: Of Champions, Home Crowds, & Past Glory

10/30/2012 @ 2:54 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Two freshly anointed champions, three impressive winners, and a large crowd of ecstatic and yet wistful fans, come to say goodbye to a departing hero and hope to spot a new one arriving. Even the weather cooperated. That’s how good the Australian Grand Prix was at Phillip Island this year. All three races were a lot less intense than the previous two weekends, but even that didn’t matter, because of the manner in which the winners secured their victories, and because the Australian crowd had something to cheer about in all three categories.

It started in the Moto3 race, where Sandro Cortese rode one of his best races of the year, the title he clinched last weekend at Sepang clearly a weight off his mind, allowing the young German to ride freely. He had Miguel Oliveira to contend with for most of the race, but in the end, he would not be denied. The home crowd still had much to cheer about, as local boy Arthur Sissis, the 17-year-old former Red Bull Rookie, won an intense battle for third, putting an Australian on the podium for the first time on Sunday.

In Moto2, Pol Espargaro gave a display of dominance rarely seen in the intensively competitive class. It was hardly unexpected, Espargaro having stamped his authority on practice for the past two days, but the style in which the Spaniard won was very, very impressive. It took him a couple of laps to get past Marc Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami, but once he did, he put a second or more a lap on most of the field, before cruising home to a spectacular victory. Espargaro could do nothing to prevent Marquez becoming champion, concentrating solely on the task ahead, winning as many races as possible.

The home crowd had something to cheer for as well, Ant West riding an outstanding race to hold off a late charge from Marc Marquez to secure second place, making it two podiums in a row. West’s podium at Sepang last weekend took the weight of the Australian veteran’s shoulders and has given him the confidence boost he needed.

The team have been making slow progress, West had said earlier this weekend, and Sepang was the reward from that hard work. Most of all, though, it had helped him find his belief in himself again; that alone is worth half a second or more a lap. At this level, motorcycle racing is 90% mental.

Marquez finished third, but still took the 2012 Moto2 title with honor. He may not have been able to win – no one had the measure of Espargaro at Phillip Island – but he gave an impressive account of himself and secured the championship with a podium. Marquez is a deserved winner of the championship, despite the criticism sometimes aimed at the young Spaniard. The onboard video of the first lap at Motegi shows one of the most compelling displays of courage, skill and racing sense of recent years, and justifies on its own his ascension to the premier class next season.

There has been much made of Marquez’ backing and support, and of the special treatment he has received. It is true that he has had solid sponsorship and always been in a strong team, but the reason why he has had the backing is because of his extraordinary talent, rather than the other way around. A MotoGP team manager who was at the test where Marquez took his first laps on a Moto2 machine was in awe: “He is a very special talent.”

Winning the title on what is a very ordinary chassis – the massive success of the Kalex bikes compared to the mediocre results of the other Suters – speaks volumes about the ability of Marquez, and the Spaniard will be very fast from the very first MotoGP race at Qatar. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto has already said that he expects Marquez to be on the podium at that race; it would not surprise me in the slightest.

The main course, however, was the demonstration to be given by Casey Stoner in the MotoGP class. Stoner had almost humiliated the rest of the field during practice, consistently half a second or more quicker than anyone else, the gap often closer to a second. At a track where the lap is usually 90 seconds, that is a massive advantage.