Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

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.

One on One: Valentino Rossi & Masao Furusawa

02/06/2011 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Continuing its “ONE on ONE” series, Yamaha has pitted two staples of its MotoGP garage to interview each other: nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi and former-Executive of Engineering Operations Masao Furusawa. The video is obviously a bit untimely, as Rossi has already made the switch over to Ducati, but the interview proves relevant as he and Furusawa talk about why Rossi made the jump in the paddock from Honda to Yamaha in 2003. If you supplant the appropriate manufacturers’ names, you could almost hear Rossi talking about his reasoning thus far with the Italian racing brand.

So far the video series is two-parts long, and has some great insights into the relationship that was the driving force for Rossi joining Yamaha, and for his departure (Furusawa’s retirement from Yamaha being one of many factors in Rossi’s decision to leave the Japanese marque).  Over the course of their discussion, fun trivia bits come up, like what Max Biaggi said when Rossi won the opening GP race at South Africa in 2004. Check past the jump to find out what his response was, and to watch the videos in their entirety.

Fiat Officially Says Ciao to Yamaha

01/03/2011 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

This weekend, Fiat and Yamaha unsurprisingly and officially ended their four-year relationship. The first non-tobacco title sponsor in the four-stroke MotoGP category, Fiat joined up with Yamaha in 2007, when MotoGP switched to the 800cc format. Originally justifying the sponsorship as a way to reach a car-buying audience that was younger than Formula 1 fans, Fiat has always had its eye on the Italian rider. That relationship has manifested itself in Rossi testing with Ferrari on numerous occasions, and prompted the nine-time World Champion to consider kart racing after his motorcycling career is over.

Final Quotes from the Rossi/Yamaha Era

11/08/2010 @ 6:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, tomorrow is the day that Valentino Rossi will officially leave Yamaha, and ride the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 for the first time. In 7 seasons Rossi won 4 Championships and 46 GP’s for the Japanese company, and helped turn the YZR-M1 from MotoGP dud, to the MotoGP stud in that timeframe.

Appropriately, former World Champion Valentino Rossi, along with Executive Officer of Engineering Operations Masao Furusawa and Managing Director of Yamaha Racing Lin Jarvis, have released statements about the past seven years, which shed a great deal of insight into the relationship between Yamaha and Rossi, and the impact that the Italian rider will leave behind on the Japanese company. Quotes and some photos after the jump.

Goodbye.

11/07/2010 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

The Motegi Infraction

10/12/2010 @ 6:48 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

While Valentino Rossi may have gotten a slap on the wrist from Yamaha Racing Boss Lin Jarvis for over-zealously racing teammate Jorge Lorenzo at Motegi, the Spanish press and Lorenzo have been less reserved with their words about the final laps of the Japanese GP. This hasn’t stopped some cheekiness from the Italian press though, who put together this fake accident report after Rossi and Lorenzo collided on the Twin Ring Circuit. Watch the video above, and make the call if that assigned fault to the right rider after the jump.

Clinched.

10/11/2010 @ 5:56 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Teammates.

10/07/2010 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Rossi Considers Skipping Last Two MotoGP Races – Fires A Shot Across Yamaha’s Bow

09/20/2010 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Much of the talk about Valentino Rossi and his injuries have centered on the Italian’s leg, which was broken with a compound fracture at Mugello earlier this year. Despite causing Rossi to miss several races, the Italian’s biggest physical concern hasn’t been his leg, but instead his shoulder, which he injured in April while motocross training. The shoulder has been a lingering issue for Rossi ever since his return at Brno, which culminated this weekend with the Fiat-Yamaha team actually having to setup the M1 at Aragon to work around the injury.

With a lackluster performance this weekend, not to mention a disappointing return to GP racing in general, Rossi announced after Sunday’s race that he was considering having his shoulder operated on after the three fly-away races (Motegi, Sepang, and Phillip Island), which would effectively mean that the nine-time World Champion would miss MotoGP’s last two stops at Estoril and Valencia. MotoMatters has once again done a superb job of transcribing Rossi’s interaction with the media on the subject, which adds some context to this development (read the transcript here)

This announcement is a big bombshell for the Yamaha camp, which could see its star rider, if we can still say that, again vacating from the team to heal his injuries. However again reading between the lines of the Italian, Rossi’s revelation this weekend has about as much to do with an injured shoulder as it does with putting pressure on Yamaha to release him from his contract in time to test the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 at Valencia.

Rossi Waiting to Hear if Burgess Will Retire

08/29/2010 @ 2:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Talking after the Indianapolis GP, Valentino Rossi explained that he is waiting to hear from Jeremy Burgess as to whether the Australian Crew Chief will retire next season. Assured of the fact that Burgess would not stay behind at Yamaha, and would not work with another rider, Rossi stated the buzz around whether Burgess would move with the Italian to Ducati, hinges as to when Burgess plans on retiring from motorcycle racing.

Ben Spies All But Confirms Factory Announcement

08/26/2010 @ 4:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Another one of the worst-kept secrets in the MotoGP paddock is the graduation of Ben Spies from the Monster Tech3 Yamaha team to the factory Yamaha squad. With Valentino Rossi now officially out of the Yamaha picture, Spies’ opening in the factory squad is finally vacant.

With Spies testing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 at Brno two weeks ago, more fuel was added to the fire that an announcement from the Texan was imminent. Dodging an official statements during Thursday’s pre-race conference at Indianapolis GP, Spies still all but confirmed where he would be for next season.