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.

Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP

09/19/2011 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Make no doubts about it, Honda is set to make a statement at the rescheduled Japanese GP on October 2nd. After much hemming and hawing over whom would and would not race at Motegi, virtually every rider in the MotoGP paddock has been confirmed to be in attendance at Japan early next month, including Casey Stoner (according to Honda at least).

Whether it is because the riders have begun to believe the bevy of reports that Motegi and the Fukushima nuclear plant are safe, or the fact that the Twin Ring Circuit has already played host to several high-profile events, or even if it is the simple reality that Japanese companies like Honda and Yamaha have enormously long memories regarding issues of pride and honor, the fact of the matter is that not only will the MotoGP grid be as full as possible (there are question marks regarding Loris Capirossi’s shoulder), but Honda will field two more riders for the Japanese GP.

Video: Hiroshi Aoyama at 300 km/h

08/26/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

For Hiroshi Aoyama, the perfect lap is unattainable, as motorcycle racers are always looking for a little bit more speed, and thus a better lap. That being said, the Japanese rider has perhaps an unhealthy relationship with velocity, saying that while going 300 km/h is scary, he “likes that feeling.”

With more super slow-mo footage from Catalunya, Red Bull again brings us some 1000 fps video, just in time to promote Sunday’s Indianapolis GP. For those movie continuity buffs, you can tell this video was made earlier in the year, as Aoyama talks about Indy’s four different kind of asphalt types, which have now been paved over for one consistent tarmac throughout the infield. Watch the high-speed camera footage after the jump.

Official: Pedrosa Out for Assen – Aoyama in at Repsol Honda

06/22/2011 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

HRC has officially announced now that Dani Pedrosa will miss the Dutch round of the MotoGP Championship. Breaking his collarbone back at the French GP, Pedrosa’s place on the disabled list was extended when it was discovered that bone fragments were still lurking in his shoulder. Pedrosa underwent yet another surgery to repair his collarbone, but his return to racing has been an uncertainty lately, as some in the assembled MotoGP press have suggested the Spaniard will sit out the rest of the season.

Whatever the status may be on Pedrosa’s return, the Ductch TT marks the third race absence for the Repsol Honda rider, and accordingly the team is obliged to replace him. Moving up San Carlos Gresini Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama, the Japanese rider will swing a leg over the third Honda factory team bike, while Marco Simoncelli rounds out the group on the fourth factory bike that’s still nestled in the Gresini garage.

Dani Pedrosa Has Shoulder Surgery…Yet Again

06/16/2011 @ 4:11 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Dani Pedrosa underwent yet another shoulder surgery today, this time to fix a loose bone fragment that had become dislodged during the Spaniard’s recuperation from the broken collarbone he suffered from his crash at Le Mans during the French GP. How this complication with his shoulder occurred is a subject of much contention in the MotoGP paddock, as the Spanish press is adamant that Pedrosa re-injured his shoulder in a supermoto crash. HRC however denies this rumor, though the Japanese company has not offered a counter-explanation for Pedrosa’s current situation. The fact remains though that Dani Pedrosa’s healing process has been pushed back further, and Repsol Honda is not sure that Dani will be fit enough to participate in the upcoming Dutch TT.

Dani Pedrosa Out for Silverstone – And Then Some?

06/06/2011 @ 12:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Dani Pedrosa on his blog today announced that he would not compete in the British GP at Silverstone next weekend, instead opting to heal his collarbone further, which he broke a the French GP several weeks ago. Though Pedrosa was on the fence about competing in the Catalan GP, it comes as no surprise that the Spanish rider will sit out Silverstone, now having missed his home race in Barcelona.

What does come as surprising though is the very credible rumors that Pedrosa has re-injured his shoulder while doing some Supermoto training, and because of this incident, may sit out the rest of the season (which may have prompted the blog post itself). Boom goes the dynamite.

MotoGP: Crashes Shake-Up Qualifying at Jerez

04/02/2011 @ 5:44 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Qualifying for the Spanish GP got underway today under the sunny, but windy skies of Jerez, Spain. Unsurprising to just about anyone, the Repsol Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were on the top of the time sheets, with local Jorge Lorenzo completing the front row and only 0.16 seconds off the qualifying pace. While the rank and order surprises few, all eyes will be on the latter stages of tomorrow’s race to see how Dani Pedrosa can manage with his ailing shoulder, which the Spaniard will have operated on immediately after the GP

The qualifying session saw a total of six riders hitting the tarmac and gravel traps, with many blaming the wind as a contributing factor. The list of riders crashing includes Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet, Karel Abraham, and Hiroshi Aoyama. Thankfully no one was injured, but in the case of Rossi, it meant trashing his preferred bike for the session, causing him to qualify on his other machine, and landing 12th on the starting grid.

He’ll be joined on the fourth row by teammate Nicky Hayden, who has been having a miserable season thus far on the Desmosedici GP11, and once again Randy de Puniet proved himself to be the fastest Ducati, qualifying seventh. Honorable mentions go out to John Hopkins, who continued his progress filling in for the injured Alvaro Bautista this weekend with a fourteenth grid position for tomorrow’s race. With a good start we could see a mid-pack finish for Hopper, who has shown marked improvement with each session on the Suzuki GSV-R.

With the rain very likely to make an appearance for tomorrow’s race, all bets are off for how the Spanish GP will shape-up.

Chapter 1: Your Cheat Sheet to the Qatar GP

03/20/2011 @ 6:34 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, the 2011 MotoGP Championship is about to kick off today. Asphalt & Rubber has made the trek out to the Middle East, coming to you straight from the Losail International Circuit located just outside of Doha, Qatar. The weather has been favorable here in Qatar, with the heat down during the day, the skies clear but at times hazy, and the humidity staying down during the evening sessions. Hosting a two-day testing session before the Qatar GP, the riders have been here in Doha for almost 10 days now.

While you enjoy the return of MotoGP racing action to your online feeds and television screens, we’ve put together a cheat sheet to the Qatar GP to fill you in with the off-season happenings, as well as what’s been going on in the paddock while we’ve been here at Losail. Hold on race fans, prototype motorcycle racing is coming at you very, very, very soon.

Honda Now Has Five Factory Riders – Knights San Carlo Honda Gresini as a Factory Squad

03/02/2011 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

How serious is Honda about winning the 2011 MotoGP World Championship? At Team Gresini’s MotoGP launch at Monza today, it was quietly confirmed that the San Carlo Honda Gresini squad has been given the keys to the candy store, turning the team into a factory-backed effort. While Marco Simoncelli was already assured factory support from Honda for the 2011 season, the move adds Hiroshi Aoyama to the factory rider list, and likely makes Gresini’s life infinitely less complex by not having to manage between a factory and non-factory split garage.

Honda Wraps-Up Domination at Third Day of Sepang

02/24/2011 @ 6:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

“Veni, Vidi, Vici” might as well be stenciled on the four factory Honda RC212V race bikes of Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, and Simoncelli, as the foursome has dominated the Malaysian track over the past three days of MotoGP testing. Casey Stoner takes the top prize though, climbing once again to the top of the time sheets, with Dani Pedrosa right behind him as the only other man to crack under the two minute barrier at Sepang. While these results aren’t too surprising to those following the off-season closely, the time sheets speak an interesting story for the rest of the field.

The Top 13 riders are clumped by manufacturer, and who leads each group is a bit surprising. Ben Spies bested teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who also found himself behind Colin Edwards from the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad. In the Ducati camp, it was Hector Barbera who had the fastest time, ahead of Hayden and Rossi who both shared a best lap of 2:01.469 in Day Three. Even Alvaro Bautista’s Suzuki made a surprisingly quick journey around the track at Sepang, as the Spanish rider was 8th fastest overall for the day.

Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang

02/22/2011 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Casey Stoner set the pace today at MotoGP’s second off-season test at Sepang. The Australian, and the rest of the four factory Honda riders, proved to be very impressive on the Malaysian track, as the 2011 Honda RC212V seems to be hitting its stride just before the season opener in Qatar in a few weeks.

The Honda riders don’t have things all sewn up though, as the Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo was looking very fast, as were Americans Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. Earlier in the day, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi even cracked into the Top 5 on the standings, and despite finishing the day just over a second behind Stoner, the Italian was upbeat about the team’s progress and his physical condition.