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.

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.

Interview: Fausto Gresini – The Man Behind Honda’s Satellite MotoGP Racing Effort

03/15/2012 @ 11:17 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Press interviews that are done internally by the teams themselves are usually very one-sided, glowing, and devoid of any controversial or tough questions, so you have to give a hat-tip to HRC for producing a pretty fair shake of an interview with Gresini Honda‘s Fausto Gresini. The former-racer turned MotoGP Team Manager is heralded as the most successful team owner in the history of MotoGP, which is certainly open for debate, though Gresini undeniably has some very note-worthy notches on his belt.

Along with his successes Gresini and his squad unfortunately have also had their fair share of tragedy. Losing Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli at Sepang in 2011, the team has been at the center of two dark chapters of the MotoGP story. Running a black livery in 2012, instead of the team’s customary white color scheme, the absence of Simoncelli still percolates underneath the demure exterior of the team, though the Gresini Honda team is clearly looking forward instead of back.

Taking on the challenge of running a CRT entry for the 2012 MotoGP Championship, Gresini Honda will race with both a factory prototype and with a Ten Kate-prepped Honda CBR1000RR motor in an FTR chassis. At the helm of the CRT machine will be Michele Pirro, the same rider who gave Gresini a dramatic finish to the 2011 season, by winning the final Moto2 round at the Valencian GP. Also new to the team is Alvaro Bautista, who has been our dark horse favorite here at A&R. Fast, but underrated, Bautista’s true potential will be measured this year as he joins an all-star team, and rides “the bike” of the GP paddock: the 2012 Honda RC213V.

Video: Who is Max Biaggi?

02/23/2012 @ 9:36 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

I’m not going to front, when it comes to jobs, I have a pretty good thing going here with Asphalt & Rubber. Of course, if you want to talk about guys who really have turned a passion into a dream, Jamie Robinson takes the cake. Traveling around the world on miscellaneous two-wheeled adventures, the moto-videographer gets to sit down with some of the most interesting personalities in motorcycling. This morning, Jamie sent us this video of an interview he did with probably one of the most mysterious persons in motorcycle racing: Max Biaggi.

The Roman Emperor as he has become called, Biaggi has an amazing life story, and has often been cast as the antagonist in pieces involving fellow Italians Loris Capirossi, Valentino Rossi, and more recently Marco Melandri. A four-time 250GP World Champion, Biaggi’s crowning achievement to-date was his 2010 World Superbike Championship victory on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory. Plagued with injuries during the 2011 season, Biaggi is back for 2012 and looking for his #1 plate again.

Despite what you probably already think of Max Biaggi, Jamie has really managed to show another side to the Italian rider in this video interview. Now a family man and in his 40’s, maybe what we are seeing is a new and improved Biaggi, or then again, maybe this is the same Max that the media just never wanted to portray. Good stuff, check it out after the jump.

Andrea Dovizioso: “Marco Was My Biggest Rival Ever”

11/04/2011 @ 12:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

One way you can gauge the life of a competitor is to talk to his rivals, and for Marco Simoncelli, there was no greater rival than Andrea Dovizioso. Racing against each other since the age of eight on pocket bikes, Dovi and Simoncelli have come through the GP ranks battling one another throughout every turn of their 125, 250, and MotoGP careers.With that on-track rivalry coming to a head this season, as both Italians were on factory-supported Honda RC212V race bikes, Marco and Andrea found themselves battling not only on the track, but off the track as well, as Both riders looked to secure the third and final factory bike from Honda for the 2012 season.

With Simoncelli winning the bid for a factory Honda seat, and such a fierce adversarial story brewing between the two racers, you would expect Dovizioso to have hated his counterpart, but nothing could be farther from the truth. As Dovi explained to A&R at Valencia this week, while the pair of Italians were rivals on the track, they were also colleagues who respected each others once the helmets, leathers, and gloves came off. Speaking solemnly to a small group of journalists, Dovizioso talked about a man who perhaps defined his own career more than the contrary, and while the Italian was clear to point out that he and Simoncelli were not friends, they both had a professional relationship of mutual respect forged out of two-wheeled combat.

Edwards Says an R1 Motor in Custom Frame Would Be the “Weapon of Choice” If He Races CRT

08/27/2011 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With rumors swirling around where Colin Edwards will land next year, we grabbed a moment with the Texas Tornado to ask him about one rumor that keeps cropping up: him on a claiming rule team for the 2012 season. Of course, you don’t just ask Colin Edwards direct questions, and expect direct answers, as the Texan enjoys a good laugh.

Getting some MotoGP-rookie hazing, Edwards had some fun with A&R while talking about CRTs, but what the Texan did say (or in some cases, didn’t say) is pretty interesting. One thing is for certain, the two-time World Superbike champion was very keen on having a pepped-up production motor inside a prototype chassis for his bike next year.

With an official announcement likely to come at Misano, the question now is where Colin will end up for 2012. Welcome to Silly Season 2011 ladies and gentleman.

Colin Edwards: “I’m Not Ready to Retire”

08/24/2011 @ 7:30 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Also joining Nicky Hayden at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway teleconference was the venerable Colin Edwards, who took some time off from scoping and loading his new 338 Edge rifle to talk to Asphalt & Rubber and a select group of other journalists about the MotoGP season and the upcoming Indianapolis round. By his own admission, Edwards is not having as good of a season this year in MotoGP as he would like, with many in the paddock wondering if 2011 is the Texas Tornado’s last year in MotoGP. Saying that he wasn’t ready to retire, Edwards hinted that some announcements were coming down the line, though probably not in time for the Indianapolis GP.

“Will we make any kind of announcement at Indy? Probably not. Misano, maybe, I don’t know,” mused Edwards. “We’ve got a few pieces of the puzzle laying around. We’ve just got to put those pieces together. Probably the worst thing is that I’m not ready to retire. That would make it easy for everybody. But at the moment, I’m still enjoying it. I’m still having a good time, and I’m still motivated. Until that goes away, I’m going to ride motorcycles.” Read the rest of the teleconference transcript after the jump.

Nicky Hayden: “Nobody Has Lost Hope”

08/24/2011 @ 7:06 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to a teleconference with both Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards this week, allowing Asphalt & Rubber and a select group of journalists to get a preview of the riders’ thoughts before the Indianapolis GP kicks off in earnest this Friday. The only MotoGP rider so far to preview the resurfaced infield at The Brickyard, among other things Hayden gave journalists his thoughts on the new pavement, where he stands in the Championship, and esprit de corps inside Ducati.

What caught our ear listening to the teleconference was that despite all the frustrations he’s had this year, and his noticeable changes in demeanor during press scrums after particularly discouraging sessions, Hayden remains forever the up-beat optimist in the MotoGP paddock. Talking about the level of commitment and the attitude inside Ducati Corse, Hayden said “I told Fillipo (Preziosi) that after the last test, I’ve been impressed with his team and how all the guys have just kept their head down and kept working,”

“Those guys, they get there early and stay late. Some of the engineers I spoke to back at the factory, they’re all on board,” Hayden continued. “I’ve got to believe that hard work and that good attitude is going to pay off in the long run. It normally always does, and I hope this is no different.” Read the rest of the teleconference after the jump.

Filippo Preziosi: “The Two-Cylinder is the Best Engine, If You’re Not Constrained by Rules”

08/16/2011 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Head of Ducati Corse, Filippo Preziosi is a busy man under regular circumstances, and with the shenanigans going on in Ducati Corse’s MotoGP team right now, the former motorcycle racer is a hard man to get a word with, let alone on a race weekend in Brno. Somehow catching up with Preziosi during MotoGP’s Brno test, our friend David Emmett at MotoMatters, along with several other journalists, sat down with Ducati’s Maestro of MotoGP to ask him about where the Italian team was headed, and the challenges it is currently facing.

There is of course a tremendous amount of chatter going on in the MotoGP paddock about Ducati’s “frameless” carbon fiber chassis, a switch to an aluminum twin-spar frame, the Bridgestone tires, and Valentino Rossi’s psyche, all of which Emmett has already summarized for us in his detailed analysis of Ducati Corse’s situation. Taking on all of these issues, Preziosi sheds some insight on what is going on behind the scenes at Ducati, and is candid about what issues they are and are not facing.

Dismissing out right that the “L” engine configuration is at least partially to blame for Desmosedici’s lack of front-end feel, one of the more interesting points Preziosi makes is his preference for the v-twin motor. Acknowledging that the package will perhaps make less power/torque than a four-cylinder, Preziosi opts for instead the two-cylinder’s rideability, and if the rules allowed it, the motor’s weight advantage over the inlines (this of course coming from a man who has figured out how to make a v-twin without the weight of a traditional frame).

His comments raise some interesting thoughts about the way rules are constructed in motorcycle racing classes, and perhaps speaks to the central issue occurring MotoGP: that the rules are pigeonholing the development of GP motorcycles into one particular slot, that just happens to be a four-cylinder motorcycle with a conventional frame that reacts to a prescribed tire construction methodology. Preziosi makes some other interesting comments that read well between the lines, check them out in transcribed interview after the jump.

Repaved Indianapolis GP Surface is “Pretty Much Perfect” Says Nicky Hayden

08/09/2011 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Nicky Hayden was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, checking out the newly repaved infield section on the historic American track. Testing the track on a Ducati Superbike 1198SP, Hayden took a number of laps before giving the nod that he approved of the refurbishment (the FIM also gave their nod on Indy’s work on July 7th). The repaving of the infield portion of the circuit, Turn 5 through Turn 16, comes as a response from riders’ complaints from last year.

With several varieties of pavement, a bevy of bumps, and some poorly placed drainage components, the Indianapolis GP has been a low-point on the MotoGP calendar for most of the MotoGP paddock the past few years, despite being held at an otherwise top-rate and historic venue. With Dorna likely pressuring Indianapolis into making alterations, the track probably faced compulsion to make changes to its infield, especially with the Circuit of Americas track currently being built in Austin.

Talk in the MotoGP paddock is that the Austin GP is now being aimed as less of a replacement for the Indianapolis GP, and instead will be a third stop in America for MotoGP, as Dorna wants to expand the premier class’s presence in the USA. With the 2011 Indianapolis GP just two and a half weeks away, all the GP riders will soon get to see the improvements at Indy, until then they’ll just have to take Nicky Hayden’s word on it. A brief Q&A with the Kentucky Kid and video of his laps and thoughts are after the jump.

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.

“Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Can’t Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?” – Kenny Roberts Sr.

07/27/2011 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

On Thursday at the US GP, a day before the general public and non-MotoGP press could get into Laguna Seca, Yamaha unveiled its 50th Anniversary team livery, with a special cadre of legendary Yamaha riders. Eddie Lawson, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts Sr., and Wayne Rainey joined current Yamaha riders Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Jorge Lorenzo in the pit lane of the famous American track to commemorate Yamaha’s half-century of motorcycle Grand Prix involvement. After the presentation, a scrum of journalists got a chance to talk to King Kenny about his experience riding the YZR-M1 around Laguna Seca, as Yamaha had built a special GP bike for the American GP Champion, though it did not have a full electronics package.

A&R also got to eavesdrop in on the conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance.

Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Saying in his day, a rider could be 10 feet off the ideal line, fight the bike through the corner, and finish the lap none the slower; but on the current MotoGP equipment, being 10cm off the line can mean seconds missing on the lap time because of how exacting the sport has become.