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.

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results

06/06/2014 @ 7:15 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The final race of the 2014 Isle of Man TT is upon us, the “blue ribbon” event as they call it on the Isle, we are of course talking about the Senior TT.

Six laps of high-octane racing, the smart money pick was of course on Michael Dunlop and his BMW S1000RR superbike — despite BMW having not been at the Isle of Man in decades, and Dunlop never having won a Senior before in his career.

With perfect weather on the Snaefell Mountain Course, TT fans were treated to a fine Senior TT, which was full of close racing.

IOMTT: Bikenation Lightweight TT Race Results

06/06/2014 @ 4:05 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Friday’s Isle of Man TT racing started off with the Bike Nation Lightweight TT, where the field is comprised of two-cylinder four-stroke machines that cannot have more than 650cc in engine capacity — as such, the field is dominated by Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport bikes.

A race fit for grooming the future talent of the Isle of Man TT, the Lightweight TT sees the big name stars in its ranks as well, though the field is comprised mostly of greener riders. One man noticeably absent from the Lightweight TT grid was Michael Dunlop, who decided to sit out the race and focus on the day’s later race, the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.

IOMTT: Glen Helen with Tony Goldsmith

06/05/2014 @ 6:38 am, by Tony Goldsmith3 COMMENTS

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For the last couple of years I had planned to go to the Glen Helen section, but it has never happened. This year I decided that I would finally get there, and that’s what I did for Wednesday’s racing.

Glen Helen is a technical tree lined section and is home to the first commentary point for Radio TT. On dull days it can be pretty dark due to the trees, so a camera with good performance in low light is important.

For these photos, I shot the Supersport race in the section just before the commentary point. I had planned to stay there for the sidecar race as well, and then move round the corner for the practice laps.

Sadly the Manx weather had other ideas and there was no more action after the Supersport race. The Sidecar race was postponed until Today, so I will need to decide on a new shooting location.

Video: Grant Wagstaff’s Pit Lane Fire from the Supersport TT

06/05/2014 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Aside from the motorbikes lapping at 120+ mph around the Snaefell Mountain Course during Race 2 of the Supersport TT, there was a fair bit of drama at the Isle of Man TT pit lane, especially when a race bike caught on fire.

Coming in for his one pit stop, in between the second and third laps, Grant Wagstaff found himself subject to an unsuspected fireball, after a gas spill was ignited by his Yamaha R6’s hot exhaust pipes.

A terrifying sight, thankfully the incident was taken care of quickly by the fire brigade and everyone else involved.

The result was the pit lane being closed for about a minute, leaving the affected riders to have a time credit given to their official times. Last we heard, all involved will live to race another day, though Wagstaff was sent to Noble’s Hospital and treated for burns.

IOMTT: Ballacraine with Tony Goldsmith

06/05/2014 @ 3:53 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off

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It was quite a wrench to the leave the Island in the middle of the TT to go to the Motogp at Mugello. In fact, I spent most of weekend moaning to anyone within ear shot that I wished I was back home at the Isle of Man.

You can therefore imagine my delight when I discovered that the Superstock race was delayed 24 hours until Tuesday afternoon. I had gambled that this might happen, and had left my car at the airport.

I had hoped to make it to the Glen Helen section, but after landing I realised I wasn’t going to be able to make it before the roads closed. Instead I headed to Ballacraine as it was easier to get to from the airport.

Ballacraine is a quick right hand corner with a large building on the exit. The building was once a pub made famous in the old Geroge Formby movie No Limits.

It’s not one of my favourite places to take pictures, but I was just glad to be there.

IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

06/05/2014 @ 12:33 am, by Richard MushetComments Off

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Before heading up to the Bungalow for today’s races, the weather looked fairly promising with only cloud cover, and no ominous darker clouds threatening rain.

Once I’d arrived it was a different story, with the low clouds covering the tram stop at the top of Snaefell – the island’s highest peak at over 2,000ft – threatening to roll down towards the circuit.

Thankfully it held off long enough to complete the TT Zero and second Supersport races, but had enveloped the surrounding area before the second sidecar race and some practice sessions could run.

The Bungalow is one of the highest points on the course, as the riders exit the Verandah and continue on their way towards Kate’s Cottage. If you watched last year’s TT highlights you’ll recognise it as the point where Michael Dunlop’s CBR600RR made a damn good attempt to throw him off, leaving rubber on the road and forcing him to take a much wider line through the corner than usual.

Usually the backdrop to any image at the Bungalow is a lush, green hillside, but today it was mainly the low, rolling clouds. This makes the camera try to expose the whiteness of the clouds, leaving the bikes underexposed if you don’t work around it.

IOMTT: Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 2 Results

06/04/2014 @ 10:23 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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With a packed Wednesday schedule, riders had only moments after the TT Zero celebration to mount their Supersport machines for the second race of the Monster Energy Supersport TT, and with mist reported on the mountain, a quick send-off was also necessary in order to ensure a full race distance ensued.

The only man not in a rush though was John McGuinness, as the now 21-time TT race winner had announced in the morning that he and the Padgetts Hona team had decided it best not to race in the second Supersport race of the 2014 Isle of Man TT, as McPint has been suffering from a wrist injury, which was noticeably holding him back this TT fortnight.

In fine form all week though has been the Kiwi Bruce Anstey, and he and Michael Dunlop seemed set for another showdown on the Snaefell Mountain Course.

IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/04/2014 @ 3:52 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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An event we’ve been eagerly waiting for, the 2014 SES TT Zero electric race was billed as a battle for the #1 spot between the Mugen riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey, and battle between everyone else for the third and final podium position. And that is exactly what the 2014 Isle of Man TT fans got.

First to leave Glencrutchery Road, and the first to return, John McGuinness took his 21st IOMTT race win while on the Mugen Shinden San. The first time that the Mugen team has won the electric solo race at the IOMTT, McGuinness’s lap also officially broke the outright record for an electric motorcycle at the Isle of Man TT, with a 117.366 mph lap.

To put that lap time in perspective, rally driver Mark Higgins managed only a 116.470 mph lap during the Subaru exhibition lap, which immediately followed the TT Zero race; that time also bests Ryan Farquhar’s best Lightweight TT flying lap of 116.840 mph from practice.

Up-Close with the 2014 Mugen Shinden San (神電 参)

06/04/2014 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The TT Zero event for the 2014 Isle of Man TT is about to kick-off in about an hour, so we thought we’d show the electric superbike that everyone in the paddock is talking about, the Mugen Shinden San. The third iteration of the machine from Mugen, this year the Japanese tuning brand has two riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

With Bruce Anstey on fire this TT fortnight, and McGuinness off his pace in the previous sessions with a wrist injury (and sitting out today’s Supersport TT race), it seems like anything can happen before the starter’s flag drops.

Assuming the two-rider format remains, Mugen has said to Asphalt & Rubber that both riders will likely run the same electronic maps during the race, which should rest the race’s results squarely on the riders. In order to do this, Mugen must feel confident with its energy management and overall racing package.

Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racing’s Pound of Flesh

06/03/2014 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle racing is a dangerous endeavor, something we have been reminded of heavily in the past few weeks. Losing Simon Andrews in the North West 200, as well as Bob Price and Karl Harris at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the usual debates have once again surfaced, namely that motorcycle road racing should be abolished because of the toll of dangers, injuries, and fatalities it demands.

Despite death’s inevitability, the Isle of Man TT is a spectacular event, just ask anyone who has sat on a Manx hedgerow and watched these two-wheeled gladiators race past. The speeds on city streets are astounding, the atmosphere in the paddock is warm and friendly, and the Isle of Man itself is a picturesque locale that could come from some child’s storybook.

Modern media does a great job of translating the first-hand experience of the Isle of Man TT into an approachable hour-long TV format, but it still falls short of the genuine article.

Through a television set, you can’t breathe the fumes of unbridled horsepower from the racing machines, you can’t see past the riders’ determination through their helmet visors, and you don’t witness the hours of determined work, sweat, and sacrifce that occur in the paddock to get a racer to the starting line.

I would challenge any person, motorcycle enthusiast or not, to lay witness to a TT fortnight, and still walk away unimpressed with the spectacle that they have laid witness to — there is simply nothing else like it on Earth. It’s almost spiritual.

But why is it though? Scratch the surface a little deeper on the idea why the TT is so special, and you arrive at the notion that the Manx road race holds our wonderment in captivity because of how far outside the standard deviation of safety it operates — even under the skewed perspective of risk management that occurs in motorsport — and that forces us to take some major stock in our own mortality.