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.

“TT Legends” Documentary Coming to YouTube

01/09/2014 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Last year, the Honda TT Legends crew worked with Britain’s ITV4 television station to produce an eight-part documentary that followed the factory Honda road racing team.

Featuring the John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald, “TT Legends” follows the team through six races: the Bol d’Or, Le Mans 24 heurs, Suzuka 8-Hour, North West 200, Isle of Man TT, and Oscherselben 8hr. The series was a delight for British racing fans, though sadly wasn’t rebroadcasted for us Yanks — unless you employed less-than-legal means, that is.

Well that’s about to change, as Honda Pro Racing will be hosting the series on its YouTube channel, one episode each week, starting on January 12th. It’s a great series, and well worth keeping up with, if you have the time. We’ll bring you each installment here on Asphalt & Rubber, as they become available. Until then, whet your appetite on the trailer.

Conor Cummins in at Honda TT Legends

11/24/2013 @ 6:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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With the news that Michael Dunlop failed to reach an agreement with Honda Europe, and likely would be sitting out the 2014 road racing season, Honda TT Legends has announced its signing of Conor Cummins in Dunlop’s stead. Accordingly, the well-regarded Manx rider will form a two-man team with Mr. Snaefell himself, John McGuinness.

Cummins and McGuinness will race for the Honda TT Legends team at the 2014 Isle of Man TT and North West 200 road racing events. Both McGuinness and Cummins will cover the Superbike and Senior races at the TT, while Cummins will race for the team in the Superstock class as well.

Ian Hutchinson Wins the 2013 Macau GP

11/16/2013 @ 11:23 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Defying the odds against him, Ian Hutchinson has won the 2013 Macau GP, beating fierce competitor Michael Rutter in the shortened race. Hutchinson took the lead from Rutter on the fourth lap of fifteen, though a crash on the eleventh lap by Dean Harrison brought the Macau GP to an early end.

Thankfully Harrison was unhurt by the crash, though his bike was in the middle of the course, and forced race officials to red flag the race. Despite the premature ending, there can be no question that it was Hutchinson’s day, as the man from Bingley had a solid two-second gap over Rutter.

Coming off an eighteen month recovery period, Hutchinson’s win reconfirms the young Yorkshireman as a true talent in road racing, with today’s Macau GP win adding another impressive entry on Hutchinson’s already illustrious resumé, which includes a clean sweep of the 2010 Isle of Man TT’s five solo-class races.

“It’s probably one of the most special wins I’ve ever had with what’s gone on in the last few years, but hopefully now I can move on to carrying on back where I left off three years ago,” said Hutchinson after the race.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans with Kevin Warren

09/24/2013 @ 4:06 pm, by Kevin Warren8 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: All in a Day’s Time

09/24/2013 @ 3:31 pm, by Kevin WarrenComments Off

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In the world of motorcycle racing the Isle of Man TT is indeed infamous, and as a photographer I have been lucky enough to shoot on the Isle in the Irish Sea. When my letter of credential for the Le Mans 24 Hour Moto arrived, I was beyond ecstatic — my charge would be to cover those same TT riders as they participated in the FIM World Endurance Championship finale at Le Mans.

An overnight flight from my home in Atlanta, and a train ride from Paris to Le Mans, and I was on-site 48 hours later. There are times when arriving at a circuit that I have never shot can be daunting, but one walk thru the door to the Honda TT Legends pits and I felt at home. As much due to the familiar faces, as to the more relaxed atmosphere of the team here at Le Mans versus the intensity at the Isle of Man.

Kevin Schwantz & Team Kagayama Podium at Suzuka

07/28/2013 @ 9:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Seeing the return of American racing legend Kevin Schwantz to FIM road racing, the 2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race was certainly one to remember.

While the return of Schwantz overshadowed many of the other big names in the sport that competed in the event, not to mention the former World Champion’s own teammates: Noriyuki Haga & Yukio Kagayama, the Suzuka starting grid was also blessed with the entries of Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Josh Brookes, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Simon Andrews, and American Jason Pridmore.

Though a long eight-our race, the on-course action was surprisingly close, with the Top 5 teams on the same lap well past the three-hour mark. Team Kagayama was in good shape for a solid result from the onset of the race, as Noriyuka Haga put the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a solid fourth position.

The team rose as high as second-position with Team Manager Yukio Kagayama on-board, as the Suzuka specialist kept a solid pace, and benefited from the pit stops of other teams, not to mention the retirement of the FCC TSR Honda team, which had a race-ending crash with Ryuichi Kiyonari at the helm.

While the crash from Kiyonari on the FCC TSR Honda dashed the race-win-repeat hopes of World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea, Kevin Schwantz finally dazzled fans in the third hour as he took to the course. For all the postulation that the 49-year-old was over the hill for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Texan held his own on the Kagayama Suzuki, and managed to keep Team Kagayama in the podium hunt, especially as other top teams succumbed to the rigors of endurance racing.

Ride with John McGuinness at Suzuka

07/26/2013 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BOL D'OR 2013 TEAM HONDA TT LEGENDE

The pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on the Endurance World Championship calendar.

Immensely popular with the fans and fielded with a bevy of expert local teams, even the Japanese OEMs take the Suzuka 8 Hours very seriously — and are not above stacking their factory squads with the top riders from various national and international road racing series.

One such team at Suzuka is the Honda TT Legends crew, which as the name implies, is made up of legends from the Isle of Man TT: John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews. Backed by Honda Europe, McPint & crew are on some top machinery, but as they have already seen in qualifying, that’s only part of the battle.

With Rutter and Andrews having never ridden at Suzuka before, the team has a steep learning curve, though over the eight-hour race, we think they will have plenty of time to crawl back from their 29th spot qualifying, and into their Top 10 goal. Racing kicks off Sunday at 11:30am local (JST), but until then enjoy this on-board footage and witty banter from Mr. TT.

Superlatively “The World’s Most Awesome Road Race”

06/25/2013 @ 6:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Monster Energy doesn’t really have a reputation for being understated, so we should probably cut them some slack when “The World’s Most Awesome Road Race” is the title of the their four-and-half-minute tribute to the Isle of Man TT. After all if you have seen TT in person, you will probably agree with Monster’s assessment. As the kids say, it’s cray.

The title sponsor for the two Supersport races, and the personal sponsor to a number of riders, namely the King himself John McGuinness, Monster Energy is a great supporter of this iconic road race, and has been doing its part to help cross-polinate athletes with the Manx race, so it’s good to see them promoting the sport even further with videos like this.

If you are like us and going through a bit of Isle of Man TT withdrawal, here is a little something more to help you ease those pangs. A video of the “most awesome” road race is after the jump.

Video: Still Think Electric Motorcycles Are Slow?

06/10/2013 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The progress in the last five years on electric motorcycles has been astounding. Taking their first laps around the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course, a 87.434 mph pace was the best an electric motorcycle could do at the prestigious road race in 2009 — a pace that was on par with the 50cc record set in 1971. Since that time though, the development of these machines has grown by leaps and bounds.

In just five years after the first laps were taken by electric motorcycles at Snaefell, these machines have grown their average lap speeds by over 20 mph at the TT Zero race, setting a new record of 109.675 mph in 2013, and boasting a rate of improvement of roughly 5 mph each year since 2009.

If hitting 142.2 mph down the Sulby Straight speed trap wasn’t further proof of the speeds these bikes are achieving, maybe some visual evidence will help support the notion. Checkout the on-board videos of Michael Rutter (on the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc) and John McGuinness (on the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni) after the jump.

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results

06/07/2013 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The blue ribbon event of the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT is typically the most-welcomed race at the end of the TT fortnight, but after seeing the 2012 race cancelled (for the first time ever outside of World War I & II), on the account of rain, the 2013 PokerStars Senior TT has an amazing amount of build-up.

As if the running of the fastest machines on the Mountain Course wasn’t enough, there was the prospect that Michael Dunlop could sweep the five main solo-classes, a feat only ever done once before, by Ian Hutchinson.

As the flag dropped, and we held our breaths to see if John McGuinness would get his first race win this TT fortnight, if Micky D could make the clean sweep, or if another competitor would rise to the challenge (Guy Martin, anyone?), tragedy struck: a red flag on the first lap.

Jonathan Howarth went off at Bray Hill, and though he was hurt, but ok, the accident injured 10 spectators, one critically. Having already waited two years to see the return of the Senior TT, fans at the Isle of Man would have to wait a little longer it would seem.

In a statement by the ACU that was published right after the incident, “ten spectators and the rider were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from slight to serious but not life threatening. Four of the spectators have been discharged, five of the injured have been kept in hospital and one remains under observation in the emergency department.”

A racing event fraught with tragedy and real-world danger, we all breathed a sigh of relief a dodging another tragic outcome at this year’s TT. Moving onward thanfully, the 2013 Senior TT resumed three hours later, click past the jump for its race results.