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.

2013 WSBK Private Phillip Island Test Day 1 Times: Laverty Leads as New Surface Causes Crashfest

02/14/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Leon-Camier-Fixi-Crescent-Suzuki

While the Moto2 and Moto3 riders finish up their test at Valencia, on the other side of the world, the World Superbike and World Supersport riders are beginning the final run in to the season opener in 10 days’ time.

They started today with the first of two days of private testing, the first chance the riders get to see the resurfaced Phillip Island track. The overall reaction to the new surface was very positive, though the lack of rubber on the track caused a spot of mayhem in the morning, with several riders crashing out.

Fastest man of the day was Eugene Laverty on the factory Aprilia, the Irishman circulating at lap record pace, but still a second off the pole record. Leon Camier put the Fixi Suzuki into 2nd spot, ahead of the Pata Hondas of Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam, while Marco Melandri ended the day in 5th. Carlos Checa did not ride, as the 2011 World Champion was suffering with a stomach bug.

Trackside Tuesday: Long Live World Superbike

09/25/2012 @ 8:11 pm, by Scott Jones22 COMMENTS

As the other motorcycling World Championship, World Superbike has its own amazing stories to tell, stories often very weird relative to what we are used to in MotoGP. When I went to shoot WSBK for the first time, some of my MotoGP buddies told me the same thing: don’t get spoiled, it’s a different world there. Indeed, one MotoGP veteran left Grand Prix to make his new home in WSBK and hired someone else to cover the Aliens on his behalf.

Instead of three riders on the grid fighting among themselves for the victory, WSBK saw six different winners in the first six races of the 2012 season. Instead of three manufacturers (well, two, really) fighting for wins in MotoGP, five stood atop the WSBK podium in those first six races. With one race weekend to go, nine riders have won races. Compared to MotoGP, talk about weird!

Instead of riders over 30-years-old being hounded by lightning-fast 20-somethings, riders seem to bloom around 40, enjoying second or even third winds in their careers. The lower level of technology allows rider experience to count against the raw physical talent of youth. The playing field is more even, the racing is less about having the latest parts that separate the factory teams from the satellite ones.

Tom Sykes is a motorbike racer who could be the next WSBK world champion, and a protagonist in a story remarkably different from the usual MotoGP fare. Sykes is 30.5 points behind Biaggi with one round, two races, and 50 points to go.

WSBK: Joan Lascorz & Kawasaki Talk for the First Time about the Crash at Imola

09/05/2012 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Recovering from the injuries he sustained while testing for Kawasaki at Imola, we learned earlier this year that Joan Lascorz was lucky to escape with his life from the frightful event, though he will never walk again. Suffering from paralysis from his abdomen down, the well-liked Spaniard is still recuperating, but has released a press release (along with Kawasaki) about the event, the months after it, and Jumbo’s coming future.

Recounting the incident, Lascorz also gives an insightful description of his current state of mind, and his thoughts about his road to a new life. The full press release is after the jump. It’s okay if you get a bit misty-eyed while reading it. We certainly did.

How Do You Make a Superbike Look Like a Street Bike?

06/29/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

With MotoGP adopting a CRT rule for the 2012 season, a provision that allows production motors to be used in a prototype chassis, the World Superbike Championship has been feeling its production-racing turf a bit infringed upon. Now whether or not the latest rule change from WSBK has anything to with what is going on between the two series is up for debate, but regardless for 2013 and onward, World Superbike teams will have to run faux-headlight decals on their race bikes — in some sort of attempt to link what is on the track to what is sitting on dealership showroom floors.

First to adopt the rule is the factory Kawasaki Racing Team, which has added the headlight decals to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R race bikes that are being ridden by Tom Sykes and Loris Baz this weekend at Aragon, Spain. In addition to the headlight sticker rule, teams will have to run 17″ wheels starting in 2013, which is being pitched as a cost-savings measure, but is more likely grounded in the idea of further making the illusion that what is raced in WSBK is somehow remotely linked to what motorcyclists purchase.

WSBK: Dry Conditions Prevail for Cold Qualifying at MMP

05/28/2012 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Encircled by the gorgeous Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, Miller Motorsports Park has some of the most dramatic backdrops out of all the World Superbike venues, though coupled with the track’s 4,000+ foot elevation, the weather can be wet and cold at times. Such words were probably an understatement for the conditions on Sunday, as frigid temperatures and rain prevailed in the day’s earlier sessions. Realizing that some Superpole qualifying was scheduled for later though, the weather gods appeased the American crowd, who had been braving the conditions, and quickly dried the track for World Superbike qualifying.

Down on power at the very fast track, the Ducatis of Smrz and Checa surprised everyone with their dominance on the time sheets. Of course, Tom Sykes could not be counted out from the qualifying fun, as the Englishman has taken four of the past five pole positions. One of only two stops on the WSBK calendar that is outside of Europe, American fans were treated on this Memorial Day weekend to some fine qualifying, which included some upsets. Results after the jump.

Video: What Does 210 MPH at Monza Look Like?

05/06/2012 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Hitting over 210 mph down the front straight at Monza, Tom Sykes became the fast two-wheeled man in World Superbike history. Setting the speed on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, Sykes got a bit of help from Aprilia-man Max Biaggi, as the Brit slip-streamed behind the Italian part of the way down the track. Making the effort on rain tires, Sykes will have to start tomorrow’s races from the second grid position, unable to take advantage of the drying track on slicks, as pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli did.

“When I hit the new record top speed I could feel that the rpm was higher and I knew from the note of the engine that it was more than on previous laps,” said Sykes. “I could not have timed my run to get into Biaggi’s slipstream any better. I had a fantastic run out of Parabolica and I used Max’s draft all the way down the straight. If we had more time we could have come back in and gone with a slick rear or intermediate rear and made the difference, but it wasn’t to be.”

“We did a great last lap on wet tyres and starting from second on the grid is not too bad. It is a front row start and that is the main thing,” the Brit continued. “The competitive side of me for sure is disappointed not to keep the run of Superpole wins going but tomorrow is the one that counts. It’s great for Kawasaki and myself to be on the front row and it is a lot better starting slot for tomorrow. We have good pace in the dry and I do not think the wet will be an issue either. A dry race would be better for everybody.”

WSBK: “Wet” Superpole Qualifying at Assen

04/21/2012 @ 11:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With the rain playing a factor during the Qualifying Practice sessions, riders like Max Biaggi were caught out, and left high and dry during an otherwise water-filled build up to today’s Superpole qualifying. As the Roman Emperor watched from the sidelines, World Superbike Race Direction deemed the Superpole a wet session, reducing the qualifying event to two twenty-minute sessions, with only the top eight riders going onto the second round. With the track actually dry for Superpole 2, all eyes were on Tom Sykes, to see if the Kawasaki rider could make a hat trick out of his qualifying streak.

WSBK: Update on Joan Lascorz’s Condition

04/20/2012 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With World Superbike in Assen this race weekend, the Kawasaki Racing Team has released an update on team rider Joan Lascorz, who broke his neck during a crash at a post-race test at Imola earlier this month. Though the press release is terse with information, it does say that Lascorz is conscious and remains in the ICU of the Hospital de la Valld’Hebron in Barcelona. Saying it could take months to know the full-extent of the Spanish rider’s injuries, no further update on his condition was given.

However, MCN is reporting that in an interview with Kawasaki Team Manager Guim Roda, Lascorz is said to have movement in his arms, but currently not in his legs. With inflammation still surrounding the injury to his C6 vertabra, the hope is that as the swelling subsides Lascorz will regain use of his legs, though nothing is certain at this point. With a lengthy road to recovery still ahead of him, everyone is being cautious about predicting the full-extent of the accident’s effects.

Everyone in the World Superbike and motorcycling community at large, including Asphalt & Rubber, is hoping for a full and speedy recovery of the well-liked Spanish racer. Carlos Checa perhaps said it best with his recent comment on Twitter: “Joan Lascorz is in another championship, a race that [he] is sure going to win and we will all be there to support you at all times. Take heart!” Press release from Kawasaki after the jump.

Still No News on Joan Lascorz

04/10/2012 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The low-point of a great race weekend, factory Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz was airlifted out of the Imola circuit, after crashing during a post-race test at the Italian track. Flown immediately to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, Lascorz was diagnosed with a broken 6th vertebra (C6), and was reported to have suffered trauma to his spinal chord. Since the Spanish rider has been moved back to Spain, details about Lascorz’s condition have not been coming forth with regularity, though the latest update from the team is that the rider has been kept sedated to minimize his movement and because he still had fluid in his lungs.

Statement from Paul Bird Motorsports about the Drugs Found in the Kawasaki WBSK Team Trucks

05/02/2011 @ 9:02 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

With news coming out that the Kawasaki World Superbike team that is run by Paul Bird Motorsports had a large amount of cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana seized from two of the team’s trucks while entering the United Kingdom, Paul Bird Motorsports has released a statement addressing the issue on how such a large quantity of drugs found its way onto the team’s vehicles.

While the team is not sure how the drugs came on-board the team trucks, Paul Bird Motorsports was quick to point out that it was confident that none of its team members were involved, and that no one from the WSBK squad has been detained since the initial seizure. You can read the full press statement after the jump.