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.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Coma Takes Overall Lead

01/12/2015 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Stage 8 proved to be a big day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as the riders had to compete on machines that they alone could only work on the day before, as Monday was the riding portion of yesterday’s start to the first marathon stage.

This added challenge by the race organizers likely decided the outcome of this year’s rally, as it left HRC’s Joan Barreda to work on his broken Honda CRF450 Rally without the aid of his mechanics. Losing a monumental amount of time on Stage 8, after suffering electrical issues — Barreda saw an unfitting end to his well fought Dakar Rally.

Those issues can surely be attributed to the wet weather and the Uyuni salt lake that the competitors had to cross, which made for a slurry of salt water and mud. Ultimately the stage would be cut short at the 378 km marker, because of weather, with little complaint from the competitors.

“In the end it’s been collateral damage, and a disgrace what they’ve made us do today; to race in a sea. It was out of place. All the work on all the projects that we’ve done has gone down the pan,” said a disappointed Barreda. “To make a decision like that just wasn’t right. Today you couldn’t see a thing; visibility was zero. We were floating around on top of the water. They ordered us to start and this is what happened; my Dakar is over.’

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Coma Halves Time to Barreda

01/12/2015 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Fresh off their rest day on Saturday, the 2015 Dakar Rally competitors were back to work on Sunday for Stage 7. A difficult round on the road, riders had to contend with 11,000+ feet in elevation, rain, and snow — all while crossing into Bolivia.

The big news from Stage 7 was Marc Coma halving the difference to Joan Barreda, mainly as a result of the HRC rider breaking his handlebar in two, after a crash during the time special section. The factory KTM rider now trails Barreda by only 6 minutes, and more importantly will have a significant gap on the course from his rival, on Stage 8.

“It was a tough stage where you had to be careful, but when I came to a muddy section around kilometre 200, while I was breaking before a danger marked on the road book, the bike slid and I crashed,” explained Barreda.

“The handlebars were damaged, so I had to do the last 120 kilometres just with the right hand. I was pushing hard to lose a minimum of time, but that was not easy. We are now at the marathon stage, we are a great team and we will solve the problem with my teammates.”

Barreda finished the day 10th on the stage, while Coma crossed the line in second, in a close pack with stage winner HRC’s Paulo Goncalves and fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner, who finished third and continues to impress.

As if the route of The Dakar wasn’t hard enough, riders will not have the support of their teams at the end of the stage, as Stage 7 is the start of the first marathon stage for the motorbikes.

The timing of the marathon stage and Barreda’s crash could be fortuitous for Coma, but HRC has proven itself ready for this year’s Dakar, winning the lion’s share of the stages.

2015 Dakar Rally – Rest Day

01/10/2015 @ 4:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Saturday is a rest day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, giving riders and teams a chance to catch their breath, tune their bikes, and hone the strategies for the next eight stages, one of which is a marathon stage, where the teams cannot help the riders work on their bikes.

For KTM and Marc Coma, the day will be spent trying to figure out how to shake Joan Barreda from the four-time Dakar winner. For HRC and Barreda, the game is simple, cover Coma’s every action and don’t let him eat into the 12-minute gap that the Spaniard has built with his hard riding.

Meanwhile, Yamaha Racing’s Alessandro Botturi has been waiving the banner for the blue and white contingency, which has otherwise had an abysmal Dakar Rally without Cyril Despres in its ranks — Despres is racing this year in the car category. Botturi is 11th overall, having made up some serious time during the shake up on Stage 6.

Other rankings notables are Laia Sanz in 14th, the top female racer in the 2015 Dakar Rally. Alain Duclos of France is the top Sherco rider, which this year has partnered with TVS making the Sherco/TVS team.

With a lot of Dakar still to race, expect these standings to still move around. After the jump is the full listing of all 110 bike entries to The Dakar.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 6: A Shuffling of Things

01/10/2015 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Stage 6 of the 2015 Dakar Rally saw the riders head into Iquique, and while the course was fairly straight-forward, a navigational error at the front of the pack caused a shuffling in the stage’s finishing order.

Though first out of the gate, Marc Coma finished the day 7th, after crashing in the early parts of the stage. He was quickly caught by Joan Barreda, whose strategies seems to be sticking close to Coma at all costs, minimizing the KTM rider’s ability to gain time on his Honda rival.

This left HRC’s Helder Rodrigues who took the stage win, planting another flag for Honda in this year’s Dakar. The Japanese manufacturer is proving to be a serious contender in the Dakar Rally, and could upset KTM’s dominance of the rally raid event.

“I started out from behind, but I caught up with the riders who were opening the road. They were very quick, but I also had the speed to catch them,” said Rodrigues. “I’m pleased with the way it turned out and was very calm until the end. It’s rest-day tomorrow, which we really need, to get the energy back and plan next the second week as well as possible. I want to keep attacking and claw back a bit of time in the overall standings.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 5: Coma Takes First Stage Win

01/09/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Marc Coma has finally chalked up his first stage win of the 2015 Dakar Rally, gaining back several minutes from the overall leader Joan Barreda.

With 10 minutes still between the two top riders from HRC and KTM, it seems Barreda is content to manage the gap, as he let Coma lead Stage 5 and followed the Spaniards tracks and navigation decisions in the difficult fesh-fesh minefield that is the Atacama Desert.

“I am happy about the stage win but the fact is that Joan enjoys a significant advantage and we will try to trim it,” said Coma. There is still a lot of race left. The second part (of the rally) is longer with the marathon stages and it will be a fight every day. We are going in the right direction and we will keep fighting.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Barreda Answers

01/08/2015 @ 12:08 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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After Yesterday’s fateful round, the 2015 Dakar Rally was back in action today with Stage 4, Chilecito to Copiapo. The stage would lead the riders out of Argentina and into Chile, for the first time this rally raid.

A mixture of sand dunes, rocks, and high elevation, the day was the second longest overall (909km), but featured only a 315km timed special stage.

Answering yesterday’s KTM 1-2 victory, Honda’s Joan Barreda set out to maintain is top spot in The Dakar standings, though would have to contend with KTM’s Marc Coma, who stuck to him like glue once the two were riding together.

While Barreda’s lead over Coma was increased by a couple of minutes, Coma’s spot on the overall time sheets is now second, and well within striking distance of the HRC rider — especially with two marathon stages left to contend with.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: KTM Responds

01/06/2015 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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In response to a difficult Stage 2, Dakar officials shortened Stage 3 of the 2015 Dakar Rally, but the picturesque course was still enough to shake up the standings a bit. Winning the stage was Dakar newcomer, MX3 World Champion Matthias Walkner — the first Austrian rider in The Dakar since the 1990’s.

“I already had a good feeling when I got to the finish because I knew I had a good day. But at the end I was a bit tired and wasn’t concentrating so well and I made some small mistakes,” explained stage-winner Walkner.

“It is an amazing feeling to win the stage and for sure I didn’t expect this. It will be difficult to open the piste tomorrow. Now for the rest of the rally I just want to enjoy every kilometer, to learn and to stay focused on the road book so I don’t make many mistakes.”

A Factory KTM rider, Walkner added some orange to the stage podium, and was joined by KTM’s Marc Coma, who finished second for the day, 40 seconds behind his teammate. Managing the gap though, Honda’s Joan Barreda finished the day third, only a minute and change behind Walkner.

As such, Barreda stays in control of the overall standings, but Coma is within a comfortable 11-minute gap of the HRC rider.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Thinning the Herd

01/05/2015 @ 11:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Hosting the second longest special stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally (518 miles), Stage 2 between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan was especially grueling because of the added heat; and as such, The Dakar has already started to separate the top riders.

To that end, the HRC riders find themselves weighed and measured at the top, thus far. Joan Barreda rode to a solid stage win, and finishes the day with over a four-minute interval to his closest competitor.

“In the end we set off with a game-plan to not make any mistakes and arrive safely at the finish-line,” said Barreda. “The result has been amazing. In the first part, Sunderland and Coma pushed really hard and I overtook Paulo to try and stop them running away with the stage.

“In the end, it was more about survival than anything else. We had to measure the pace and keep focused on the navigation as there were some extremely tricky spots, plus another stretch towards the end, that really put a strain on the body,” he continued.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 1: And They’re Off!

01/05/2015 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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The first stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally started from Buenos Aires this weekend; and as usual, the day was a relatively easy affair that allowed riders to check their machines and get into the groove of what will be a grueling competition.

As such, a 144km liaison ride was made through the Argentinean countryside before the competitors reached the 175km timed “special” stage. Another long (519km) liaison section ended the day, and everyone bivouacked in Villa Carlos Paz.

Because of the short special stage, the riders are packed close on the standing, with less than six minutes separating the Top 20 riders. KTM’s Sam Sunderland drew first blood with the stage win, with teammate Marc Coma 1’12 behind in third.

Francisco “Chaleco” López Out for 2015 Dakar Rally

12/29/2014 @ 8:29 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The start of the 2015 Dakar Rally is just about a week away now, and already we have news of a retirement: local favorite Francisco “Chaleco” López.

The Chilean rider has been one of the top contenders at The Dakar, but he has clarified his intentions to switch from two-wheels to four, after his name was found missing from the 2015 entry list.

As such, Chaleco plans on returning to the Dakar rally-raid come 2016, though he will be with the Rally Mobile car team, which he will race with the rest of this season as well.