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.

Yamaha VMAX Carbon – Celebrating 30 Years of VMAX

It is hard to believe that the venerable Yamaha VMAX has been around for 30 years (it is even harder to believe that the VMAX has only seen one design revision in that timeframe as well), and so Yamaha is bringing out a special edition model to celebrate this special motorcycle. The 2015 Yamaha VMAX Carbon is exactly as the name implies: a VMAX drag bike laden with lightweight carbon fiber. In total, the VMAX Carbon’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all made from carbon fiber. Yamaha has teamed up with Akrapovic as well, and as such the Slovenian company’s slip-on mufflers complete the exhaust system and the changes to this beastly drag bike.

Photo of the Week: Brush Your Shoulders Off

08/15/2011 @ 2:06 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

On the grid at Mugello I watched as seven or eight visiting Japanese gentlemen in matching white Honda shirts smiled, bowed, and shook hands with Simoncelli, and I couldn’t help wondering if they were congratulating him in advance for having knocked out his latest fellow Honda rider. Rumors had been flying around the paddock about the discussions HRC had held with Sic concerning his inability to tame his raw speed, and add the crucial element of sound judgment while in the heat of battle.

While his pace this season was plain to see, the question continued to fascinate us: would Marco ever find a way to be fast and smart? He came in sixth that day, and looked nothing like the Super Sic we’d come to know and fear, in spite of having qualified third. In Germany he was sixth again, and at Laguna Seca he crashed out for the fifth time this season.

At Brno he seemed to have completed a metamorphosis from wild and dangerous to calm and calculating (possible spoiler alert ahead). After a poor start he worked his way through the field until finding himself behind two riders with whom he has a complex past: Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Watching the laps tick off with Sic in fourth place, hungry for that first podium but dangerously close to Lorenzo, one couldn’t help but have the feeling of watching a train wreck about to happen. Given all that has occurred with Lorenzo, the sparring in press conferences, the latest rider elimination of JL at Assen, would Sic rush in again and further complicate his history with the reigning world champ?

MotoGP: Decisive Racing at the Czech GP

08/14/2011 @ 9:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The weather continued to shine on Brno for the Czech GP (we’ll see if it holds off for Monday’s 1,000 bike test), as the MotoGP riders geared-up for one of the paddock’s favorite circuits on the calendar. With MotoGP dodging a bullet on what’s been a rain-filled season, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Casey Stoner lead the 17 rider grid with their front-row qualifying lap times. While Pedrosa seemed to be uncatchable all week long, Lorenzo and Stoner seemed up to the task of at least being road blocks to the flying Spaniard, and in the process grasp some desperately needed strong finishes for the Championship title.

With precious Championship points on the line, Brno held the possibility for several riders to mount their assault on the leader board, including third-row starter Andrea Dovizioso. For Stoner on the other hand, the Czech GP was an opportunity to put some breathing room between himself and the competition, especially as the Australian considers whether he will forgo the Japanese GP round at Motegi later this October, surely losing position on the Championship in the process. With so much riding on their performance at Brno, MotoGP racing didn’t disappoint in this well-fought race.

Video: Muay-Thai Superbike

07/01/2011 @ 6:19 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

AMA Pro Racing had its crash at Daytona, World Superbike had Max Biaggi’s slap, and MotoGP is apparently still dealing with its Marco Simoncelli. Yes, if there is one common denominator in motorcycle racing, it’s that the drama llama rears its ugly head from time-to-time. This maxim apparently holds true even in Thailand’s domestic Superbike racing series, as this latest video shows some less-than-sportsmanlike behavior occurring.

What started out as a two jumped-starts, ends with a throw-down melee in pit lane, and somewhere in-between those two things, there is some heated racing that sees competitors kicking at each other mid-corner, swerving to collide, and generally trying to kill one another while racing around one of the most “interesting” race tracks we’ve seen in a while. If you like your motorcycle racing with a little Muay-Thai influence, then we’ve got just the video for you.

Official: Pedrosa Out for Assen – Aoyama in at Repsol Honda

06/22/2011 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

HRC has officially announced now that Dani Pedrosa will miss the Dutch round of the MotoGP Championship. Breaking his collarbone back at the French GP, Pedrosa’s place on the disabled list was extended when it was discovered that bone fragments were still lurking in his shoulder. Pedrosa underwent yet another surgery to repair his collarbone, but his return to racing has been an uncertainty lately, as some in the assembled MotoGP press have suggested the Spaniard will sit out the rest of the season.

Whatever the status may be on Pedrosa’s return, the Ductch TT marks the third race absence for the Repsol Honda rider, and accordingly the team is obliged to replace him. Moving up San Carlos Gresini Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama, the Japanese rider will swing a leg over the third Honda factory team bike, while Marco Simoncelli rounds out the group on the fourth factory bike that’s still nestled in the Gresini garage.

MotoGP: Lap Record Smashed in Qualifying at Silverstone

06/11/2011 @ 4:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With rainy weather looming for Sunday’s race, Saturday’s qualifying at Silverstone took place under otherwise favorable conditions with only a patchwork of clouds in the sky. This made conditions ripe for some record setting lap times, and several MotoGP riders were up to that very task.

With the MotoGP grid still without Dani Pedrosa, the ranks did swell with one more rider, as Colin Edwards returned to race after breaking his collarbone at the Catalan GP. The increase in numbers for the starting grid would not stay raised for long though, find out why after the jump.

MotoGP: Qualifying from the Catalan GP

06/04/2011 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

MotoGP comes to us this weekend from Catalunya country, just outside of Barcelona, Spain for the Catalan GP. One of the centers of GP racing, local favorite Dani Pedrosa decided to sit out his home GP, and instead try and recover from his broken collarbone, which he broke two weeks ago at the French GP. The man many blame for Pedrosa’s injuries, Marco Simoncelli, was also under close scrutinty, as the Italian had to go to the principal’s office in the form of a chat with MotoGP Race Direction.

With the weather constantly variable throughout the week, yesterday’s sessions saw a mix of rain and sunshine, which caught-out Monster Yamaha Tech 3 ride Colin Edwards. The American crashed on cold slick tires on the semi-damp track, also breaking his collarbone. His participation in the Catalan GP is out, and question marks hang over his return by the time of the British GP. With qualifying action underway, we saw a few surprises in the results. Read on after the jump.

MotoGP Race Direction Summons Marco Simoncelli

06/01/2011 @ 3:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

It seems MotoGP’s Race Direction is not done with Italian Marco Simoncelli. Despite giving the San Carlos Honda Gresini Rider a ride-through penalty at the French GP for his entanglement with Dani Pedrosa, the sophomore MotoGP rider will have to go talk to the powers that be this week at the Catalan GP.

As if getting sent to the principal’s office wasn’t bad enough, Simoncelli has been the subject of some threats in the Spanish mob, a situation that probably wasn’t aided by the Honda rider’s comments about his penalty and the incident with Dani Pedrosa.

Outcomes.

05/20/2011 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Sacré Bleu During Racing at the French GP

05/15/2011 @ 9:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

To say that the French GP got off on the wrong foot might be the understatement of the season. Between the statements between riders about each other, and the Casey Stoner/Randy de Puniet punch incident, the pre-race antics were at a fever pitch in Le Mans. The off-track drama in MotoGP is clearly seeping into the on-track racing action, and accordingly the French GP was filled with several incidents that should give the pundits something to talk about for the coming three weeks before the Catalan GP.

Meanwhile qualifying showed that the Hondas ruled the roost, with the firm’s four factory supported bikes sitting in the top four spots on the starting grid. With Casey Stoner commencing from the pole position, Marco Simoncelli qualified just barely second to the Australian, while Andrea Dovizioso rounded out the front row.

Directly behind Stoner was Dani Pedrosa, who has had some tremendous starts from the second row in the past, and surely couldn’t be counted out of today’s race. Eyes were also on Randy de Puniet, who counted Le Mans as one of his least favorite circuits, despite it being in front of his home crowd.

MotoGP: Factory Hondas Make Like Napoleon Bonaparte – Divide & Conquer Qualifying at Le Mans

05/14/2011 @ 3:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Le Mans proved to be a Honda-friendly track today, as all four true-blooded factory Honda machines took the four top spots on the grid for tomorrow’s French GP. With the Hondas bunched up at the front, the groupings didn’t stop there as the next four spots were occupied by the Yamaha contingency, with Jorge Lorenzo leading Crutchlow, Edwards, and Spies respectively.

Ninth and tenth on the grid belong to Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, while Randy de Puniet on the satellite Pramac Ducati will start 11th for his home GP. Both Hayden and Spies cited mistakes on their fast laps as being the cause for their poor qualifying, while Rossi’s squad was unable to capitalize on its softer-compound tire for an ultimate qualifying time.

Starting on pole will be Casey Stoner, as the Australian continues his superb form this season. Though the Repsol Honda rider has been the one to watch so far this season, he only beat out sophmore Marco Simoncelli by a margin of 0.059 seconds.

Simoncelli has seemingly found his stride this season, though his riding has prompted concerns in the MotoGP paddock, as many of the top riders went to the Safety Commission meeting to complain about the Italian’s riding. Rounding out the front row is Andrea Dovizioso, who bested teammate Dani Pedrosa by six-hundreths of a second. Full qualifying results after the jump.