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.

MotoGP: Three Crashes, Two Red Flags, & One Qualifying Session at the Indianapolis GP

08/18/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Considering it is August here in Indiana, MotoGP has had pretty much perfect weather for the 2012 Red Bull Indianapolis GP thus far, with only a brief rainstrom hitting the track late Thursday afternoon and into the evening. With perfect conditions for Saturday, qualifying proved to be an eventful day for all the classes, as a number of riders had crashes that warranted the red flag coming out at the American circuit.

With riders continuing to complain not only of the three different types of asphalt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but now also about the fine dirt on the course, the issue of whether IMS is safe for MotoGP has been raised with the six red flags that were out in the four qualifying motorcycle sessions held today. Though no one hit any obstacles or walls, with three riders questionable for competing in Sunday’s MotoGP class race, it is not a stretch of the truth to say that the Indy GP will be challenging.

MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso to Ducati with a Two-Year Deal?

08/13/2012 @ 9:29 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

As we mentioned last week, Andrea Dovizioso agreed to take the factory Ducati seat vacated by Rossi’s departure for Yamaha. His signature, it appears, was subject to certain conditions, though. According to reports in the Italian media, Dovizioso demanded guarantees of support and development from Audi before putting pen to paper.

Italian TV station Mediaset is now reporting that Dovizioso has now received those guarantees, and has signed a two-year deal to ride for Ducati in 2013 and 2014. Ducati’s choosing Dovizioso over Cal Crutchlow – Dovizioso’s British partner at the Tech 3 squad had earlier been offered the ride at Ducati – is an indication of the the future direction of the Bologna factory.

The deal appears to signal that Ducati has accepted that they need to focus their development on building a bike to suit a traditional Grand Prix style, as displayed by the Italian. It is perhaps a signal to Ducati’s new owners Audi that they understand the magnitude of the problem, and that the loss of Valentino Rossi is being taken very seriously indeed.

MotoGP: A Silly Season Update

06/19/2012 @ 4:25 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

Now that three races have passed, giving the paddock time to digest the news of Casey Stoner’s shock decision to retire and consider what effect it will have on the future line up of the MotoGP grid. The riders’ representatives have been very busy at the past few races, putting out feelers to factories and teams, weighing up opportunities and gauging the market value of their riders. With summer approaching, Silly Season for the 2013 Championship is very much open.

Two more decisions have accelerated developments, and drawn the lines of the 2013 season a little more clearly. Firstly, Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to stay with Yamaha for next season – “if Jorge wants to win championships,” said Lorenzo’s team boss Wilco Zeelenberg at Barcelona, “his best option is to stay at Yamaha.” The strength of the team and the state of the bike do seem to have been the key criteria for Lorenzo’s decision, the Spaniard opting for performance over financial gain.

The second development is the dropping of the Rookie Rule, preventing newcomers into the MotoGP class from going straight to the factory teams. The rule was popular with some team owners, but it also created major headaches for them: a big-name rookie like Marc Marquez does not come alone, but brings a small army of sponsors, advisers, mechanics, and assorted hangers on.

Room has to be made for these people and these sponsors, and long-term relationships have to be put aside to make way for them, which team managers then have to try to reestablish a year later once the rookie has gone. The abolition of the Rookie Rule clears the way for Marc Marquez to enter the Repsol Honda team, but it also opens up opportunities for other rookies at Yamaha or Ducati.

With these developments in mind, we can start to take a look at the current state of the market, the range of options open to riders in MotoGP, and what bikes may be on the grid for next season.

MotoGP: Yamahas vs. Hondas at the Catalan GP

06/03/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Despite a drizzle in the morning, the weather held for MotoGP’s race session in Catalunya. With Casey Stoner sitting on pole, the reigning-World Champion knew he had a bevy of Yamahas to content with come race day, with the big question being whether the softer tire option would prove to be a calculated gamble for the riders running it. With a number of Spaniards calling the greater Barcelona area home though, Stoner’s pole-position advantage was anything but a guarantee of a good result.

MotoGP: Testing at Jerez Provides Few Surprises

03/27/2012 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

With testing concluded at Jerez, the MotoGP paddock has just two short weeks before the opening round at the Losail International Circuit is underway. Heading into Qatar, there are few surprises from last season though, as the Honda of Casey Stoner continues to dominate the time sheets, while teammate Dani Pedrosa and top-Yamaha man Jorge Lorenzo trail closely behind.

Yamaha’s package looks very refined and balanced, and appears to have gained a step on the Honda machines. This should make for more interesting racing moments, where the more balanced Yamaha YZR-M1 will excel at certain tracks, while the more powerful Honda RC213V will shine at others. Also coming more into play will be the strengths and weaknesses of Honda and Yamaha’s top riders, whose particular track preferences could be the x-factor at some of the races.

Still at best, MotoGP is shaping up to be a three-man show, with maybe Ben Spies and some other riders occasionally mixing the order of things up. This statement is of course a direct reflection on the progress of Ducati Corse, which despite having made improvements to the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, is not really any closer to making up the difference to the front of the pack. Now using a completely revised aluminum frame, the team still seems to be struggling to find a starting point from which to build from, and in the process they have killed enough spare parts to start a pick-and-pull MotoGP junkyard.

Edwards Says an R1 Motor in Custom Frame Would Be the “Weapon of Choice” If He Races CRT

08/27/2011 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With rumors swirling around where Colin Edwards will land next year, we grabbed a moment with the Texas Tornado to ask him about one rumor that keeps cropping up: him on a claiming rule team for the 2012 season. Of course, you don’t just ask Colin Edwards direct questions, and expect direct answers, as the Texan enjoys a good laugh.

Getting some MotoGP-rookie hazing, Edwards had some fun with A&R while talking about CRTs, but what the Texan did say (or in some cases, didn’t say) is pretty interesting. One thing is for certain, the two-time World Superbike champion was very keen on having a pepped-up production motor inside a prototype chassis for his bike next year.

With an official announcement likely to come at Misano, the question now is where Colin will end up for 2012. Welcome to Silly Season 2011 ladies and gentleman.

Ben Spies Named MotoGP Rookie of the Year

10/17/2010 @ 10:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ben Spies clinched the MotoGP Rookie of the Year award while a racing at Phillip Island this weekend, adding another bullet point to the Texan’s impressive resumé, and achieving the next logical step in his GP career. Currently the highest ranking American in the MotoGP series, Spies holds a 11 point advantage over the Kentucky Kid Nicky Hayden. Both Americans have had a great season this year, and it will be exciting to watch the pair finish out the last two races of the season.

Moving up to the factory Yamaha team for the 2011 season, Spies will play second fiddle to Jorge Lorenzo, the reigning MotoGP World Champion. We’ll have to anxiously await Spies’ arrival on the factory-spec bike at the test in Valencia, following the conclusion of the 2010 MotoGP season, where we’ll get our first glimpse at what Spies can do on the more powerful factory M1. Team Texas: 1, Team Marco: 0.

Photo: Ben Spies (Personal Website)

Colin Edwards Signs One-Year Contract with Tech3

09/19/2010 @ 1:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Officially announced after today’s Aragon GP, Colin Edwards has signed-on with Monster Yamaha Tech3 for another year of racing with the satellite team. In what was Edwards’ 100th appearance on a Yamaha, the Texan had a disappointing finish, but has seen his best results while on the French team. Edwards will join his new teammate for next year, Cal Crutchlow, and help the British rider come up to speed on the 800cc Yamaha MotoGP bike, and the pair is highly favored to be the top satellite riders next season.

“I am delighted to have signed a new one-year contract with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team,” said the Texan Tornado. “I want to say a big thanks to Yamaha and to Tech3 for their unwavering support. I am honoured to continue my long and successful relationship with Yamaha, Herve Poncharal and all at Tech3. I love the team and feel like part of a big family and I’m thrilled that our adventure together is continuing next year.”

Get to Know Team Texas: Edwards Interviews Spies

06/01/2010 @ 6:01 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In an effort to get to know Team Texas a bit better, BBC Sport sat down Monster Yamaha Tech3 riders Colin Edwards and Ben Spies, and had the veteran rider question the MotoGP newcomer about issues on and off the track. Team orders? Rituals? Mustard or ketchup? The pair cover all the bases on what makes Team Texas truly Texan, and at the end of the interview, Edwards even dives into silly season speculation, and asks Rossi or Lorenzo? Check it out after the jump.

Spies 5th Fastest at Second Day of Sepang Testing

02/05/2010 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP riders tested at Sepgang for the second time today, after waiting for the Malaysian track to dry out from the looming rains. For their second outing, Ben Spies gets the most improved award, as the Texan rookie moved up from yesterday’s 12th place testing position (2’03.142) to being the 5th quickest man around the track (2’02.266) today. Spies had complained of jetlag yesterday, but with nearly a second dropped off his pace, it would seem he got a full night’s sleep last night. The Malaysian outing has been especially good for Tech3 Yamaha, which saw Colin Edwards as the 3rd quickest man yesterday.