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.

2014 Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race Results

07/28/2014 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MuSASHi-RT-HARC-PRO-2014-Suzuka-8-Hour-Takumi-Takahashi

With heavy rain delaying the start, the Suzuka 8-Hour was more like the Suzuka 6-Hour, as only six hours and thirty-five minutes could be fit into the race’s time slot. Still, FIM Endurance World Championship fans were treated to a good battle, which unfortunately saw F.C.C. TSR Honda out early while in the lead.

Kosuke Akiyoshi gave F.C.C. TSR Honda its early lead, and strong stint from Jonathan Rea seemed to solidify the team’s position. But on his next outing, Akiyoshi had a massive crash at the 130R corner. Riding his Honda CBR1000RR back into the pits with a broken femur, Akiyoshi was the hero of the race, but F.C.C. TSR would have to settle for 40th overall.

The crash left the lead for MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team, which laid claim to the top step at Suzuka for the second year in a row. The Japanese team, which was comprised of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael van der Mark put in an impressive performance at the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance race, though only had roughly a minute’s gap at the finish line to show for it.

Video Highlights of the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours

07/31/2013 @ 11:47 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

musashi-honda-ewc-suzuka

In case you missed watching this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours (the second stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar), and that is pretty much everyone outside of Japan, since no live stream was available on race day, we’ve got you covered.

Compressing eight hours of hard-fought endurance racing into four and a half minutes, you can witness Ryuichi Kiyonari’s nasty crash on the F.C.C. TSR Honda, Schwantz’s epic return to road racing, and the victory of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO Honda with Leon Haslam, Takumi Takahashi, and Michael Van Der Mark on-board.

Kevin Schwantz & Team Kagayama Podium at Suzuka

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

kevin-schwantz-suzuka-8-hour

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.

Race Results from the Suzuka 8 Hours

07/28/2013 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Q&A: Yukio Kagayama Talks About the Upcoming Suzuka 8-Hour with Kevin Schwantz & Noriyuki Haga

05/07/2013 @ 10:09 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Team-Kagayama-Yukio-Kevin-Schwantz

In case you missed the story last week, Kevin Schwantz is preparing to race in this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race. The blue ribbon event in Japanese motorcycle racing, a Suzuka 8-Hour win is perhaps the most covetted trophy to have if you are a Japanese motorcycle OEM.

The Japanese manufacturers take the Suzuka 8-Hour so seriously, it is not uncommon to see them stack their endurance teams with top-talent from other World and national series, like MotoGP, WSBK, BSB, and AMA Pro Racing. With rumors circulating about a very factory Yamaha team in the works, right now our attention however is on Team Kagayama.

Formed by Japanese rider Yukio Kagayama, who in addition to having raced in the MotoGP, World Superbike, and British Superbike Championships, is also a previous Suzuka 8-Hour winner with the Suzuki Endurance Race Team. Joining Kagayama and Schwatnz on the three-rider team is Noriyuki Haga, also of MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB fame.

Releasing a Q&A about his team’s Suzuka 8-Hour entry, Yukio Kagayama walks us through how the team came together, what equipment the riders will use, and his outlook on the team’s competitiveness. It’s a pretty interesting read.

Kevin Schwantz Returns to Motorcycle Racing – Enters the Suzuka 8-Hours with Team Kagayama

04/30/2013 @ 11:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Team-Kagayama-Suzuka-8-hours-Kevin-Schwantz

Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz has certainly been in the news a bit these past few months, mostly for his involvement and falling out with the Circuit of the Americas and the Americas GP, but also more recently for his comments regarding Dani Pedrosa — we also sat down with Mr. Schwantz in Austin, and the Texan gave us some sobering insight into the future of American road racing.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Schwantz is making a return to two-wheeled racing, and has entered the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race with Team Kagayama. One of three riders on the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000, Schwantz will race with Noriyuki Haga and team owner Yukio Kagayama during the eight-hour event.

Official: Noriyuki Haga to Race in British Superbike

02/13/2012 @ 2:18 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The rumors about Noriyuki Haga’s future have been swelling for the past few weeks, as the Japanese rider was tipped to land in the British Superbike Championship for the 2012 season. Officially confirmed today by Yamaha Racing, Nitro Nori will once again take to a Yamaha YZF-R1, as he competes with Swan Yamaha in BSB, and permanently replaces the injured Ian Hutchinson. While BSB fans were surely dismayed by the news that Hutchy would be out for at least part of the BSB season, the Isle of Man TT star’s absence will at least be made up for by the addition of Haga to the BSB rostrum.

A boon for the British Superbike series, Haga’s status as a former-WSBK contender should add another name to the list of riders that British fans will have to follow in 2012. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, Haga finished runner-up in the 2000, 2007, & 2009 WSBK seasons, and finished third in the 2004, 2005, 2006, & 2008 seasons. Nitro Nori will be hoping to change that luck in the UK though, and with the support of the factory-backed Swan Yamaha squad, we expect to see the Japanese rider on the top step on more than a few occasions.

WSBK: Wet Conditions & Heavy Attrition Force a Red Flagged, Shortened Race 2 at Nurburgring

09/04/2011 @ 7:45 am, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

Carlos Checa (1:54.144) won pole during Saturday’s Superpole sessions after leading every session but one through the 2011 Nurburgring round of the World Superbike championship. He would have been joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri, but Biaggi’s injuries from a stone hitting his foot during practice kept the Italian from participating in either Race 1 earlier in the day or Race 2. With Biaggi missing the chance for the fifty points possible for a double race win, Checa’s lead over him in the championship could easily grow over the three remaining race weekends.

Throughout the weekend, only Checa and Biaggi led the practice and qualifying sessions. The Italian held provisional pole after the first qualifying practice on Friday, but no one else could catch Checa in Germany. Biaggi’s did qualify with his injured foot, but the nerve and tendon damage, along with a broken bone and the resultant swelling and cast kept him out of the action on Sunday. The order had a shake-up in the final warm-up, with Haslam leading Guintoli, Corser, Sykes, and Berger as the fastest five while Checa was only thirteenth fastest.

WSBK: Red Flag Doesn’t Shake Much Up for Misano Race 2

06/12/2011 @ 7:48 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Tom Sykes (1:55.197) started on pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Misano after putting the Kawasaki on the front row in damp conditions during Saturday’s Superpole sessions, holding off a late-charging Carlos Checa by almost two tenths. They were joined on the front row by Jakub Smrz and Marco Melandri, with Max Biaggi only seventh. The damp and greasy conditions caught out many riders, including Checa, Smrz, Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, and Leon Camier. The latter two were unable to set a time in Superpole 1 and qualified only fifteenth and sixteenth.

Checa and Biaggi fought over the fastest lap during the practice and qualifying sessions, with Checa coming out on top in the dry conditions. In the final qualifying practice, Noriyuki Haga was quite a bit slower than usual, and did not move on to participate in the Superpole sessions. Chris Vermeulen, hopefully recovered enough to race, was also knocked out in QP, along with the satellite Kawasakis, two Italian wildcard riders, and Lorenzo Lanzi. Lanzi is filling in this weekend and next at Motorland Aragon for the still-recovering James Toseland. Checa was again quickest in the morning warm-up, leading to a sunny and occasionally dramatic Race 1. Jonatha Rea missed that race, and Race 2, after a massive crash in the warm-up. He sustained a clean break to his right radius, “Plus a lot of bumps/bruises from a 230kph off,” in a tweet from Castrol Honda.

Checa Quickest at Misano WSBK Test

05/11/2011 @ 9:08 pm, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Despite a dismal weekend at Monza, Carlos Checa is again the fastest man on a World Superbike machine. The Spaniard posted the unofficial fastest lap of a two day test this week at Misano, beating all three Aprilia riders as well as the factory BMW team. Checa set the unofficial quickest time of the test (1:34.8) Wednesday morning, on his way to completing 140 laps of the Italian circuit. The participants were preparing for the next round at Miller Motorsports Park in almost three weeks’ time as well as the WSBK round held at Misano in mid-June.

Reigning Champion and current WSBK record speed holder Max Biaggi also tested at Misano, with teammate Leon Camier and privateer Aprilia rider Noriyuki Haga, as well as BMW Motorrad riders Troy Corser and Leon Haslam. It was Biaggi with the fastest unofficial time at the end of Tuesday, breaking the previous lap record with his time of 1:35.6. His progress seemed to go backwards on the second day, with neither the rider nor team happy with settings used Wednesday.