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.

Photo of the Week: A Championship Down to the Wire

11/07/2011 @ 6:01 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Few championships are won without at least a bit of good fortune, and with at least his fair share of that maxim, Stefan Bradl is the new Moto2 World Champion. After reversing Bradl’s fantastic beginning of the 2011 season, Marc Marquez had the momentum and the points lead, until his run inevitable collision with Ratthapark Wilairot at the Australian GP. The mistake cost Marquez, and forced the Spaniard to start from the back of the grid, which in turn lead to a third place behind Bradl’s second at Phillip Island.

With another crash leaving Marquez unfit to compete in the final two races, Bradl clinched the title at Valencia when Marquez did not participate in Saturday’s Qualifying session. The Sepang crash robbed Marquez of his opportunity to fight for the title, and robbed the fans of seeing the competitive Moto2 class come down to an on-track battle. In spite of the story behind the last two races, Bradl is a worthy champion for hanging in there and fighting back as Marquez attacked, even if he may not have been the best rider at the end of the season. His strong results early in 2011 made the difference at the end, and congratulations are in order to the new Moto2 Champion.

Photo of the Week: You Gave Everything

10/31/2011 @ 12:15 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

At the inaugural GP of India for Formula One, a moment of silence was observed for Marco Simoncelli and Dan Wheldon, and while I wondered how many among the F1 audience had ever heard of Marco, it was a fine gesture and certainly appreciated by the MotoGP community.

This week has been largely about trying to move on after the accident at Sepang, but that has proved very difficult to do for me and my colleagues, friends, and as yet unmet fellow MotoGP fans. I continue to receive requests for Simoncelli photos from increasingly obscure connections, in addition to those from close friends who want something with which to remember Marco.

I ran across this image from Catalunya, which helps put the loss in a proper context. The translation, provided at the time by a linguistically gifted friend on the Dorna staff, was something like: You gave everything because you loved. Certainly a 58 will appear beside the numbers of Shoya Tomizawa and Daijiro Kato if this fellow redoes his banner next season. And in all three cases, we are left to wonder what excitements and triumphs we might have witnessed had fate allowed 74, 48, & 58 to contest more Grand Prix races.

Photo of the Week: SuperSic Forever

10/24/2011 @ 12:50 pm, by Scott Jones31 COMMENTS

As a 250cc rider, Marco Simoncelli struck me as being very talented, but also a grave danger to his fellow riders. In the 250GP races in which Simoncelli participated, he was always the wild card, and one never knew what he might do in his spirited attempts to win. As the list of other riders who’d narrowly escaped serious injury in on-track incidents with Marco grew, I developed a profound dislike for how he behaved on track, and I thought that this behavior indicated what type of person he was.

But as I gained access to the MotoGP paddock, and found opportunities to glimpse the riders’ personalities, Marco Simoncelli was one of the first for whom I recognized that I could not draw such conclusions based solely on what I saw on TV.

On a motorcycle, Simoncelli was ferocious, as the cat on the back of his helmet indicated. In person he was soft spoken, gentle, quick to smile and generous. Always a gracious participant with Riders for Health fundraising events, he courageously faced crowds who spoke no Italian and charmed them in his accented and limited English. He signed whatever people asked of him, and posed for photos with patience and grace.

Photo of the Week: Hail to the King

10/17/2011 @ 6:11 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

It seems to have been inevitable now, and what other words could there be to say? Casey Stoner has been head & shoulders above the rest of the MotoGP class, a trait that is not too dissimilar from how Jorge Lorenzo, his rival all season long, won the Championship in 2010. The bike to beat this season, being on the Repsol Honda certainly didn’t hurt Stoner’s chances, but he did more on his factory Honda RC212V than the three other very talented riders who had similar equipment. Congratulations to Casey and his HRC team for a well-deserved 2011 World Championship title.

Photo of the Week: Home Grown

10/10/2011 @ 11:15 am, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

Here’s to the privateer, who travels to the race without sponsorship from tobacco or energy drinks, who sleeps in the truck that carried the bike, who wakes up smelling of solvent and spilled gas, and who wonders how many more laps he can get from his current set of tires. If the love of racing sometimes gets lost among big budgets, umbrella girls, and TV rights, it is alive and well in the hearts of those who bring whatever they can afford to the track, and race it as fast as they can. Here’s to Linda and her checkbook.

Photo of the Week: Olé!

10/03/2011 @ 4:51 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Congratulations to Carlos Checa, who is finally a World Champion, having clinched the World Superbike title at Magny Cours with three races to go. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Photo of the Week: Mastermind

09/26/2011 @ 12:12 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

In August, I sat across the aisle from Livio Suppo on a connecting flight to Indianapolis, and found the HRC Communications & Marketing Director weary at the end of his journey from Italy. Though cordial as ever, he was not in the mood to chat as he yawned, stretched and endured the last leg of a transcontinental flight.

So I kept to myself, and thought back to when Casey Stoner joined Ducati in 2007, the year he’d go on to win the world title on the new 800cc formula. As Ducati’s MotoGP Project Leader, Suppo was often asked what Ducati had done to make the GP7 so dominant? What had they gotten so right that Stoner was running away with the title?

Again and again Suppo told the media that it was really Casey who was performing the miracles, not the bike. Again and again that statement was dismissed as an attempt to deflect attention from whatever secret mojo Ducati had come up with. And once again in 2011, hindsight has shed an interesting light on Ducati’s past. It turns out Suppo was right when he said it was Casey, not the bike.

Photo of the Week: Unmet Expectations

09/19/2011 @ 12:22 pm, by Scott Jones14 COMMENTS

At the MotoGP test in Qatar, the week before the 2011 season opener, all eyes were on Rossi and the GP11. Naively we wondered if he would be able to recreate his magic at Welkom in 2004, and comparisons to Rossi’s move to Yamaha were inevitable. Some in the paddock thought he was in better shape going to Ducati than he had been when he left Honda, after all Casey Stoner had managed to win several times at the end of 2010 on the bike Rossi was taking over, while the pre-Rossi Yamaha was widely considered a mess on two wheels. Burgess’ remarks that he and Rossi would sort the Ducati straight away gave us the impression that the dream team could see what was wrong, and knew at least in theory what to do when they took over Stoner’s ride.

In spite of the problems that had been apparent since the first GP11 test in Valencia the previous November, our faith in the Rossi, Burgess, & Co.’s expertise still had many of us prepared for a strong finish at Losail — expecting Rossi to do at least as well on the GP11 as Stoner had managed on the GP10. “He’ll at least win a few races once he gets the Ducati sorted,” was a common attitude in Qatar.

Photo of the Week: Unsung Hero

09/12/2011 @ 2:45 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

With only rare exceptions, you don’t get to the top level of motorbike racing without being fast and having proven your raciness in the lower classes. Former 125cc World Champion and 250cc runner-up Álvaro Bautista is an example of a great rider on a bike that simply doesn’t allow him to show all of his talents.

After fantastic seasons in 125s and 250s, Bautista joined MotoGP in 2010 on the struggling Rizla Suzuki team aboard a bike that was flat out uncompetitive, managing a pair of 5th places for his best results of the year. He began 2011 as the team’s sole rider by breaking his leg in Qatar and missing the first two races, returning at Estoril while still mending. Since then he has managed a variety of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place finished as the 800cc Suzuki shows signs of life just at it reaches the end of its duty.

Photo of the Week: Do or Die

09/05/2011 @ 1:44 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off

Some say that defending a World Championship is harder than winning it in the first place. Though much of the MotoGP world may already have assigned the 2011 title to Casey Stoner, reigning champ Jorge Lorenzo is not going down without a fight. After starting the year respectfully deferring to the doomsday combination of Stoner on a factory Honda, and downplaying his chances of successfully defending his title, Lorenzo has quietly notched up eight podium finishes, including three wins, with only a single retirement. His sixth place at Assen he owes to nemesis Marco Simoncelli, but Lorenzo still managed to remount and score valuable points.

With all the attention on HRC’s final bid to win an 800cc title, after being the main proponent in the switch from 990s, Lorenzo’s moments in the spotlight have often focused on his new role: that of man without a prayer. But at Misano (spoiler alert!) he showed a lot of heart, grabbing the win and asserting his position as the one Stoner still has to beat. With help from Dani Pedrosa, who passed Stoner to take second place, Lorenzo now trails by 35 points, with five races to go, and has perhaps more momentum than he’s enjoyed all season.

Of course with the Aragon GP up next, Lorenzo will have to try and forget last year, when Nicky Hayden passed him to take a rare podium, and the race was won by, who else, Casey Stoner. If Stoner could beat the field by 5 seconds on a Ducati, he should be even tougher to beat on the Honda, and Lorenzo will have to dig deep to keep his defense hopes alive.