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: Forging Ahead

08/30/2011 @ 4:33 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

While conditions vary from race weekend to race weekend, it is rare that GP riders find themselves with a brand new track surface to deal with when they arrive at a venue. Looking to placate the complaints about the bumpy infield that have been heard at Indy during previous rounds, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway completely resurfaced the interior section of the course, which is used only once a year when the MotoGP circus comes to Indiana.

This meant that Friday practice was held on a track free of any rubber from past sessions, causing all the GP riders to complain loudly about the slippery and dangerous conditions of the ‘green’ surface. Not only was there no old rubber to add grip to the MotoGP machines, but the aggregate used in the resurfacing was still sharp at the surface, which meant tires were shredded in record time by the abrasive macadam, leaving an amazing amount of slag at some corners.

As more sessions were completed, grip improved enough that Casey Stoner was able to set a new track record, and the racing line was defined clearly enough by the dark bits of line running between the fields of rubber marbles. The abrasive nature of the new surface still caused many problems during the race as several riders retired due to front end tire issues. Local hero Nicky Hayden gambled on a softer front tire, and found that while able he was able to chase down and pass the factory Hondas for the first time this season, the softer front tire’s rapid deterioration caused him to come into the pits to assess its condition, much to the dismay of fans attending the Indianapolis GP.

Photo of the Week: Old Grudges Die Hard

08/22/2011 @ 12:42 pm, by Scott Jones18 COMMENTS

Two seasons after Dani Pedrosa knocked Nicky Hayden off the track at Estoril and seemingly derailed his teammate’s championship bid, emotions about the move still ran hot at The Kentucky Kid’s home race. There’s no telling for whom the pair in this photo might have shirts made next weekend, but the odds are on Filippo Preziosi.

Considering that these guys look like they’ve eaten meals that weighed more than Pedrosa, they seem unlikely to care that the father of the career-wrecking Ducati GP concept is in a wheelchair, but certainly the majority of Indy’s great fans will keep it classy. Best of luck to Nicky and Dani and all of those who compete at the highest level of motorcycle racing.

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?

Photo of the Week: Paddock Etiquette

08/08/2011 @ 9:29 am, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Where do the MotoGP riders hang out when they aren’t on track, in the box, or in the team hospitality? Probably in their motor homes if the race is a European round. Most of the riders seem to own or lease their own vehicles, though some seem to rent per event. Like the hospitalities and other paddock amenities, RVs do not join the air freight for fly-away races. But for the rounds to which they can travel over land, they park together in a section of the paddock where the riders can escape the media and fans.

As I walked from the P1 parking area toward the media center I passed the paddock of riders’ RVs and saw this sign. I chose not to ask Cal about this as I did not want to get slammed for asking about a touchy subject, but I like the photo because it shows a seldom-seen side of the GP scene.

We tend to think of MotoGP riders as pampered, top-level athletes with entourages and handlers and so on. But it’s not impossible for one to be sitting in his RV, slowly going mad because people keep coming in and slamming the door. Neither is it impossible for someone to point out a misspelling in his warning, which is a nice reminder that in spite of their ungodly abilities on two wheels, they are still people, at least in some ways, just like the rest of us.

Photo of the Week: The Long Goodbye

08/01/2011 @ 2:07 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

It looks like 2011 will be Loris Capirossi’s final Grand Prix season, and the end of a remarkable career that has sadly fizzled in the past few years. Capirex’s last win was in 2007, his final season as a factory Ducati rider, and since switching to the Rizla Suzuki team in 2008 he has not had the equipment to show the kind of form that previously garnered both 125cc and 250cc world titles.

This season’s return to a Ducati seat with Pramac has not improved his competitiveness, and crashes have continued to add up to more aches and pains. Approaching 40, Capirossi carries many scars into each session, including hands so frail that he wears specially designed and heavily padded gloves to protect them from further impact.

In person he is friendly and polite, quick to return a smile, though lately he has seemed weary of the challenge of climbing on yet another uncompetitive bike and going out to fight for 10th place. He will always have a place in Ducati history, haven taken the team’s first win at Barcelona in 2003, and in GP history for his world titles.

It would be great to see him manage one more good result this year, but given the difficulties of the GP11, it seems more likely that he will have to be content ending his long GP career in one piece. Considering how many talented riders have come to the premier class for a season or two before disappearing for other grids, Capirossi’s decades-long GP career is quite an accomplishment.

Photo of the Week: Winless

07/26/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Scott Jones10 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi is the most photographed rider in the MotoGP paddock (and probably the most photographed motorcycle racer in the world), someone who almost always has a crowd of cameras around him. He has the most traffic when trying to ride from the box onto pit lane, the thickest crowd around him on the grid, and when he’s out on track he generates more images than any other rider. All the photographers, regardless of which clients they have and which teams they work with, photograph Rossi.

So it has become quite a challenge to create images of him that many people have not seen many times already. Photographers still do the ‘classic’ Rossi shot of putting a wide angle on the ground, pointed upward as Rossi does his foot peg ceremony before climbing aboard. We still see Rossi superstitiously picking at his butt as he exits pit lane, and so on. Because of his elaborate routine of following the same behaviors over and over, we tend to get the same images of him over and over.

At each race I try to get an image of him that I’ve not seen before. Portraits are usually the best bet, because even though he follows the same routine in the box of chest protector in, ear plugs licked then inserted and held in place with a pistol grip, helmet on with fists to the forehead, and so on, he is still a human being and his expressions are occasionally unguarded and revealing. When you catch one of those, you probably have an interesting portrait of a very interesting subject.

Photo of the Week: Iron Man

07/18/2011 @ 9:53 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Two operations on the same collarbone in two months, that collarbone being the second one broken this season, and a win in his second race back in action. Remarkable. Though tragically fragile for a motorbike racer, Dani is as tough as old boots and one of few individuals fast enough to challenge for the MotoGP title.

At the beginning of the year I prayed to the speed gods that Dani could finally have a season without injuries, but he didn’t get very far into the schedule in spite of my wishes. Can he now please have half a season with no injuries? If he manages that, he may not win the title, but the racing will certainly be better.

Photo of the Week: Rolling Momentum

07/11/2011 @ 9:54 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

In 2009, I interviewed Marco Melandri after he’d done seven races on the Hayate Kawasaki, and was impressed by his earnest desperation to show he was still a viable GP rider in spite of the previous season’s debacle on the Ducati GP8. This was, after all, a rider who had finished second in the World Championship in 2005 and 4th & 5th in the following seasons. Since then I’ve always hoped for Melandri to find a good situation, one that allows his talents to shine.

That was not on the Gresini Honda last season, unfortunately, but it appears that he has finally found a position in WSBK where he can again fight for the title. After a win and a second place at Brno, Melandri is 53 points behind Carlos Checa and 30 behind MAx Biaggi, but with some serious momentum for the second half of the season. It’s great to see him at the front where he belongs.

Photo of the Week: Turning Point

07/05/2011 @ 7:12 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

As David Emmett and I spoke to Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis after Sunday’s GP at Mugello, Mr. Jarvis said “George earned his salary today.” The race at Mugello held several surprises. Rossi managed 6th place thanks to a substantial set up change Sunday morning; Casey Stoner tried to run away, but was caught and passed by two riders, including teammate Andrea Dovizioso; Dovi claimed the home town glory, and was the most impressive Honda rider; and Simoncelli not only finished a race but didn’t crash, and caused no broken bones.

To me, however, the stand out performance was Jorge Lorenzo’s, as JL showed precisely the mental qualities that Sic lacks at the moment. JL was patient, didn’t give up in spite of the early race plot indicating that Casey was as good as gone, and settled in to go the distance as fast as he could, eventually earning the win after several battles to reach the front. Because of the confidence this race must give Lorenzo, Mugello may prove to be a turning point in a season where most expect Casey Stoner to ride into the sunset.

Photo of the Week: The First of Many

06/28/2011 @ 9:09 am, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

At the 2011 Dutch Grand Prix, American Ben Spies became the only rider other than Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa to win a dry 800cc GP race. Spies led every lap in a fashion reminiscent of his days as 3-time AMA champion, where he was known as a rider so mentally tough from his years of being Mat Mladin’s teammate that once a lead was achieved, he could manage it until the end of the race without mistakes.

Spies also had great timing for his first MotroGP win, as Yamaha was celebrating 50 years of Grand Prix racing with a retro red and white livery and honored guests such as Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read in attendance. Congratulations to Ben and his crew, and to Yamaha for reaching the top of the podium on this historic occasion in the company’s history.