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.

WSBK: A Non-Starter Affects the Championship In a Dicey Race 1 at Nurburgring

09/04/2011 @ 3:53 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Carlos Checa (1:54.144) started on pole after dominating both the Superpole and practices for the 2011 World Superbike round at Nurburgring. No other rider could catch him but Max Biaggi, who led the Friday qualifying practice. However, he sustained injuries to his foot including a possible broken bone and nerve damage, leaving the Italian rider in pain and with a foot too swollen to fit in his normal boot. Still, Biaggi qualified on the front row between Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri, alongside Checa. He did not start Race 1, leaving Checa some measure of comfort in the championship fight.

Other than Biaggi’s foot injuries, no other rider had a major incident during the practice and qualifying sessions. Michel Fabrizio had a crash in Superpole 1, but continued on to qualify twelfth. Nurburgring marked the return of Jonathan Rea to Castrol Honda, though teammate Ruben Xaus was still out and replaced by Makoto Tamada. Perennially injured Chris Vermeulen, despite his protestations that he is fit and ready to sign for 2012, did not participate and was not replaced by Paul Bird Motorsports Kawasaki for this round. In the Sunday morning warm-up, Haslam led Guintoli, Corser, Sykes, and Berger as the fastest five. Checa was thirteenth fastest and Biaggi, who would not race, did not participate.

WSBK: Crashes & Fighting Mark a Hot Race 1 at Silverstone

07/31/2011 @ 4:51 am, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

Former MotoGP, current British Superbike, and this weekend’s wild card rider John Hopkins (2:04.041) started the 2011 World Superbike round at Silverstone on pole after dominating multiple sessions throughout the weekend, including setting a new track fast lap. The American rider led the first practice, the second qualifying practice, and ended the final Superpole session on Saturday on top of the timesheets and on track whilst much of the rest of the field resignedly remained in their garages. He was joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa. Max Biaggi crashed in Superpole 1, hurried through to Superpole 2, and was unable to qualify higher than eleventh on the starting grid.

For Silverstone, home rider James Toseland was back and barely squeaking through to Superpole, though he would only qualify fourteenth. Over at Castrol Honda, it was a bad weekend with both official riders out with injury. Alex Lowes continued to replace Jonathan Rea, but could not make it to Superpole. The worse drama came with Ruben Xaus’ newly-diagnosed L3 vertebrae fracture. Karl Muggeridge was to replace the Spaniard, but he injured his wrist in a mountain biking accident, leaving Fabrizio Lai to take the place of the replacement. Tom Sykes also had trouble in Saturday’s free practice, in the form of a crash that left him with a sprained ankle and minor concussion. He did not participate in Superpole, but started sixteenth. In the morning warm-up, Biaggi as fastest, leading a top five of Berger, Camier, Haslam, and Hopkins.

WSBK: Close Fighting for Race 1 at Brno

07/10/2011 @ 3:55 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Max Biaggi started the first World Superbike race of the Brno round on pole after no one could touch him in the final Superpole session on Saturday. He was joined by Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa, and Eugene Laverty on the front row. Though Biaggi led at the end, Jakub Smrz, Checa, and Laverty all took a turn at leading a session in the Czech Republic. Much further back, neither Castrol Honda rider managed to move on to the Superpole sessions and will start on the fifth and sixth rows. Checa led the morning warm-up on Sunday, with Smrz, Sylvain Guintoli, Biaggi, and Michel Fabrizio the fastest five.

Though James Toseland did ride for Friday morning’s free practice, he was forced to sit out the rest of the race weekend, hoping to heal for the next round at Silverstone. He was replaced by Lorenzo Lanzi at BMW Motorrad Italia. Also sitting out the weekend is injured factory BMW rider Tory Corser and Jonathan Rea at Castrol Honda. Though Corser has not been replaced at this round, Rea’s recovery might be long-term, leading to his replacement by Alex Lowes.

WSBK: One Mistake Is All It Takes to Lose Race 1 in Aragon

06/19/2011 @ 3:58 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Marco Melandri (1:57.634) started on pole for the first time in World Superbike for the Race 1 at Motorland Aragon after dominating Friday and Saturday’s final Superpole session. Though he had some prior knowledge of racing at the Spanish track, after MotoGP made its debut their last season, the WSBK riders had an additional hairpin at the end of the back straight. Similarly, many teams tested there during the off season and extended break between some of the early races. Still, that did not keep Melandri from fending off Max Biaggi, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa, who completed the front row.

They were joined by two factory Kawasaki riders, Melandri’s Yamaha teammate, and a satellite BMW on the second row as Ayrton Badovini outperformed his factory brethren to start eighth. Melandri led both the first free practice and the first qualifying practice on Friday, only to lose his lead to Checa in the final qualifying practice and Biaggi in the Saturday free practice. During Sunday’s morning warm-up, Biaggi led Checa, Camier, Haslam, and Sykes as the fastest five, with Melandri eleventh. Jonathan Rea did not ride or attend the Spanish meeting, having undergone surgery Monday after sustaining injuries in a warm-up crash at Misano last week.

WSBK: Early Battles Make a Masterful Race 1 Win at Misano

06/12/2011 @ 3:53 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Tom Sykes (1:55.197) was the surprising pole sitter for the 2011 World Superbike round at Misano, with Carlos Checa, Jakub Smrz, and Marco Melandri also on the front row. Saturday’s damp Superpole session made for a crash-fest, with Checa, Smrz, Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, and Leon Camier, among others, all crashing. Neither Xaus nor Camier managed a time in S1 and qualified fifteenth and sixteenth, respectively. Sykes’ time was inspired, with the next-fastest Kawasaki of Joan Lascorz qualifying twelfth.

Third factory Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen was knocked out after the final qualifying practice, which is surprisingly good news for a rider that has yet to complete race distance in the 2011 season. Also recovering James Toseland was replaced for this weekend and next by Italian rider Lorenzo Lanzi, as his testing injury re-flared after the previous round in the United States. On Sunday morning, Checa was back into his top spot on the timesheets, leading Badovini, Fabrizio, Haga, and Smrz as the fastest five for the warm-up. Rea was taken to a local hospital after a heavy crash at Turn 11 in the warm-up, after being quite uncooperative in the medical center.

IOMTT: Supersport Race 1 Finishes Despite Red Flag

06/06/2011 @ 7:33 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Despite raining last night, Monday’s Isle of Man TT Monster Energy Supersport race started under promising skies, as the sun was mostly out through the cloudy skies. Though John McGuinness won the weekend’s Dainese Superbike TT, the Padgetts Motorcycles’ rider was not a favorite to win this year’s Supersport races, though still considered a strong competitor. Instead eyes were on Michael Dunlop, Cameron Donald, and Gary Johnson, with Guy Martin always a crowd favorite.

With racing starting well enough, it sadly did not last long as the race was red flagged as the race leaders entered into Ramsey. Though several competitors had crashed in the first lap, news soon spread that Derek Brien had crashed and died on the extremely fast Gorse Lea section of the course, where speeds are in excess of 140 mph.

With the Isle of Man TT officials giving riders a chance to restart the race, several crashers were given a second opportunity to tackle the Mountain Course with their 600cc machinery, one of whom was local hero Guy Martin. Though off to a rocky start, find out how the restarted Monster Energy Supersport Race unfolded after the jump.

WSBK: Sunshine Blesses Race 1 at Miller Motorsports Park

05/30/2011 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

After a rainy Saturday Superpole, the sun blessed the Miller Motorsports Park for World Superbike’s Race 1. Carlos Checa returned to the Utah track in dominant form, though problems early on in the weekend gave glimpses of last year’s mechanical snafus. With both the factory Yamahas and Liberty Ducatis looking very quick in Superpole and in the practice sessions, Checa’s dominance for this year remained to be seen, with the pre-race predictions being anyone’s guess. Having standing water still in Turn 5 or the “Black Rock Hairpin” as it is called here at Miller, and mud at virtually every run-off, the Outer Course had a few tricks still up its sleeve for this race day Monday, despite the improved weather conditions. Click past the jump for spoilers on how it all panned out.

WSBK: Duel Ends in Decisive Victory for Monza Race 1

05/08/2011 @ 10:33 am, by Victoria Reid1 COMMENT

Max Biaggi proved a point to start the first 2011 World Superbike race at home at Monza by being on the pole, breaking speed records and blowing away his own times along the way. The reigning Champion dominated Saturday’s Superpole sessions, going so far as to flog his Aprilia around the circuit whilst the rest of the riders sat in the garages, comfortable with Biaggi’s position. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Troy Corser joined him in starting on the front row, with Laverty’s lap time more than six tenths slower than Biaggi’s.

Even after dominating qualifying through the first three rounds, Carlos Checa had to settle for an eleventh starting position. Meanwhile, those who have not had such good fortune through the early season continued with their bad luck. James Toseland, set to make his return after a testing injury kept him from Donington Park and Assen, participated in Friday’s sessions, but not the final qualifying practice. Nor did he race, though he was busy signing autographs with that injured wrist through the weekend.

WSBK: Close Racing Shakes Up the Order in Race 1 at Assen

04/17/2011 @ 10:42 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off

Carlos Checa started on his third straight pole of the 2011 World Superbike season at Assen, with Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga sitting beside him on the front row after Saturday’s qualifying. Despite similar cool temperatures and a grey sky, considerably less drama surrounded the paddock Saturday in Assen than three weeks previously at Donington Park.

A contrite Max Biaggi started sixth, while rival Marco Melandri crashed on his final run in Q3 and qualified eighth. Melandri was unhurt, though teammate Laverty’s position on the front row showed the sort of pace their Yamahas were capable of for qualifying.

Second place starter Smrz had led most of the early practice and qualifying sessions, only to be beaten by tire management, as Checa was the only rider with a fresh qualifying tire for the final Q3 session. Chris Vermeulen did not make Superpole, but did start the race, after spending most of his time between Donington and this race testing his recovering knee across Europe.

The also-injured James Toseland was replaced by Dutch rider Barry Veneman after a testing crash left him unable to compete. Sunday morning was sunny, with Camier taking the lead during the morning warm-up. Haslam, Checa, Rea, and Melandri completed the fastest five, while Smrz was fourteenth, Laverty eighteenth, and Vermeulen nineteenth.

Powerslide.

03/28/2011 @ 12:21 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS