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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

2015 FIM Endurance Calendar Down to Four Rounds

02/05/2015 @ 10:21 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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After releasing initially a five-round provisional calendar, with a sixth round yet to be confirmed, the FIM Endurance World Championship will actually go back to a four-round schedule for 2015.

The announcement coincides with Eurosport Events being named as the series’ promoter, and presumably Eurosport Events didn’t see the advantage of adding a 24-Hour Magny-Cours round to the schedule, along with one of three possibilities in Portual (Estoril), Belgium (Zolder), or Slovakia (Slovakia Ring).

Honda Announces Its 2015 World Endurance Racing Team

01/12/2015 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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HRC continues its bid for an FIM Endurance World Championship, and has reconfirmed its team of Julien Da Costa, Freddy Foray, and Sebastien Gimbert for the 2015 season.

Honda switched strategies in the EWC last year, dropping its “TT Legends” squad of venerable road racers for the current trio of endurance experts.

The plan worked, as HRC finished 7th in the 2014 Endurance World Championship, winning the Oschersleben 8-hour in the process. This was a marked improvement over the 2013 season, where the Honda TT Legends team finished a disappointing 18th overall.

2014 Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race Results

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

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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.

How to Watch the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race

07/25/2014 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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UPDATE: Sorry folks, look like race day coverage is live-timing only.

I was trying to think this week how to frame how important the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race is for Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts and Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. It’s certainly more prestigious than any single MotoGP or WSBK round, and I would hazard that it is as big of a deal to the Japanese as the Isle of Man TT is to the Manx.

A race known for seeing factory teams staked with the top riders from around the world, this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours sees some of Japan’s finest joined by the likes of Kevin Schwantz, Jonathan Rea, Randy de Puniet, Josh Brookes, and Josh Waters. It can be hard to follow the race in Japan though, but we’ve got you covered for this year’s event.

The Suzuka Circuit puts up a live stream of the racing sessions on Ustream, and the link is right here. There is also an official Twitter feed in English which you should follow. We have embedded the Ustream into this post as well…because the internet is awesome.

Kevin Schwantz’s Schwantz School on Hiatus for 2014

03/11/2014 @ 12:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The Schwantz School will be on hiatus for the 2014 riding season, says the riding instruction school. The press release for the track school lists Kevin Schwantz’s “travel/racing schedule and other factors” as the reason for the school’s hiatus. Schwantz is slated to compete in the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race with the Yoshimura Suzuki Legends team in July.

The MotoGP Legend also is to be a “Guest of Honor” at the Classic Motorcycle Festival at Donington Park in August, and there is possibility Schwantz will be racing in England in September as well. As for the “other factors” mentioned, Schwantz is quoted as wanting to spend time in his recently remodeled home in Austin, Texas.

Kevin Schwantz Will Compete in the 2014 Suzuka 8-Hour with Yoshimura “Legends” Team

03/03/2014 @ 9:53 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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After taking a podium in last year’s Suzuka 8-Hour with Team Kagayama, Kevin Schwantz has signaled his intention to race again at the iconic endurance race. Riding for the Yoshimura Legends team, Schwantz will be reunited with his teammate from the 1986 Suzuka 8-Hour race, Satoshi Tsujimoto.

The reunion of the former teammates will help Yoshimura celebrate its 60th anniversary; and since Schwantz & Tsujimoto finished third in 1986, they will be looking again to bring results for Yoshimura Suzuki.

In addition to the “Legends” squad, Yoshimura will also field the two-man Yoshimura Shell Advance Suzuki team, which will be comprised of BSB rider Josh Waters and All Japan Superbike Takuya Tsuda.

TT Legends — Episode 6: The Suzuka 8 Hours

02/19/2014 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Episode Six of the “TT Legends” documentary is out, and it has the Honda TT Legends crew leaving the Isle of Man for Japan. Taking part in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, one of the stops in the Endurance World Championship, the Honda-supported team is racing for the OEM’s glory.

Perhaps not the biggest of races here in the United States or in Europe, but for the Japanese, Suzuka is a huge deal. A place where bragging rights for the Japanese OEMs are born, in the past it hasn’t been uncommon to see OEMs stack their teams with WSBK and GP racers (even Kevin Schwantz raced at Suzuka last year).

Eight hours of racing anywhere is brutal, but at Suzuka, the intense heat and humidity is always an additional factor. Riders cool down in swimming pools, and drink their weight in Gatorade. A truly fantastic event, it should be on any enthusiasts’ bucket list — just be sure to pack a pair of shorts.

“TT Legends” Documentary Coming to YouTube

01/09/2014 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Last year, the Honda TT Legends crew worked with Britain’s ITV4 television station to produce an eight-part documentary that followed the factory Honda road racing team.

Featuring the John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald, “TT Legends” follows the team through six races: the Bol d’Or, Le Mans 24 heurs, Suzuka 8-Hour, North West 200, Isle of Man TT, and Oscherselben 8hr. The series was a delight for British racing fans, though sadly wasn’t rebroadcasted for us Yanks — unless you employed less-than-legal means, that is.

Well that’s about to change, as Honda Pro Racing will be hosting the series on its YouTube channel, one episode each week, starting on January 12th. It’s a great series, and well worth keeping up with, if you have the time. We’ll bring you each installment here on Asphalt & Rubber, as they become available. Until then, whet your appetite on the trailer.

Video Highlights of the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours

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

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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

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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.