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.

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).

Video: Kawasaki Ninja H2R Demonstration at Suzuka

11/06/2014 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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The following is a rather long video of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R demonstrating earlier this week at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan (fast-forward to the 6 minute mark if you don’t want to watch the bike warm-up in the pits), taken during the All-Japan Road Race Superbike Championship.

To fully appreciate the video, it helps if you speak a bit of Japanese, but the what transcends all languages is the brute force of the supercharged 300hp the Ninja H2R, as it takes off — even in the hands of Kawasaki racer Katsuaki Fujiwara. We still think it’s pretty impressive, check it out after the jump.

Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin Wins the 2014 Endurance World Championship

09/22/2014 @ 11:01 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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The 2014 Endurance World Championship has finally come to an end, as this past weekend played host to the Le Man 24-Hour motorcycle race. Winning the 2014 title was the French team of Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin, which also took second place at Le Mans (SERT finding its way to the top podium step).

Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin’s team of David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines have had a prominent position all season long in the EWC. Finishing second at Bol d’Or, ninth at Suzuka (second among the regular EWC entries), second at Oschersleben, and now second at Le Mans, Yamaha France’s position came about because of sheer consistency.

With Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki’s top teams having troubles at individual races (along with Yamaha’s YART squad), Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin showed that true endurance racing is done over the long term. The full 2014 Endurance World Championship results are after the jump.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Game Face, Race Day (Days 3 & 4)

08/08/2014 @ 4:26 pm, by Shelina Moreda6 COMMENTS

8 H DE SUZUKA 2014 WORMAN RIDE

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

It’s Day 3 at Suzuka. We had a short practice in the morning and very soon after, I had qualifying. I started out on the bike, got a few laps in, and then it was Melissa’s turn. I got the “Pit” sign on my pit board and came in to the pits, using my pit speed limiter for the first time in a race situation, and we practiced our pit stop. Melissa took off and wrapped up the rest of practice.

My qualifying came quick and it was a short one, I got something like seven laps total, including my out lap and in lap. We tried a bit different of a setup for me this time, handlebars out a little more and the shifter lower, so I was more comfortable.

In an endurance race, the bike has to be set up somewhere in the middle for both riders to be comfortable. We were riding Melissa’s setup, so they made it better for me for my qualifying. Wasn’t much time to get up to speed, but I was at least remembering the track.

When my session was over, I headed to our office and hopped in our big “kiddie” pool on the way, to test it out. The pool is situated just outside the office so we can get in it after our race stints to cool us down. It seemed so cold to me!! but I knew the next day during the race it would feel great.

We didn’t qualify as high as we had wanted, 52nd out of 69 teams, but we were both still getting used to the track and getting up to speed. We also had to realize we were up against teams who have ridden this track before, many locals, and almost all teams were from Japan, so had a home track advantage here.

That said, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Our main goal being to make our team and sponsors proud, race hard and move up. Our team and sponsors wanted to see us finish the race, that was their priority.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Practice Makes Perfect (Days 1 & 2)

08/06/2014 @ 8:03 am, by Shelina Moreda5 COMMENTS

8 H DE SUZUKA 2014 WORMAN RIDE

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

“So How was Japan, Suzuka, Moriwaki?!” is the question of the week.

“Everything you think it should be and more” is the answer of the week. I’m still in awe of the week I have just had. The most amazing race I’ve done to date. Intensity like you wouldn’t believe.

I was practically in tears at the weight of the thing after the Le Mans-style start and then the most challenging, and coolest race I’ve had the privilege of competing in. I keep thanking SynergyForce, Moriwaki, and the FIM Women’s Commission for all they have done to make it happen.

My week started with a day in Tokyo, where I got to visit my Japanese family. We had an exchange student when I was a kid, and Miyuki is now grown up with kids of her own. This is the third time I’ve gotten to visit them. Last time was when I lived in Japan, right before I started racing.

Japan is really close to my heart. I lived in Okinawa for a year, and living away from home, and everything I knew, helped me decide that I really could go after anything I wanted to do in life. Japan helped me realize I could make anything I wanted out of life.

I got my racing license only one month after I moved home to California and set out to race professionally. Then it was just a dream people thought I was crazy for.

The opportunity to race in Japan is really special to me, especially because of this. Pair that with the legendary circuit of Suzuka, the distinguished team of Moriwaki, and my first endurance race ever taking place during the famous weekend of Suzuka 8-Hour: the whole thing is a dream come true.

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.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — When a Plan Comes Together

07/16/2014 @ 4:06 pm, by Shelina Moreda11 COMMENTS

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We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo are making the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and will be campaigning a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. Race day is July 25th. -JB

If you know me, you know I like new adventures in racing. I want to do as much racing, in as many awesome places as possible, and hopefully find out where my niche is and find a home racing somewhere eventually, but I still hope I get to continue traveling for racing always.

Racing in Japan is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s something that came up about a year and a half ago, and I made it known that I really wanted to do it. We had a strong lead last year, but it couldn’t happen for some valid reasons.

Nobody gave up on it though, we kept pushing for it, and this year, to my surprise and awe, the well known and respected Team Moriwaki expressed a strong interest in putting together a team for the four-hour endurance at Suzuka. Everyone put it in high-gear to get the team together and to figure out all the details that go along with such a high-level event like this, with such a high-level team.

It’s been somewhat top secret, and the excitement, at least for me, has been pretty hard to contain. We’ve all been working diligently behind the scenes, and it seems we were all holding out breaths at this twinkling far-off dream of ours, watching it become a reality, until our test this week, where everything came together, and we all pinched ourselves and realized it’s real. Midori Moriwaki, Melissa Paris and I have spent some time laughing about this this week.

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.