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.

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.

LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl Rides thru San Francisco

07/25/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

LCR Honda and team rider Stefan Bradl are in town early this week, doing a little promo work for US GP title sponsor Red Bull. Before heading down to Laguna Seca tomorrow (a track Bradl already scouted out with a local track day earlier this year), Bradl was in San Francisco yesterday, popping wheelies on Treasure Island and trying not to crash while going down Lombard Street (any SF motorcyclist could have told you the treachery of the iconic San Franciscan street).

MotoGP.com’s video of the event might be a little less than inspiring, but let us all just be thankful that the folks are Dorna actually made one of their YouTube videos web-embeddable for a change. Meanwhile, the photos from Red Bull are quite a treat. 23 of them await you after the jump.

MotoGP: Barbera Breaks Leg Training — Elias in at Pramac

07/23/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Breaking his left leg (fibula & tibia) during a training accident, Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera will be unable to ride for the next four to six weeks. Missing MotoGP’s stops at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pramac will replace Barbera with two-time former-MotoGP racer, Toni Elias.

Replacing his fellow countryman at the Laguna Seca round, and likely at the Indianapolis round as well, Elias himself has some interesting news, as the former-Moto2 Champion was ousted from his Moto2 ride on the Mapfre Aspar team. Elias’s results during his return to Moto2 have been anything but impressive so far this season, especially after his dominant Championship win in 2010.

Learn to Shoot MotoGP Racing Like a Pro from Scott Jones

06/28/2012 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Before he was a fixture in the MotoGP paddock, our main-man Scott Jones had to swing a lens just like everyone else: sans a GP photo credential. Luckily for our Nikon-clad photo warrior, his home track, Laguna Seca, provides some of the best vantage points on the GP calendar for non-credential holding photographer s — a fact Scott exploited during his first forays into photographing the premier-class.

Ready to share his hard-learned lessons related to shooting around armco, trees, and chain-linked fences, Scott will be down at the San Francisco D-Store on Sunday, July 15th, leading a seminar for would-be motor sport photographers, with the Red Bull US GP round at Laguna Seca specifically in mind.

Was LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl at Your Last Track Day?

06/07/2012 @ 9:32 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

If you were in attendance at PTT’s track day at Laguna Seca on May 28th, you may have been rubbing kneepucks with MotoGP’s sure-to-be Rookie of the Year, Stefan Bradl.  The reigning Moto2 World Champion, Bradl was at the Californian track learning the circuit’s 11 turns, the most notable of which being the infamous Corkscrew. With Moto2 skipping the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, letting AMA Pro Racing fill in as the support class, this was the LCR Honda racer’s first chance to ride the circuit outside of a video game.

With American Honda providing Bradl with a bone-stock 2012 Honda CBR1000RR in HRC colors, the MotoGP racer is said to have been lapping in the low 1:30’s as he “learned” the course, which is a fairly respectable time for an AMA Superbike mid-packer will a full race-prepped bike.

Officially Official: Steve Rapp Will Wild Card on a Kawasaki CRT in MotoGP with Attack Performance

04/09/2012 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

With the news breaking last week that Attack Performance had been given permission to run a wild card entry at both MotoGP in the United States, the American team has confirmed their entry, and that AMA Superbike rider Steve Rapp will race a Kawasaki-powered CRT race bike. Well-known in the AMA paddock, Attack Performance will build its own all-aluminum custom chassis for the CRT effort, and will house a heavily modified Kawasaki ZX-10R engine

“I’ve wanted to design my own chassis for 10 years,” said Attack Performance Team Owner Richard Stanboli, “so this new class structure, essentially a Superbike engine housed in a prototype chassis, has provided an ideal opportunity for me. We have a great deal of work to do before the first event at Laguna Seca, but I’m no stranger to 20-hour days.”

MotoGP: Steve Rapp & Attack Performance Granted Wild Card Status to both US Rounds on a CRT Entry

04/03/2012 @ 1:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Roadracing World is reporting that AMA Pro Racing team Attack Performance has gotten the green light from Dorna to enter both American MotoGP rounds as a CRT entry, with AMA Superbike rider Steve Rapp slotted as the rider of the machine. Listed as the machine’s constructor on the entry, Attack Performance is presumably building its own race bike, which is almost certainly to have a Kawasaki ZX-10R motor at its core.

If the team undertakes the next steps in the process of racing in MotoGP, and it is true that Attack Kawasaki is building its own bike, then the team will have a short amount of time to put together a competent race package, as there are only four months until the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca.

Who is Karel Abraham?

07/28/2011 @ 4:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The lower ranks of GP racing, 125GP, 250GP, and Moto2, are not as well-followed in the United States as MotoGP, so when the Czech Republic’s Karel Abraham climbed aboard a Ducati Desmosedici GP10 and started putting down impressive lap times, a collective “who the heck is Karel Abraham?” was uttered out-loud. The 21-year-old law student got a proper roasting on his introduction to the premier class by english-speaking journalists (ourselves included), as it was revealed quickly that Karel Abraham is actually Karel Abraham Jr., where Karel Abraham Sr. is the owner of the Brno race circuit and the Cardion AB race team. Touching on a vein of nepotism, yes…daddy bought him a MotoGP race team was uttered by us.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this season at Qatar though, where I was standing on the wall at Turn 1 at the Arabian track during MotoGP’s last testing session before the 2011 season, and watched a young Ducati rider hold his own against the MotoGP field. Granted, the junior Abraham was not setting the desert sands on fire like Casey Stoner, but he was no slouch either…and this was on “the wrong bike” in the GP paddock. Throughout the season, he’s shaken things up a number of times, and on several occasions been the fastest Ducati in a session. When you consider that all of this is occuring in the 21-year-old’s first entry in the big show, Karel becomes an increasingly impressive rider.

Did his father buy him a MotoGP team? That may be the case, but the Czech rider is anything but a spoiled brat. Down to earth, friendly, and funny during our 30 minute conversation, Karel is perhaps an example of how MotoGP riders should be during interactions with fans and media. In a sport where riders switch into PR-zombie mode as soon as a journalist shows up, it can be incredibly difficult to get the true perspective inside the MotoGP paddock, but talking to Karel proved to be a refreshing reminder that MotoGP riders after all people like the rest of us.

It’s perhaps unfair that Abraham came into the MotoGP Championship with this stigma attached to him, as he showed to me this past weeekdn that he is at least one of the most relatable riders in the paddock. As for his raw talent and skill, the results speak for themselves really, as Karel is on his way to becoming MotoGP’s Rookie of the Year (sorry Crutchlow fans), and is currently ahead of Alvaro Bautista, Toni Elias, Cal Crutchlow, Loris Capirossi, and Randy de Puniet in the 2011 MotoGP Championship standings. That all being said, enjoy A&R‘s Q&A with Karel Abraham after the jump.

“Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Can’t Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?” – Kenny Roberts Sr.

07/27/2011 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

On Thursday at the US GP, a day before the general public and non-MotoGP press could get into Laguna Seca, Yamaha unveiled its 50th Anniversary team livery, with a special cadre of legendary Yamaha riders. Eddie Lawson, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts Sr., and Wayne Rainey joined current Yamaha riders Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Jorge Lorenzo in the pit lane of the famous American track to commemorate Yamaha’s half-century of motorcycle Grand Prix involvement. After the presentation, a scrum of journalists got a chance to talk to King Kenny about his experience riding the YZR-M1 around Laguna Seca, as Yamaha had built a special GP bike for the American GP Champion, though it did not have a full electronics package.

A&R also got to eavesdrop in on the conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance.

Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Saying in his day, a rider could be 10 feet off the ideal line, fight the bike through the corner, and finish the lap none the slower; but on the current MotoGP equipment, being 10cm off the line can mean seconds missing on the lap time because of how exacting the sport has become.

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.

Ben Spies’s Track Notes at Laguna Seca

07/25/2011 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS