Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

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.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Thinning the Herd

01/05/2015 @ 11:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Hosting the second longest special stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally (518 miles), Stage 2 between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan was especially grueling because of the added heat; and as such, The Dakar has already started to separate the top riders.

To that end, the HRC riders find themselves weighed and measured at the top, thus far. Joan Barreda rode to a solid stage win, and finishes the day with over a four-minute interval to his closest competitor.

“In the end we set off with a game-plan to not make any mistakes and arrive safely at the finish-line,” said Barreda. “The result has been amazing. In the first part, Sunderland and Coma pushed really hard and I overtook Paulo to try and stop them running away with the stage.

“In the end, it was more about survival than anything else. We had to measure the pace and keep focused on the navigation as there were some extremely tricky spots, plus another stretch towards the end, that really put a strain on the body,” he continued.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Pol Espargaro – 6th

01/05/2015 @ 5:12 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc MarquezValentino RossiJorge LorenzoDani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso.

6th – 136 points – Pol Espargaro

Being a MotoGP rookie got a lot tougher after 2013. Marc Márquez raised the bar to an almost unattainable level by winning his second ever MotoGP race, the title in his debut season, and smash a metric cartload of records. Anyone entering the class after Márquez inevitably ends up standing in his shadow.

Which is a shame, as it means that Pol Espargaro’s rookie season has not received the acclaim it deserves. The 2013 Moto2 champion started off the season on the back foot, breaking his collarbone at the final test, just a couple of weeks before the first race at Qatar.

He crashed again during that opening race, but quickly found his feet. He came up just short of his first podium at Le Mans, nudged back to fourth place by Alvaro Bautista.

It would be his best result of the season, but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was to be consistently found in and around the top six. Espargaro would go on to bag a couple of fifth places and six sixth spots.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 1: And They’re Off!

01/05/2015 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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The first stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally started from Buenos Aires this weekend; and as usual, the day was a relatively easy affair that allowed riders to check their machines and get into the groove of what will be a grueling competition.

As such, a 144km liaison ride was made through the Argentinean countryside before the competitors reached the 175km timed “special” stage. Another long (519km) liaison section ended the day, and everyone bivouacked in Villa Carlos Paz.

Because of the short special stage, the riders are packed close on the standing, with less than six minutes separating the Top 20 riders. KTM’s Sam Sunderland drew first blood with the stage win, with teammate Marc Coma 1’12 behind in third.

Yamaha Races “The Dakar” on Paper

01/01/2015 @ 5:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Yamaha’s papercraft projects are perhaps the most unique marketing pieces to come from any of the motorcycle manufacturers, and they are also some of the most impressive. Focusing on the upcoming Dakar Rally, Yamaha has made a set of papercraft rally raid machines, complete with riders and scenery.

As usual, the whole set is downloadable in PDF form (you can make both the 1995 Yamaha XTZ850R and 2014 Yamaha YZ450F), for you to try your hand at the tedious style of artwork. Be forewarned though, the models are extensive…including even a complete frame, knobby wheels, and other details.

You’ll need A4, an exacto knife, glue, and a steady hand before you download the model sets. If any reader attempts this model set, please send us your results in picture form.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Jorge Lorenzo – 3rd

12/31/2014 @ 12:56 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The third part of our review of the 2014 season, in which we take a look at the top 10 finishers in MotoGP, sees us turn to Jorge Lorenzo, the man who took the final spot on the 2014 MotoGP podium:

3rd – 263 points –  Jorge Lorenzo

If Marc Márquez’s season was one of two halves, then Jorge Lorenzo’s 2014 was doubly so. The 2010 and 2012 world champion ended the first half of the season in fifth place overall, 128 points down on the leader Marc Márquez. By season’s end, Lorenzo was third, having outscored Márquez by 29 points.

If Lorenzo hadn’t gambled on a tire change at the last race at Valencia, the difference would have been even greater: in the eight races before Valencia, Lorenzo had outscored Márquez by 54 points in total.

It all went wrong for Jorge Lorenzo during the winter. The Movistar Yamaha rider was under the surgeon’s knife three times during the winter break to fix some minor problems and remove old metalwork, most notably from the collarbone he broke in 2013.

That made putting together a training schedule more difficult than usual, and Lorenzo’s fitness, usually his strong point, took a nosedive.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Valentino Rossi – 2nd

12/31/2014 @ 11:59 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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For the next part of our review of the 2014 season, we continue our count down of the top 10 finishers in MotoGP. After yesterday’s look at Marc Marquez, today we turn our attention to the runner up in the 2014 MotoGP championship, Valentino Rossi: 

2nd – 295 points – Valentino Rossi

Six races. That was the deadline Valentino Rossi had given himself. After the first six races, he would make a decision on whether he was still fast enough, or it was time to hang up his leathers.

The goal was to be fighting for podiums and wins. If he could not do that, he felt he did not want to be racing. The fact that the sixth race of the season was at Mugello was ominous. If you had to choose a place for Valentino Rossi to announce his retirement, that would be it.

The season started off well, with a second place at Qatar, but with Marc Márquez just back from a broken leg, Jorge Lorenzo crashing out, and Dani Pedrosa struggling for grip, that didn’t quite feel like a true measure of his ability.

Texas was a disaster, with severe tire wear, then at Argentina, Rossi came home in fourth, just as he had done so often last year. His string of fourth places in 2013 were what had prompted Rossi’s doubts about carrying on, so many journalists and fans feared his mind was made up.

Photos of the Top World Endurance Race Bike of 2014

12/23/2014 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The 2014 World Endurance Championship was action-packed from round-to-round, and at the end of the season, it was Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube team with that surprised the field with 141 championship points (SERT: 104pts, Bollinger 100pts), for the Championship win.

Team riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines finished second at the series opener at Bol d’Or. The team also had a strong 9th place finish at Suzuka, the third fastest full-time team at the Japanese race. At both Germany and Le Mans, Yamaha Racing GMT 94 team podiumed in second place — solidifying its Championship position through consistency.

Left uncleaned from its Le Mans finish, GMT 94’s endurance-spec Yamaha YZF-R1 is off to the museum…the French take the EWC very seriously. You can believe that Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki will be looking to give Yamaha a proper run at the Championship defense in 2015.

Analyzing MotoGP Engine Usage in 2014

12/05/2014 @ 10:44 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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When the rules limiting the number of engines each MotoGP is allowed to use were first introduced, their usage was followed hawkishly.

After pressure from veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes and myself, and with the assistance of Dorna’s incredibly efficient media officer, IRTA and Dorna were persuaded to publish the engine usage charts.

These were pored over constantly, searching for clues as to who might be in trouble, who may have to start from pit lane, and who would manage until the end of the season. How the world has changed since then.

Trackside Tuesday: The Black Box Revealed

12/02/2014 @ 11:45 pm, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

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You may have seen this image in a PHOTO.GP post a while back, one that wondered what this item is. The label reads Intertechnique Pressure Reducer and at PHOTO.GP we’ve speculated about what exactly this apparatus does when placed atop the Yamaha YZR-M1. We’ve come to refer to it as The Black Box.

The photo above is from 2013, and I’ve been wondering about this item at least since Mugello of last season. But only recently did I take steps to find out just what it is.

The fact is that while I wander up and down pit lane as someone who understands, at least in relation to the level of technology on display in MotoGP, only the basics of how motorcycles work, I frequently see exotic bits of engineering that are utter mysteries to me.

Q&A: Jorge Lorenzo – A Season of Highs & Lows, in Review

11/17/2014 @ 12:21 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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With the 2014 MotoGP season at an end, it is time for the teams to look back at the year. In a pair of press release interviews, the Movistar Yamaha team reviews 2014 with its riders.

First up is Jorge Lorenzo, who takes a frank and open look back at what has been a very difficult season for him.

In the interview, he reviews his own performance, where he went wrong in the first part of the season, how he was stronger at the end of the year, and evaluates his main rivals.