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.

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.

Recall: 2014 Yamaha YZF-R6 for Wheel Hardness

12/04/2014 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Yamaha Motor Co. USA is recalling certain 2014 Yamaha YZF-R6 motorcycles because the front and rear wheels may have been manufactured with insufficient hardness.

The recall only affects YZF-R6 motorcycles that were manufactured between August 1, 2014, to September 1, 2014 – which makes for roughly 28 units being affected.

Because of the insufficient hardness, the wheel bearings may loosen and shift, or the wheel may lose its shape and air may leak from around the bead on the tire, thus resulting in a crash.

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.

Video: Wayne Rainey Talks MotoAmerica

11/25/2014 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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There has been a resurgence of energy in American road racing, after MotoAmerica replaced AMA Pro Road Racing as the national championship in the USA. At the helm of the resurgence is former World Champion Wayne Rainey, who is part of the KRAVE Group – the media rights holder to MotoAmerica.

Adopting class structures that fit in line with the rules and regulations found in the World Superbike Championship, MotoAmerica’s goal is once again to flood the international road racing scene with talented American riders.

Talking a little about that philosophy, with a healthy Yamaha commercial in the middle of it all, Rainey helps set the table to what American road racing fans have been waiting to hear for a long time. A stronger racing series domestically, and a path to see Americans competing at the highest levels of the sport internationally.

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.

Up-Close with the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M

11/03/2014 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

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While the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M was being debuted in Milan, Italy at a star-studded press event, Yamaha Motor USA invited a group of journalists down to southern California to experience the new liter bike first-hand — Asphalt & Rubber was among those attending.

For anyone who has been up-close with the Yamaha YZR-M1, Yamaha’s MotoGP bike, then there are obvious design cues that you can see carried over to the new street bike. The airbox cover is gilled, the air intake is squared, with the pointy nose slightly covering it, making it look like a collapsed pentagon.

Indeed, Yamaha is trying to draw distinctions between the new R1 and its sophisticated M1 race bike. The electronics package on the latter has certainly helped in developing the 2015 Yamaha R1, taking the Tuning Fork brand as having one of the least sophisticated superbike, to now one of the most sophisticated.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 — Three Cylinders of Budget Touring

11/03/2014 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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A bike that we know has been coming down the pipe for quite some while, the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 (or the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer, as our European readers will know it) is finally a reality. No more trademark applications, no more CARB filings, no more leaked photos, the budget-minded three-cylinder sport-tourer is here, debuting at the EICMA show today.

As expected, the Yamaha FJ-09 is based off the Yamaha FZ-09 platform, gaining longer suspension pieces and more touring features for its purpose. The windscreen, handlebars, and seat are all adjustable, allowing one to tailor the ride to their preferences. And with a 4.8 gallon fuel tank, that ride can go quite some distance.

Like the FZ-09, the FJ-09 comes with a ride-by-wire throttle, ABS brakes, traction control, and adjustable riding modes. Yamaha also has a range of accessories for the Yamaha FJ-09, helping riders add luggage and other touring items to the new sport-tourer.

Available in either Matte Grey or Candy Red, the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 will be available in the USA and Canada. American riders can expect the new FJ-09 to be in dealers in November 2014, with a price tag of $10,490 MSRP.

2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M — An Exclusive Track Weapon

11/03/2014 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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While the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 is pretty impressive in its own right, the folks at Iwata weren’t content to let things be, and thus have produced the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M. An exclusive extension of the R1, Yamaha calls the R1M the closest thing there is to the company’s GP machine, the Yamaha YZR-M1.

Featuring the same 200hp “CP4″ crossplane 998cc inline-four engine as the base model, Yamaha has added Öhlins’ ERS semi-active suspension pieces to the superbike, along with carbon fiber fairings, and a robust GPS-powered data acquisition system.

The Yamaha YZF-R1M utilizes the powerful electronics package that Yamaha has developed, with traction control, launch control, wheelie control, slide control, and anti-locking brakes all acting in unison through the inertial measurement unit (IMU).

Able to know how the motorcycle is moving through six-axis, the Yamaha YZF-R1M can then tailor how it responds to rider and road inputs, via the engine, the suspension, and the brakes.

2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 — Game On

11/03/2014 @ 1:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler59 COMMENTS

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As expected, and leaked earlier today, the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 has broken cover at the EICMA show in Milan.

An all new machine from Yamaha, the new YZF-R1 is a giant leap forward from Yamaha, with its eyes squarely on dominating the race track, throughout all racing leagues.

At the core of the new R1 is a new crossplane motor, now dubbed the CP4 engine, which is producing 200hp without ram-air.

The engine features titanium fracture-split con-rods, 10.5 liter airbox, titanium exhaust, and a slipper clutch to boot. For the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 though, the story is really all about the electronics.