Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle. These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years. Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA.

EBR Motorcycles Shutting Down, Yet Again

EBR Motorcycles is closing its doors…again. Yes, you heard that right. America’s superbike brand will be winding down its production operations, starting next week, and is looking for a strategic investor to takeover the brand. Liquid Asset Partners (LAP) attributes its decision to shutdown EBR Motorcycles to the company’s difficulty to secure new dealerships, and thus increase sales. As a result, LAP says that its production volume for 2016 and 2017 was below expectations. The company then finishes its explanation for closing EBR Motorcycles with the following line: “the combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

Valentino Rossi’s Rivals Over the Past 18 Seasons

03/17/2015 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Valentino-Rossi-Yamaha-Racing-MotoGP

It is hard to imagine, but in few days’ time, Valentino Rossi will be starting his 19th season on the world motorcycle racing stage. Over that tenure, The Doctor has encountered more than a few rivals: Loris Capirossi, Sete Gibernau, Max Biaggi, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and now Marc Marquez…just to name a few.

To help keep all those “friendly” feuds straight, Dainese sent us this interesting infographic that shows Rossi’s career in relationship to the top talent he faced at each stage of his career.

Now 36-years-old, an age where most riders have retired from MotoGP racing, Rossi is looking to add to his total race win tally, and even counts himself a contender for the 2015 MotoGP World Championship.

He’ll have tough competition for that spot, for sure, but The Doctor seems as potent as ever with his racecraft, and the Yamaha YZR-M1 is tipped to be the weapon of choice in 2015. Regardless of your fanboyism, we should have a good season on our hands.

KTM’s Pit Beirer Talks Moto3 Production Bikes, Cooperation With Kalex, & Two-Stroke Racing

07/12/2012 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

At the Sachsenring, after the introduction of KTM’s Moto3 GPR production racer, we spent five minutes with KTM’s Head of Motorsports Pit Beirer. We spoke to him about a number of subjects, including the evolution of the factory’s Moto3 chassis, the company’s cooperation with Kalex, and whether two-strokes would be better than four-strokes for racing.

Interview: Lucio Cecchinello – The Man Behind LCR Honda

03/29/2012 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Former GP racer Lucio Cecchinello is a Honda man through and through. Team owner and principal at LCR Honda (the ‘LCR’ standing for Lucio Cecchinello Racing), Cecchinello started his racing career on a Honda NS125R, and worked his way up to the GP ranks, where he spent most of his time on a Honda RS125 (he finished his career on an Aprilia though). In 1996, Cecchinello started LCR, making him both the team’s rider and its principal director, an absolute rarity in the paddock.

LCR Honda slowly grew from the 125 & 250 Championships into the premier class of the sport: MotoGP. Campaigning a number of top riders, LCR Honda has seen Casey Stoner, Randy de Puniet, Alex de Angelis, Nobby Ueda, Toni Elias & Carlos Checa all ride the team’s bikes at some point in their careers. This year LCR Honda has Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl in the saddle, and the team hopes the German rider will be just as impressive on the big bikes as he was with the 600’s.

Taking some time to talk to HRC’s PR machine, Cecchinello shares his unique perspective on having both a racing and managing career. As a satellite team owner, Cecchinello’s opinions about CRTs from a business perspective are especially intriguing, as he forecasts trouble for CRT teams trying to bring in big-name sponsors.

Perhaps most significant are his comments regarding Moto2 though, as Cecchinello believes that the middle class of GP racing should go to a 500cc two-cylinder format, which would allow manufacturers to race in all three class with the same cylinder and head designs. The interview is a pretty good read for any MotoGP fan, check it out after the jump.

Photos: Marco Simoncelli Tribute Ride at Valencia

11/06/2011 @ 4:14 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With every bike from the three GP classes out on the Circuit de Comunitat Valenciana, the sight was one that had to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Lead by former-World Champion Kevin Schwantz, who rode Marco Simoncelli’s San Carlos Honda Gresini RC212V race bike, MotoGP, Moto2, & 125GP riders made their way around the 14 turns of the Spanish track, stopping short of the finish line. Watching two minutes of Valencian fireworks, MotoGP riders stood with the Simoncelli family, honoring the loved Italian one more time.

The entire event was somber, and as the fireworks subsided, the clamorous noise was contrasted with an eerie silence on the track and in pit lane. Riders walked back to the paddock with solemn & grim faces, barely saying a word to each other, if saying any words at all. Similarly, team members carried rear stands and walked race bikes back to pit lane in complete silence, perhaps reflecting on Marco one more time. Thirty minutes later, noise returned to Valencia, as the final 125GP race ever commenced.

More Photos of the Honda NSF250R

06/07/2011 @ 8:53 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

There was much ado at the Catalan GP regarding the Honda NSF250R Moto3 bike, likely because the Moto3 class is a big step in a larger movement currently unfolding in MotoGP, and the Spanish market is an important one when it comes to GP racing. With the 125GP class, which Moto3 is replacing next year, full of Spanish and Italian youths looking to become the next Jorge Lorenzos and Valentino Rossis, Honda no doubt wants to make a strong impression to its target market, even taking the NSF250R out for a parade lap with Alex Criville on-board. We doubt any other Moto3 manufacturer will get such a plug from Dorna, but nevertheless, find the photos the event after the jump.

HRC NSF250R Moto3 Race Bike to Debut at Catalan GP

05/20/2011 @ 3:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Honda has done a pretty good job of teasing out its HRC NSF250R, which is set to race in the Moto3 Championship in 2012. Replacing the 125GP, Moto3 class is based around four-stroke 250cc race bikes, and should be a more affordable and leveling playing field for new riders to enter into GP racing. HRC has teased us with images and videos of the new NSF250R, which takes its core cues from the its RS125R predecessor (both current factory Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso won their lower Championships on the Honda RS125R).

Photo of the Week: The Passing Scent of Two-Strokes

05/09/2011 @ 6:00 am, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

I love the smell of two-strokes in the morning…or the evening, or the afternoon. But just as Hiroshi Aoyama became the final 250cc two-stroke champion in 2009, at the end of this season we’ll have one last 125cc world champion. Most money is on Spaniard Nicol Terol, who without last season’s rival Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro to get in his way, has dominated the 125cc season so far.

Rumors that his current competitors let him get far ahead so they don’t have to look at the color scheme of his livery are untrue: Terol is just that fast on a tiny 125cc machine. Next season, the kids and odd grown-up who don’t move on to Moto2 will be on the replacement Moto3 class bikes. In a nutshell these are 250cc 4-strokes, but for all the details look here.

MotoGP will of course be leaving the 800cc engines behind to return to liter engines, so many changes are in store for 2012. One of the most notable will certainly be the absence of the approaching bee swarm sound as the little bikes and little riders approach on their out lap, the 2-stroke whine growing louder as the wind carries it across the track, and the pleasant odor of the oil and gas mix as the crowd goes by for the first time. Another chapter in the history of Grand Prix motorbike racing is coming to a close in 2011.

KTM Begins Testing Moto3 Race Bike

01/02/2011 @ 2:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

At the end of last year we learned that KTM had committed itself internally to competing in the upcoming Moto3 class, which is slated to replace 125GP in 2012. At the time of that news, the Austrian company was still in the early stages of planning for its 250cc four-stroke single-cylinder race bike; but not wanting to let Honda take all of the Moto3 development spotlight with its NRS 250, this past week KTM began testing Moto3 chassis configuration at the Cartagena track in Spain.

Arriving with a modified 125cc chassis and 350cc SX-F thumper, KTM’s IDM Supersport rider Michi Ranseder took to the helm of the prototype race machine over the two day testing session. More of a prologue than the first chapter to KTM’s Moto3 story, this event makes it clear that KTM is still getting its bearings on what direction it wants to take its entry-level GP program.

Team SuperMartxé VIP by Paris Hilton Launches – Further Down the Downward Spiral?

12/20/2010 @ 3:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Unveiled this weekend in Madrid, Paris Hilton was on-hand in her pink, blue, and white skin tight set of leathers to help promote her latest business endeavor (her words, not ours): Team SuperMartxé VIP by Paris Hilton. While we generally hate everything about Paris Hilton, and even try to avoid staying in Hilton hotels just for good measure, we do have to say one thing: this weekend’s launch of the SuperMartxé VIP by Paris Hilton Team is arguably the largest team launch in history of GP racing (in one of the worst economic climates ever for the sport)…and that includes the upcoming Wrooom launch of Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse.

Paris Hilton 125GP Livery – Please God, Make It Stop

12/17/2010 @ 10:19 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

In the story of Oedipus Rex, the protagonist gouges out his eyes after learning that he senselessly killed his father, and has been pounding his mother into the bedroom headboard. Until recently, we didn’t think we could get down to that level and relate to Oedipus with the same wealth of shame and despondency; but the universe is a fickle beast and wins another round today, as we’ve been dry heaving all morning after looking at the race livery for the Team SuperMartxé VIP by Paris Hilton race livery.

Everything we feared it would be, the pretty-in-pink design is going to be obnoxiously flamboyant on the 125GP grid. Capping off the news is that we learn that Paris herself will be attending more than a few races, helping promote the team, do a couple lines of coccaine, and maybe run over a few MotoGP fans while in a drunken stupor. Pretty typical Sunday for the famous for being famous star.

Undoubtedly not the proudest moment in the GP paddock, we’ll leave you with this thought though. Has any other 125GP team made headlines in the New York Times, Perez Hilton, and Asphalt & Rubber this week? This month? This year? Say what you will about the former sex-tape star, but she’s already borught the team a plethora of attention. That’s a win in marketing dollars speak. Touché Paris.