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.”

Up-Close with the Norton SG1 TT Race Bike

05/31/2012 @ 7:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Norton SG1, as it is now being called, is the talk of the Isle of Man TT paddock (we presume the SG designation stands for Norton’s new owner, Stuart Garner). Completed just before the TT fortnight, the Norton squad has an enormous amount of work ahead of it to bring the SG1 up to speed. Norton’s rider, Ian Mackman, posted a 112.364 on Tuesday night’s practice, and was out again Wednesday night, scaring the hell of out of elderly Manx women.

What is rapidly becoming the Norton SG1’s defining feature, is the bike’s anti-wildlife system, which is able to produce enough of a intone a sound somewhere between “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” and “Queen of the Harpies” — as heard from several miles out. Scaring virtually anything within earshot, the anti-wildlife system also doubles as the bike’s exhaust, and would be banned twice-over at noise-restricted tracks like Laguna Seca.

Drawing some resemblance to the rotary-powered Norton NRV588 project, the Norton SG1 also features an Aprilia RSV4 motor in a custom Spondon frame. With all the trappings of a CRT bike, it doesn’t take too much imagination to link the SG1 to the rumors about Norton’s return to MotoGP, which makes for some interesting conjecture on the trajectory of the team’s racing future.

IOMTT: John McGuinness Strikes First with a 130 MPH Lap

05/30/2012 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Mr. McPint continues to raise the bar at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, as the #1 plated Honda TT Legends rider was the first, and so far the only, rider to bust the 130 MPH barrier at this TT fortnight. Doing a 130.079 mph lap on his second time around the Mountain Course for the evening, John McGuinness is looking well on the pace to raise the outright lap record of 131.578 mph (a mark he himself set) during the race week.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Not Racing in TT Zero

05/30/2012 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Talking to a few of the Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing mechanics this afternoon in the Isle of Man TT paddock, unfortunately it looks like the the team’s electric entry, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev, is going to be a scratch for the 2012 SES TT Zero race.

When asked why the Kawasaki-Zytek entry would not be racing, the team cited the bike not being ready for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, intoning that the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev’s first laps ever would be on the Isle itself. Considering that the Kawasaki electric racing effort has been in the works for over a year now, the news is a bit surprising that it hasn’t been as extensively tested as its Honda Mugen counterpart.

IOMTT: McGuinness Sends a Message at First Practice Night

05/29/2012 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Monday night marked the first practice session for the returning riders to the Isle of Man TT, and John McGuinness got things started off on the right foot. While most riders at the TT spent the evening shaking off the cobwebs, sorting out new bikes, and generally getting a feel for thing, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner McGuinness went out onto the Mountain Course, dropped a 128.267 mph lap on his third lap of the day, and promptly called it a night.

With the Top 15 riders were lapping in the lower 120’s, McGuinness was the talk of the Isle today, and sent a clear message to his competitors with his lap: the Lancastrian means business this fortnight. Feeling very comfortable on his Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR, McGuinness’s time is sure to get into the heads of his TT rivals, as they go out again this evening for the second practice session for the solo classes. McGuinness is the holder of the outright fastest race lap around the Mountain Course, with a 131.578 mph average course speed.

Trackside Tuesday: Soft-Spoken, But Not Broken

05/29/2012 @ 9:57 am, by Daniel LoComments Off on Trackside Tuesday: Soft-Spoken, But Not Broken

Ian Hutchinson has experienced the extreme highs and lows of racing, from taking the first clean sweep of all five solo class wins at the 2010 Isle of Man TT, to nearly losing his leg in a first lap accident in a British Supersport race at Silverstone later that same season. After sitting out of the 2011 event, “Hutchy” is back at the TT on the esteemed Swan Yamaha team’s Isle of Man debut entry.

It was just after 8pm last night, and Ian was on his final lap of the day. Even after a year off the Mountain Course, he was still able to promptly churn out an average speed of 123.025 miles per hour by the end of the first Superbike practice session.

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT

05/24/2012 @ 5:43 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

For those who have never attended, the Isle of Man TT is truly a special race. I will concede the point that saying that the TT is merely “a special race” is a bit trite, as there is so much that encompasses the full experience one gets during the TT fortnight, that it becomes hard to explain to someone who has never attended the TT, even veteran motorcycle race journalists, what it is that makes the TT so special.

Part of this equation is the racing spectacle itself. Set on a small island in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man’s quaint few towns serve as the venue for tens of thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, while the roads between these villages are connected by the island’s lush countryside. It is hard to travel around the Isle without the island’s beauty striking you — something that is captured extremely well with the race’s many aerial shots via helicopter, but not fully grasped until it is witnessed in person.

The fan experience is truly unique as well. Inside the paddock in Douglas, the atmosphere is campy, an almost carnival affair, and while virtually any other racing venue would sequester the teams and riders from the fans, the TT’s paddock is wide-open, with the team garages setup rows, and constructed in an open pavilion layout that encourages passersby to stop, lean on the waist-high barriers that are maybe 10 feet from the mechanics’ bike lifts, and strike up a conversation with any team member that doesn’t seem to have a task at hand.

The experience is tenfold when one of the riders is present, which they often are, and even the greats of the sport are approachable and genuinely engaged with their fan base. Try getting that same experience at the next MotoGP or WSBK event you attend, and even in the AMA paddock you would be hard-pressed to get so much access and interaction to what goes on behind the scenes.

Then there is of course the racing, which all occurs on city streets and mountain roads. In the Superbike classes, the average speeds of the top riders exceeds 130 mph, with top speeds in the fastest sections cracking past 200 mph with regularity. Again I reiterate, this is all occurring on city streets, littered full of telephone polls, houses, trees, and of course fans. Speaking of fans on the course, imagine watching a race from the side of a hedgerow, at worst only 10 feet from the action, and in some cases only a few inches away. Experiencing motorcycle racing at such propinquity will take your breath away, if not figuratively then literally.

In my short time running Asphalt & Rubber, I have had the opportunity to cover motorcycle racing on four continents, and as I travel to my second Isle of Man TT, I know the next two weeks of racing will be unlike anything I have covered before in MotoGP, World Superbike, or AMA Pro Racing.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

Norton Returns to Racing at the Isle of Man TT – New Bike Features Aprilia RSV4 Motor

04/18/2012 @ 7:10 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

After a couple failed returns, Norton is set to race in the upcoming Isle of Man TT with a race bike that features an Aprilia RSV4 engine and proprietary chassis (does that remind you of anything?). Sponsored by Monster Energy, at the helm of the still unnamed Norton will be top be the TT Privateer’s Champion Ian Mackman, who will race in the Seniors TT on June 8th (the first time a Norton has been in the Senior TT since 1992).

The new Norton is a bit of a departure from the British company’s last race bike, the rotary motor-powered Norton NRV588. Unable to race the NRV588 in the 2009 Isle of Man TT, the new Norton is surely a byproduct of the firm’s heavily rumored MotoGP entry, as it fits very well within the premier class claiming rule team (CRT) provisions.

Segway Returns to Sponsor MotoCzysz for 2012

03/26/2012 @ 1:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

For 2012, Segway returns as the title sponsor for MotoCzysz’s electric motorcycle racing program, with the team’s first race set to be the TT Zero event at the Isle of Man TT. Continuing the special sauce that lead MotoCzysz to a 1-2 victory at the Isle, Segway Racing hopes to be the first and fastest team to crack the 100 mph average lap speed barrier for electrics on the Mountain Course.

Rumored to be bringing another all-new 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to the iconic road race, MotoCzysz’s biggest competition will come from a now more-developed Lightning “Flying Banana” and wild card Honda Mugen Shinden. Further entrant announcements are still expected as well.

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