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.”

Watch Benny Solis and His Crew Practice Their Pit Stops

03/12/2014 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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You don’t need a good excuse to watch a motorcycle pit crew practice their pit stop maneuvers, but the upcoming Daytona 200 certainly helps.

Common place in the four-wheeled realm, the pit stop is still a bit of a novelty in two-wheeled racing. Outside of the Endurance World Championship and Isle of Man TT, you would be hard pressed to see a team refuel and change tires on a bike mid-race.

Of course at Phillip Island last year, MotoGP riders had to try their hand at a pit stop. Though the GP riders had a simpler go of things than most, only having to switch bikes instead of servicing one.

Even with that relatively easy task, that Australian pit lane was like armageddon for the MotoGP paddock — so much so, photographers were banned from entering pit lane for that race, and we’ll say nothing about Marc Marquez’s snafu.

So with that all said, enjoy our yearly “pit stop practice video” for the Daytona 200. This year, Benny Solis and his crew show us how it’s done. Looking good boys.

Just So We’re Clear, This is How You Market a Race Team

03/12/2014 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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The start of the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar is just around the corner, and that means manufacturers, teams, and riders are getting their PR machines in full swing. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get excited about our venerable national racing series (DMG’s shenanigans aside), but duds like this don’t help in whetting our two-wheeled racing appetite here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Just when we were about to lose all hope though, Triumph shows up and saves the day…with a little help from Jason DiSalvo and Elena Myers. Kneedragging, wheelie popping, backwheel drifting two-wheeled fun, all packaged in a well-done YouTube video that even manages to show a little personality from the riders.

We dig it, we dig it hard. A quick warning though: several orange cones were hurt during the filming of this video. Some footage may not be suitable for adult-sized children with a history of brrraaappptitus. Thanks for the tip Matt!

Ulrich’s Pro-Am Motorcycle “Triple Crown” Event Is a Go

03/04/2014 @ 4:42 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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In January, Roadracing World Editor-in-Chief John Ulrich penned an editorial where he outlined his desire to create a three-event road racing series that would take place between the six-week time period of AMA Pro Road Racing’s first and second rounds.

This “triple crown” event would be help bolster the current five — hopefully to be announced six — events on the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar, which in-turn would help AMA Pro Racing teams and riders meet their obligations with their sponsors.

Ulrich also hoped in his article that some sort of tape-delayed TV package could be put together for the three events as well, another item desperately needed by AMA stakeholders, yet seemingly elusive for DMG officials to put together.

Several sources have now confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that the triple crown series is a go, with Sonoma Raceway, Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, and Miller Motorsports Park to host the three rounds on its schedule.

Ulrich’s event will piggyback off the amateur racing schedules at those race tracks, making the triple crown event a proper Pro-Am outing of motorcycling’s best professional and amateur racers.

Yamaha “Spy Footage” to Be “Leaked” Online, By Yamaha

02/27/2014 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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We see our fair share of weird press releases here at Asphalt & Rubber, though usually the strangeness stems around English not being the primary language of the writer — which to be fair, if we had to write something in a language other than our native tongue, it would read pretty strange as well.

Today’s weirdness however comes from Yamaha USA, who sent out a press release with the title: “Yamaha U.S. Road Racing Teams Discover Evidence Of Being ‘Spied On’ While At Recent Track Test”. The email title certainly grabbed our attention, after all who doesn’t like a good spy story? Danger Zone!

What followed of course was utter disappointment, as the whole premise for the release was to tease and setup a future social media campaign from the tuning fork brand — the giveaway is where the company states several times that the footage “may be leaked” onto social media. Le sigh.

You can’t fault Yamaha USA for recently holding a two-day test/media day at Thunderhill Raceway for its AMA Road Racing riders, nor can you fault the last-OEM-standing in the AMA paddock for wanting to promote its racing efforts there. What worries us, especially while looking at how AMA Pro Racing is collapsing in on itself, is how forced this campaign feels. Did The Fonz just jump over a shark on water skis?

Now don’t get us wrong, Yamaha USA has produced some amazing viral media in the past, so we want to give the benefit of the doubt, but this just feels tacky — or genius-level meta. You can read the press release after the jump, and decide for yourself though.

Daytona 200 Will Switch Back to Superbike Format for 2015

02/11/2014 @ 2:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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AMA Pro Racing has announced that the series’ premier race, the Daytona 200, will once again feature 1,000cc Superbikes, starting in the 2015 season. A bit of an oddity on the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar, the Daytona 200 is America’s longest-running motorcycle endurance racing event, and historically it has kicked off the road racing season in America.

With Daytona International Speedway’s high speeds and long stints, riding the Daytona 200 has been a challenge for riders, for a variety of reasons. This lead to Superbikes being replaced by the strangely formatted Formula Xtreme class for the Daytona 200 race class in 2005 thru 2008. As tire and safety concerns continued, the modified 600cc Daytona SportBike class took over in 2009, and has run the race ever since.

While it has always been seen as an oddity by fans that AMA Pro Road Racing’s premier class didn’t run the series’ headline event, the safety concerns regarding 200+ horsepower bikes chewing through tires on the road course has been a paramount issue — even the Daytona SportBike bikes have had their fair share of tire woes at Daytona.

In order to get the Superbikes through the 69-lap endurance race, the folks at DMG say that the new upcoming rules package, which will reduce the cost of racing in AMA Pro Road Racing, is largely to be thanked.

Remembering Tommy Aquino

02/11/2014 @ 10:01 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

We are still getting over the loss of Tommy Aquino, who died while riding motocross in Southern California just last week. A popular rider in the AMA Pro Racing, British Superbike, and Spanish CEV series, the untimely passing of Tommy is being felt around the world.

A memorial service for Tommy will be held at 2PM on Saturday, February 15th at the Bishop Alemany High School (11111 North Alemany Drive, Mission Hills, CA). A remembrance is also scheduled afterwards at 28588 Santa Catarina Road, Saugus, CA — the Aquino Family encourages all to attend.

While we all continue to grieve, we do best to remember the good times, and as such Roversberg Productions has put together a nice tribute video of Tommy. Enjoy it above.

Tommy Aquino Has Died While Motocross Training

02/02/2014 @ 8:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of AMA Pro Racing rider Tommy Aquino, who died today in a motocross accident at the Piru Ranch MX — Tommy’s local riding spot. Colliding head-on with another rider at around 12:30 pm, Tommy was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Ventura County Star.

Tommy started his racing career back in 2008, at the age of 16. With five seasons in AMA Pro Racing, Tommy finished third in the 2011 Daytona SportBike Championship, with a race win at New Jersey Motorsports Park that season. In 2013, Aquino moved his racing across the pond to Great Britain, riding a superstock machine in the BSB series.

Universally loved for his big hair, great smile, and positive attitude, there are many in the A&R family who were close to Tommy and are grieving tonight. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family. At only 21 years of age Tommy was loved by many, and will be dearly missed by us all.

AMA Pro Road Racing Announces Five, Maybe Six, Races on Its 2014 Provisional Calendar

01/08/2014 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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The long-awaited AMA Pro Road Racing calendar for the 2014 season has been released, and motorcycle racing fans will be shocked to hear that America’s premier series has been reduced to just five race weekends this year, with the hopes of a sixth weekend being added to the mix.

As usual, the season starts in March at Daytona, and features the Daytona 200. AMA Pro Road Racing will then take a month and a half break, until it reconvenes at Road America at the end of May / beginning of June. Barber, Mid-Ohio, and NJMP then follow, with Laguna Seca hopefully being added to the list once that whole mess is resolved.

Q&A: Getting to Know Josh Herrin

01/07/2014 @ 12:53 pm, by Aakash Desai2 COMMENTS

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After going pro in 2006 at the age of 16, Josh Herrin impressed many by racking up wins in the AMA Supersport and AMA Daytona Sportbike series – with 2013 seeing Josh win the AMA Pro Superbike  Championship, America’s crown jewel of road racing.

Most recently, he has joined the Caterham Moto2 team, making him the first American athlete to make the jump from AMA to Moto2. I recently got to sit down with Josh Herrin to talk about his life and his racing career. The transcript from our conversation follows.

AMA Resolves Scheduling Conflict with its Mid-Ohio Round and the Laguna Seca World Superbike Round

12/17/2013 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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There are days where we truly wonder about the future of AMA Pro Road Racing. Like the rest of the motorcycle industry, America’s premier motorcycle racing series was devastated by the recession and tough economy; that is factor external to the series, and no one could fault AMA Racing for facing some challenges because of it.

However beyond the tough economy, the national-level series has perpetrated so many unforced errors upon itself that when it comes to its management, you sometimes have to wonder if there is anyone awake at the switch.

Take the latest gaffe from AMA Pro Racing: the scheduling of the Mid-Ohio round during the World Superbike weekend at Laguna Seca. We can only imagine the surprise of riders, teams, and sponsors when they realized that the recently announced Mid-Ohio round was in full-conflict with World Superbike’s stop at Laguna Seca, a round that the AMA has typically been the support class of.