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.”

Motorcycle Safety Foundation Launches iTunes U Courses

03/06/2014 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Want to improve your riding skills from the comfort of your computer or tablet? The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has the digital solution for you. Releasing four courses onto the iTunes U store for free, the MSF has made available a wide variety of tips and strategies to help motorcyclists to sharpen and hone their two-wheeled craft.

The four courses are “An Adventure in Motorcycle Physics,” “Dr. Ray’s Street Strategies,” “Dr. Ray’s Guide to Group Riding,” and “Dr. Ray’s Seasoned Rider,” with each class consisting of 20 or so chapters.

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.

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.

AMA Supermoto National Championship Series Formed

02/05/2014 @ 11:31 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Just last week we were lamenting the lack of popularity of supermoto racing in the United States, and this week we hear that the American Motorcyclist Association has thrown its weight behind the folks at USA Supermoto.

Forming the AMA Supermoto National Championship Series, supermoto racing now has a nationwide pro series at its disposal, with six races on its inaugural calendar. We are pretty pumped to here supermoto racing process to the National level in the USA. We highly recommend you attend a race if one is by you in 2014.

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.

AMA Pro Road Racing Modifies Classes & Rules for 2015

12/04/2013 @ 1:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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AMA Pro Racing  announced today that by 2015 it will overhaul the racing class structure and rules for the AMA Pro Road Racing series. The changes are designed to make America’s premier road racing series more cost-effective, and to bring AMA Pro Road Racing inline with other national and international racing divisions.

Perhaps the most important change to the racing structure, AMA Pro Racing says that the Superbike class will see incremental changes made to the technical rules package over the next two seasons “in the interest of rule commonality, performance parity, and cost containment.”

This likely means that AMA Pro Superbike will adopt rules similar to the rules progression seen in World Superbike, with EVO-spec bikes that more akin to Superstock series motorcycles being the mode du jour from 2015 and onward.

AMA Warns Against Possible Nationwide Helmet Law

11/11/2013 @ 4:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler89 COMMENTS

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The American Motorcyclist Association recently issued a bulletin stating that a federal task force from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is poised to recommend a nationwide mandatory helmet law. True to form, the AMA is opposed to the recommendation.

Citing the organization’s official party line, AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard said that while the AMA strongly advocates helmet use, the organization believes that motorcyclists should have the right to choose whether or not they wear a helmet.

The AMA press release goes on to refute the CDC task force’s claim (one that is backed up by the GAO, we might add) that there could be a meaningful economic benefit from drafting mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, citing that helmets do not prevent motorcycle crashes, that fatalities from motorcycle crashes are too few in number, and that their reduction would have no meaningful impact on the economy.

The AMA then also reiterated one of its main talking points, that the best way to reduce rider fatalities is to not crash in the first place, and thus programs in rider safety and training should be the focus of the government, not a mandatory helmet initiative.

Honestly though, it is about time that the AMA, and we as motorcyclists, got a bit more honest and real about motorcycle safety, and stopped capitulating to a vocal group of libertarian riders who see riding without a helmet as an integral part of motorcycling culture.