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.”

Friday MotoGP Summary at Argentina: Dirty Track, and Yamaha’s Goldilocks Principle

04/02/2016 @ 10:54 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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One statistic captured the state of play in Argentina after the first day of practice. Of the eighty-three (83!) Grand Prix riders who took to the track on Friday, just a single rider failed to improve their time from FP1 to FP2.

That rider was Tatsuki Suzuki, and the reason he did not manage to improve his time was because he crashed early in the session, leaving himself too little time to go faster.

Why is this remarkable? Normally, there would be somewhere between four and eight riders who do not manage to improve their time between sessions on Friday.

At Mugello in 2015, for example, there were six in MotoGP, five in Moto2, and eleven in Moto3, a grand total of twenty-two, and broadly representative of a normal race weekend. The fact that almost everyone managed to go faster illustrated the problem with the track perfectly.

The problem? The track is filthy, to put it simply. As a result of a lack of use, the dust and dirt which settles on any uncovered surface just settles into the asphalt, and is never swept from the track.

With no bikes or cars circulating regularly, the track remains green, its virgin surface unsullied by the dark rubber of motorized monsters. No vehicles on track means no grip.

Preview of the Argentinian GP: A Living Legend

03/31/2016 @ 10:48 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The vast amount of work I have had to do to over the past five days has left me desperately short of time to write a proper preview for the Argentina round of MotoGP. This is a shame, as the Termas de Rio Hondo track is utterly magnificent, and deserves all the praise it can get.

So instead of a full preview, here are my notes on this weekend. What to watch out for, and what is likely to be important. For a fuller review, listen to the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, where Steve English and I look forward to the weekend ahead.

MotoGP: Has Jorge Lorenzo Signed with Ducati Corse?

03/31/2016 @ 6:21 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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That this Silly Season – the (bi)annual round of rider contract negotiations – was going to be remarkable has been obvious for a very long time.

Only very rarely have the contracts of nearly every rider on the grid ended at the same time, leading to a frenzy of speculation and rumor about who could and will be going where for the 2017 season.

That this year is special was made obvious at Qatar, where both Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith announced they had already signed two-year deals for 2017 and 2018 before the flag had even dropped for the first race.

Jorge Lorenzo has been the key figure in this year’s Silly Season, however. Of the four current MotoGP Aliens, he is the most likely to move, and to be offered big money to do so.

Valentino Rossi is nearing his retirement, and his long-term future is tied up with Yamaha, so re-signing with the Japanese factory was a no-brainer.

Marc Márquez may leave Honda at some point in his career, but at the moment, he has too many ties binding him to HRC.

Dani Pedrosa may be a proven winner, but he is the only one of the four not to have won a championship. It is Lorenzo who is attracting all of the interest.

It now appears that Lorenzo’s future may already be settled. Well-informed sources inside the paddock have told me that Jorge Lorenzo has already signed a deal with Ducati, and perhaps at a record price.

Certainly at a price which Yamaha would be unwilling – and probably unable – to match.

Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 22 – Argentina & Aragon

03/30/2016 @ 11:19 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 22 – Argentina & Aragon

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Both MotoGP and World Superbike have contests this weekend, so we grabbed David and Steve and had them preview both races for Episode 22 of the Paddock Pass Podcast.

After wrapping up thoughts on the MotoGP season-opener in Qatar, the guys go into a lengthy discussion about winglets, focusing on how aerodynamics play a role in motorcycle racing, and why the Grand Prix Commission is banning them in Moto2 & Moto3.

The boys also talk about the prospects of Ducati, both in Argentina and in Aragon, with both rounds likely to be strong showings for the Italian factory. There’s also a good discussion as to why Casey Stoner will not be racing this weekend, though maybe we’ll see him later this season.

Lastly, Steve shows us that he has his finger on the pulse of the World Superbike paddock, and tells us what to expect in Spain at the Aragon WSBK round. You won’t want to watch this weekend’s racing without first listening to this show.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Pirro, Not Stoner, Will Replace Danilo Petrucci at Argentina

03/24/2016 @ 12:15 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati team yesterday confirmed that Michele Pirro will substitue for Danilo Petrucci during the Italian’s absence. Petrucci was forced to pull out of the Qatar Grand Prix after bone fragments from his the broken metacarpals in his right hand displaced while riding.

Petrucci had broken his hand in a crash during testing at Phillip Island, and had tried to ride despite it being just 22 days after surgery, where normally the recovery periods is at least 4 to 6 weeks.

The announcement that Pirro will be replacing Petrucci came as a disappointment to many fans who had been hoping that Casey Stoner would step in to replace the injured Italian.

However, speaking to the official MotoGP.com website, Stoner made it perfectly clear that he had no intention of racing, and wanted to focus solely on testing.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 5: KTM Closes In

01/08/2016 @ 1:52 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The second half of the marathon stage for the 2016 Dakar Rally, where riders and teams are forbidden from working on their machines until today’s liaison stage, Stage 5 had the added challenges beyond its 642km total distance and 327km special section, which brought them into Bolivia.

The navigational challenges also increased on Stage 5, as The Dakar begins to separate the wheat from the chaff. With most of the stage at over 11,00 feet, with a peak altitude of 15,000 feet, competitors traded the hardship of rain for altitude, an equally formidable obstacle.

The racers in orange fared the best in the high mountains, as Stage 5 was dominated by KTM riders, with Toby Price taking the top honors, followed by Stefan Svitko and Matthias Walkner. This result closes Svitko and Price to under two minutes of overall leader Paul Gonçalves, who struggled on the stage with altitude sickness, losing roughly nine minutes in the process.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Big Red Rises

01/06/2016 @ 7:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

during the Dakar 2016 Argentina Bolivia, Etape 4 - Stage 4, Jujuy - Jujuy, from January 6, 2016 , Argentina - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Stage 4 of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw competitors racing mostly in a 420km loop near Jujuy, Argentina. Stage 4 is also the start of the marathon stage of the Dakar Rally, where this year team mechanics and competitors are forbidden from working on their machines, until the next day’s liaison section.

Always a decisive moment, it means that riders especially need to ensure no harm comes to their race motorcycles over the course of the stage, as they will not have the benefit of their support crews.

In that way, concentration is very much a key element to winning The Dakar, which as a segue, is something HRC rider Joan Barreda is learning the hard way.

Despite being the fastest man on Stage 4, another speeding penalty on the liaison section means that Barreda had five minutes tacked onto his time for the day, which drops him to third overall. With his pace in the special section, Barreda should be leading this edition of The Dakar, but the unforced errors are costing him.

Meanwhile, teammate Paulo Gonçalves continues to benefit from Barreda’s mistakes, and thus gets the stage win after the times for Stage 4 were tallied.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Hat Trick?

01/06/2016 @ 1:23 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Stage 3 of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw another modified route, as the competitors worked around the weather in Argentina. This means that the timed special section was reduced to roughly 200km.

With the shorter route, the navigational challenges were virtually non-existent for the motorcycle competitors, though plenty of radar speed traps were on the course, which caught a few riders out.

The day was most fruitful for Honda, as the fastest three riders through the timed section were all HRC riders, with Joan Barreda leading the pack.

Unfortunately for Barreda though, the Spanish rider got another one-minute penalty, which officially knocked him back to fifth for the day, robbing Honda of its scorecard domination.

“Today was a great day after yesterday, when I had to open the track, but today we started from behind which gave us a good position to attack from,” said Barreda.

“We were very focused throughout the stage, which had very little navigation but plenty of radars that you had to be careful of. I kept a great pace throughout the 200 km and I’ve got the leadership back.”

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Beginning, In Earnest

01/05/2016 @ 1:16 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Racing almost 800km from Villa Carlos Paz to Termas de Río Hondo, Monday marked the first earnest day of racing in the 2016 Dakar Rally, after the timed section of Stage 1 had to be canceled because of the incredibly weather at play in Argentina.

This doesn’t mean Monday was without weather though, as the special section was trimmed from 450km to 354km, because track conditions had deteriorated after Sunday’s thunderstorms.

That slight respite proved to be a boon for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price, as the Australian took the first Stage win of The Dakar. Price finished just 20 seconds ahead of Husqvarna’s Ruben Faria, lining up a duel that is likely to be a major part of this year’s edition of The Dakar.

While KTM might be without Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, both riders now having retired from two-wheel racing, KTM has a strong showing so far in 2016, with Stefan Svitko of Slovakia rounding out the podium, third in Stage 2, though he carries a one-minute penalty from the day.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 1: Canceled

01/03/2016 @ 11:51 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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The 2016 Dakar Rally is off to a poor start, as the first stage of the event had to be canceled today, on account of the weather. While yesterday’s prologue in Rosario was under 104°F sun, lightning storms prevailed in South America today, along with heavy rain.

The intensity of the rainfall saw the river crossings swell in size, while the heavy wind and rain meant that the safety helicopters couldn’t safely operate. As such, the ASO had no choice but to scrub today’s stage, citing safety concerns for the competitors.