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.”

Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 23 – Argentina & Austin

04/18/2016 @ 10:16 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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After the MotoGP round in Austin, the Paddock Pass Podcast crew (including yours truly) stayed for Suzuki’s private test at COTA, and recorded the latest episode of the show. For bonus points, Episode 23 comes with the tonal sounds of the Suzuki GSX-RR’s crossplane inline-four engine, in the background.

A lengthy show, we discuss the tire debacle in Argentina, starting with the weekend’s constantly changing schedule, the inclusion of the “safety tire” to the program, and the aftermath of all that.

We then turn our attention to the on-track action in Texas, which saw a number of riders hitting the asphalt, as they continue to learn the new Michelins. We finish the talk with some silly season speculation, some of which has already come true, and a look at the Moto2 and Moto3 paddock.

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!

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Argentina: Tire Challenges

04/03/2016 @ 11:14 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Argentina: Tire Challenges

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We have been here before, of course. The history of problems with spec tires is long and varied. In 2012, at Assen, the tires of several riders, including Valentino Rossi and Ben Spies, ended up losing chunks, causing huge problems in the race.

The cold tire highsides of 2009 and 2010, which saw Hiroshi Aoyama crack a couple of vertebrae, an injury which ended his career as a competitive racer, and Valentino Rossi break his leg, forcing him to miss a race for the first time in his career.

And of course the debacle at Phillip Island in 2013, when Bridgestone discovered that the tires they had brought could not cope with the stresses imposed by the new, much faster surface, forcing Race Direction to grant themselves new emergency powers, cut the race to two thirds’ distance, and impose a mandatory pit stop.

If you think the problems are because of a lack of tire competition, you would be sorely mistaken. There were plenty of issues with tires in the heat of competition.

Shinya Nakano’s Bridgestone exploding along Mugello’s front straight is perhaps the most famous, leaving Nakano sliding down the tarmac at close to 300 km/h. But there were plenty of others.

Like the time Valentino Rossi’s front Michelin started chunking at Shanghai in 2006, forcing him to retire and putting him 32 points behind Nicky Hayden, who would go on to win the championship.

Or Laguna Seca 2008, when the Michelin riders were forced to use intermediates on Saturday morning, because they had been expecting sweltering California heat, rather than mist and cold making track temperatures plummet.

MotoGP: Michelin Withdraws Both Rear Compounds in Argentina after Delamination in FP4

04/03/2016 @ 10:08 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Michelin has taken the highly unusual step of withdrawing not just one, but both rear tire compounds from use at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina.

Instead, a different rear tire with a stiffer construction will be issued in the morning, with the teams being given an extra 30-minute session of warm up in which to find a set up for the tires.

The decision was taken after Scott Redding suffered a catastrophic tire delamination with the Pramac Ducati during FP4. The incident happened on a medium rear tire which had been used for just seven laps, according to a statement on the official MotoGP.com website.

Redding managed to stay aboard, fortunately, but the rear of his bike was destroyed by a large strip of rubber which had detached itself from the tire. That strip of tire also hit Redding in the back, leaving a massive bruise.

The incident caused FP4 to be red-flagged, then, rather bizarrely, restarted once again, before being stopped for a second time. However, it was not immediately clear what had caused Redding’s tire to self-destruct, and so the session was allowed to continue, as was qualifying.

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.

#WheelieWednesday – The People That Write You Off

05/13/2015 @ 8:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Whether you like the man or not, you have to admit that Cal Crutchlow is looking good this year on the satellite Honda with LCR, as he sits 6th overall in the Championship.

Cal has always been one of the most underrated riders in the MotoGP paddock — you’ll know this because he’s the first one to tell you. It’s sort of like CrossFit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Cal Crutchlow fan. He is affable in person, and meaner than a terrier on the track — my two big criteria for any motorcycle racer.

However, it’s getting harder and harder to cheer for the British rider, even though he’s posting some of the best results ever in his GP career.

Sunday Summary at Argentina: On Rossi vs. Marquez, & Why You Shouldn’t Believe The Pundits

04/20/2015 @ 6:00 pm, by David Emmett35 COMMENTS

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You should never believe professional pundits. We writers and reporters, forecasters and commentators like to opine on our specialist subject at every opportunity. The wealth of data at our fingertips, which we study avidly, fools us into thinking we know what we are talking about.

So we – and I do mean all of us, not just the royal we – tell our audience all sorts of things. That Casey Stoner is about to return to racing with Ducati. That Valentino Rossi is set to join the Repsol Honda squad. That Casey Stoner is not about to retire, or that Dani Pedrosa will.

Your humble correspondent is no different. In 2013, during his first season back at Yamaha, I was quick to write Valentino Rossi off. At the age of 34, I pontificated, the keenest edge had gone from his reflexes, and he was at best the fourth best motorcycle racer in the world.

He would never win another race again, unless he had a helping hand from conditions and circumstances, I confidently asserted. Rossi proved me wrong, along with the many others who wrote him off, at Misano last year.

Now, after three races of the 2015 season, Rossi has two wins and a third, and leads the championship.