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 Misano: Surprises, Fast Yamahas, On-Track Disputes, & Retired Riders

09/10/2016 @ 1:25 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Every day that sees MotoGP motorcycles circulating in earnest is an interesting day, but some are more interesting than others. Friday at Misano was one of those days which last, throwing up surprises and shattering preconceptions.

We found out that we need to throw overboard a lot of the things we thought about the current state of the MotoGP championship.

First, to the things that were not a surprise. That Yamahas should top both sessions of free practice, and establish themselves as favorites for the race was entirely to be expected.

That Valentino Rossi should impress is no surprise either: Misano is his home race, and a win here is his best chance of getting back into the championship. Jorge Lorenzo finding his feet again, and laying down a withering pace raised one or two eyebrows among those who had written him off.

But the real shocker was Pol Espargaro topping the second session of free practice, and ending the day faster.

Has Yamaha smuggled a few go-faster bits into the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha garage? The answer to that question is quite simply no. Espargaro’s pace has a very simple explanation: the Spaniard has been strong throughout this season, the switch to the Michelins playing to his strengths.

“This is a track where I am fast,” Espargaro told us. “If we add here the new tires which are really grippy on the rear and quite good performance on the front, I feel like I can ride in my style, aggressive and opening the throttle really early with full lean angle. I feel really comfortable riding the bike.”

Plus, of course, the small matter of time gained by using another fast rider as a target. “For sure, I was behind Márquez, and it helped me two tenths more or less.” Taking away two tenths of a second would put him third rather than first, but as he was second fastest in the morning, Espargaro’s time in FP2 was no fluke.

Trackside Tuesday: Rookie Rule Redux

07/29/2014 @ 11:23 pm, by Scott Jones39 COMMENTS

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For all the good that accompanied Marc Marquez’s arrival in the premier class, there was one casualty that we should consider reviving: The Rookie Rule.

A brief recap if you don’t recall the details: In 2010 the Grand Prix Commission approved a rule stating that no riders entering the premier class for the first time could ride for factory teams.

This was partly intended as a cost-saving measure and partly intended to placate satellite team owners who complained that without the rule, they would never have a chance to hire top rookie riders.

For several years The Rookie Rule worked nicely with one glaring exception, that of keeping Ben Spies out of the Factory Yamaha squad. Spies came to MotoGP as a multiple national series champion (AMA Superbike), as reigning WSBK champion, and most importantly, at 25-years-old.

Though he’d not ridden all of the GP tracks and didn’t know the Bridgestone tires, his experience with pressure and media attention made him the rookie perhaps most suited to going directly to a factory team. Cal Crutchlow could’ve also made a strong case based on his experience and maturity.

Jorge Lorenzo joined the Factory Yamaha team the year before the rule was adopted, but in my opinion became one of the best case studies to support the Rookie Rule.

Thursday Summary at Austin: Edwards Retires, Blandspeak Returns, & The Dearth of US Racers

04/11/2014 @ 7:58 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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It was fitting – some might say inevitable – that Colin Edwards chose the Grand Prix of the Americas in his home state of Texas to announce his retirement. He had just spent the last couple of weeks at home, with his growing kids, doing dad stuff like taking them to gymnastics and baseball and motocross, then hosted a group, including current GP riders and a couple of journos, at his Bootcamp dirt track school.

He had had time to mull over his future, then talk it over with his wife Ally, and come to a decision. There wasn’t really a much better setting for the double World Superbike champion to announce he was calling it quits than sitting next to former teammate Valentino Rossi, the American he fought so memorably with in 2006, Nicky Hayden, the latest US addition to the Grand Prix paddock Josh Herrin, and with Marc Marquez, prodigy and 2013 MotoGP champion. It felt right. Sad, but right.

You can read the full story of Edwards’ retirement here, but his announcement highlighted two different problems for motorcycle racing. One local, one global, and neither particularly easy to fix.

The loss of Colin Edwards sees the MotoGP paddock, indeed all of international motorcycle racing, robbed of its most outspoken and colorful character. Edwards was a straight talker, with a colorful turn of phrase and uninhibited manner of speech.

His interviews were five parts home truths, five parts witticisms and a handful of obscenities thrown in for good measure. He livened up press conferences, racing dinners, and casual conversations alike.

With Edwards gone, motorcycle racing is a much blander, less appealing place. Though Edwards was always careful not to upset sponsors too much, he refused to toe the line and just spout the politically acceptable line handed down by his corporate paymasters. He spoke his mind, complained when he was annoyed, gave praise where it was due, and always, always entertained.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Ben Spies

01/14/2014 @ 11:12 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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In the last of our series looking back at the riders of 2013, we come to the unluckiest man on the grid. Ben Spies’ season was a thing of nightmares, ending with his decision to retire. Here’s a review of his year.

Ben Spies – Championship Position: 21st – Rating: Attitude 9/10, Luck 1/10

Up until Qatar 2012, Ben Spies’ career had been something of a fairytale. Talent spotted by his later crew chief Tom Houseworth, he took the fight to Mat Mladin in the AMA and beat him fair and square.

He won the World Superbike title at his first attempt, on tracks he hadn’t seen until Friday morning practice. He grabbed two podiums in his rookie MotoGP season, then a win in his second season after moving up to the factory Yamaha team. And then it all went horribly wrong.

After a series of bizarre mechanical mishaps throughout the 2012 season, Spies suffered major shoulder damage in a crash at Sepang. He had already decided to leave the factory Yamaha team, signing with Ducati to race at Pramac.

Ben Spies Retires from Motorcycle Racing

10/26/2013 @ 2:08 am, by David Emmett31 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies is to retire from motorcycle racing. The shoulder injuries the Texan suffered in the past year have cast doubts over whether his shoulders will ever be strong enough to race a motorcycle again, and so Ducati and Spies have come to a mutual agreement for Spies to terminate their contract after just one year. Accordingly, Spies’ retirement leaves the second seat at Pramac Ducati vacant for 2014.

The MotoGP / WSBK / AMA Racer Merry-Go-Round

09/23/2013 @ 12:39 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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As the end of the season approaches, the punishment which the riders have taken is starting to take its toll. With several riders out or moved, replacements are being sought to complete the season, or at least fill in for the next race.

In the MotoGP class, the knock on effect of Ben Spies’ extended absence means that a vacancy arose at the PBM team. With Michele Pirro unable to race in the overseas triple header, dedicating himself to testing for the remainder of the year, Yonny Hernandez has been moved to the Ignite Pramac squad for the last five races of the year, as was announced after the Misano test.

That meant that Hernandez’s spot at PBM needed filling, preferably by a rider with some kind of Grand Prix experience. That rider has now been found, and Damian Cudlin is to take the place of Hernandez at the next round of MotoGP at Aragon.

Yonny Hernandez Replacing Ben Spies for Rest of Season

09/15/2013 @ 9:02 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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Yonny Hernandez is to replace the injured Ben Spies for the rest of the 2013 MotoGP season. So far, Spies’ seat has been filled by Ducati tester Michele Pirro, but the stress of racing as well as working through a very busy test schedule has taken its toll on the young Italian.

Furthermore, Pirro racing the three flyaways would have meant that testing would have ceased for the three-week duration, and with work in full swing for the 2014 season, that was not time Ducati had to lose.

Beyond the Ben Spies Twitter Fiasco

08/26/2013 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies was, and perhaps still is, America’s great white hope when it comes to MotoGP racing. A sensational young rider, Spies cut his teeth in the AMA on six class championships before going onto winning the World Superbike Championship in his rookie season.

Fast-tracked into MotoGP, Spies served his time, by rule, in Hervé Poncharal’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, before finally getting the nod into Yamaha Racing’s factory outfit.

Fans expected a punctuated evolution from Spies when he put on Yamaha’s blue and white factory colors, as the Texan had shown great promise at Tech 3, and surely now with the very best that the tuning fork brand had to offer, Spies’s star would continue to rise, and a new generation of American GP domination could be ushered into the premier class. That was the hope at least, as unreasonable as it was.

Coming off a disastrous season at Yamaha in 2012, which ended with Yamaha declaring it had lost faith in the American, and Spies throwing a wrench in Yamaha’s marketing machine at the US GP at Laguna Seca, the hope would be that Spies’s move to Ducati would be a fresh start.

Instead, Spies entry into the Ignite Ducati squad has been a non-starter, with the Texan competing in only two grand prix races thus far this season. Instead of redemption, we have seen frustration, which perhaps is what brings us to today’s news, if you can call it that.

MotoGP: Ben Spies Has Double Shoulder Surgery, Not Expected to Return in the Short-Term

08/23/2013 @ 12:15 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies has undergone surgery on both his shoulders in Dallas yesterday. The Ignite Pramac rider had surgery to fix the acromioclavicular joint in his left shoulder he dislocated in a practice crash at Indianapolis.

Spies also had a minor procedure already scheduled for his previously injured right shoulder, to clean out scar tissue, according to a report in US publication Cycle News. The Texan posted a picture of himself after surgery on his Twitter page, announcing his surgery, but no official word has come from Ducati or Pramac just yet.

Saturday Summary at Indianapolis: An Unstoppable Marquez, A Breakable Spies, & A Desirable Hayden

08/18/2013 @ 8:15 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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Somebody appears to have neglected to inform Marc Marquez of the laws of physics. Though the track is less slippery than it was last year, and so a little faster, where Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo upped their pace by three tenths of a second, dipping under last year’s pole record, Marc Marquez positively obliterated it.

The Spanish rookie put in one of the best laps every seen on a MotoGP bike, and stripped nearly nine tenths of a second off the pole record, held by his teammate Dani Pedrosa. He sits half a second ahead of reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo, and a fraction more ahead of Pedrosa.

That gap bears repeating. Half a second in a single lap is a world apart in MotoGP: If they both started at the same time, Marc Marquez would have crossed the line 22 meters ahead of Jorge Lorenzo after that first lap, or roughly 11 bike lengths.