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.”

Preview of Le Mans: Can Lorenzo Get Back the Momentum?

05/16/2013 @ 3:56 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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Three races into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the Yamaha Factory Racing team have been forced to tear up the script they had written for themselves after pre-season testing. Their original goals were for Jorge Lorenzo to win as often as possible in the early part of the season, building a lead at the tracks at which Yamaha is supposed to be strong, then defend that lead in the second half of the year. Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, was to finish adapting to the Yamaha once again, and get on the podium ahead of the Hondas as much as possible, to help build out Lorenzo’s lead in the championship.

The plan worked perfectly at Qatar. Lorenzo was untouchable in the race, and won easily. Rossi showed he still had it by getting on the podium and taking second, while the first Honda was Marc Marquez in third. This worked out even better than expected, as although Marquez is clearly an exceptional talent, the real title threat, Yamaha believed, would come from Dani Pedrosa.

MotoGP: Ben Spies Will Miss the French GP

05/06/2013 @ 1:42 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies’ long road to recovery from the shoulder injury he suffered at Motegi last year has gotten a little longer. Today, Ducati boss Bernhard Gobmeier told reporters at the Jerez post-race MotoGP test that Spies had been advised to skip the Le Mans round of MotoGP in France, and only return two weeks later at Mugello.

Spies is still recuperating from shooting pains in his chest caused by overcompensating at COTA in Austin, when he raced there two weeks’ ago. The Texan received medical advice that he should miss one more race before attempting a return.

Ducati test rider Michele Pirro will ride the Ignite Pramac Ducati as a replacement for Spies. As a replacement rider, Pirro will have to use the bike fielded by Pramac, rather than the laboratory machine he raced as a wildcard in Jerez. The official press release from the Ignite Pramac team is after the jump

MotoGP: Ben Spies Will Skip the Jerez Round

04/24/2013 @ 11:48 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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Ben Spies will not take part in the Spanish MotoGP round at Jerez, scheduled to take place on May 5th. The Texan has been advised to withdraw to undergo further physical rehabilitation after suffering severe muscle pain in his back and chest at Austin.

The problems are a result of the extended recovery period from the surgery he had on the shoulder he injured at Sepang in October last year. Injuries to shoulder ligaments are notorious for taking a long time to heal, and for patients to recover their full strength, and it is this which has been dogging the Texan.

With his right shoulder still very weak, Spies has been forced to try to compensate using his back and chest, and this is placing too much strain on his muscles while riding. The Ignite Pramac rider will have further rehab to deal with the strained muscles, and get him ready to return at the Le Mans round in just over three weeks’ time. After the jump is the press release from the Ignite Pramac team on Spies’ condition.

2013 MotoGP Season Preview

04/02/2013 @ 9:15 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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Every year, about now, there is one phrase which you will hear over and over again. With MotoGP testing behind us, and the start of the season imminent, every race fan chants the same mantra: “This could be the best MotoGP season ever!” Reality tends to intervene rather quickly, and the races never seem to pan out the way race fans had been hoping. Intriguing? Yes. Entertaining? Often. Thrilling? Not nearly as often as hoped.

And yet there is a genuine chance that this year could be different. Events inside MotoGP have been converging to a point which promises to see a return to the thrills of a previous era in MotoGP, one in which epic battles were fought out on the old 990cc machines. Though the days of tire-smoking action are long gone – killed off forever by the insistence of the factories that electronics must continue to play a major role in premier class racing – the battles could be back.

The ingredients which will spice up MotoGP? Two men, well matched in talent and in equipment – though both would dispute the latter claim, saying the other bike holds the upper hand. A grand old champion, returning to a bike he understands and knows he can ride and keen to prove he has not lost his edge.

A fast young upstart, a fearless – some would say reckless – challenger, brimming with self-belief, overflowing with talent, and spoiling to make his mark. A talented underdog, a bull terrier desperate to get his teeth into the front runners, and bristling with resentment at the lack of factory support he believes he deserves.

A stricken factory, fallen from its former glory, and determined to make amends, starting on the long road to recovering what it believes is its rightful place at the front. And a gaggle of young riders – some younger than others – determined to claim their place in the spotlights, and preferably on the podium.

Videos: Ducati 1199 Panigale R – The Pursuit of Perfection

03/20/2013 @ 3:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Giving us a little teaser of what we will be riding tomorrow, the folks at Borgo Panigale are hoping the newest iteration of their namesake, the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, lives up to the expectations assembled here in Austin, Texas.

The lightest sport bike ever from Ducati, the Panigale R comes with a few changes from its base model and “S” predecessors, namely the inclusions of titanium con-rods, a lightened flywheel, DLC-coated rocker-arms, a four-point adjustable swingarm pivot-point, a 500 rpm rev boost, and a bit more power (courtesy of a full-system race exhaust and ECU).

These engine improvements are said to give the Ducati 1199 Panigale R a 201hp peak-horsepower figure, a modest 6% gain up top, but also a 15% increase in the midrange, something the other models noticeably needed. Meanwhile, the adjustable swingarm is said to improve the chassis considerably…all things we will have to see for ourselves tomorrow morning.

More A/V candy on the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R awaits after the jump. Ducatisti enjoy.

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/19/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R is taking place this week, and the world’s top motorcycle-journalists are lapping Bologna’s latest bullet around the new Circuit of the Americas race course outside of Austin, Texas.

Helping make the occasion extra special, MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are in attendance, doing what they do best on two wheels. Since the two Ducati riders did not participate in the private test at Austin, that HRC and Yamaha Racing held last week, this photo-op was their first outing on the track.

Asphalt & Rubber will be swinging a leg over the Panigale R on Thursday, which means we have two painfully long days until we can see the machine in person. There are 101 hi-res snaps after the jump, taken by the great Gigi Soldano, Marco Campelli, Andrew Wheeler, and Scott Jones (yes! the Scott Jones!).

MotoGP Sepang 2 Test Day 3: Pedrosa Tops the Timesheets, But Leaves Lorenzo as Fastest

02/28/2013 @ 10:49 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa was once again fastest on the final day of testing at Sepang, topping the timesheets for the fifth time in six total days of testing at Sepang. Though the Repsol Honda man looks to be the pre-season favorite so far, he does not leave the test as fastest overall, however. That honor goes to Jorge Lorenzo, who put in a scorching lap on Wednesday to set the fastest time over all three days of the test.

The riders got off to a late start on Thursday, rain meaning that the bulk of the riders kept to their garages until the track started to dry out at the end of the morning. A few men put in laps in the wet, but once the track dried out, enough riders started putting in laps to clean the worst of the dirt left by the rain from the track, though track conditions were never as good as on the first couple of days.

Pedrosa soon took charge of proceedings, later knocking another half a second off his time late in the afternoon. Rookie Repsol teammate Marc Marquez impressed yet again, taking 2nd on the timesheets with his very last lap, after the final 30 minutes of the session turned into a qualifying session.

Marquez continued to concentrate on learning the ropes on a MotoGP machine, and the longer runs he put in were a little further off the pace of Pedrosa, and still not as consistent as they will need to be, but he proved with his flying lap that he will be starting from the front of the grid by the time the season starts.

Jorge Lorenzo ended the final day of the test with the 3rd fastest time, but leaves Sepang as fastest overall. Lorenzo’s best time was over four tenths slower than Pedrosa’s on Thursday, but the Spaniard spent the latter part of the day working on race set up, ending the test with a mightily impressive race simulation of 20 laps, 16 of which where in the 2:01s, most of them fast 2:01s.

Lorenzo’s race simulation follows the pattern from his championship-winning season in 2012, making a very long race simulation to test the bike and himself in punishing conditions. Less characteristic was a mistake the Spaniard made, putting in one lap of 2:05 towards the end, an anomaly among the scorching laps that surround it.

MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 5: Hat-Trick for Pedrosa

02/07/2013 @ 10:53 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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The first test of the 2013 MotoGP season is completed, and Dani Pedrosa has completed a clean sweep, topping the timesheets on all three days. The Repsol Honda man confirmed his role as title favorite by posting a fast lap under the existing pole record set by Jorge Lorenzo last year.

He also opened-up a serious gap to the trio who have been chasing him all test long, putting nearly a third of a second on Jorge Lorenzo, the Yamaha man falling just short of his own pole record. However, what may worry Lorenzo more is the fact that Pedrosa declared at the end of the day that his objective was not to be fastest, but test the bike.

Valentino Rossi closed the gap to his teammate, ending the test a tenth from the time set by Lorenzo, though still four tenths from Pedrosa’s best lap. Rossi also leapfrogged over Marc Marquez, finally finishing ahead of the Repsol Honda rookie after ending the first two days behind him. Marquez finished as 4th fastest, six tenths behind Pedrosa, and the young Spaniard also had his first crash of the season, losing the front end on the way into the final corner. Marquez walked away unhurt, his Repsol RC213V did not fare quite so well.

MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 4: Quid Pro Status Quo

02/06/2013 @ 12:38 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets once again on the second day of prototype testing at Sepang, the Repsol Honda man getting off to a flying start and cracking into the 2’00s early in the session. He was joined there by Jorge Lorenzo, the Factory Yamaha rider once again shadowing Pedrosa, ending the day just two hundredths behind the Repsol rider.

Marc Marquez confirmed his first day times were no fluke, the only other man to post a lap in the 2’00s, though the rookie was a quarter of a second slower than his teammate on Wednesday, losing a fraction of the ground.

Valentino Rossi once again took 4th spot, the Italian still just under half a second off the two title favorites. The Honda men continued to work on engine durability, while Yamaha riders Lorenzo and Rossi had new engines with more acceleration to test, and a new chassis aimed at curing the pumping from the rear wheel of the bike.

MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 3: Enter the Factory Prototypes

02/05/2013 @ 12:48 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa has ended the first full-day of MotoGP factory prototype testing at Sepang at the top of the timesheets. The Repsol Honda man was fast throughout the day, finally setting a time that would not be beaten with an hour left of the test.

Though Pedrosa’s best time could not be bested, it was challenged, Jorge Lorenzo using the final minutes of the session to post his fastest lap of the day, falling just eight thousandths short of Pedrosa, but still right on the pace.

The most impressive performance of the day goes to Marc Marquez though, who was fast out of the box, led the session at one point and finished the day less than five hundredths of a second behind his teammate. Marquez had been expected to make a strong start, and be within a few tenths of Pedrosa and Lorenzo, but getting within a few hundredths can be classed as exceptional.