Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

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.

A Question of Trust: Matching Riders to Crew Chiefs

09/20/2016 @ 3:53 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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The music has stopped for the MotoGP riders, with all of them now having taken their seats for next year. That does not mean that contract season is over, however. We are in the middle of another migration, this time of crew chiefs and mechanics.

It all started with Jorge Lorenzo. The Movistar Yamaha rider’s move to Ducati for next season left him needing a crew chief. Once his current crew chief Ramon Forcada made the decision to stay with Yamaha, and work with Maverick Viñales, who takes Lorenzo’s place, that precipitated a search for someone to work with the Spaniard at Ducati.

It was a search that took some time, but which saw Cristian Gabarrini tempted back to Ducati. The quiet, reflective Italian had been set somewhat adrift after the retirement of Casey Stoner, with whom Gabarrini won MotoGP titles at Ducati and Honda.

First, he acted as engineering advisor to Marc Márquez and his crew chief Santi Hernandez, but Márquez made it clear he wanted only to work with Hernandez. Then he was put in charge of Honda’s Open Class project, and managing the bikes.

Q&A: Silvano Galbusera – On Replacing Jeremy Burgess & Being Valentino Rossi’s Crew Chief, Part 2

07/23/2015 @ 10:10 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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At Valencia last year, working for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder, I interviewed Valentino Rossi’s crew chief Silvano Galbusera.

The interview lived up to expectations, providing a fascinating insight into working with the nine-time world champion, and the pressures of replacing legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess as Rossi’s right-hand man.

Yesterday, we published the first part of the interview, in which Galbusera spoke of his switch to MotoGP, and replacing Jerry Burgess. In the second part of the interview, Galbusera talks specifically about working with Valentino Rossi, and what makes him such a special rider.

Q&A: Silvano Galbusera – On Replacing Jeremy Burgess & Being Valentino Rossi’s Crew Chief, Part 1

07/22/2015 @ 12:05 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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At Valencia last year, working for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder, I interviewed Valentino Rossi’s crew chief Silvano Galbusera.

The interview lived up to expectations, providing a fascinating insight into working with the nine-time world champion, and the pressures of replacing legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess as Rossi’s right-hand man.

Today, we publish the first part of the interview. The second part will be published on Thursday.

The Importance of Suzuki’s Rider/Crew Chief Relationship

07/07/2015 @ 11:51 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It is hard to overstate just how important the relationship between a motorcycle racer and his crew chief is. A rider must have complete confidence that his crew chief both understands what he needs from a motorcycle to go fast, and is capable of giving it to him.

A crew chief must be able to interpret the sometimes confusing and mixed signals from his rider, filter out the non-essential information, identify priorities from that which will offer the greatest gains, and assign the work to the rest of the crew in the garage.

There has to be complete trust between the two, or neither rider nor bike will achieve their full potential.

This was made all too apparent when I interviewed Ecstar Suzuki rider Aleix Espargaro and his crew chief Tom O’Kane for a story I wrote recently for the Dutch publication MOTOR Magazine, due out later this month.

One part of the interview which did not make it into the magazine was the relationship between Espargaro and O’Kane, and how they first started working together. However, it is a story which offers a fascinating insight into how a rider and their crew chief work together.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

09/11/2014 @ 3:13 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

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Dani Pedrosa has been with his crew chief Mike Leitner for over ten years now, since Pedrosa’s first season in the 250cc class in 2004. Pedrosa and Leitner have been a strong partnership, with the Austrian helping Pedrosa win two world championships and 41 victories in the two classes they have been together.

The arrival of Marc Marquez into MotoGP has had a profound impact both inside and outside the Repsol Honda team. Marquez’s natural speed has forced Pedrosa and his crew to rethink their approach to the races, to try to match the pace of Pedrosa’s young teammate.

At the beginning of the season, Pedrosa complained a number of times that he felt the revised strategy taken by Leitner was not working as hoped, and that had left him unable to compete.

Though Pedrosa’s competitiveness has improved, the Spaniard being the first person to beat his teammate with victory at Brno, it has still left tension in Pedrosa’s garage. Rumors are circulating that Pedrosa would like to drop Leitner and change his crew chief.

Intrigued by the question of what exactly had changed in Pedrosa’s race strategy, we spoke to his crew chief Mike Leitner. The resulting conversation gave a fascinating insight into race strategy, and how teams approach each MotoGP race.

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP.

Leitner also talks about how the extra soft tire the Ducatis have has complicated the first part of each MotoGP race. He went on to link this to the rubber left on the track by the Moto2 race, and how that changes during the race, and can affect strategy.

What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi).

Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Yamaha Confirms Silvano Galbusera as Rossi’s New Chief

11/11/2013 @ 7:36 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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With the news that Valentino Rossi would not be continuing with Jeremy Burgess as his crew chief for the 2014 MotoGP season, rumor has been rife as to whom would replace the Australian pit boss. With today marking the first day of the Valenica MotoGP test, we finally have our answer: Silvano Galbusera.

Formerly of the BMW Motorrad WSBK effort, and Marco Melandri’s crew chief, Galbusera has worked with a number of top riders in his career, including Valentino Rossi, as the pair collaborated when Rossi tested on James Toseland’s Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike at Misano, a prelude to Rossi’s return to MotoGP after breaking his leg at Mugello.

Rossi: “He is like part of my family. My father in racing”

11/08/2013 @ 9:22 am, by David Emmett25 COMMENTS

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“It is true that next year Jerry won’t be my chief mechanic,” Rossi told the press conference. The decision had not been taken lightly, he said. “It was a very difficult decision for me because I have a great history with Jeremy. He is not just my chief mechanic. He is like part of my family. My father in racing.”

Rossi felt he had been forced to make a decision to try to make a change, to regain his competitiveness. “I’ve decided for next year I need to change something to try to find new motivation and to have a boost to improve my level, my speed. So this will be my last race together with Jeremy.”

Rossi had made the decision five days ago, he told reporters, but had waited until Valencia to tell Burgess, once he could tell him himself. “We spoke today, face to face. Next year will be crucial and I need new motivation. In the last few races I’ve felt I wanted to work in a different way. It was a difficult choice to make. Yamaha had asked me some time ago, but I decided recently.”

No decision had yet been made about a replacement, and it was unclear whether Burgess would be present at the test.

Jeremy Burgess Will Not Be Valentino Rossi’s Crew Chief for the 2014 MotoGP Season

11/07/2013 @ 9:55 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Announced at the pre-event press conference today at the Valencian GP, Valentino Rossi dropped the bombshell that he would not be having Jeremy Burgess as his crew chief for the 2014 MotoGP season. Rossi reportedly told Yamaha Racing about his decision last week, with Burgess himself learning of the news just before the press conference.

The announcement is a huge move for the nine-time World Champion, as Burgess and his team of mechanics have been an integral part to Rossi’s racing success. However, one has to wonder if Rossi’s current troubles braking on the Yamaha YZR-M1 , and his horrible two years chasing setups at Ducati Corse didn’t play a factor in his ultimate decision.

Official: Jeremy Burgess to Join Rossi at Ducati

10/20/2010 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Ever since it was confirmed that Valentino Rossi would be heading to Ducati for the 2011 & 2012 seasons, speculation began to swell about whether famed Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess would join the Italian rider at his new squad. The man behind Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, and of course Rossi, Burgess’ talents in the pit box are confirmed by the number of race victories and series championships he’s been a part of in GP racing. With many believing Rossi could not be successful on the Ducati without Burgess by his side, the Australian crew chief’s decision to follow Rossi to Ducati is an integral piece to the team’s success in the coming years, especially as Ducati prepares a new 1000cc machine for the rule changes scheduled in 2012.

With speculation rife that Burgess might stay at Yamaha (presumably to help Rookie of the Year Ben Spies), or even retire at the end of this season (Rossi said at Laguna Seca he wasn’t sure if Burgess would continue after this season), Burgess’ move to Ducati was anything but a sure thing. However this weekend at his home venue of Phillip Island and during the Australian GP, Burgess officially announced his intention to SportRider magazine that he would be following Rossi to Ducati, and continuing the pair’s successful history together.

Lorenzo’s Manager to Leave Fiat-Yamaha at the End of the Season – Honda HRC Bound?

10/22/2009 @ 11:49 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Daniele Romagnoli, Team Manager on the Lorenzo side of the Fiat-Yamaha garage, has announced that he will be leaving the factory Yamaha team at the end of the 2009 season. A born engineer, Romagnoli is looking to return to his crew-chief roots, and Honda HRC may have that answer.