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.”

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 9: This Is What Hell Looks Like

01/12/2016 @ 11:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Stage 9 of the 2016 Dakar Rally proved to be a hellish one, which ultimately saw race officials shortening the day’s route, even though some riders had completed the full-stage distance. The course shortening came about because temperatures reached 113°F (45°C), leaving the ASO no choice but to end Stage 9 at the second checkpoint.

From CP2, riders were sent straight to their bivouac, where they began their second marathon stage. As such, they will not have the benefit of their team mechanics to make adjustments and repairs to their machines for Stage 10.

This fact could be very significant for HRC, since their day was especially difficult, as Paulo Gonçalves suffered a punctured radiator, and lost significant time to KTM’s Toby Price.

The good news for HRC is that Paolo Ceci was able to tow Gonçalves’s bike to CP2, which meant he finished the stage because of the shortened course. The bad news though is that Gonçalves’s engine seized from a lack of cooling, and will require significant work before tomorrow’s start.

With the marathon stage, Gonçalves will have to rely on his teammates to help him repair the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike. Honda says it is far from throwing in the towel on the situation, though they have a difficult road ahead of them.

Despite this attitude, the 2016 Dakar Rally is essentially now Price’s to lose, with only a couple more days of solid racing remaining.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 8: KTM Takes Over from HRC

01/12/2016 @ 1:00 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

30 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier (fra) YAMAHA action during the Dakar 2016 Argentina, Bolivia, Etape 8 / Stage 8, Salta - Belen, from January 11, 2016 - Photo Frederic Le Floc'h / DPPI

With a full day’s rest under the belts, after Sunday’s day off, the competitors of the 2016 Dakar Rally once again had to go back to work. Tackling the difficult and taxing route ahead of them in Argentina, Stage 8 showed that the true Dakar Rally starts now.

With two special stages divided by a neutralization zone, there were plenty of opportunities to make time and to lose it. For Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves, it was the latter. The overall race leader crashed hard, and lost time in the process.

For KTM’s Toby Price though, it was the prior. Price will start tomorrow’s stage knowing that he has two-minute advantage over Gonçalves. As is the often the case with the iconic race, the 2016 Dakar Rally is far from over.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Halfway Point

01/10/2016 @ 12:29 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Stage 7 of the 2016 Dakar Rally was another long one, with 793km in total on the route and 353km on the special. With more trecherous weather, not all of the motorbike competitors crossed the finish line, with some turning back at their discretion, with the blessing of Race Control. The special stage was also trimmed, leaving out the second checkpoint.

The day’s results mark the halfway point of the Dakar Rally thus far, with Sunday serving as a much needed day off for the riders.

Despite the long and technical route, not much has changed overall in the standings. With Antoine Meo winning the stage, and Kevin Benavides finishing second, Paulo Gonçalves got some breathing room on his overall lead position, with his third place finish on Stage 7.

His closest competitor, KTM’s Toby Price, finished the day 5th quickest, and is now over three minutes behind Gonçalves.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 6: A Battle of Attrition

01/09/2016 @ 3:10 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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With the marathon stage behind them, the riders took to the long loop around Uyuni today. Stage 6 of the 2016 Dakar Rally brought in more navigational challenges, not to mention a staggering 540km time special.

With over 700km on the day, and a peak altitude of 15,000 feet, this is where the Dakar Rally starts earning its reputation as being the most grueling motorsport on the planet.

The first to show weakness on the day was Joan Barreda, whose Honda CRF450 Rally suffered some sort of mechanical problem, and had to be towed to the finish line by HRC teammate Paolo Ceci. Barreda lost four hours because of the technical setback, which effectively ends his Dakar.

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

joan-barreda-2016-dakar-rally-hrc

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.

Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Members Announced

11/23/2015 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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We already knew that Husqvarna would be entering the competitive world of rally raid racing, but now the Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team has finally announced its team members.

Headlining the Husqvarna team is Ruben Faria, the Portuguese rider a familiar name for anyone who has been following rally raid racing or the Dakar Rally. Faria will be joined by two-time Enduro World Champion Pierre-Alexandre Renet from France, and Dakar stage-winner Pablo Quintanilla of Chile.

The team doesn’t have long before the 2016 Dakar Rally, but Husqvarna hopes for a podium result at the iconic race. The team will campaign on the Husqvarna FR450, which we assume will closely resemble the KTM 450 Rally.