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.

Opinion: On Motorcycle Racing, Danger, & Death

06/03/2016 @ 7:21 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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“MOTORSPORTS CAN BE DANGEROUS” it says on the back of my media pass, the hard card I wear around my neck and which gives me access to the paddock and the media center.

It says the same thing everywhere around the circuit: on rider passes, on the back of tickets, on signs which hang on fences around the circuit.

You see it so much that it becomes a cliché, and like all clichés it quickly loses its meaning. Until reality intervenes, and reminds us that behind every cliché lies a deep truth.

Friday brought a stark reminder. During the afternoon session of free practice for the Moto2 class, Luis Salom exited Turn 11 and got on the gas towards Turn 12.

Just before the turn, traveling at around 170 km/h, the rider caress the front brake to help the bike turn through the fast right hander of Turn 12, an engineer told me.

At that point, Salom lost control of his bike, fell off, and he and his bike headed towards the air fence which protects the wall there.

They slid across a patch of tarmac put in to help the cars if they run straight on at that corner, and Salom’s bike hit the air fence and wall, careened off the wall and into Salom, fatally injuring him.

Salom received treatment in the corner, and was then taken to a local hospital where doctors did all they could to save his life. Sadly, they could not. Luis Salom died at 4:55pm on 3rd June 2016, at the age of 24.

The 2015 Dakar Rally Claims Its First Fatality

01/07/2015 @ 12:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Isle of Man TT and the Dakar Rally are two events we cover here at Asphalt & Rubber where we know statistically we will have to report a racer’s death each year.

Unfortunately, those numbers hold true for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as Polish competitor Michal Hernik died while racing Stage 3 of the course, between San Juan and Chilecito.

Hernik’s body was found at kilometer 206, roughly 300 meters off the course’s path. Tests performed later by doctors suggest that Hernik succumbed to dehydration and hypothermia.

Bobby Goodin Has Died While Racing at Pikes Peak

06/29/2014 @ 10:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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It is with great regret that we have to report the passing of Bobby Goodin, a motorcycle racer at the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Finishing fourth in the Pikes Peak Middleweight motorcycle class, spectators say Goodin lost control of his Triumph Daytona 675R after crossing the finish line at the mountain’s summit.

According to our sources and others that witnessed the crash, Goodin’s motorcycle crash occurred where the road transitions from pavement of the race course to the dirt of the parking lot.

A very short transition from our last viewing, Goodin’s accident occurred after the 54-year-old raised him arm to celebrate finishing the 92nd running of the Race to the Clouds, and was then flung into a group of boulders down the mountain’s side.

Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racing’s Pound of Flesh

06/03/2014 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle racing is a dangerous endeavor, something we have been reminded of heavily in the past few weeks. Losing Simon Andrews in the North West 200, as well as Bob Price and Karl Harris at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the usual debates have once again surfaced, namely that motorcycle road racing should be abolished because of the toll of dangers, injuries, and fatalities it demands.

Despite death’s inevitability, the Isle of Man TT is a spectacular event, just ask anyone who has sat on a Manx hedgerow and watched these two-wheeled gladiators race past. The speeds on city streets are astounding, the atmosphere in the paddock is warm and friendly, and the Isle of Man itself is a picturesque locale that could come from some child’s storybook.

Modern media does a great job of translating the first-hand experience of the Isle of Man TT into an approachable hour-long TV format, but it still falls short of the genuine article.

Through a television set, you can’t breathe the fumes of unbridled horsepower from the racing machines, you can’t see past the riders’ determination through their helmet visors, and you don’t witness the hours of determined work, sweat, and sacrifce that occur in the paddock to get a racer to the starting line.

I would challenge any person, motorcycle enthusiast or not, to lay witness to a TT fortnight, and still walk away unimpressed with the spectacle that they have laid witness to — there is simply nothing else like it on Earth. It’s almost spiritual.

But why is it though? Scratch the surface a little deeper on the idea why the TT is so special, and you arrive at the notion that the Manx road race holds our wonderment in captivity because of how far outside the standard deviation of safety it operates — even under the skewed perspective of risk management that occurs in motorsport — and that forces us to take some major stock in our own mortality.

Cycle News Editor Henny Ray Abrams Has Died

02/28/2013 @ 7:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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More sad news in the motorcycle-journalism world today, as we learn that Cycle News Contributing Editor Henny Ray Abrams was found dead at his computer in his Brooklyn apartment, passing from apparent natural causes.

At 57 years of age, Abrams was the longest-serving journalist at Cycle News, and though he worked in virtually every paddock at one time or another, we here at Asphalt & Rubber knew him best for his time in AMA and MotoGP paddocks.

WSBK: Superpole at Phillip Island Cancelled After Tragedy

02/25/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It is our displeasure to report that Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Phillip Island was cancelled after a fatality occurred during the Australian Superstock 600 support race. In an incident very similar to the one that took Marco Simoncelli’s life last year, 17-year-old Oscar McIntyre collided with fellow ASTK racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of Saturday’s support race. Though McIntyre received immediate medical attention, he succumbed to his injuries, and event organizers eventually cancelled the Superpole sessions. The last time a World Superbike sessions was cancelled was at Donington in 1998 and due to the snow.

Accordingly, this means that Sunday’s racing grid will be determined by the best lap times from the Qualifying Practice 2 session, which puts Tom Sykes at the pole position, followed by Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. Look for a strong showing from the Kawasaki contingency on Sunday, but the smart bets are still on the Aprilia of Biaggi and the Ducati of  Checa, which have been consistently fast all week. Get excited race fans, the first race of the 2012 World Superbike Championship is about to be underway.

Some Closing Thoughts About Marco Simoncelli

10/30/2011 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

It has taken me a week to collect my thoughts and process the passing of Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider that lost his life during the MotoGP race in Malaysia. I’m not one of those journalists that can belt out some poignant thoughts on an event immediately after it happens, nor did I personally know Simoncelli well enough to offer a comprehensive anecdote on the man’s short but distinguished life. Having only met and talked to Marco briefly a few times, I cannot shed some deeper insight regarding who he was as a man, stripped away of all the pomp, prestige, and PR spin of the premier class.

I’ve heard the MotoGP paddock described as a family or village, so as one of its most recent members, this tragedy both cuts me deeply, but yet also seems like a distant and surreal event. Perhaps it will affect me more as I travel to Valencia this week, or perhaps I will continue to feel as if I am on the outside looking in at cataclysm of grief that has befallen friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Time will tell in that regard, and I’ll leave it to those masters of the pen who are better suited to the task to account for the young Italian’s life and racing career.

Instead my closing thoughts about Marco Simoncelli are a mixed commentary of life, tragedy, and where we go from here.

Marco Simoncelli 1987 – 2011

10/23/2011 @ 2:48 am, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

Marco Simoncelli has tragically died today, after crashing in a horrific accident during the second lap of the Malaysian GP. Trading corners with Rizla Suzuki rider Álvaro Bautista and battling for fourth place, Simoncelli began the race in Sepang with his usual full-of-heart riding style. Certainly a podium contender for the day, the Italian lost control of his motorcycle in Turn 11 after losing the front. Propping the bike on his knee in order to save the slide, Simoncelli heroically but unfortunately stayed upright, cut back across the track, and collided with fellow racers Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.

While Rossi rode away unhurt, and Edwards injured only his shoulder, Simoncelli suffered the brunt of the impact, and lay helmetless on the track after the incident. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff at Sepang, Simoncelli could not be resuscitated and succumb to his injuries at 4:56pm local time. Accordingly the Malaysian GP has been cancelled. Asphalt & Rubber joins the MotoGP paddock in mourning the loss of one the most beloved riders in series, and send our thoughts and prayers to Marco’s family, friends, team, and loved ones.

Ciao Marco, SuperSic forever.

Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

Claudio Castiglioni Passes Away at the Age of 64

08/17/2011 @ 9:19 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Claudio Castiglioni, President of MV Agusta, passed away this morning in Varese, Italy at the age of 64. In a statement from MV Agusta, the company says that Castiglioni succumed from an unnamed illness while attending a clinic in Varese. Over the course of his career, Castiglioni touched such esteemed brands as Ducati, Cagiva, Husqvarna, and of course MV Agusta. His most recent accomplishment was bringing MV back into Italian ownership, in an act of business acumen that saw Harley-Davidson actually pay Castiglioni €20 million to take back the recent refurbished company.

Tomizawa Death Being Investigated

09/06/2010 @ 10:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Paolo Giovagnoli, the prosecutor of Rimini, has opened a dossier of inquiry into the death of Shoya Tomizawa, the 19 year-old Moto2 rider who lost his life Sunday in a horrific crash during the San Marino GP. The inquest into Tomizawa’s death is investigating unknown persons, who may have contributed to Tomizawa’s injuries when he was hastily taken off the track via stretcher, which was subsequently dropped in the process. Tomizawa’s body will undergo a full autopsy, which could lead to manslaughter charges being drawn up against the track workers, and possibly track authorities as well.

Clinica Mobile and track officials have drawn heavy fire since the incident Sunday. At the center of the controversy was the decision not to red flag the race, and the brisk removal of the riders, bikes, and debris that occurred so the race could continue unhindered. Race officials have stood behind their decision saying that a red flag was not necessary to safely transport Tomizawa and the other riders, and in fact a red flag scenario would have delayed potentially lifesaving medical help to Tomizawa.