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.

Eugene Laverty Explains His Return to Aprilia & WSBK

12/02/2016 @ 12:34 pm, by Kent Brockman3 COMMENTS

world-superbike-motogp-jerez-test-tony-goldsmith-wednesday-17

The Jerez Test was hardly the first day at school for either Eugene Laverty or Lorenzo Savadori, but while the bike was similar, it was new surroundings for both riders.

With the Shaun Muir Racing squad switching to an Aprilia steed in 2017, the opening day of the Jerez test was the team’s first experience of the Italian bike.

Both Laverty and Savadori have plenty of experience on the RSV4, the Irishman was a title contender on the bike, and Savadori raced it this year, and that certainly helped both throughout the day.

For SMR however, it was all change, having used BMW S1000RRs during their debut WorldSBK season. For team boss, Shaun Muir, it was clearly an important day for the British squad.

Marco Melandri Talks About His Return to World Superbike

11/27/2016 @ 10:46 am, by Kent Brockman10 COMMENTS

marco-melandri-ducati-corse-wsbk-jerez-test-02

The return of Marco Melandri to World Superbike in 2017 has been one of the biggest talking points in the series over the last few months. The Italian has won 19 races, from 100 starts, in the championship, and as a former 250GP World Champion, and 22-times Grand Prix winner, his credentials are highly impressive.

The last two years have been a blot on the copybook, however. Having enjoyed an exceptionally strong finish to the 2014 WorldSBK season, Melandri looked well placed to finally win a second world title.

Winning six races and finishing fourth in the standings looked to be a perfect springboard for a title run the following year, but Aprilia had other ideas and with Melandri, and the Italian was forced to race in MotoGP. The relationship then turned sour.

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

11/23/2016 @ 5:36 pm, by Kent Brockman6 COMMENTS

world-superbike-motogp-jerez-test-tony-goldsmith-wednesday-04

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it.

Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, 39 victories from 76 races, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements.

The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, and the Italian manufacturer’s renaissance over the last 12 months has made it the early favorite for title success in 2017.

New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Q&A: Dani Pedrosa – Media & Changes from 990/800/1000

11/09/2016 @ 10:17 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

MotoGP-2016-Brno-Rnd-11-Tony-Goldsmith-1450

Dani Pedrosa is in his eleventh season in MotoGP. Throughout that period, he has seen many changes in the premier class. He raced in the last year of the 990s, then throughout the 800 era, and saw the return of the 1000cc machines.

Only Valentino Rossi has been in MotoGP for longer, or raced, and won on, a greater variety of machines.

Pedrosa arrived in MotoGP being heralded as the next big thing, the prime candidate to challenge Valentino Rossi for the title. He started strongly, winning races in his first season, and clearly being competitive.

But the focus would shift in his second year to his former 250cc rival Casey Stoner, who took the factory Ducati ride and blew the competition out of the water in 2007.

In 2008, Jorge Lorenzo came to strengthen the top of MotoGP, creating the narrative of the four MotoGP Aliens. When Stoner hung up his helmet at the end of 2012, Marc Márquez stepped into his boots and upped the level of competition even further.

The level of competition Pedrosa has faced has meant he has not received the recognition he deserves for his incredible record. In eleven seasons, Pedrosa has won 29 races in MotoGP, putting him in 8th place on the all time winners list.

His win at Misano, after a very difficult start to the season, laid any doubts to rest over his motivation, and his ability. Pedrosa remains capable of winning any race he lines up on the grid for.

I spoke to Pedrosa at Misano, intending to look back at his time in MotoGP, and to discuss how things had changed. But the conversation took a slightly different tack than I was expecting.

In our conversation, Pedrosa talked about his relationship with the press, and how that had colored his time in the class.

Pedrosa has not always been the most talkative of riders – questions are sometimes answered with a tiny nod or shake of the head, where another rider might explain in great detail – but when he does talk, it is always worth listening carefully.

Leon Camier – “To Be on the Podium Would Be Perfect”

10/18/2016 @ 6:08 pm, by Kent Brockman1 COMMENT

leon-camier-donington-park-world-superbike

Which rider has exceeded pre-season expectations the most in the 2016 WorldSBK season? For many inside the paddock, Leon Camier is the most popular and obvious response.

Coming into the season there was little expected of the Italian manufacturer, but eight Top 6 finishes mean it is easy to see why Camier’s performances are being hailed.

The fortunes of MV Agusta in 2016 have surpassed expectations to such a degree that there is now the expectation rather than hope of podium finishes.

“I think a lot of our improvement this year comes down to personnel,” said Camier, after the Jerez round of the championship. “Mainly it comes down to just having a little bit more structure in the team, so they can get the changes done they needed to get done.”

“The team is now more streamlined and Andrea Quadranti is the one boss. We brought in some extra staff, and that has helped, but we knew last year what we needed to change with the bike, and we’ve been able to make those changes this year.”

Having announced his decision to re-sign with the team for a third season, the changes made to the team and the improvement to the bike mean that he is well-placed to finally give the manufacturer their maiden podium finish.

Lin Jarvis on Lorenzo – “It’s Business, Not Charity”

10/14/2016 @ 5:33 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

twin-ring-motegi-2016-jorge-lorenzo-esses-scott-jones

Ever since we found out that Yamaha was only going to release Jorge Lorenzo from his contract to test at Valencia after the last race, but not at a private test at Jerez a week later, there has been much speculation as to the cause.

Had growing friction between the factory and Lorenzo led Yamaha to block the test? Was Yamaha afraid of just how competitive Lorenzo would be on the Ducati? Or, as the more conspiratorially inclined would have it, was this the invisible hand of Valentino Rossi at work?

The massed media had to wait until Motegi to find out. In the pre-event press conference, Jorge Lorenzo acknowledged that Yamaha had told him that the Jerez test was off the cards.

“Well, obviously I would like to make the Jerez test, but it is not a thing that depends on myself. For the moment, looks like I will test in Valencia. Looks like for Jerez, Yamaha is not so keen to permit that.” Lorenzo felt disappointed by the decision.

“I think that for the years we’ve spent together, and for the things we’ve won together, I deserve it. But obviously it doesn’t depend on myself and I will respect whatever decision Yamaha will make, because I am a Yamaha rider.”

Due to the large number of journalists asking to speak to Lin Jarvis to get his side of the story, Yamaha convened a press conference to allow the assembled media to ask questions.

In the space of half an hour, the Yamaha Motor Racing boss laid out in clear terms why the decision had been made. It was a masterclass in the underlying truth of MotoGP: this is a business, with millions of dollars involved, and a tangled web of interest beyond just Yamaha.

Yamaha has a duty to its shareholders and its sponsors to hold Lorenzo to the contract they both signed. Helping Lorenzo to try to beat Yamaha on a Ducati would be to fail their sponsors and Yamaha’s corporate interests.

Q&A: Michelin’s Nicolas Gouber – On MotoGP Tire Technology & Michelin’s Development Direction

10/10/2016 @ 2:27 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

nicolas-goubert-michelin-motogp

Three quarters of the way through their first season back in MotoGP, and their first as a spec tire supplier, Michelin took the unique decision to start holding regular debriefs for the media at each race.

Aragon was the first of such debriefs, and was therefore a lengthy affair. In it, Michelin’s Racing Technical Director, faced some very broad-ranging questions about the development of the French firm’s tires throughout the season.

But he also covered more general questions, such as the R&D and marketing benefits of going racing, the direction Michelin are following, and how they are trying to accommodate of so many different riders.

Goubert offered a fascinating insight into where Michelin stands at the moment, and how they intend to move forward.

Safe or Unsafe? Riders & Michelin Talk Tires at Brno

08/24/2016 @ 11:18 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

MotoGP-2016-Brno-Rnd-11-Tony-Goldsmith-1120

The tire degradation during the MotoGP race at Brno was still a hot topic on the test on Monday, after so many riders suffered problems during the race on Sunday.

We asked most of the riders who tested on Monday what they felt about the tires, and whether they were safe. We also spoke to Nicolas Goubert, Michelin’s technical director, and he explained why he felt that some riders had suffered problems, while others had been able to finish the race.

The comments below are offered without any further commentary. I do not wish to cloud the judgment of those reading the comments by first setting out my own theory of what happened. The comments stand on their own, and should be read as such.

Q&A: KTM On-Road Technical Director Sebastian Risse – The Development of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Bike

08/16/2016 @ 12:29 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Sebastian-Risse-KTM-On-Road-Technical-Director

Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008.

He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class.

Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike.

That machine has both interesting parallels and major differences with the other machines on the MotoGP grid: the bike uses a 1,000cc, 90°, V4 engine housed in a tubular steel trellis frame, and a fairing that looks like an oversize version of the Moto3 bike’s, and sits somewhere between the Honda RC213V and Kalex Moto2 designs.

The bike will also use WP suspension, though as WP is a wholly owned subsidiary of KTM, it will basically be a dedicated factory suspension effort.

After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.

Q&A: Jonathan Rea – The WSBK Season, So Far

07/25/2016 @ 12:45 pm, by Kent Brockman4 COMMENTS

WSBK-2016-Laguna-Seca-Jonathan-Rea-track

Our man Kent Brockman (possibly his real name), sat down with Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea, to ask him how his World Superbike season is going so far.

Rea gives an account of his season, what’s been going on inside the Kawasaki Racing Team. He talks not only about the development of the current model Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R race bike, but also about himself as a racer.

The interview is a frank and detailed insight to one of the fastest riders in the World Superbike Championship right now, and sheds a great deal about who Jonathan Rea actually is. We think you will find the interview extremely interesting. -JB