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

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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.

Could Jonathan Rea Really Beat MotoGP Riders on His WSBK-Spec Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R?

11/28/2016 @ 10:42 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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In a typically robust column written at the end of last week, David Miller, editor of Bikesportnews.com, suggested that the time that double World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea had set on Thursday at the combined WorldSBK and MotoGP test at Jerez had made the MotoGP bikes look a bit silly.

Rea had ended the day as the fastest rider on the day, setting a time of 1’38.721, nearly a quarter of a second faster than Alvaro Bautista, who was riding the Ducati Desmosedici GP16 at the track.

Rea had set the time on a modified version of a road bike, costing something in the region of €300,000, beating the satellite Ducatis (estimated lease price, just shy of €2 million), satellite Hondas (official lease price €2 million, actual cost to lease about 50% higher than that), and the factory Suzuki, KTM and Desmosedici GP17 (“I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to put your checkbook away, this one isn’t for sale”).

Miller draws a number of conclusions from this, some sound, some based more on hyperbole than reality.

Marco Melandri Talks About His Return to World Superbike

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

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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.

2017 World Superbike Calendar Released – Portimao Returns, While Jerez & Sepang Disappear

11/25/2016 @ 11:54 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The provisional 2017 World Superbike calendar has been released, but unlike the MotoGP calendar, which is unchanged, there are a couple of minor differences to the schedule.

The World Superbike class will contest 13 rounds, just as they did in 2016, spread across three continents. Sepang and Jerez have been dropped, and Portimao makes a comeback.

The WorldSBK calendar also sees a new class added to the series. As announced previously, the new World Supersport 300 class has been added as a cheap entry series, where young riders will take each other on aboard a wide range of the cheap, one and two cylinder sports bikes which manufacturers are currently building.

Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

11/24/2016 @ 1:06 pm, by Kent Brockman35 COMMENTS

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With MotoGP and WorldSBK sharing the track at Jerez on Wednesday, Jonathan Rea surprised the paddock by leading the way for most of the day. So, Asphalt & Rubber sought out three opinions on the differences between the MotoGP and WorldSBK bikes, from the riders who have ridden both. -JB

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. 

The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships?

Jerez Test Photos – Wednesday by Tony Goldsmith

11/24/2016 @ 12:47 pm, by Tony Goldsmith5 COMMENTS

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

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

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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.

Jerez World Superbike Test Debrief – Tuesday

11/23/2016 @ 5:01 pm, by Kent BrockmanComments Off on Jerez World Superbike Test Debrief – Tuesday

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The second day of the Jerez test dawned in similar circumstances to yesterday. With dense fog and cool temperatures, it looked as though there would be sparse action on track, but almost immediately Ondrej Jezek rolled down pitlane.

With the Grillini team only running for half of the allotted time, Jezek was keen to get out and gain some experience on a World Superbike machine.

While the Czech was spinning laps, the majority of the field was biding their time for the conditions to improve. While yesterday the KRT riders stayed in the pits all day they did get some wet weather running today.

Jerez Test WSBK Photos – Monday by Steve English

11/22/2016 @ 9:29 am, by Steve English4 COMMENTS

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World Superbike commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast regular, Steve English, is at the Jerez test right now, watching the World Superbike and MotoGP teams who are using the Spanish venue for post-season testing, before the winter test ban sets in.

Being the good lad that he is, Steve sent us some photos from Jerez to share with the Asphalt & Rubber readership. Many thanks to Steve, and we hope you enjoy them! -JB

Jerez World Superbike Test Debrief – Monday

11/22/2016 @ 12:41 am, by Kent Brockman2 COMMENTS

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Come to Spain they said, the weather will be great they said…There are typically only a handful of valuable winter testing venues. Jerez in the south of Spain is one of the most popular.

Usually the winter sun provides almost perfect conditions for World Superbike teams to undertake their off-season programs. The weather was not co-operating today, and there was limited mileage for all of the runners.

The test did however offer the first glimpses of the Milwaukee Aprilia. Their partnership has been one of the biggest off-season talking points, and while Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty were unable to complete a lot of miles, they were at least able to start their tenure with the team.