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.”

Marc Coma Retires from Racing…Sort Of

07/02/2015 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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When Marc Coma hinted at a return to the Dakar Rally for 2016, everyone assumed it would be on a bike and with KTM. The famous Spanish rally-raid racer has other plans now, announcing his retirement from the sport, and also that he will begin working as a Sporting Director for the Dakar Rally.

This makes the announcement a double-shock, one because we expected to see Coma vying for his sixth Dakar Rally win, and two because it was expected that when he did stop racing motorbikes, he would follow the path by many competitors, and race in the four-wheel classes.

Marc Coma Hints at 2016 Dakar Rally with KTM

02/09/2015 @ 12:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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On Instagram, Marc Coma has seemingly confirmed his participation in the 2016 Dakar Rally with KTM, as Spaniard wrote the following on his official account:

“Today we have concluded the annual meeting at the headquarters of KTM in Mattighofen. Starting today, we set to work to defend the titles in the World Rally raid and the Dakar. I am thrilled with the decision and I feel energized to tackle our next challenge with KTM. #GasAlaBurra !!”

The news effectively puts the kibosh on rumors that Coma would follow rival Cyril Despres into the four-wheel category, as Stéphane Peterhansel had done before the both of them.

Marc Coma Wins His Fifth Dakar Rally

01/17/2015 @ 3:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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It was a close-fought rally-raid, but Marc Coma was the victor in the 2015 Dakar Rally, his fifth time winning the iconic race. With this, he ties rival Cyril Despres in wins, and is one victory away from tying Stéphane Peterhansel’s outright tally.

For KTM, its the company’s 14th straight Dakar win, showing the dominance of the Austrian brand. But, with factory entries from Honda and Yamaha appearing now, in strength, each year is getting more and more difficult for KTM.

As such, Coma saw tough competition from HRC’s Joan Barreda, who won the most stages in this edition of The Dakar. Paulo Goncalves was also a tough competitor. Had it not been for some crashes and penalties, things might have been different — but that is how The Dakar goes, and it’s no small accident that KTM and Coma have been so strong in this rally-raid.

While Marc and his teammates are surely celebrating in Buenos Aires right now, we’ve got a bevy of photos from the Spaniard’s 2015 Dakar Rally race. Enjoy!

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Coma Triumphs

01/17/2015 @ 2:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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With only 174 km planned for today’s special, Stage 13 was always known to be a short affair. However, with heavy rain hitting the course, the timed section was cut short, stopping at the second checkpoint (roughly 100km in), making today’s timed ride less than an hour long.

Team Orange came out in force for the last stage, with Jakes, Svitko, and Price taking the top three slots away from the Honda riders.

Paulo Goncalves tried his best to shorten the distance, and was the first HRC rider across the line, only a minute behind the leaders, but Coma’s lead was too much to overcome.

However, it is worth noting that the 2015 Dakar Rally would have been much closer had the Portuguese rider not encountered 17 minutes of penalties the past two weeks. He finished second overall.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: And Then There Was One

01/16/2015 @ 11:53 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: And Then There Was One

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The penultimate round of the 2015 Dakar Rally, Stage 12 is really the last chance for the riders to shuffle around in the standings, as Saturday’s closing stage has only a 174 km time special stage, and thus won’t give many opportunity.

As such, Stage 12 saw Marc Coma managing his pace, so as not to stress his KTM 450 Rally race bike, but yet keep HRC’s Paulo Goncalves at bay.

This left KTM-support rider Toby Price to win the stage. The Australian is used to desert racing, is racing his second rally-raid, and this is his first ride as a KTM-supported rider. Price has certainly been impressing the Austrians, as he sits a comfortable third in the overall rankings after today.

“At this stage everything is just feeling good. We’re enjoying it, so it’s been a good experience. There have been a lot of highs and lows and good learning curves as well as a few mistakes, but we’re trying to fix them as best as we can and get to the finishing line,” said Price.

“Hopefully, that will happen tomorrow. I always knew it was going to be difficult, but you don’t know until you actually come here and have a go. Then you find out how hard it really is.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 11: HRC Penalties Aid Marc Coma

01/15/2015 @ 5:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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The second half of the second marathon stage, Stage 11 saw a strong performance from the factory Honda riders, and rightly so. After a three-way engine swap by the riders, Salta saw Barreda, Goncalves, and Isreal working until 2am, and suffering time penalties because of their actions.

So while Joan Barreda claimed another stage-victory, with Paulo Goncalves finishing closely behind him, the reality is that Marc Coma’s lead over his HRC rivals has been lengthened to 21 minutes, with only two more stages of racing to go.

“Yesterday we had to change Paulo’s engine with mine, which was fresher, and I had to put Jeremías’ one in. We were working until two in the morning and we only rested for a couple of hours,” explained Barreda. “Everything went well and I was able to win. We have proved that we can win not only stages, but also the whole race. Right now, the main priority is a win for the team.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Coma Adds to His Lead

01/14/2015 @ 7:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Coma Adds to His Lead

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The 2015 Dakar Rally headed back into Argentina today, as Stage 10 took riders out of Calama and into Salta. Stage 10 is the start of another marathon stage, meaning only the riders will be able to work on their machines tonight and tomorrow, until the end of the riding of Stage 11.

While the first marathon stage likely helped determine this year’s winner, the second marathon stage seems to be less of an affair. KTM’s Marc Coma sits with a seven-and-a-half-minute lead over HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. Goncalves finished 5th today, to Coma’s second, roughly two-minutes behind the overall leader.

“It’s been a tough Dakar. We have to fight many adverse situations but after so many days and despite the suffering, I am still enjoying it. That is what is great about this race. It makes you confront your limits and when you think you can’t do any more, you face them and move on,” said Coma.

“Today’s stage was very hard and it was not easy to keep up a high pace. At first there was the altitude, and then a technical part that really tested us. I tried to keep up the same pace throughout the stage.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 9: Honda Continues the Fight

01/13/2015 @ 7:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The last day in Bolivia, Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally was back to business for this weary bunch of competitors. Though the miles are counting down, the terrain isn’t getting any easier, and it’s starting to separate the field.

We’ve already seen the grueling course claim HRC’s Joan Barreda, perhaps dashing Honda’s best hopes of unseating KTM’s dominace of the iconic rally raid race. But HRC responded in-kind on Stage 9, taking four of the Top 5 spots…that lone remaining spot being Marc Coma’s.

While the factory KTM rider may not have much help on the time sheets from his teammates, KTMs well-run racing machine has kept the Spaniard out of trouble.

“It was foggy at the start of the special and I made one small navigation mistake and I lost some time there, but then I tried to push with a high rhythm to come back to my position,” said Coma. “The last part was also tricky navigation and it was difficult to find one of the waypoints. I am lucky because maybe I am faster than some of the others and I can push until the end. It’s okay. It was a good day for us.”

Coma now only has a five-and-a-half-minute lead, ahead of HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. The fellow Portuguese rider has shown fine form over The Dakar, and is perhaps HRC’s best hope of an overall win.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Coma Takes Overall Lead

01/12/2015 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Stage 8 proved to be a big day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as the riders had to compete on machines that they alone could only work on the day before, as Monday was the riding portion of yesterday’s start to the first marathon stage.

This added challenge by the race organizers likely decided the outcome of this year’s rally, as it left HRC’s Joan Barreda to work on his broken Honda CRF450 Rally without the aid of his mechanics. Losing a monumental amount of time on Stage 8, after suffering electrical issues — Barreda saw an unfitting end to his well fought Dakar Rally.

Those issues can surely be attributed to the wet weather and the Uyuni salt lake that the competitors had to cross, which made for a slurry of salt water and mud. Ultimately the stage would be cut short at the 378 km marker, because of weather, with little complaint from the competitors.

“In the end it’s been collateral damage, and a disgrace what they’ve made us do today; to race in a sea. It was out of place. All the work on all the projects that we’ve done has gone down the pan,” said a disappointed Barreda. “To make a decision like that just wasn’t right. Today you couldn’t see a thing; visibility was zero. We were floating around on top of the water. They ordered us to start and this is what happened; my Dakar is over.’

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Coma Halves Time to Barreda

01/12/2015 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Fresh off their rest day on Saturday, the 2015 Dakar Rally competitors were back to work on Sunday for Stage 7. A difficult round on the road, riders had to contend with 11,000+ feet in elevation, rain, and snow — all while crossing into Bolivia.

The big news from Stage 7 was Marc Coma halving the difference to Joan Barreda, mainly as a result of the HRC rider breaking his handlebar in two, after a crash during the time special section. The factory KTM rider now trails Barreda by only 6 minutes, and more importantly will have a significant gap on the course from his rival, on Stage 8.

“It was a tough stage where you had to be careful, but when I came to a muddy section around kilometre 200, while I was breaking before a danger marked on the road book, the bike slid and I crashed,” explained Barreda.

“The handlebars were damaged, so I had to do the last 120 kilometres just with the right hand. I was pushing hard to lose a minimum of time, but that was not easy. We are now at the marathon stage, we are a great team and we will solve the problem with my teammates.”

Barreda finished the day 10th on the stage, while Coma crossed the line in second, in a close pack with stage winner HRC’s Paulo Goncalves and fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner, who finished third and continues to impress.

As if the route of The Dakar wasn’t hard enough, riders will not have the support of their teams at the end of the stage, as Stage 7 is the start of the first marathon stage for the motorbikes.

The timing of the marathon stage and Barreda’s crash could be fortuitous for Coma, but HRC has proven itself ready for this year’s Dakar, winning the lion’s share of the stages.