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.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Rest Day

01/10/2015 @ 4:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Saturday is a rest day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, giving riders and teams a chance to catch their breath, tune their bikes, and hone the strategies for the next eight stages, one of which is a marathon stage, where the teams cannot help the riders work on their bikes.

For KTM and Marc Coma, the day will be spent trying to figure out how to shake Joan Barreda from the four-time Dakar winner. For HRC and Barreda, the game is simple, cover Coma’s every action and don’t let him eat into the 12-minute gap that the Spaniard has built with his hard riding.

Meanwhile, Yamaha Racing’s Alessandro Botturi has been waiving the banner for the blue and white contingency, which has otherwise had an abysmal Dakar Rally without Cyril Despres in its ranks — Despres is racing this year in the car category. Botturi is 11th overall, having made up some serious time during the shake up on Stage 6.

Other rankings notables are Laia Sanz in 14th, the top female racer in the 2015 Dakar Rally. Alain Duclos of France is the top Sherco rider, which this year has partnered with TVS making the Sherco/TVS team.

With a lot of Dakar still to race, expect these standings to still move around. After the jump is the full listing of all 110 bike entries to The Dakar.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 6: A Shuffling of Things

01/10/2015 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Stage 6 of the 2015 Dakar Rally saw the riders head into Iquique, and while the course was fairly straight-forward, a navigational error at the front of the pack caused a shuffling in the stage’s finishing order.

Though first out of the gate, Marc Coma finished the day 7th, after crashing in the early parts of the stage. He was quickly caught by Joan Barreda, whose strategies seems to be sticking close to Coma at all costs, minimizing the KTM rider’s ability to gain time on his Honda rival.

This left HRC’s Helder Rodrigues who took the stage win, planting another flag for Honda in this year’s Dakar. The Japanese manufacturer is proving to be a serious contender in the Dakar Rally, and could upset KTM’s dominance of the rally raid event.

“I started out from behind, but I caught up with the riders who were opening the road. They were very quick, but I also had the speed to catch them,” said Rodrigues. “I’m pleased with the way it turned out and was very calm until the end. It’s rest-day tomorrow, which we really need, to get the energy back and plan next the second week as well as possible. I want to keep attacking and claw back a bit of time in the overall standings.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 5: Coma Takes First Stage Win

01/09/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Marc Coma has finally chalked up his first stage win of the 2015 Dakar Rally, gaining back several minutes from the overall leader Joan Barreda.

With 10 minutes still between the two top riders from HRC and KTM, it seems Barreda is content to manage the gap, as he let Coma lead Stage 5 and followed the Spaniards tracks and navigation decisions in the difficult fesh-fesh minefield that is the Atacama Desert.

“I am happy about the stage win but the fact is that Joan enjoys a significant advantage and we will try to trim it,” said Coma. There is still a lot of race left. The second part (of the rally) is longer with the marathon stages and it will be a fight every day. We are going in the right direction and we will keep fighting.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Barreda Answers

01/08/2015 @ 12:08 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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After Yesterday’s fateful round, the 2015 Dakar Rally was back in action today with Stage 4, Chilecito to Copiapo. The stage would lead the riders out of Argentina and into Chile, for the first time this rally raid.

A mixture of sand dunes, rocks, and high elevation, the day was the second longest overall (909km), but featured only a 315km timed special stage.

Answering yesterday’s KTM 1-2 victory, Honda’s Joan Barreda set out to maintain is top spot in The Dakar standings, though would have to contend with KTM’s Marc Coma, who stuck to him like glue once the two were riding together.

While Barreda’s lead over Coma was increased by a couple of minutes, Coma’s spot on the overall time sheets is now second, and well within striking distance of the HRC rider — especially with two marathon stages left to contend with.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: KTM Responds

01/06/2015 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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In response to a difficult Stage 2, Dakar officials shortened Stage 3 of the 2015 Dakar Rally, but the picturesque course was still enough to shake up the standings a bit. Winning the stage was Dakar newcomer, MX3 World Champion Matthias Walkner — the first Austrian rider in The Dakar since the 1990’s.

“I already had a good feeling when I got to the finish because I knew I had a good day. But at the end I was a bit tired and wasn’t concentrating so well and I made some small mistakes,” explained stage-winner Walkner.

“It is an amazing feeling to win the stage and for sure I didn’t expect this. It will be difficult to open the piste tomorrow. Now for the rest of the rally I just want to enjoy every kilometer, to learn and to stay focused on the road book so I don’t make many mistakes.”

A Factory KTM rider, Walkner added some orange to the stage podium, and was joined by KTM’s Marc Coma, who finished second for the day, 40 seconds behind his teammate. Managing the gap though, Honda’s Joan Barreda finished the day third, only a minute and change behind Walkner.

As such, Barreda stays in control of the overall standings, but Coma is within a comfortable 11-minute gap of the HRC rider.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Thinning the Herd

01/05/2015 @ 11:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Hosting the second longest special stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally (518 miles), Stage 2 between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan was especially grueling because of the added heat; and as such, The Dakar has already started to separate the top riders.

To that end, the HRC riders find themselves weighed and measured at the top, thus far. Joan Barreda rode to a solid stage win, and finishes the day with over a four-minute interval to his closest competitor.

“In the end we set off with a game-plan to not make any mistakes and arrive safely at the finish-line,” said Barreda. “The result has been amazing. In the first part, Sunderland and Coma pushed really hard and I overtook Paulo to try and stop them running away with the stage.

“In the end, it was more about survival than anything else. We had to measure the pace and keep focused on the navigation as there were some extremely tricky spots, plus another stretch towards the end, that really put a strain on the body,” he continued.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 1: And They’re Off!

01/05/2015 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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The first stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally started from Buenos Aires this weekend; and as usual, the day was a relatively easy affair that allowed riders to check their machines and get into the groove of what will be a grueling competition.

As such, a 144km liaison ride was made through the Argentinean countryside before the competitors reached the 175km timed “special” stage. Another long (519km) liaison section ended the day, and everyone bivouacked in Villa Carlos Paz.

Because of the short special stage, the riders are packed close on the standing, with less than six minutes separating the Top 20 riders. KTM’s Sam Sunderland drew first blood with the stage win, with teammate Marc Coma 1’12 behind in third.

KTM 450 Rally Production Racer Now Available

02/21/2014 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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KTM has won the last 13 runnings of The Dakar, and to get that thirteenth win for 2014, the Austrians went back to the drawing board, designing and building an all-new 450cc rally racer.

With the previous KTM 450 Rally being essentially the 690cc machine, with a 450cc motor wedged into it, the 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike was able to make great strides over its venerable, though compromised, predecessor.

The proof in the pudding was Marc Coma claiming his fourth Dakar win, and soldifying KTM’s position against an increasingly more competitive field, which sees both Honda and Yamaha elevating their game.

With the factory team signing off on the design, the Austrians are is now making the KTM 450 Rally available to privateers, with the KTM 450 Rally Production Racer now available for purchase.

Marc Coma Takes His Fourth Career Dakar Rally Victory

01/19/2014 @ 12:03 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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The 2014 Dakar Rally is finally done, after two weeks of hard racing across Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Despite a slow start to this year’s Dakar, KTM’s Marc Coma took his fourth career win of the iconic rally raid race, aboard KTM’s all new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Finishing almost two hours clear of his nearest competitor, teammate Jordi Viladoms, Coma took the lead on Stage Five and never looked back. The Spaniard’s fourth Dakar win came primarily from consistent riding, which saw Coma slowly rise in the rankings as Despres and Barreda made mistakes and encountered technical difficulties with their machinery.

“Without the right people behind me it would have been impossible to win,” said Coma. “We have worked very well throughout the race and also before. Last year I went through a very difficult situation not being able to compete because of injury and I came back to win the race. I think this says a lot about the people I have around me. I am very proud of this victory. What was key to winning the Dakar was not to make any mistakes.”

Marc Coma dedicated his win to his late teammate Kurt Caselli, who tragically died during the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000. Caselli filled in for Coma in the 2013 rally, earning himself great praise for his assention in the ranks, and two stage wins. Coma’s victory is a fitting tribute to the American rider.

Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda

01/18/2014 @ 10:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda

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The final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Stage Thirteen was a formality for most, but proved was still another day in the office for these riders as they tackled the 157 km special. Cyril Despres was quickest across the line, but the Frenchman was caught speeding in the liaison stage, and suffered a 15 minute penalty because of it. The error tossed Despres back to fifth for the day, leaving HRC’s Joan Barreda to win his fifth stage in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Barreda would surely have been a podium finisher this year, and possible rally winner, had he not suffered a catastrophic electrical problem on Stage Twelve. Surely disappointed with his result, the Spaniard can take solice in proving the competitiveness of HRC’s Honda CRF450 Rally package.

“Today is the last day of the Dakar. For us it feels tough because I lost a lot of time with a problem after a fall at kilometer 200,” said Borreda. “But today I was back in the saddle like a pro, and I did a really good job in the special. In the end it wasn’t the result that we were working for in the Dakar. Well, now it’s time to go home and try to get to grips with what happened, how and where we went wrong and see how we can sort them out for next year.”