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.

Are You The Ducati Monster 1200?

10/07/2013 @ 1:01 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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At the German Auto Show, the Boys from Bologna debuted the Ducati 899 Panigale, a “super-mid” version of the Italian company’s superbike platform. A bit too big to be a supersport class machine, the 899 Panigale should however be fun on the track, in a vein that is similar to the Suzuki GSX-R750 and MV Agusta F3 800.

That premise will have to remain as conjecture for us though, as while Ducati’s chosen few are currently gathered in Bologna right now for the press launch of the 2013 Ducati 899 Panigale, Asphalt & Rubber was not among those who crossed the pond for the launch and test ride. Not to worry though, we should start hearing the initial impressions from journalists shortly.

Meanwhile, we can turn our attention to the machines that Ducati has yet to debut to the public, though will be shortly. A&R broke the news last week about the upcoming Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera, and we have already seen spy photos of the Ducati Scrambler (said to be a 2015 model, if it gets the production nod), and a liquid-cooled Ducati Monster 1200.

Spy Shots: A New Water-Cooled 1198cc Ducati Monster?

06/26/2013 @ 7:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Oh the ever *cough* elusive motorcycle spy photo, how we love to hate thee. No brand has been a greater “victim” of its pre-production motorcycle being caught by eagle-eyed photographers than Ducati, so it should come as no surprise then that first machine on the pre-EICMA buzz machine should be one from the Bologna brand — though cynicism, it is an interesting machine that has been spied.

Having the clear lines of the Ducati Monster line, our subject today has the curious oddity of being equipped with what appears to be a water-cooled Testastretta 11° motor, which is fitted with an exhaust that looks suspiciously like the lump found in the Ducati Diavel.

If the interwebs are correct, and this new Monster is indeed a 1198cc beast, then that means that we likely have a modern take on the Ducati Monster S4 on our hands, which should good for 150 hp of street terror.

Superlatively “The World’s Most Awesome Road Race”

06/25/2013 @ 6:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Monster Energy doesn’t really have a reputation for being understated, so we should probably cut them some slack when “The World’s Most Awesome Road Race” is the title of the their four-and-half-minute tribute to the Isle of Man TT. After all if you have seen TT in person, you will probably agree with Monster’s assessment. As the kids say, it’s cray.

The title sponsor for the two Supersport races, and the personal sponsor to a number of riders, namely the King himself John McGuinness, Monster Energy is a great supporter of this iconic road race, and has been doing its part to help cross-polinate athletes with the Manx race, so it’s good to see them promoting the sport even further with videos like this.

If you are like us and going through a bit of Isle of Man TT withdrawal, here is a little something more to help you ease those pangs. A video of the “most awesome” road race is after the jump.

Valentino Rossi Takes a NASCAR Test Drive

04/23/2013 @ 11:31 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Any loyal Valentino Rossi fan knows that The Doctor is an avid four-wheel driver. Testing everything from Rally to Formula 1, many think that Rossi will go to the four-wheel world after his time in the two-wheeled world is done. Which series that could be is up for contention (we very much doubt it will be in the Australia V8 cars though), though the name NASCAR might have to be added to the list.

Fresh off Sunday’s Grand Prix of the Americas, Monster Energy gave Rossi a chance to lap with Kyle Busch’s 650hp Toyota race car at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Though Rossi started out slow, he ultimately set some impressive numbers (what would have been a Top 15 in the Nationwide Series practice at Charlotte). Of course, it helps when you have the one of the most successful NASCAR drivers in the series giving you track notes and talking in your ear over the radio.

This is Not Rossi’s New Yamaha MotoGP Livery

01/14/2013 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The great winter depression is nearly over for MotoGP fans, as tomorrow Ducati Corse will debut its 2013 team(s) for the premier class, and soon enough we will see similar events from Honda and Yamaha as well. In February, the boys with their bikes will be back on the track, as the pre-season tests at Sepang again give us our first glimpse at the teams’ progress over the off-season.

Of course, the anticipation doesn’t stop some. Take graphic designer and DeviantArtist Samuel from Italy, he spent the long-winter months photoshopping together what many Rossi fans have been speculating about: the nine-time World Champion’s new livery now that Monster is sponsoring the Yamaha Racing MotoGP team.

Official: Monster to Sponsor Yamaha Factory MotoGP Team

01/08/2013 @ 11:00 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Monster Energy has agreed to a two-year partnership deal with Yamaha Factory Racing, which will see the Monster brand act as sponsor to Yamaha’s MotoGP team. The announcement had been widely anticipated, and reported on here prior to Christmas, and extends Monster’s participation in MotoGP, where they go head-to-head with the other energy drink giant, Red Bull.

Though the deal between Yamaha and Monster will provide a useful influx of cash for the Japanese factory team (Spanish website Motocuatro.com put the total sponsorship deal at 4 million euros) Monster will not become title sponsor. Instead, the Monster logos will receive the same kind of prominence as Japanese oil sponsor ENEOS, appearing on the fairings of both bikes, as well as on the leathers of both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

Monster To Sponsor Yamaha’s Factory MotoGP Team?

12/21/2012 @ 3:04 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

It is looking increasingly likely that energy drink company Monster is to take on a role as co-sponsor of Yamaha’s MotoGP team. Spanish website Motocuatro is reporting that Yamaha has bought Jorge Lorenzo out of his personal sponsorship by rival energy drink maker Rockstar and that both Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi are to carry Monster sponsorship on their leathers and on the fairings of their Yamaha M1s for 2013 and 2014.

According to Motocuatro, the story started earlier this year, after Lorenzo renewed his contract with Rockstar, and Valentino Rossi announced he would be signing with Yamaha. Both Rockstar and Monster had been in talks with Yamaha to step up their sponsorship of their riders – both men have personal contracts with their respective energy drink brands – to increase exposure for the brand.

At first, Motocuatro reports, Monster showed an interest in moving up as co-sponsor on Rossi’s bike, gaining the same level of sticker coverage as ENEOS, the Japanese oil brand which also adorns the Yamaha’s fairings.

In response, Rockstar started negotiations with Yamaha to match Monster’s offer, meaning that both Lorenzo and Rossi would have equal levels of energy drink sponsorship on their bikes. Lorenzo would have Rockstar stickers, while Rossi would have Monster badges.

Where Will Rossi End Up Racing in 2013 and Beyond?

07/23/2012 @ 5:31 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

It has been an intense week or so for speculation about the next and biggest cog in MotoGP’s Silly Season merry-go-round. The question of Valentino Rossi’s future has filled the media, with multiple, and sometimes conflicting, stories appearing in the international press. So, that Rossi should dominate the headlines is logical.

After all, with Casey Stoner retiring, and the futures of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all settled, Rossi’s decision will determine not just where he lands, but also to a massive degree it will determine who will fill the rest of the seats in MotoGP next year.

Rossi’s choice is fairly straightforward: he can elect to stay at Ducati and hope that Filippo Preziosi can soon provide him with a competitive bike; he can take up the offer he is believed to have from Yamaha to join the factory team; or he can accept a ride with a satellite Honda team aboard a full-factory RC213V.

During his daily briefing with the press at each race weekend, Rossi has suggested that his primary focus is to stay with Ducati and make the Desmosedici competitive. Yet all of the news stories in the past 10 days have been suggesting that Rossi is close to signing a deal with Yamaha, with the sponsors backing the deal varying depending on the source.

So what is the truth? Just where will Valentino Rossi end up next season? Is it possible to make any sense of the rumors and conjecture that surround the future of the nine-times World Champion? Let us examine each possibility, and see what we can piece together.

Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 2

07/14/2012 @ 1:01 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 2

Monster’s series on Valentino Rossi’s Mugello helmets continues (Part 1 here), with this second installment just teasing out the nine-time World Champion’s signature special Mugello helmet. The video is certainly less wordy than the first, and from what we can gather, Rossi will have a ring of flowers on his head for the Italian GP.

With MotoGP to take to the historic Italian track for FP3 and Qualifying in just a few hours, we shouldn’t have too long to wait to see the final product from Aldo Drudi. Until then, this video will have to suffice. Check it out after the jump.

Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 1

07/12/2012 @ 10:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It looks like Monster Energy has a nice video series cooking with Valentino Rossi, just ahead of the nine-time World Champion racing in front of his home crowd this weekend at the Italian GP. Of course, Rossi is known for his special helmets at the Mugello round, and 2012 will be no different, as The Doctor once again has trusted Aldo Drudi to paint him a special AGV lid for the race.

Usually a surprise to race fans, the last few years we have been getting peeks of the Drudi’s work on Twitter, usually from Rossi’s mechanics Alex Briggs. But for this year, Monster and Rossi have teamed up to make a special multi-part promo video to promote the helmet, and the race.

Yeah sure it’s a promotional work for Monster (a personal sponsor of Rossi), but it is actually pretty interesting to hear Valentino, in his own words, explain the significance and meaning behind his and Drudi’s collaborations.

If this first part is any indication of what is to come, we should be in for a nice little web series this race-weekend, though no one is expecting a miracle from Rossi and the Ducati Corse team in their results. Check the video out after the jump.