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.”

SCRAMP Will Continue to Manage Laguna Seca

01/31/2017 @ 4:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The battle for who would manage Laguna Seca going forward has finally been put to rest, for at least the next three years, as the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, better known as SCRAMP, has signed a three-year agreement with Monterey County to manage the historic Californian race track.

To get to this point has been a tumultuous process, with SCRAMP’s now 60-year role at Laguna Seca challenged by NASCAR’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC), and other local groups like the Friends of Laguna Seca.

Ultimately though, SCRAMP’s bid for the management agreement with Monterey County won out, and the non-profit organization will continue to operate the venue, which plays host to the World Superbike Championship’s only stop on US soil, among other racing events and activities.

SCRAMP & ISC Looking to Collaborate on Laguna Seca

05/25/2016 @ 12:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

wsbk-laguna-seca-daniel-lo-leon-haslam

Things are brewing around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as SCRAMP and ISC have agreed to seek a deal together from the County of Monterey.

According to RoadRacing World, the proposed idea would see ISC getting the long-term concession agreement from the county, with SCRAMP then being hired by ISC to operate to facility, as the event management company.

This move is an interesting one, as it wasn’t too long ago that SCRAMP and ISC went toe-to-toe over the future operations of Laguna Seca.

At the 8th Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering

05/18/2016 @ 8:22 am, by Andrew Kohn3 COMMENTS

2016-Quail-Motorcycle-Gathering-Andrew-Kohn-67

This past weekend, nearly 3,000 motorcyclists descended on the Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel, California.

They didn’t go to the Quail to golf; rather, they went to see the 8th annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering. With roughly 400 motorcycles of all genres and years on display, the Quail offered something for everyone.

Unlike last year, this year’s event offered a lot more sunshine and warmer temperatures, and featured the 40th Anniversary of the superbike and a tribute to pre-1916 motorcycles.

Additionally, there were display categories for motorcycles from all parts of the globe. The quantity and quality of the machines on display was impressive.

SCRAMP Begins “Keep Laguna Seca Local” Campaign

08/06/2015 @ 1:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Jonathan Rea Kawasaki corckscrew WSBK Laguna Seca

Fans of Laguna Raceway are certainly aware that the coastal Californian track could be set for a swap in operators, as International Speedway Corporation (ISC) is currently in a 90-day due diligence process with Monterey County about taking over operations the historic track.

The name ISC may not be familiar to two-wheeled racing fans, but in the four-wheeled world it’s known as another part of NASCAR’s business operations, as the company was founded by the France family (the same founder as NASCAR), and it owns and operates many of the tracks on NASCAR’s calendar.

Motorcycling racing fans are of course more familiar with the Daytona Motorsports Group, another France family creation, which ran AMA Pro Road Racing into the ground, and is currently managing AMA Pro Flat Track.

With Monterey County likely wooing ISC’s deep pocketbook to make needed repairs and modifications to Laguna Seca, the track’s current operator SCRAMP is crying foul on the looming change in control.

As such, SCRAMP has begun a “Keep Laguna Seca Local” campaign, and is asking Monterey County to allow the non-profit organization, which has operated Laguna Seeca for nearly 60 years, the opportunity to have an equal and open proceeding for the right to operate Laguna Seca.

An open letter from Gregg Curry, SCRAMP’s Board President, is attached after the jump.

At the Laguna Seca World Superbike Race Weekend

07/22/2015 @ 12:05 am, by Andrew KohnComments Off on At the Laguna Seca World Superbike Race Weekend

World-Superbike-MotoAmerica-Race-Weekend-Andrew-Kohn-03

A race is more than just a race. This past weekend, both the World Superbike and MotoAmerica motorcycle road racing series came to one of the most fabled tracks in America, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The racing was exciting, yet the crowd was not nearly as big as you would think. Maybe it was the threat of rain. Maybe it was the lack of TV coverage. Or maybe it was the fact that a lot of American riders have never been exposed to motorcycle racing and don’t know what a race weekend is all about.

Do folks think a race weekend is just sitting in the hot sun watching bikes droning around the track in endless, boring circles? Of course it’s not! Sure, there’s lots of racing, and as in any outdoor event, Mother Nature can be a factor, but there is so much more to a race weekend.

Many riders who didn’t grow up as race fans may not realize that a motorcycle race is more than just a race; it’s an event – a gathering of the motorcycling community. It doesn’t matter if you ride a cruiser, a tourer, or a sportbike. A race weekend offers something for everyone.

52,704 Attendees at the Laguna Seca WSBK Round

07/21/2015 @ 4:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Michael van der Mark Honda WSBK Laguna Seca

Under normal circumstances, I would say that if you missed the World Superbike / MotoAmerica round at Laguna Seca this weekend, then you missed a great weekend of motorcycle racing.

Of course, the deaths of Daniel Rivas and Bernat Martinez have written a tragic ending to an otherwise great story, and their passing is still being felt around the industry, both here and in Spain.

Before that tragic race started though, Dorna released the attendance figures for American round, quoting 52,704 people in attendance over the race weekend. Breaking things down by day, that’s 12,436 fans on Friday, 18,559 fans on Saturday, and 21,709 fans on Sunday.

This accordingly means that World Superbike fan attendance for 2015 is up 6.7% over last year’s total attendance, which was 49,408. It should be noted that attendance in 2014 was up 20% over 2013, the first year of WSBK’s return to Laguna Seca.

NASCAR Powerhouse Could Takeover Laguna Seca Ops

06/22/2015 @ 9:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

laguna-seca-motogp-daniel-lo

The operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca could be set to change hands, as Monterey County officials have confirmed that they are in negotiations with the France family’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to takeover operations at the rack track.

ISC should be a familiar name to NASCAR fans, as the corporation not only built Daytona International Speedway, but the company’s primary business is owning and operating NASCAR race tracks (roughly half of the NASCAR season takes place on an ISC-owned track).

Owning 13 tracks in all, ISC could add another if its deal with Monterey County goes forward, supplanting the nonprofit Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which has operated Laguna Seca since its inception in 1957.

According to a statement by Monterey County officials, the coastal Californian track “has been exploring options for the management of the raceway to ensure its long-term success.” ISC is therefore just one of several options on the table for the county, and its running of the historic racing venue.

At the Seventh Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering

05/20/2015 @ 5:47 am, by Andrew Kohn6 COMMENTS

2015-Quail-Motorcycle-Gathering-Andrew-Kohn-22

What happens when you combine a ritzy golf course, an amazing collection of motorcycles, and an eclectic crowd? You get the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club.

Not your typical venue for a motorcycle gathering, the Quail brings together vintage, classic, and racing motorcycles in a setting that can only be described as “chic”.

This is definitely not your standard motorcycle show. The event pays tribute, not only to the significant motorcycles from our past, but also to the heroic racers who risked their lives on some of these machines.

What makes the Quail different from other motorcycle shows is the venue. The tickets aren’t cheap at $75, but admission includes a gourmet catered lunch, an opportunity to see a very diverse collection of motorcycles, and a chance to mix and mingle with a group of very proud and dedicated motorcycle owners.

Skip Barber Superbike School Teaches Asphalt & Rubber How to Ride at Laguna Seca

04/19/2010 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

As a California native, I’ve always wanted to ride around Laguna Seca on a sportbike. However my passion for track riding didn’t manifest itself until I moved away from the Golden State to Pennsylvania, making a Seca track day all but implausible. Having just moved back into California, and the warm weather finally upon us here in the San Francisco area, track days and Seca have been on my mind. So when Michael Czysz, Lead Instructor at the Skip Barber Superbike School (and of MotoCzysz fame) shot me an email asking me if I wanted to ride for two days around the fabled circuit and take Skip Barber’s two-day superbike course, I of course took him up on the offer. With perfect 70°F weather, I made my way to the Californian coast, ready to take on The Corkscrew with the brand new 2010 KTM RC8 motorcycle and with the help of Skip Barber’s instructors.

I’ve always heard how Laguna Seca is a special track, and how technical the course is on a motorcycle (or any vehicle for that matter). Driving into Monterey from Salinas, you get about half the distance between the two cities when the track entrance jumps up on you. Most tracks you can see for miles as you approach them, but Laguna Seca is nestled behind a hillside from the roadway, and sits inside a Monterey County park. This topography not only provides a scenic venue to enjoy when you’re not going full-throttle around the race track, but also accounts for Seca’s 300′ change in elevation as you go through the 11 turns that comprise the circuit.

Driving into the park I can already feel my nerves acting up. I went through eight years of competitive sailing, two Junior Olympics, and three Nationals with this same physiological response. On a typical track day this sensation would subside after my first session, and be greatly reduced after the first full-pace lap, but upon entering into the Skip Barber office the apprehension quickly disappears.

Happy Valentino Rossi Day

07/05/2009 @ 4:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Valentino-Rossi-key-Laguna-Seca

Chuck Della Sala, Mayor of Monterey City, visited Laguna Seca today, and proclaimed July 5th to be Valentino Rossi Day.

Valentino was also awarded a key to the Laguna Seca circuity by Ken Lofink, President of SCRAMP (Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula).

Thankful for his dual-honors, Rossi commented, “I want to thank the people of Monterey and the Laguna Seca track for these great honours! I love racing here and I have enjoyed it ever since we first came in 2005 so I am very proud to have this day named after me. I hope I can put up a good performance this afternoon to thank everyone for this.”

A reminder: today’s race will not be on SpeedTV here in the US, but on FOX instead. Coverage there starts at 2pm.

Source: MotoGP