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.”

MotoGP: Seeing is Believing at the Valencian GP

11/11/2012 @ 4:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Another GP race weekend, and another weekend where the weather looms over the MotoGP paddock. Wasting Friday, and getting a reprieve on Saturday, the rain of Valencia was back for Sunday’s race, leaving a drying, but wet, course for the MotoGP riders to contend with on 200+ hp machines.

Casey Stoner’s last race, Dani Pedrosa’s last chance to have the most race wins, and Jorge Lorenzo’s final chapter to a flawless season, the script for the front-row starters was intriguing to say the least.

It all went out the window though, as we can confidently say that the following information contains no spoilers for those who have yet to see the race, since no human could possibly guess the outcome of the Valencian GP: a CRT bike lead the race for multiple laps, a Yamaha is on the podium, a world champion was lapped, and a satellite team finished both its bikes in the Top 5. Words can barely describe the race, but we will try after the jump.

Wednesday Summary at Valencia: Of a Last Chance to See

11/08/2012 @ 12:29 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

In an ideal world, championships are settled in a straight fight between the main contenders in the final race of the season. Unfortunately, the world we live in is far from ideal – as the ever-dwindling stock of prototype machines on the grid testifies – and so the last race of the year can be a bit of a formality. In 2012, with the champions in all three classes securing their titles during the flyaways, there is not much more at stake at Valencia. Except pride.

Given that pride is what motivates a motorcycle racer above all else, that means that there is every reason to hope for a real treat at Valencia on Sunday. This is the last race of the season, the last chance to prove your worth, to silence your doubters, to settle those scores before the long winter begins.

No need to be conservative here, no need to calculate the odds. You can take that chance, take a risk and crash out trying. At the last race of the season, you go all in, as Nicky Hayden’s leathers proclaimed at Valencia in 2006, when it looked like he might miss out on his first ever MotoGP title. And there is a lot of pride at stake.

Randy de Puniet & Aleix Espargaro Sign With Aspar for 2013

10/04/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

The Power Electronics Aspar Team confirmed today that it has extended the contracts of current riders Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro for the 2013 season. Both the Frenchman and the Spaniard are to remain with Aspar for another year, and will once again contest the season on Aprilia-built ART machines under the Claiming Rule Team regulations. The two teammates are currently battling it out to take the honors as top CRT rider for 2012.

The Aspar team has been the showcase for the CRT rules this season, with both De Puniet and Espargaro closing the gap on the prototype bikes. How the team will fare next year when most of the other CRT bikes will start to use the highly advanced Magneti Marelli ECU, while they stick with Aprilia’s electronics package developed in World Superbikes remains to be seen, and will provide a good yardstick by which to measure the spec ECU on offer.

With the prototype rides all filling up quickly, remaining with Aspar was the best option for both men. With a year of development on them, the Aprilia CRT bikes should be even closer to the prototypes next year, allowing De Puniet and Espargaro to put themselves in the shop window for the 2014 season, when Suzuki makes a return to MotoGP, and more factory rides should be available.

After the jump is the press release from the Aspar team announcing the re-signing of its current riders.

XXX: Randy de Puniet’s 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR

08/24/2012 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Since we started Monday off with an ultra hi-res gallery of Valentino Rossi’s 2006 Yamaha YZR-M1, we thought it would be a good bookend to the work-week to conclude with some more hi-res shots of another MotoGP race bike: Randy de Puniet’s 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR. One of those bikes that never really shined in MotoGP, the ZX-RR scored only a modest number of podiums before Kawasaki finally bowed-out of MotoGP, mid-championship in 2008.

Leaving Marco Melandri holding the bag, the Kawasaki racing effort lived on in spirit as the Hayate Racing Team, where the team impressed many in the paddock with its results and limited resources. Absent completely from GP racing from 2009 to 2011, the closest we have to Team Green in the premier class now is the Avintia Blusens Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R powered CRT entry, which just took the honors of Top CRT in the Indianapolis GP.

Like Rossi’s 2006 Yamaha, RdP’s Kawasaki probably doesn’t hold the fondest memories for the Frenchman. His first ride in the premier-class, there is at least some irony in the very green rider (experience-wise) riding the Green Machine.

As Kawasaki has faded out of GP racing, and only exists in CRT form, De Puniet has come into his own as a rider, though through unfortunate circumstance has found his underrated riding skills relegated to Team Aspar’s Aprilia ART CRT — instead of factory-supported bike, like the ZX-RR seen here…which, if you haven’t already noticed, is actually a hyper-accurate scale model of the the real thing.

Colin Edwards Breaks Collarbone in Freak Crash At Estoril

05/05/2012 @ 3:24 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Colin Edwards has broken his left collarbone in a crash during qualifying for the Portuguese MotoGP round at Estoril on Saturday. The NGM Forward rider was knocked off his bike in the latter part of qualifying practice, as he cruised around off the racing line. Randy de Puniet lost the front of his Power Electronics Aprilia machine, which slid along the track and hit Edwards’ Suter BMW. Edwards fell heavily, suffering a mild concussion and injuring his collarbone in the fall. De Puniet was taken to the medical center, where he was diagnosed with bruising to his finger, and general soreness.

MotoGP: Mixed Weather for Qualifying at Jerez

04/28/2012 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With rain in all three of MotoGP’s Free Practice Sessions at Jerez, qualifying for the Spanish GP was unsurprisingly shaped by the weather. Getting a dry track with damp sections, riders were able to go out initially on slicks, though mid-way through it looked like rain could cut short the chance for lap-time improvements. The weather more or less cooperated though, only interrupting the qualifying briefly, though it did help make for some interesting results, with more than a few riders caught sliding along the asphalt.

The ABC’s of MotoGP’s CRTs – A Spotter’s Guide

04/08/2012 @ 9:44 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on The ABC’s of MotoGP’s CRTs – A Spotter’s Guide

The claiming rule team (CRT) bikes are both figuratively and literally under the spotlight at Qatar this race weekend, with their production-based motors and prototype frames shaking up the norm of pure prototype racing. Both an effort to take power away from MotoGP’s MSMA, which is comprised of Ducati, Honda, & Yamaha, and as an effort to lower the cost of racing in MotoGP for its participating teams, the CRT experiment is getting its first real test this weekend.

Swelling MotoGP’s grid with an additional nine-racer entries, the CRTs have certainly helped fill MotoGP’s ranks, though mostly with riders we are not familiar with. Leading the CRT charge is American Colin Edwards, and he is joined by Randy de Puniet, who didn’t wish to be on a CRT for the 2012, but has still found himself at the top of the heap. These two veteran MotoGP riders have been accompanied by seven riders that hail from a range of world and national championships that span everything from Spanish Superbike (CEV) to British Superbike to the Moto2 Championship.

Since on Sunday morning, MotoGP fans are going to have learn the names of these new riders and the bikes they ride, we have put together a primer on the CRT entries for the 2012 MotoGP Championship. Bios, specs, and notes on all nine MotoGP CRT entries are after the jump.

Aprilia ART – A Thinly Veiled World Superbike?

03/30/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.

Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.

If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.

Aspar Racing’s Aprilia-Designed CRT MotoGP Bike

03/21/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

One of the biggest compliments ever made regarding the Aprilia RSV4 was actual meant to be a criticism, as when it came time to homologate the RSV4 for World Superbike racing, the competition cried afoul — saying the RSV4 Factory was really a MotoGP bike in a production bike’s clothing. Said to be the leftovers from Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP effort, the Aprilia RSV4 had a meteoric rise in WSBK, and won the Championship after only the company’s second season back in the series.

It should come then with little surprise that the Aprilia and its V4 motor has been the popular choice for teams in the MotoGP Championship looking for a claiming-rule team (CRT) solution. Dubbed the ART, the Aprilia-powered CRT bike also features an aluminum chassis that is designed by the Italian company. Thus with Aprilia offering essentially a turn-key GP solution for teams like Aspar Racing, it probably shouldn’t shock us that the similarities between the production WSBK-spec RSV4 and prototype ART being almost too close to distinguish between the two, even down to the bodywork.

Given the fact that Dorna desperately needs an alternative to prototype racing machines built by Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha for its CRT gamble to work — not to mention the need for CRT bikes and teams that are competitive on the track with the bikes from the OEMs — one can only imagine that Dorna is turning a blind eye to obvious “bending of the rules” that is occurring with the ART project. If the ends justify the means, then surely none of this matters to Ezpeleta et al, and right now Randy de Puniet and the Aspar Racing team’s CRT effort are the MotoGP rights holder’s best bet at recapturing control of MotoGP racing.

That all being said, the Power Electronics Aspar team debuted its ART race bike, and as is the custom, disclosed only some of the most basic technical specifications about the machine. At the helm of Aspar’s ARTs will be Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro, and while the CRTs as a whole have been off the pace of the prototype bikes, RdP’s pace on the Aprilia has been noticeably quicker, and could give some of the slower satellite riders a run for their money. Technical details and photos are after the jump.

Photo of the Week: Fast By Any Other Name

03/05/2012 @ 4:04 pm, by Scott Jones21 COMMENTS

While a handful of MotoGP riders get the lion’s share of media attention, other riders can only wonder what might have been if they had landed in the premier class on more competitive machinery. With five 250cc wins, Randy de Puniet joined the Kawasaki MotoGP team in 2006, and switched to the LCR Honda team after two seasons. In 2011 he managed a season best 6th on the Pramac Ducati, another victim of the bike only Stoner could tame.

Most folks in the MotoGP paddock acknowledge de Puniet’s abilities and raw speed, and he is also as tough as they come, riding around injuries with impressive courage and determination. De Puniet has reunited with the Aspar Team for 2012, and will explore the future of the CRT formula. If the first-year Aprilia-powered Aspar CRT bike is not competitive, it won’t be for de Puniet’s lack of trying.