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.

MotoCzysz Racing Announces Four Riders for 2013

04/29/2013 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

2012-MotoCzysz-E1pc-05

Not that we needed any confirmation, but the MotoCzysz crew has announced its return to the 2013 Isle of Man TT, and as we expected the Oregon-based team will defend its record-setting win from last year’s TT Zero with again a two-rider team of Michael Rutter and Mark Miller.

Also announcing its intention to race in the new 2013 eRoadRacing World Cup, MotoCzysz has enlisted the help of Shane Turpin and Steve Rapp for riding duties at Laguna Seca, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Miller Motorsports Park.

Trackside Tuesday: A Victim of History?

08/21/2012 @ 4:43 pm, by Jules Cisek35 COMMENTS

In a weekend filled with intrigue, subtle sword play in the pre-race conference, and the heartbreak of not seeing Nicky Hayden start the race on Sunday, it was the venue itself that received the most attention, unfortunately of a mostly negative sort.

Without a doubt, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway received a spot on the MotoGP calendar in 2008 because of its iconic status in the world of motorsports. Sure, Laguna Seca has a great reputation as well, but you can ask pretty much anyone the world over if they have heard of Indianapolis, and the answer would be in the affirmative — and unlike Laguna, they don’t have to ride a motorcycle or own a Porsche to be familiar with the track.

And so, despite an uninspiring infield course purpose built for the ill-fated Formula One rounds, the famous Brickyard became part of the MotoGP calendar and has a contract to run through 2014.

In the last two visits to IMS, Casey Stoner has complained more and more vocally about his dislike of the circuit, primarily due to the surface makeup, which changes several times per lap. Dr. Martin Raines, the official statistician for MotoGP calls the section from T10 to T16 “a mickey mouse track” and certainly watching the bikes make their way slowly though there and through T2-T4 on the circuit, one can see what he means.

Even if the circuit were run the other direction (as originally designed – and impossible for motorcycles because there would be no runoff available in T1) the racing would still not be awe-inspiring, due to the tight corners, and almost total lack of elevation changes.

Until this year, however, no matter how processional the racing may have been, no matter how much complaining there may have been from the riders about the nature of the circuit, the general consensus between fans, teams, and media alike has been that it was an amazing event. Let’s face it, Indianapolis knows racing.

Indianapolis knows how to put on a show for race fans and for the traveling circus as well, and they did not disappoint this year either. The infield was packed, attendance was in the same ballpark (possibly higher) than last year, and the atmosphere downtown (especially along the meridian) was hard to describe to non-attendees.

And yet there came a point this weekend where the Indianapolis GP needs to receive criticism, and hopefully investigation, to fix or at least understand three serious points.

MotoGP: Lap Record Falls During Qualifying at Laguna Seca

07/28/2012 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

For those that are not familiar with the weather patterns of Northern California’s coastal areas, Saturday at Laguna Seca was a good example of the foggy morning gloom we natives must endure in order to be showered with the Golden State’s eternal afternoon sunshine. With FP3 nearly delayed because of low cloud cover, qualifying for the US GP at Laguna Seca couldn’t have conditions more opposite than this morning. Click past the jump for full-of-sunshine qualifying results.

Photos: One Crashed 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/06/2012 @ 1:25 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Retaining the same basic shape as last year’s bike, the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR is still a looker, due mainly to its very “Iconic” livery scheme. Keeping things an Oregonian affair, the addition of Portland-based Icon as a sponsor to the Brammo racing effort bodes well for the team, and brings more validity to the budding electric motorcycle racing scene. It’s just a shame the color scheme lasted all of a few hours for Team Icon Brammo at Sears Point Raceway this weekend.

Crashing in yesterday’s first TTXGP practice session, Steve Atlas was diagnosed with six fractured vertebrae. With a thrashed bike, the Brammo squad managed to cobble together the race bike again, and thanks to its busy black & white design, one could barely see the black gaffer tape and white electrical tape that was keeping things together. Now with 130 hp at the rear wheel, as well as 35 lbs less poundage on its bulk, the revised Empulse RR clearly has a problem with people named Steve, as the electric motorcycle once again bucked a rider off, also again in Turn 7 at Sears Point.

Highsiding Steve Rapp during Saturday’s qualifying session, it is not clear what caused the rear wheel of the Empulse RR to spool up, as Rapp said he was still straight up and down with the bike when he went airborn. With fluid dripping from the bike afterwards, and Rapp stopping a lap earlier or two earlier because of the bike cutting out, the Brammo team is surely still pouring over the data as we type. That effort will do little to change the fact that Rapp has likely broken his hand from the incident, and will be out of racing the rest of the weekend, much to the chagrin to the Attack Performance AMA Superbike team, which Rapp took to a sixth place finish that same day in Superbike Race 1.

As you can see from the photos after the jump, the damage does not look too extensive to the bike — though, our assessment is only skin deep. Two riders, two highsides, one corner…no bueno. Surely not the result the Ashland-based crew wanted before it launches the street-bike version of the Brammo Empulse on Tuesday next week, it’s not clear if Brammo will try and race tomorrow, or if they even can race sans a healthy rider who lapped during Saturday’s qualifying.

TTXGP: Barnes Takes Lightning to Pole Position During Qualifying, While Brammo Sends Another Steve to the Medic

05/05/2012 @ 11:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The first North American TTXGP round is this weekend, piggybacking off AMA Pro Racing’s stop at Infineon RacewaySears Point. Lightning has been quietly putting in impressive lap times this year. On the #80 bike is veteran Banana rider Michael Barnes, whose 1’47 lap times would place him in the back third of the AMA Supersport class this weekend. Meanwhile on the #89 bike is WERA top-man Tim Hunt, who has had the dubious task of learning Sears Point on a 240hp machine. Hunt’s times have been seven to eight seconds off Barnes, though were ahead of Rapp’s before his crash.

While Lightning has shown considerably more polish than in past rounds, the team has had its own setbacks with reliability, including one incident which saw the chain adjuster bolts on the Lightning Mk. II sheer apart, dropping the chain off the sprocket, and locking up the rear wheel of Barney’s bike. Barnes was not pleased with this, but fared better than the two Steve’s on-board the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR.

Officially Official: Steve Rapp Will Wild Card on a Kawasaki CRT in MotoGP with Attack Performance

04/09/2012 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

With the news breaking last week that Attack Performance had been given permission to run a wild card entry at both MotoGP in the United States, the American team has confirmed their entry, and that AMA Superbike rider Steve Rapp will race a Kawasaki-powered CRT race bike. Well-known in the AMA paddock, Attack Performance will build its own all-aluminum custom chassis for the CRT effort, and will house a heavily modified Kawasaki ZX-10R engine

“I’ve wanted to design my own chassis for 10 years,” said Attack Performance Team Owner Richard Stanboli, “so this new class structure, essentially a Superbike engine housed in a prototype chassis, has provided an ideal opportunity for me. We have a great deal of work to do before the first event at Laguna Seca, but I’m no stranger to 20-hour days.”

MotoGP: Steve Rapp & Attack Performance Granted Wild Card Status to both US Rounds on a CRT Entry

04/03/2012 @ 1:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Roadracing World is reporting that AMA Pro Racing team Attack Performance has gotten the green light from Dorna to enter both American MotoGP rounds as a CRT entry, with AMA Superbike rider Steve Rapp slotted as the rider of the machine. Listed as the machine’s constructor on the entry, Attack Performance is presumably building its own race bike, which is almost certainly to have a Kawasaki ZX-10R motor at its core.

If the team undertakes the next steps in the process of racing in MotoGP, and it is true that Attack Kawasaki is building its own bike, then the team will have a short amount of time to put together a competent race package, as there are only four months until the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

The Rappture Comes to Laguna Seca – Mission Motors Wins Electric Bike Showdown

07/24/2011 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

With the micro-weather climate that is Laguna Seca, the skies cleared in time for the FIM e-Power/TTXGP Championship race. Fast throughout the week, Steve Rapp stood on the pole position riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike supersport. Qualifying second was Michael Barnes on the Lightning entry, and rounding out the front row was Michael Czysz on the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc. With eleven motorcycles on the starting grid, Laguna Seca proved to be one of the most well-attended grids for electric motorcycle racing; but perhaps more importantly, it was host to some of the most professional entries we’ve seen to-date from electric racing.

With 11 seconds covering the top six riders, the gaps between teams has narrowed in the two short years of electric motorcycle racing. Most of that gap caused by Mission’s scorching pace, a margin of just three tenths of a second covered the second row of the grid, making a battle for fourth almost assured from the get-go. Though the qualifying times were far apart overall, there was still some close racing to be had at Laguna Seca.

Mission Motors Laps at AMA Supersport Pace at Laguna Seca

07/23/2011 @ 1:06 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

While the REFUEL event a few weeks ago was Mission Motors’ true first public race with the Mission R, the San Francisco company is on a mission (oh sweet jesus) to prove a point at Laguna Seca this weekend, after previously being out of the electric racing gig for the past year. Undoubtedly by now you’ve seen photos of the Mission R electric superbike, and while it certainly looks fast standing still, the question had also been raised if it’s only good for standing around and looking pretty.

Taking those talking points to heart, Steve Rapp silenced those critics today, as the Mission Motors rider smashed the standing “best lap” time from last year’s e-Power Championship race at Laguna Seca, which was set by competitor MotoCzysz. Posting a 1’33.714 lap time, Rapp was nearly 11 seconds quicker than last year’s pace, and did so at will on the Mission R, posting half of his laps below the 1’34 mark (his slowest hot lap was a 1’36).

To put that pace into perspective, Rapp would have been fifth on the grid had he been lapping in AMA Supersport’s Free Practice (which occurred early in the day, and thus on a cold track), and thirteenth in AMA Supersport’s Qualifying Practice 1 (which was later in the day, and in similar conditions as the e-Power/TTXGP session). Boom goes the dynamite.