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.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Misano: Surprises, Fast Yamahas, On-Track Disputes, & Retired Riders

09/10/2016 @ 1:25 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Every day that sees MotoGP motorcycles circulating in earnest is an interesting day, but some are more interesting than others. Friday at Misano was one of those days which last, throwing up surprises and shattering preconceptions.

We found out that we need to throw overboard a lot of the things we thought about the current state of the MotoGP championship.

First, to the things that were not a surprise. That Yamahas should top both sessions of free practice, and establish themselves as favorites for the race was entirely to be expected.

That Valentino Rossi should impress is no surprise either: Misano is his home race, and a win here is his best chance of getting back into the championship. Jorge Lorenzo finding his feet again, and laying down a withering pace raised one or two eyebrows among those who had written him off.

But the real shocker was Pol Espargaro topping the second session of free practice, and ending the day faster.

Has Yamaha smuggled a few go-faster bits into the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha garage? The answer to that question is quite simply no. Espargaro’s pace has a very simple explanation: the Spaniard has been strong throughout this season, the switch to the Michelins playing to his strengths.

“This is a track where I am fast,” Espargaro told us. “If we add here the new tires which are really grippy on the rear and quite good performance on the front, I feel like I can ride in my style, aggressive and opening the throttle really early with full lean angle. I feel really comfortable riding the bike.”

Plus, of course, the small matter of time gained by using another fast rider as a target. “For sure, I was behind Márquez, and it helped me two tenths more or less.” Taking away two tenths of a second would put him third rather than first, but as he was second fastest in the morning, Espargaro’s time in FP2 was no fluke.

Preview of the San Marino GP: Changing Fortunes

09/08/2016 @ 10:32 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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From Silverstone to Misano: it is hard to think of a starker contrast in circuits. Silverstone sits atop a windswept hilltop in the center of England, surrounded by verdant valleys and ancient villages. Misano nestles just above the vast string of late 20th Century hotel blocks, which form Italy’s Adriatic Riviera.

Silverstone is often wet, and usually cold, no matter what time of year we go there. Misano swelters in the heat of a late Italian summer.

The tracks are very different too. Silverstone is a vast, sweeping expanse of fast and challenging tarmac. Misano is a tightly compressed complex of loops demanding more of fuel management, than of the rider.

Silverstone has old, worn, slippery tarmac with huge bumps rippled in by F1 and other car racing. Up until 2015, Misano was much the same. But it was resurfaced last year, and has fresh, dark, smooth asphalt that has a lot more grip than the old surface.

So the MotoGP riders face a very different kettle of fish a week after Silverstone. The layout of the track is likely to have the biggest impact.

Where Silverstone is full of fast third and fourth gear corners which riders enter carrying a lot of speed, most of the turns at Misano are all first and second gear. Drive and traction are the watchwords, though there are three or four corners where braking is at a premium as well.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Silverstone: A Golden Age of Motorcycle Racing

09/04/2016 @ 10:25 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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This is truly a golden age of motorcycle racing. The Silverstone race was proof of that. A stunning contest, with positions fiercely fought over. A new winner added to MotoGP’s pantheon.

Five riders doing battle over second place, including some of the greatest riders of their respective generations. Bikes from four different factories in the top six.

And Silverstone is hardly unique this season. 2016 has seen two different satellite riders win races. It has seen seven different winners this season, and the last seven races each won by a different rider.

It has seen relative newcomers win, and seasoned veterans win. 2016 is the culmination of a long period of rich results, with four riders all capable of winning on any given day over the past four or five years. Margins of victory have never been tighter, nor has the gap between the front and the back of the grid.

This cornucopia is not just in the premier class. Racing is returning to Moto2, after a drought of processional contests. Moto3 is overflowing with young talent, with rookies quickly challenging the older guard, who are in turn off to fatten the field in Moto2 next year.

At Silverstone, the Moto2 race was hard fought between a small group of riders, with incidents that had serious long-term effects on the championship. The Moto3 class produced a customary thriller, Silverstone’s long straights and high winds making escape impossible, but making staying out of trouble imperative.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Silverstone: Tires Wet & Dry, Losing FP4, & A Fast Dutchman

09/03/2016 @ 10:59 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Silverstone: Tires Wet & Dry, Losing FP4, & A Fast Dutchman

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The year of weird weather continues. After a fine Friday, and a foggy but dry start to Saturday, the rain moved in during practice for Moto2, and increased in intensity for qualifying, varying on and off during MotoGP FP4 and then the two qualifying sessions.

Tomorrow will most likely be dry, though there are threats of a very light rain at various points throughout the day.

Then again, we are at Silverstone in September. It can be hot and sunny, or cold, wet, and windy, sometimes all on the same day. But, add a wet qualifying to the rain in Assen, the Sachsenring, and Brno, and the weather is having a serious effect on the championship. Saturday was no exception.

With FP4 wet, the MotoGP grid lost its main practice session, where the teams work solely on the race without worrying about whether they would get through to Q2 or not. But the session was useful nonetheless. Michelin had brought three different front wet tires, and a couple of wet compounds for the rear.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Silverstone: A Lost Day

09/03/2016 @ 12:36 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday MotoGP Summary at Silverstone: A Lost Day

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“It’s just Friday, and is early.” Valentino Rossi repeated his weekly mantra when asked about the speed of Andrea Iannone and Maverick Viñales at Silverstone.

It is a point he makes every race weekend: a lot can happen between the end of practice on Friday and 2pm on Sunday (or in the case of Silverstone, 3:30pm BST on Sunday, two and a half hours later than normal, so as not to clash with F1 at Monza).

The times set by the grid on Friday were, if not entirely meaningless, at best a very distorted image of the true balance of power on the MotoGP grid.

Preview of the British GP: On Championship Chances, Injury Risks, And Stupid Crashes

09/01/2016 @ 9:48 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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With seven races to go, and three to be held over the next four weekends, the MotoGP championship is entering a crucial phase. Marc Márquez’s 53-point lead over Valentino Rossi means finishing on the podium for the rest of the races would be sufficient for him to clinch his third MotoGP title.

The two caveats being that Valentino Rossi must win the remaining seven races, and Márquez must finish second on at least three occasions.

Márquez also has a lead of 59 points over Jorge Lorenzo. Just two second places among seven podium finishes would be enough to ensure he beat Lorenzo to the championship. Though once again, Lorenzo would have to win all seven remaining races.

A likely scenario? Not really. The chances of either Lorenzo or Rossi winning seven races in a row are very close to zero. The remaining seven races could conceivably all be won by a Movistar Yamaha rider, but the most likely scenario in that case would be both Rossi and Lorenzo swapping victories each week.

An even more likely chain of events would be Rossi, Lorenzo, and Márquez taking it in turns on the top step. And if Márquez finishes ahead of either Rossi or Lorenzo, that swings the pendulum in further in his direction.

Monday MotoGP Test Summary at Brno

08/23/2016 @ 12:05 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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After a tough race on Sunday, managing tires on a drying track, around half of the MotoGP grid headed back to the track on Monday for a day of testing. Not everyone was enthusiastic about that.

“Usually we hate Mondays, and this is a Monday that we hate,” Danilo Petrucci told us with a wry grin on his face. He pinpointed why testing made a lot less sense for satellite riders than for factory teams.

Satellite teams only really have setup changes to test, and the occasional tires, if the single tire supplier has something new. There was a real downside to working on setup at a track you have just raced at, Petrucci said. “If you are angry because you didn’t get the best set up on Sunday, you getting more angry if you find it on Monday.”

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Brno: A Deserving Winner, & The Trouble with Tires

08/22/2016 @ 10:22 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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There were a lot of firsts at Brno on Sunday. Perhaps the most consequential was the fact that we saw the first wet race in the MotoGP/500 class ever to be held at the Masarykring, the modern purpose-built circuit which replaced the old road circuit at Brno.

That had a lot of knock on effects: we saw a surprise winner in the premier class, a shift in the championship, and a long race of strategy, where some riders got it spot on, and others got it horribly wrong.

All this without the race even having to be restarted, or riders having to pass through the pits. Though of course, some did…

The MotoGP race was both fascinating and entertaining, and an object lesson in how changing weather can make morning warm up lead riders down the wrong path.

On a sodden track, with the rain still falling heavily in the morning, there were serious concerns among some riders that the softest compound wet tire which Michelin had brought was not going to be soft enough to provide enough grip.

“This morning with the extra soft the tire was completely new after nine laps,” Andrea Dovizioso said.

It rained throughout the Moto3 race – which provided enormous entertainment, a first-time winner and another first-time podium visitor – and kept raining during Moto2 – a less exciting affair, but one which still managed to shake up the championship.

The rain eased off on the final laps of Moto2, then just about stopped in the break between the end of the Moto2 race and the start of MotoGP. It was a welcome development for us hacks: chasing through the paddock to talk to Moto3 riders after the race, we had endured a soaking.

The same run down to the other end of the paddock in search of Moto2 riders was a far more pleasant affair. The need to scurry from garage to garage under the shelter of balconies was gone.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez Makes Records, Assessing Race Pace, & Carrying a Crown

08/20/2016 @ 9:26 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez Makes Records, Assessing Race Pace, & Carrying a Crown

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After he and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo had looked well in control of proceedings after the first day of practice at Brno, Valentino Rossi warned the media against drawing premature conclusions.

“I think it’s just Friday, it’s a long way to Sunday,” he said. We in the media ignored his warnings, of course, and painted a technicolor picture of a race where the Movistar Yamaha riders took back a hefty bunch of points from Marc Márquez, reigniting the championship.

Then Saturday happened, and Valentino Rossi turned out to be right again (and not for the first time, I might add). Friday had been just Friday. It was indeed still a long way to Sunday. Saturday, a stepping stone on the way to Sunday, helped turn a lot of things around.

Jorge Lorenzo is still fast. So is Valentino Rossi, though not quite as fast as he had hoped. Andrea Iannone is a genuine threat for the podium, or even his second win in a row.

Maverick Viñales could still get up front and complicate things, though he has a hill to climb after a problem with the brakes saw him qualify on the third row of the grid.

But any illusions the Movistar Yamaha men had of clawing back points from Marc Márquez will have to be shelved. Not only will the Repsol Honda rider start from pole on Sunday, but he also has the race pace which was missing on Friday.

All thanks to a breathtaking lap of Brno, and a large set of wings which helped cure some of the worst problems with the Honda RC213V.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez’s Super Save

08/20/2016 @ 12:03 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez’s Super Save

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Honda have won four of the five last races held here at Brno. Casey Stoner has won one race, Marc Márquez has won one, and Dani Pedrosa has won two of those races between 2011 and 2015.

After the first day of practice for this year’s race at Brno, Marc Márquez sits atop the timesheets, with a lead of a tenth of a second over Andrea Iannone, and a shade more to Jorge Lorenzo. Does that mean that a fifth win for Honda is on the cards?

For the answer to that, see Marc Márquez’s improbable save during FP2 at Brno. As he turned in for the penultimate corner at Turn 13, he lost the front of his Repsol Honda RC213V.

With the steering at full lock, he hung on to the bars as his right foot slipped off the peg, trying first to lever the bike up with his elbow, then with his knee. Eventually the front slipped sideways, gripped, and the bike jimmied itself off the horizontal.

It had lost just enough speed for Márquez to regain control, and buck it back to the outside of the corner, and head straight into the pits.

Was it Márquez’ biggest ever save at Brno? “Still the 2014 save was bigger,” Márquez laughed, “But this one was very long. I leaned 67.5°, in 2014 68.3°.”

Even Valentino Rossi was impressed. “He tries a lot, is his position on the bike, and is his ability,” the Movistar Yamaha rider said. “First he tried with the elbow, then with the knee, and at the end, he saved it. So it was quite impressive. I don’t know if I can do the same. But I go slower, so I don’t lose the front!”