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.”

Photos of the Suzuki XRH-1 Testing at Catalunya

06/16/2014 @ 11:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Testing alongside the rest of the MotoGP paddock, Suzuki Racing was present again at the Catalunya test, with Randy de Puniet once again turning laps on the Suzuki XRH-1. Now using the Magneti Marelli electronics, Suzuki has the long process of dialing-in the XRH-1’s full potential.

Also a priority at Catalunya was Suzuki’s more powerful iteration of its inline-four engine, which the Japanese OEM hoped would close its gap to the other OEMs. In the hands of Randy de Puniet, the Suzuki XRH-1 was 2.499 seconds off the pace of test-leader Marc Marquez, though that margin comes with an asterisk.

While the rest of the paddock has had since Friday to hone their machines and bodies to the Circuit de Catalunya, Suzuki and RdP did not have that luxury going into Monday’s test. One can also argue De Puniet’s pace to the other GP riders, as with all due respect to the Frechman, Marc Marquez he is not.

With a thousand variables at play (we can even question the validity of test times in general, as teams are testing not qualifying/racing), it is easy to make excuses for RdP and Suzuki as to why the gap remains so far from the other factories, but the end result is that the XRH-1 is a tough character to judge. That makes Suzuki’s return to the GP paddock a bit of a wild card.

With Both of Ducati Corse’s riders praying for a miracle, or a better option, Suzuki could be that salvation. One also has to consider Dani Pedrosa’s rumored $8 million price tag, and the bevy of other contracts that expire at the end of the season. Suzuki’s impending presence is a considerable factor in MotoGP’s game of musical chairs..

Being a difficult factor to judge though has made Suzuki, the Suzuki XRH-1, and Randy de Puniet’s role in all this is very speculative and uncertain. The only thing we can say for sure then is that it will be interesting to watch the limited number of “factory” seats sort themselves out.

Kevin Schwantz Tests Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Bike at COTA, While Randy De Puniet Matches Pace of Open Bikes

04/16/2014 @ 3:32 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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Suzuki’s MotoGP test team took advantage of the presence of the MotoGP paddock at Austin to plan a test directly after the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Under the watchful eye of team manager Davide Brivio, the team planned to have test rider Randy De Puniet put in three days of testing at a circuit, as the team had not yet tested the Suzuki XRH-1 at COTA, in a bid to gather more data ahead of their return to the series in 2015.

Unfortunately for Suzuki, very heavy hail and thunderstorms made testing extremely difficult on Monday, leaving the track very dirty and much slower than it had been for Sunday’s race. But testing resumed in earnest on Tuesday, with Randy De Puniet running through testing electronics and another back-to-back test of the two chassis options Suzuki has been working on.

A Prelude to MotoGP’s Silly Season, Part 2

04/08/2014 @ 3:47 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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This is the second part of our two-part series on how the silly season for next year’s MotoGP rider line up may play out. If you missed the first part, you can catch up with the situation in the Honda and Yamaha factory teams here.

Up until late in the 2013 season, changes in the rider lineup for Yamaha and Honda’s MotoGP squads looked to be limited. Though all four riders will technically be on the open market at the end of 2014, the most likely scenarios for 2015 and beyond looked fairly settled.

Either the lineups of the Repsol Honda and Movistar Yamaha teams would remain identical, or Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa might swap seats. The biggest question mark, it appeared, hung over whether Valentino Rossi would continue racing after 2014.

Two major shake ups changed all that. For Valentino Rossi, the replacement of Jeremy Burgess with Silvano Galbusera – and the increased role for electronics engineer Matteo Flamigni – has helped him find at least some of the time he was losing to the three Spaniards who dominated MotoGP last year, making it more likely he will stay on at Yamaha for another couple of seasons. That leaves the situation at Yamaha look more stable than before.

The biggest change, though, came at Ducati. The top of the entire Ducati Corse department underwent radical change. Gigi Dall’Igna was brought in to replace Bernhard Gobmeier as head of Ducati Corse, while Davide Tardozzi joined Paolo Ciabatti and Ernesto Marinelli to help manage the MotoGP and World Superbike teams.

The arrival of Dall’Igna and Tardozzi has had a major impact, and will likely become even more significant as the season progresses. Dall’Igna has greatly improved communications between staff at Ducati’s Bologna headquarters and the race teams at the track, making for a much more efficient organization.

Video: Suzuki MotoGP Development Report, Part 4

01/10/2014 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The fourth installment of Suzuki’s four-part video series (part 1, part 2, & part 3 here) on its MotoGP program is out, and this time around the Japanese OEM is talking about the relentless perils of testing, testing, and more testing (no surprises here). One of Suzuki’s biggest hurdles though, as it gets ready for the 2015 season, is switching from its Mitsubishi electronics system, to the spec-ecu being built by Magneti Marelli for Dorna.

The process is more difficult than it sounds. Not only does Suzuki have to do the general development necessary to get the most out of the Suzuki XRH-1 GP prototype (more photos here, too), but then once complete, Suzuki must port those settings to the Magneti Marelli unit. Meanwhile test riders Randy de Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki are constantly finding things to improve with the race bike, which can require further changes to the ECU software.

No one ever said it was easy to race in the premier class of motorcycle racing, and Suzuki’s efforts prove that point. With the MotoGP proving itself to be an ever-changing landscape for rules and regulations, Suzuki also faces a very slim window to use the bike that they are currently developing. Thus in our minds, their place as the 2015 underdogs has already been solidified well ahead of their debut. Good luck to all of them.

Video: Suzuki MotoGP Development Report, Part 1

01/02/2014 @ 11:58 am, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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When Suzuki decided to move their return to MotoGP back a year, from 2014 to 2015, questions were raised over just how serious they are about actually coming back. The odds appear stacked against them: the bikes were some way off the pace, over 1.8 seconds at Misano.

Suzuki is still working with their Mitsubishi electronics unit, not yet having moved to the Magneti Marelli unit which is compulsory from 2014, and coming to MotoGP in 2015 would leave them just two seasons before a new set of regulations is to be introduced, likely to include a rev limit and compulsory spec software. Suzuki face an uphill task.

Despite the challenges, they seem determined to come back to motorcycle racing’s premier class. One sign of their intent is the launch of a new four-part video series on the progress made on the MotoGP project, the first video of which was released yesterday.

Video: Suzuki MotoGP 2013 Testing Goodness

12/02/2013 @ 7:26 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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For our American readers, it is time to get back in the swing of things from the long Thanksgiving weekend; and for our non-American readers, well…the last few days must have been pretty boring for you (especially for our Canadian readers, who are probably still baffled about why we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving over a month late).

Anyhoo, it is Monday here at Asphalt & Rubber HQ, and while we let the caffeine soak into our veins, we have some high-energy content to help you get going at the workplace job thing. First up is a little video from Suzuki, which has just concluded its 2013 MotoGP testing schedule.

It is mostly just motorcycle porn for racing fans, but to our knowledge the video is the first time that Suzuki has publicly acknowledged its inline-four cylinder engine design for its XRH-1 MotoGP test bike. Suzuki will be back testing in 2014, with Randy de Puniet now solely committed to test-riding the machine for the Japanese OEM.

High on the team’s list is getting its race program to work on only 20 liters of fuel, as well as switching from Suzuki’s current Mitsubishi-designed ECU to the spec-ECU supplied by Dorna and built by Magneti Marelli. Neither task is an easy one as Suzuki gears up for its 2015 return to Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Up-Close with the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Race Bike

11/13/2013 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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One of the advantages of actually going to the yearly EICMA show, as opposed to phoning it in like some other outlets do, is that you get see things that don’t find their way into a press release.

Take for example the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP race bike prototype that Randy de Puniet has been developing and Davide Brivio has been heading. On display at the Suzuki stand, it was perhaps the most technologically advanced motorcycle at EICMA, yet you would only know that if you went to Milan last week.

Analyzing MotoGP’s Game of Thrones at the Catalan Test

06/17/2013 @ 10:18 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn’t rained off that is.

Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top.

The Factory Yamaha man had been working on setup, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.

On the other side of the garage, Valentino Rossi was once again pursuing weight distribution changes to improve his feel with the bike, especially to help him in braking. A more radical change was planned for the afternoon, but a fast crash at Turn 3 left the bike damaged, meaning that plan had to be abandoned.

Rossi returned to the track at the end of the day to test the new rear tire Bridgestone had brought, and was positive about the feel of the tire. The new construction hard rear tire was a clear improvement, Rossi said, and it was good for the hard rear to once again be an option.

So far this year, the only tire that has worked at most tracks has been the softer option, leaving the riders with a de facto rear allocation of just seven rears for a weekend.

XXX: 10 Photos of the Suzuki “XRH-1” Testing at Catalunya

06/17/2013 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Suzuki broke some hearts today by announcing that the company’s MotoGP team would not return to the premier class until 2015, instead of 2014 as was rumored.

Telling perspective riders last week about the decision (so they could make alternate plans for next season), Suzuki was still at the Circuit de Catalunya for MotoGP’s post-race test, joining Yamaha Racing (which elected not to go to the rain-sodden Motorland Aragon circuit), Ducati Corse, and a bevy of satellite and private teams.

Shaking down its inline-four GP race bike, codenamed the Suzuki XRH-1, Nobuatsu Aoki was first-up on the machine. But the day’s real work was done by Randy de Puniet, who put in an impressive 1’42.676 lap time near the end of the day — just over three quarters of a second off the top time set by Jorge Lorenzo.

However, despite the impressive debut for the XRH-1, Suzuki’s official reason for its delay back to GP racing is the pace of development on the project.

Part of that development process surely is for the electronics, as Suzuki is currently using an electronics package from Mitsubishi, though the company expects to switch over to the spec-ECU from Magneti Marelli later this year, in the autumn.

If that all whets your appetite, our favorite Hungarian Photographer/Journalist Niki Kovács (be sure to follow her on Facebook & Twitter) has sent us nine more photos of the Suzuki XRH-1, which are after the jump for your viewing pleasure.

Be sure to note the XRH-1’s staked gearbox (a very Yamaha design), which is mated to the “big bang” four-banger. The twin-spars of the aluminum chassis looks likes like an evolution of the GSX-R platform, which shouldn’t be too surprising — though when Satoru Terada talked to GPone, he said that Suzuki hasn’t begun work on a new WSBK machine.

Suzuki Returning to the MotoGP Championship in 2015

06/17/2013 @ 1:07 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Just hours before the development team’s public debut on the track (private debuts here & here), Suzuki has announced that it will return to the MotoGP Championship in 2015, not 2014. That gives the Japanese factory 21 months to develop its inline-four GP bike with test rider Randy de Puniet, and Davide Brivio at the helm as test team manager.

While the Suzuki has not given a reason behind its prolonged return, the fact that the team would have to foot the bill for its Bridgestone tires, as well as its travel/shipping costs, certainly didn’t help justify an early re-entry for Dorna’s prodigal factory, especially if the bike fails to impress on its first direct comparison to the machines of Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati.

Said to still be carrying a grudge for Suzuki (and Kawasaki’s) broken promises, and departure from the series, Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta has given Suzuki no favors in its return to Grand Prix racing. Dorna originally wanted Suzuki to re-enter the series through an existing team, rumored to be Team Aspar, but ultimately had to scrap that plan as no current MotoGP team was willing to take on the onerous task of managing the factory-backed squad.

Still, Suzuki’s return will mean another two bikes on the MotoGP grid, and Suzuki itself will manage and run the MotoGP team. What the will do to the 2013 silly season remains to be seen, but we can’t wait to see some more photos of the still unnamed Suzuki GP bike on the track. A press release from Suzuki Racing is after the jump.