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.

TTXGP: Brammo Sets Track Record at Infineon

05/15/2011 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The California sun gods were in our favor this morning, as the rainy heavens over Infineon Raceway parted long enough to dry out the Sonoma track, and allow racing to commence under cloudy skies. After a thrilling ambulance race (Infineon Raceway had all its four-wheelers out drying the tarmac and racing line), Race Direction deemed the course fit for racing, and the slower-paced electrics were first on the card to try out the dryness of the track. Fielding three bikes for Race 2, we saw a return of Brammo, Moto Electra, and VOLT to the starting grid, as Ely Schless and his Proto Moto was a scratch for today’s event.

With such a large spread in the field, things sorted their way out much like on Saturday, with Brammo taking the early lead and never looking back. Thad Wolff made an impressive showing, but was no match for the faster Brammo Empulse RR. Meanwhile in the Formula TTX75 class, Kenyon Kluge rode to a solo victory with no other competitor fielding a 7.5 kWh machine.

Perhaps in response to some remarks by an unscrupulous blogger, Brammo put to rest any doubts about its efforts, as Steve Atlas set a track record for electric motorcycles on the Empulse RR. With a 1:55.150 race lap time, the Brammo team shaved nearly 19 seconds off his overall race time from yesterday. Breaking the record for electric motorcycles at Infineon with authority, Atlas posted 1:55 and 1:56 lap times throughout the race, setting a new bar in the TTXGP series.

TTXGP: Brammo Wins at Infineon

05/14/2011 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

With rain threatening to put the kibosh on the West Coast Moto Jam’s Sunday events, the first of two scheduled TTXGP races was moved up to Saturday afternoon under the cooling wine country skies of Sonoma. With only four bikes taking to the starting grid (Lightning Motors’ two bikes were scratches, as was the Mission R by Mission Motors), it was a sparse showing for the first electric race of the 2011 season, which was disappointing considering Infineon’s proximity to a number of strong electric motorcycle entities.

Taking the overall win was Brammo Racing, which had motorcycle-racer-turned-motorcycle-journalist Steve Atlas at the helm of the Brammo Empulse RR. Brammo competed with Moto Electra’s Thad Wolff for the overall unlimited TTXGP class, while Kenyon Kluge on the VOLT bike finished third overall, besting Ely Schless and his Proto Moto bike in the Formula TTX75 class. Completing eight laps, Atlas took the Brammo Empulse RR to the winner’s circle with a 25 second gap and a best lap time of 1:57.875.

Up-Close with the Brammo Empulse RR at Infineon Raceway

05/13/2011 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Getting ready for the first practice session of the 2011 TTXGP season, the Brammo Empulse RR is on hand at Infineon now we got a chance to take some photos and talk to Director of Product Development Brian Wismann. We already brought you the first photo of the revised Empulse RR, standing in front of the Brammo offices in Ashland, Oregon, where we saw the newly revised race livery (now in Brammo Racing Green). Photos and details of the Brammo Empulse RR after the jump.

First Look: Brammo Empulse RR Race Bike for TTXGP

05/13/2011 @ 8:40 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Sitting outside of Brammo HQ in Ashland, here’s the first photo of the Brammo Empulse RR in its 2011 TTXGP livery. The green, white, and black paint scheme is a welcomed change from the red we’ve seen on the Empulse RR in the past, and should make it easy to spot the Brammo Empulse RR at Infineon this weekend, as Steve Atlas will be vying for the top step against the other five bikes that will be on the grid.

As we head up to the Sonoma track for the weekend, Asphalt & Rubber should get some more glimpses of the electric race bike, and bring you the first photos of it lapping the raceway-formerly-known-as-Sears-Point. We should also be getting our first glimpses of the Lightning Motors machines, but unfortunately will only be seeing the Mission R in the paddock, as Mission Motors has decided not to race this weekend.

Source: Brammo

TTXGP & FIM Holding Three Joint Electric Races – Laguna Seca, Donington Park, & Le Mans

05/09/2011 @ 9:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The FIM and TTXGP have issued a joint statement today, declaring that the two rival electric racing series would collaborate on three races this season, plus the possibility of a season-capping championship race in October. As we broke the news a couple months ago, the two series have begun to patch-up their relationship, and are slowly working their way back into a merger.

Today’s announcement sees TTXGP adding its name to perhaps the FIM e-Power Championship’s crown jewel event: the Laguna Seca round, which will count towards the TTXGP’s North American Championship.

Other event collaborations include stops on the FIM e-Power calendar as well, as both Donington Park and Le Mans have been named in the press release. e-Power races to be held at those venues were to be run during the FIM Endurance World Championship, and now will include TTXGP riders as well, who will be receiving points towards their European Championship standings.

The announcement should mean the bolstering of riders at all the events, but we imagine it will affect the FIM’s European rounds the most, as the American race was well-attended last year.

Trailer: Charge – The IoM TTXGP Movie Out in a Week

05/05/2011 @ 6:58 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Since we first heard about it, we’ve been less than patiently waiting for Mark Neale’s next opus Charge, a movie about the first zero-emissions motorcycle race, which was held during the 2009 Isle of Man TT. Now we get word from the movie’s Facebook page that Charge will be available in about a week’s time, and we’re downright giddy about it.

Check the DVD library of any die hard MotoGP fan, and you’ll find Neale’s Faster, an iconic movie about MotoGP’s shift from two-stroke to four-stroke motors — we imagine Charge will have this same point of reference appeal to electric motorcycle enthusiasts, and eventually motorcyclists as a whole.

We got an email from Neale the other day, saying that an advanced copy of Charge would be headed to our mailbox. With promises of death by ex-Navy SEAL (no, seriously) if it should land into the wrong hands, Asphalt & Rubber will be hosting the world premiere of Charge here in the San Francisco/Bay Area (location pending). Until then, check the video after the jump.

Mission Motors Racing at Infineon with Steve Rapp*

05/03/2011 @ 10:27 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

More news from the Asphalt & Rubber Bothan Spy network (that’d be a great spin-off site by the way…if George Lucas wouldn’t bullseye us like womp rats from a T-16 for our copious use of Star Wars references in our posts), as we’ve gotten word that Mission Motors is gearing up to go racing at the TTXGP season-opener at Infineon Raceway in two weeks’ time. At the helm of the gorgeous Mission R electric superbike will be AMA Pro Racing’s Steve Rapp.

The caveat to this news is that it all is contingent on Mission Motors getting its race bike ready to race in time for the event. The Bothans go on to tell us that the bike’s battery pack still needs to come together, which is something we’ve heard for some time now, but could suggest that the team has advanced its tech further and is upgrading the Mission R for even more on-board energy/power. As always, time will tell.

Brammo Empulse to Race at Infineon with MotorcycleUSA

04/19/2011 @ 7:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotorcycleUSA has let it slip that it will be competing in the first round of the North American TTXGP series on-board the Brammo Empulse RR. Taking to the electric race motorcycle with be MotoUSA editor Steve Atlas, who will get the honors of piloting the Empulse RR in its first race outing (Brammo had to sit out its attempt to race a the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca last year after having a technical issue).

Brammo has been testing its Empulse RR for almost a year now, so the Oregonian company’s race package should be well-polished for the race at Infineon. When we saw the Empulse RR testing at Thunderhill Raceway earlier this year, the electric bike seemed capable of some good lap times, but of course we’ll have to wait and see how it compares to the competition that arrives later this May.

As for Atlas, the last we heard was that he single-handedly changing the well-earned stigma that motorcycle journalists don’t know how to ride motorcycles, which should make for some good racing for the TTXGP/AMA fans. Some photos of the Brammo Empulse RR are after the jump.

FIM e-Power/TTXGP Merger Well Underway

03/16/2011 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Rumors of an FIM e-Power and TTXGP merger have been quietly floating around for the past week, and before we could report on those whispers of the event, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme has scooped us with the story that it has been holding conversations with the folks at TTXGP regarding the two series running joint events during the 2011 electric motorcycle season, with a possible final joint Championship to take place at the end of the year.

Sources close to the talks have told Asphalt & Rubber that a merger between the two series is imminent, with many of the stakeholders already signing-off on the deal. The likely outcome would be a series that lives on with the e-Power name, promoted by none other than Dorna Motor Sports, of MotoGP media fame. The FIM’s impetus seems to be in consolidating the two diverging series, and finally integrating them into established professional road racing.

Conversely, TTXGP will be able to find a financial exit from the rumored deal, something its investors will surely be happy to see. TTXGP has been able to piggyback off of local and club racing events, making deals with the tracks themselves, rather than the organizing bodies, in an effort to expand rapidly. While TTXGP has seen push-back from the Isle of Man TT, FIM, and AMA, the series has proven to be more adept at marketing itself than the FIM with its e-Power.

More on this as we get it, for now both parties are only admitting to the fact that they are talking about “collaborating” with one another. Joint statement from the FIM & TTXGP after the jump, along with their 2011 racing calendars.

Rumor: OEM Entering Electric Racing This Season

02/14/2011 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

There’s a quiet rumor going on in the electric racing circles that a major OEM of internal combustion motorcycles is poised to enter one of the electric racing series this season. Which manufacturer and which series is not being openly discussed, but judging from whom is talking about the possibility, and perhaps more importantly who is not talking about it, our best guess would be a Japanese manufacturer like Honda is at the center of the rumor. Honda has already been caught testing hybrid componentry at the 25hrs of Thunderhill, coincidentally with technology produced by electric motorcycle upstart Mission Motors.