Erik Buell Racing Partners with Hero MotoCorp

02/22/2012 @ 8:43 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

While we have been expecting Erik Buell Racing to join forces with a larger company at some point this year, today it comes as a bit of surprise to learn that EBR has partnered with Hero MotoCorp. The deal sees Hero becoming the title sponsor for two teams in the AMA Pro Racing National Guard Superbikes Championship — Team Hero and AMSOIL Hero, while Erik Buell Racing will give Hero design and technology inputs for bikes destined for the Indian market.

In practicality, this partnership would seem to suggest that Erik Buell Racing will help Hero MotoCorp, a company recently freed/dumped from its partnership with Honda, build sporty two-wheelers for the Indian motorcycle market, while the cash-infused Indian manufacturer will help the boutique American sport bike maker continue to go racing in the United States. This news also puts Danny Eslick on the Team Hero EBR 1190RS for the 2012 season, while Geoff May will continue with the AMSOIL Hero EBR 1190RSThanks for the tip Kevin!

Press Release from Hero MotoCorp:

New Delhi, February 22, 2012: In a landmark development, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, Hero MotoCorp Ltd. (HMCL), today announced forging a strategic partnership with Erik Buell Racing (EBR) of the US, encompassing multiple areas of collaboration.

As part of the partnership, HMCL will receive support in terms of cutting-edge technology and design to develop future models from EBR – the East Troy, Wisconsin-based firm, which specializes in designing and manufacturing powerful and high-speed motorcycles.

Announcing this here today, Mr. Pawan Munjal, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Hero MotoCorp, said “It gives me immense pleasure to welcome Erik Buell to the exciting world of Hero MotoCorp. This is in keeping with my objective of quickly scaling up our own in-house R&D capabilities to a global two-wheeler technology power-house by leveraging a network of strategic international alliances. Erik and his team have been working closely with our engineers and designers to develop our next-generation range of products with cutting-edge technology and first-of-its-kind features.

“The Indian two-wheeler industry is set to evolve, and it is only natural that as the market leader, we are driving this change. As a part of this plan, Erik is going to play an integral role in giving shape to some of my dream two-wheelers for the discerning youth of today. So my R&D team and Erik’s team together have made some definitive progress in this direction, and we will hopefully be putting a few scorchers on the roads soon.”

Mr. Erik F. Buell, Chairman & CTO of EBR, said “EBR is delighted to partner with a company as iconic as Hero MotoCorp. Both HMCL and EBR share the common commitment to manufacturing world-class two-wheelers with technology of the future. I have personally been deeply impressed with and inspired by Pawan’s vision. He has given us a challenging brief, and our highly-motivated team is working towards giving shape to that dream. We look forward to designing technology solutions which are in line with contemporary global standards and also futuristic in their appeal and utility.”

Through this alliance, Hero MotoCorp will also for the first time enter the exciting world of international motorcycle racing. The company will mark its foray into the racing arena by sponsoring two teams: Team Hero and AMSOIL Hero – a first by any Indian two-wheeler company at the AMA Pro Racing National Guard Superbikes Championship. Popular young racer Danny Eslick will represent “Team Hero” while another well-known racer Geoff May will represent team AMSOIL Hero – both riding on EBR 1190RS bikes.

Hero MotoCorp also showcased an EBR 1190RS bike at the press conference here today.

The first race is scheduled at the Daytona Speedway, at Daytona beach, Florida, USA between March 15th & 17th, this year.

Commenting on the racing debut, Mr. Munjal said, “This is also a key part of our alliance with EBR. Both Erik and I felt that we should carry forward our partnership into the race track. As a company, we have always supported and nurtured sports and sporting talent in India. It is indeed a pleasure to sponsor two EBR teams at the AMA Championships and we are delighted to be taking an Indian brand to a highly-competitive and highly-popular international motorcycle race arena. We look forward to superlative performances from both Danny and Geoff.”

Commenting on the tie-up, Mr. Buell said, “I deeply appreciate the support provided by Pawan and Hero MotoCorp to our two teams and this will only make Danny and Geoff perform better this season. As I kept meeting Pawan over the past several months, I realised his keen interest in moto-racing and the ‘Team Hero’ at AMA Championships is really a natural extension of our strategic collaboration. Top-class motorcycle racing is a very popular sport in the US, and the presence of the ‘Hero’ brand name is going to lend a lot of stature and excitement to all EBR fans out there.”

Hero MotoCorp is also developing the concept hybrid scooter called ‘Leap’, showcased at the recently-concluded Auto Expo, in collaboration with EBR.

EBR 1190RS is the flagship bike from EBR, and an exclusive engineering marvel, as the company is producing only 100 inaugural units of these, including a handful of the carbon edition package. The EBR 1190RS is taking the American motorcycle racing world by storm with its performance, styling and handling.

Before he became successful engineer, motorcycle designer and motorcycle manufacturer, Erik Buell was a motorcycle racer, and he has brought all his past experience from the race track to build the 1190RS.


  • Gonzo

    Apparently, the deal did not include money for anything better than a $25 Harbor Freight rear stand.

  • Jack

    Nice looking stand.

  • Hmmm, if this season goes well for the AMA teams and Hero continues to do well, I think we can look for Team Hero to be racing World SBK in 2013.

  • MikeD

    (Playing on Barney’s Voice and same melody) U Sport Me, I Sport U…We Are A Happy Family !!!

    W/E floats the boat ? Right ? Indian $, H-D $ ? Just $ at the end of the day…and that’s all he needs right now. Best of luck to this unbreakable enterprenuer and visionary man.

  • Damo

    I wish Erik the best of luck. Hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to walk into a dealer and buy an american sport bike.

  • Russ

    Can Erik Buell possibly copy Ducati anymore? I mean the new bike looks like a 999 stepchild, and now this new livery looks like they wish they were sponsored by Xerox. Well anyway, good look EBR, I do hope you do well.

  • phs

    I don’t think it looks anything like the Ducati. I hope he does well, he has perseverence and keeps working toward goals. Good for him and I hope he does well this season. Eslick has some character and May has been around a bit which hopefully bodes well for them.

  • Dr. Gellar

    I totally agree with Russ regarding the bike’s livery. I was thrown off initially by the first pics I saw of the Team Hero EBR…the livery is indeed very Xerox Ducati-ish, at least at first glance. Anyhow, hopefully the infusion of Hero cash will allow the EBR’s to ran at or near the front in AMA Superbike this season.

    Hmmm…considering this and some other news and changes for 2012 (Eslick and Herrin moving up, HMC KTM supposedly going the full season) AMA Superbike may turn out to be a rather entertaining show this season.


    As a diehard motorcyclist I welcome the announcement of a bike maker aligning itself with a specialist genius with racing in his DNA. The obvious delight of riding a high performance machine is second to none but the requisite skill and survival sets for the riders to really feast and thrive on the obviously extreme of such bikes is something only a minority can handle, let alone master.

    The words Erik Buell makes me drool because here is the Yankee master of the superbiking art. A man who has fused venerable bent twin irons made by Harley-Davidsons into sweet handling chassis meant to propel riders quickly around a race track in time honoured flat out form. It was this American alternative to the Japanese Big Four and the artistically inclined European bike makers, which made Buell distinctive. So much so that while his bikes were no winners in the aesthetic stakes, they were pretty effective around a race track, on their day.

    Erik Buell gave new meaning and zing to archaic Harley-Davidsons and America’s long standing bike maker reveled in this new found feeling. However there is only so much you could do with the motor you have and even with innovative chassis and suspension systems plus a whole new approach to the art of the superbike, the entire Buell superstructure couldn’t quite match the ambitions of Harley-Davidson. I must digress here and state that what Harley-Davidson saw in Buell was good enough for them to buy it lock, stock and barrel. The honeymoon was great and everyone expected the offspring to be even lustier thoroughbreds.

    Expectation is one thing and reality is quite another. Of course time is also of the essence and nurturing a brand alien to the parent brand’s DNA takes even more effort. The Buell brand didn’t survive long within Harley-Davidson and more than that it didn’t have the gravitas of other vee-twin engine superbikes the world adores, viz Ducati. Given the fact that there wasn’t much which made sense to the balance sheet, Harley-Davidson just jettisoned Buell in the blink of an eye and while enthusiasts around the world, like yours truly included, were saddened by the treatment and the abrupt manner Erik Buell and his small team were told to pack up, the situation was just about irretrievable. Heck, just think that Harley-Davidson also had picked up none other than another iconic Italian bike maker in the form of MV Agusta and they didn’t have any hesitation to consigning it off when it didn’t make sense.

    So what became of Erik Buell one might well ask and the fact is that he went back to his roots – the racetrack. Keeping his 1190RS superbikes, a large shed with a handful of CNC machines and a small staff component, he began to get back to making Harley-engined superbikes on special order. And also to help some of his customers hit the racetracks with them. Once a racer, always a racer, I say.

    And that’s where it stood in my mind, a hero of sorts for many who looked at him as a forlorn David taking on the Goliaths of the superbike world.

    Until today afternoon that is when Hero MotoCorp stunned everyone when they announced “an alliance” with EBR. I don’t know of a marriage or a flirtation that is so skewed but maybe this is the reason why opposites could attract and should have been the catalyst for such an alliance.

    The Hero MotoCorp pres note clearly mentions and I quote “HMCL will receive support in terms of cutting-edge technology and design to develop future models from EBR, a firm which specializes in designing and manufacturing powerful and high speed motorcycles.’

    All well and good so far and also completely contrary to the “fill it, shut it, forget it” Hero mantra stands for. And what I find even more baffling is the fact that while I hold Erik Buell in very high esteem for what he has done with Harley-engined sports bikes on the racetracks, there never was a bigger racer and racing enthusiast in the two-wheeled world than Soichiro Honda. Wonder why this aspect wasn’t taken cognizance of all these 27 years the Hero-Honda JV was in existence.

    Here is where the prudent mantra of horses for courses was so overwhelmingly a Honda strength and approach as also the need to just do what it took and not more to make those cleverly simple bikes that put billions of impoverished Indians on the move. Sad to say this is an area where Buell has next to no experience of. I may be wrong if I have made such a statement but the world hasn’t seen much from Buell on this count. But then the ethos and the essence to do high performance machines is so much an art and a passion as well as a science which is all about high tech engineering, precision craftsmanship and modern technology. In contrast everyone in the automobile world always says that it is easier to do a sports car than a small family hatchback and the same analogy holds good for what we see unfolding here.

    My statement can come a cropper though if only for the welcome reason that Hero MotoCorp does intend to make superbikes and if that be the case, they have a modicum of potential to go down this route with Buell. However, the bikes would need to be made in India if they have to be cost effective, not to mention have an aura around them with Hero writ large in the sub-conscious otherwise it will be like Chinese-owned Italian brand Benelli which is floundering.

    Hero MotoCorp has the immense foresight to see things through in the period ahead. They have a Honda hand with them till the next year and also the present crop in their portfolio will not be erased for another two to three years at the most. What Hero MotoCorp has in abundance is goodwill and great ambassadors from the billions they have sold in this country and that is something even Honda will give an arm and a leg for. Must make a point of mention here and that is the fact that the billions also owed it to the second part of the manufacturer’s name which read Honda and the Japanese numero uno is not sitting idle, knowing exactly where and which segments to target. Not in a bid to go one up on its former Indian partner but just do what the market needs and expects from the Big H!

    And when a determined Honda gets going, the results could be painful! Ask Yamaha that, they are still running battle scarred!

    However, Hero MotoCorp starts from virtual scratch as regards its own product development capabilities. One cannot buy R&D and the technology needs to be understood and absorbed. You can fast pace this soak-up but you cannot do it overnight. This is the one chink in the armour which everyone realized as also the brave men within Hero MotoCorp themselves. So even when you get an Erik Buell or a Claudio Domenicali on to your side, there will be a certain lead time for both partners to first understand each other and then try to do things what the other wants!

    The good thing is that there are no illusions within Hero MotoCorp and that’s the reason their executives have been seen doing the rounds of every decent engineering consultancy the world over trying to shore up agreements and alliances. Nothing wrong in that and also it is the done thing but I am not yet sure and confident of the produce which will result from EBR and Hero MotoCorp getting into a relationship.

    After Harley-Davidson pulled the plug on the Buell Motorcycle Company, Erik Buell went back to his roots and his present set-up is all about nimbleness of mind and action. How he can get to do something for Hero MotoCorp in the genre of products the Indian company is known for would be his most challenging project ever. And given the fact that history has shown nothing works more emphatically for the Yanks than the “there’s no substitute for cubic inches” maxim, surely the lack of cubic centimetres could throw up interesting situations for the duo!

    Another aspect is Hero MotoCorp’s growing ambitions to flex its production might globally and that is no bad thing. However, when the next set of emission standards progresses from Euro IV to Euro V and Euro VI, the mechanical hardware to meet not just legislation but yet continue to deliver Honda-like “fill it, shut it, forget it” performance will be under tremendous pressure. I hope EBR and Hero can cut it here on this important count.

    Another aspect which I am sure has even more ramifications is the fact that Hero MotoCorp has thought about going bike racing. I am all for manufacturers hitting the racetracks but only for the right reason. Improving the breed is the most important aspect to get into the sport as Honda has always professed and profited from. However, even Honda started small, climbing from the lower rungs of the ladder but in the best, the toughest and the most open category of them all – Grand Prix racing! It won titles in 50cc, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and 500cc categories and the biggest bikes it had till then were 500cc twin cylinder machines. It learnt from its Grand Prix racing exploits and turned out the classic CB750-4, the world’s first superbike and since then it has never looked back. However, this masks an even bigger story which many have overlooked: Honda never wavered from the faith and its Cub step-thru continued being manufactured the world over for humble commuting, selling in the billions. It continues in the same vein to this day, upgraded regularly and with incremental improvements, which keep the character simple, and the operational ability top class.

    Hero MotoCorp intends to pluck a leaf or two from Honda’s book but in the present day scenario, the series it is getting into is a pure American based championship and I think it will enhance the EBR brand more than anything else. Only if the EBR sports bikes, should they come with Hero branding, are going to be produced in decent numbers and sold over the counter given a decent sales channel in the US will this partnership work. It is early days yet and there was nothing to confirm this line of thought or rather anything to any effect at the press launch in Delhi.

    There is another inevitability of bike racing and that it has the ability to make many millionaires. Out of billionaires that is! if one doesn’t get into the game with the right people and the right approach as well as the correct mind set. It is a one way ticket to feeding in the green bucks till one hits pay dirt but the chances of that on a small budget or an even bigger one are just about the same – minimal! It is racing experience and technological backing which is at the heart of the sport and when you have the might of Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki from the Orient ranged against Ducati, BMW, Aprilia and KTM from Europe, the Hero-backed EBR set-up will need to be at its innovative best to try and stay up close, let alone get to upping the ante. It is a fascinating scenario and one that will delight and infuriate fans in equal measure on both sides of the (Atlantic) pond but if successful will write a whole new page in motorcycling history.

    I am sure that one could hurl the same accusation towards Mahindra Racing getting into Moto3 and on the face of it this seems valid until you see the scale and the scope of what the Mumbai-based giant is doing. It has its own engine, its own development team, its own chassis and its own leadership spearheading the racing effort. Makes for a world of difference on this count. However, the greater devil and the scare, if that is the exact word to employ, for Hero MotoCorp’s future aspirations to stay up front is Bajaj Auto. This company has people; processes and programmes focused on motorcycles and bike markets the world over. Its relations with Austrian bike maker KTM is key for a host of product development which benefits both and the product spread is complementary to so many segments in which they operate in. However, unlike any one else, its relationship with Kawasaki is second to none and even though it is of a technological and marketing nature, the flow of such in the smaller classes is now from India outwards rather than what it was earlier! Ind-Suzuki, Kinetic-Honda, Escorts-Yamaha or even Hero-Honda cannot match this aspect. And most important of all, with no disrespect to anyone within the entire industry, having the right biking people at key rungs of the ladder is the most important criteria.

    The scenario of going bike racing is a very expensive proposition if both partners are unaware of what they are doing. If one is knowledgeable and the other disproportionately lacking in competition techniques, it would be a highly incongruous operational scenario, but not improbable! The reverse also stands true but this is all conjecture at this point. The real issue is not about EBR being a replacement for Honda, no one can be and that is a clear fact, but Hero MotoCorp will need to do many more alliances to try and cut short deficiencies that are apparent on the product development and R&D front sans the Honda JV having been annulled. I do know for a certain fact that Hero MotoCorp has spoken with Tokyo R&D in Japan, with specialists in Italy, Austria and the UK and what needs to be done is all about time to market and development capabilities. Tech consultancies can draw up a product and even come up with a handful of prototypes but engineering the product for mass manufacturing with all the finesse of a Honda will be the biggest challenge.

    This straight off the cuff analysis wasn’t meant to be disrespectful of Hero MotoCorp and EBR just that it doesn’t meet the eye nor does it gel in the mind. We have heard that politics can lead to strange bedfellows but then the automotive industry is also strewn with many incestuous scenarios, and while EBR has no Honda link, Hero MotoCorp will now have to play it rather differently where performance of the open it, wring it to max and zoom off into the distance will need to find just as much relevance as fill it, shut it forget it. And lest one forgets, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India has, what we think, the most fuel efficient motorcycle of them all, ready for launch in India next month! Talk about timing!

  • JoeD

    Good to see another Manufacturer enter the fray. Buell dropped HD as an engine supplier and went shopping for performance. He found Rotax. HD is PO’d and shuts the doors. And creates a one make series because they cannot win against any one else. Hero breaks with Honda (there IS a God) and Buell steps up to help. Fantastic. Now if they can develop their own personna without copying Japan or Europe, so much the better. We can all dream, right?

  • Aaron

    Russ, not a single functional aspect of the EBR is even close to the Ducati 999…

  • Pete

    Well, with the MSRP of the Buell at $39,999.00, plus the carbon package adding an additional $4,000.00, who but the ultra rich or spoiled will be able to enjoy or experience such a bike? It makes the KTM RC8R look like a Great deal @ $16,999.00 for the street version, or even the “track” edition for a paltry $19,999.00. Good luck to both on the AMA Superbike series this year!

  • Steve

    I wish only the best for Eric who is a true maverick, innovator and pioneer in the motorcycle industry. A gusty, never say die attitude from which this country was built and should be admired and respected, which I and many others do. In the face of huge obstacles and adversity, EBR continues to push forward despite some pretty devastating circumstances hindering their progress. They are a pretty tough bunch I’d say and for me…they are a breath of fresh air.

  • rt

    hero motocorp is a manufacturer with no innovation of any sort. They were using honda’s technolgoy until last year. they were successful when the indian market mainly had cheap motorcycles but in recent years many are looking for performance bikes. honda parted ways since they now have a significant market share in india. Hero basically couldn’t do anything on their own, so they partner with buell. pfft.

  • conchop

    Having owned a Ulysses, one of the best bikes ever built, I hope Erik and Hero do well. It would seem that, handled properly, this relationship could be beneficial to both parties. I also hope that Erik can get an American factory up and running with a new Ulysses on the market as soon as possible. Adventure touring bikes are so practical – exactly what’s needed now.

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  • Mike V

    Quit complaining about EBR bikes pricing… The R is for racing. He is selling street legal race bikes. I’m sure you know how much R&D goes into a competitive race team. That is what you are paying for.

    I don’t hear you complaining that you cant buy a NASCAR toyota camry for 14k…

    Undoubtedly this deal will bring the Buell name back to the price range we all are looking for, at least reasonably lol.

    quit crying and hit the road!