This may very well turn out to be the biggest week in MotoGP since the decision to replace the two stroke 500s with large capacity four stroke machines. This week, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta is set to have meetings with each of the MSMA members at Motegi, to hammer out once and for all the technical basis for the 2014 season.
If they succeed, the ground will be laid for a set of technical regulations which can remain stable for the long term, the goal being at least five years. If they fail, then one or more manufacturers could leave the series, reducing the number of factory bikes on the grid and potentially removing two of MotoGP’s top riders from the grid. There is much at stake.
So much, in fact, that neither side looks prepared to back down. On the one side is Dorna, who see the costs of the championship spiraling out of control thanks to the increasing sophistication of the electronics, and the racing growing ever more clinical as fewer and fewer riders are capable of mastering the machines these electronics control.
On the other side are the factories, for whom MotoGP, with its fuel-limited format, provides an ideal laboratory for developing electronic control systems which filter through into their consumer products and serves as a training ground for their best engineers.
Dorna demands a spec ECU to control costs; the factories, amalgamated in the MSMA, demand the ability to develop software strategies through the use of unrestricted electronics. The two perspectives are irreconcilable, at the most fundamental level.
Honda is working on a simplified version of its RC213V MotoGP machine to sell to teams as a CRT bike. Working together with Thomas Baujard, journalist for the French magazine Moto Journal, we have learned that work on the V4 machine is already underway, though a production date for the bike is not yet known.
HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto confirmed to Baujard at Silverstone that work was ongoing on the project, though Nakamoto did not like it being referred to as a CRT bike. “Not a CRT bike,” Nakamoto told Baujard, “it is a production racer!” When asked later about the engine layout, Nakamoto confirmed that the bike was a V4 rather than an inline four. “It is a replica of this bike,” Nakamoto told me, pointing to the Repsol Honda garage, “But cheaper. It is easier to use an existing design.”
While Ducati Corse is busy playing hide-the-Desmosedici at Sepang, HRC is all business in Malaysia this week, and has debuted its 2012 Honda RC213V MotoGP-contender. Honda isn’t saying too much about the RC213V, simply stating that the race bike is all new, but is also a continuation of the company’s design with the 800cc Honda RC212V. Testing the Honda RC213V over the course of last season, reigning-World Champion Casey rode the new 1,000cc machine three times in 2011, while teammate Dani Pedrosa swung a leg over the RC213V twice (missing one test because of injury).
With testing at Sepang to start Tuesday local time (later tonight for us Americans), we won’t have to wait long to see how the Honda stacks up against the factory Ducati Desmosedici GP12 and the yet-to-be-seen 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. With Dani Pedrosa besting Stoner at the Valencia test, there should be a good battle within the Repsol Honda team for the World Champsionship title defense. If Pedrosa can stay healthy, he could be a real threat to stoner. Though, the Australian won 13 of last season’s 17 races, making him the favorite going into the 2012 season. Photos after the jump.
With issues surrounding MotoGP going to Motegi still not fully resolved, the idea of racing at Suzuka continues to touch the lips of some riders, publications, and fans. Completely ignoring the fact that Suzuka is not FIM homologated, and was removed from the MotoGP calendar after the death of Daijiro Kato, the idea of “picking the next famous GP track in Japan” gets banded about as a solution to radiation and safety concerns at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit.
Talking to a group of assembled journalists at the MotoGP test at Brno, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto made it very clear, though through his labored english, that racing at Suzuka was not even an idea on the table, citing the aforementioned concerns over safety and homologation. Something must have gotten lost in translation however, as some Italian publications quoted Nakamoto-san implying the opposite, and that HRC would support MotoGP racing at Suzuka.
Feeling the situation had gotten out of hand, HRC has issued a statement clarifying Nakamoto’s position, the position of HRC, and the issues surrounding a race at Suzuka. Statement after the jump.
The Honda RC212Vs are fast this year, there’s no denying the point. The top four overall testing times at the second Sepang test were each slotted to one of the four factory Honda riders. The Japanese company is hungry for another World Championship in the premier class, something it hasn’t seen since Nicky Hayden took the honor in 2006, and its fielding of three very capable riders in the Repsol Honda squad is just one of the measures Honda is willing to go to in order to better its chances for victory.
While all of the 2011 MotoGP race bikes are basically improvements upon the 2010 designs, Honda has spent the long winter months developing technology that will trickle down through the coming seasons, as MotoGP heads back to a 1,000cc format.
Accused of developing and using a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) by the Italian press, Honda has come under scrutiny for using a technology that is banned in GP racing. While it’s true that Honda was the first to develop a DCT for a production motorcycle (the VFR1200F), the Japanese company has come clean in order to dispel any rumors that it is cheating in the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. While not using a DCT, Honda says it has developed a new transmission that is in compliance with MotoGP regulations, and produces extremely quick gear changes, like a dual-clutch transmission.