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GP Week : Issue 13
GPWEEK OPINION >> What is Honda playing at? And why does the august senior motorcycle manufacturer want to play out it’s agony in public? These were the questions raised by the entry of retired veteran Tady Okada for the Italian GP, for a first public gallop by the long-awaited and obviously troublesome pneumatic-valve Honda engine. Sure, it’s beneficial to try the bike on a real GP track, and to measure it against the opposition. But they could have done that much less publicly and lost little more than a week by letting Tady and maybe also Hayden and Pedrosa test the bike the day after next weekend’s Catalunya GP. The company’s dilemma is even deeper than it first appears. The new motor clearly has more potential than the steel valve- spring motor currently used. But one-third into the season is the time to be exploiting performance, rather than seeking it. More to the point are divisions within the Repsol-backed team. Pedrosa arrived at Mugello only three points adrift of Rossi in the championship. The valve-spring motor clearly works well enough for him. The last thing he wants is to switch horses mid- stream, and for HRC to divert development attention from the engine on which he had already won a GP at Jerez. His current motor is supposedly an interim measure, but he’d like it to be permanent so he can concentrate on the business of racing. Nicky Hayden is in a diametrically different position, lagging on points as well as struggling to make friends with the bike. Nicky has little to lose and everything to gain by switching to the new motor. In this his thinking is in line with HRC’s. The company has long been dedicated to technical adventure. So which way will Honda go? Perhaps both ways. Perhaps HRC will let Dani carry on with what he’s got, while Nicky race-develops the pneumo motor for the future. But even this is problematic, diluting resources both human and financial. Even with HRC’s vast reserves in both areas, it’s not the right way to race for a World Championship. It will be interesting to see how the new motor develops. Currently it’s strong at the top but nadgy lower down. According to tester Tady, the different character and lower internal friction much improve the bike’s front-end feel – Hayden’s biggest complaint. It will be even more interesting to see which way Honda will proceed. And to remember that it wouldn’t be the first championship the company has lost by putting technical advancement ahead of rider satisfaction. Honda’s new engine could dilute its championship challenge Michael Scott MotoGP editor o p in io n 21