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GP Week : Issue 43
>>Moto GPnews ‘crippled’ Honda fights back Riders to the rescue as THE Twin-Ring Motegi was purpose-built as Honda’s celebration of its role in motor sport; the racing motorcycles that started the company hold an especially honoured place in the superb circuit museum hall. But as they officially cheered the 50th anniversary of their first and crucial World Championship GP before the racing began, there seemed little for the 2009 factory team to celebrate. With the 800cc RC212V still struggling to match the pace of Ducati and Yamaha after two years, circumstances had again robbed engineers of vital development. They are marking time, while the season gathers momentum. The performance of both factory machines and especially of Dani Pedrosa, battling Rossi and placing third in spite of still being injured, gave new hope, however. Lead rider Pedrosa missed pre-season tests recovering from still troublesome knee and arm injuries, and counted 11th at Qatar as an achievement, after being doubtful of even starting. In Motegi’s sole dry session he was also 11th, and revealed that Honda had no new parts or development at the track. “Not really, nothing special,” he said. “Especially for me, because I was not on the pace in Qatar. When you are not very fast on the lap time, it has no meaning to try new things. You will give the wrong feedback to the team,” he added. His race performance proved how quickly things can change. Dovizioso, meantime, is still learning the bike and adapting to Bridgestone tyres, and complained again at Motegi that the engine was “too aggressive”. The third factory-bike rider Toni Elias, in the satellite San Carlo team, is also struggling to pick up the pace, but the 50-year-old GP racing team will hope the improved strength at Motegi will herald a change in fortune. History men on parade HONDA’S first GP was at the Isle of Man TT in 1959, and a low- key celebration of the birth of a legend’s 50th birthday at Motegi saw selected guests join a trio of the company’s history men. Naomi Taniguchi, now a spry 73, rode a RC142 125 twin to sixth in that race, and joined a restored version on the platform. Alongside was Kunimitsu Takahashi, Honda’s first Japanese GP winner in 1961, along with the four-cylinder RC162 250. The final icon was Freddie Spencer, winner of Honda’s first two- stroke 500 GP after a long hiatus. That was in 1982: Freddie’s rostrum companion was an odd choice: the unsuccessful ‘upside-down’1984 V4 NSR500, with the fuel in the belly and the exhausts over the top. Images used in GPWEEK are shot by the photo-artists at Sutton Images. Posters available of any shot – CLICK HERE for more information Interested in Aussie V8 Supercars? CLICK HERE to access Australasian Motorsport eNews ... 15