During Monday's post-race test at Catalunya, HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto sat down with the media at the circuit to discuss Honda's 100th victory since the MotoGP class was formed in 2002.
Reigning world champion Marc Marquez achieved the Honda century in a thrilling race, decided when team-mate Dani Pedrosa clipped his back wheel and ran wide with a few corners to go.
“Of course we are happy to make 100 victories,” began Nakamoto. “I don't know from 2002-2008, because at that time I was in Formula One. I only know from 2009, but Honda's machine is very competitive now and I hope we can make 200 wins soon!”
Nakamoto added: “Honda loves racing. This is in Honda's DNA. I hope we can continue for a long time. MotoGP is a very good platform to develop future motorcycles.”
Not one to dwell on the past, Nakamoto said that the most special bike “is now” and - while he really enjoys talking with all the Honda riders, each of whom “has a different character and approach” - the most special rider “may be the next one!”
21-year-old Marquez is certainly something special and, commented on the dramatic manner of his latest win, Nakamoto admitted his heart “stopped for a bit” when his riders touched on the final lap of a thrilling grand prix.
“Yesterday's race was quite impressive,” he said.
Impressive or not, Nakamoto made clear his priority is to win rather than put on a good show. “My background is as an engineer and engineers want to win every race. I never care for the grand prix itself. I want to win.”
That however does not mean Nakamoto wants victory at any cost and he pledged not to impose team orders despite the near disaster in Catalunya.
“I have only given a team order once. At Valencia last year. I told Marc you don't need to win this race [to win the championship]. So the order was against Honda! And against Honda philosophy. We will never make team order for the future. I am happy if both riders win races.”
So far in 2014 its only Marquez doing the winning, in all seven races, raising talk of a perfect season. “If Marc can win every race this is fantastic, but it is very, very difficult. Especially at the next circuit, Assen, where Yamaha is much stronger than Honda,” Nakamoto warned.
Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have frequently stated that Honda's biggest advantage is in braking and corner entry, spawning rumours HRC have developed some kind of a special braking control system.
“We don't have a special system for the braking,” declared Nakamoto. “When I first joined all Honda riders were struggling with braking stability on the 2009 machine therefore we tried to fix this area.
“We tried a lot of things - engine braking itself, suspension, chassis geometry. Finally we achieved a reasonably competitive level with Yamaha in 2011, but we are still continuing to improve this area. We never use a special control system.”
On the subject of braking, Nakamoto was mystified by the recent rule change to allow the larger 340mm front brake disc as an option at all circuits.
“One thing for HRC that is very strange is when Yamaha and Ducati people say 320mm disc was dangerous, when our data shows the [brake] temperature was not so high. I don't understand why Yamaha or Ducati riders complain about high temperature.
“[On Sunday] Marc used 340mm disc only because it is more easily to brake, because a bigger disc gives more braking power. It was to gain performance not a safety issue. We don't understand this.”
One reason bigger brakes are seen as being needed is the record-breaking top speeds being reached by this year's 1000cc machines.
Ducati's Andrea Iannone set a new official record of 349.6km/h (217.2mph) at Mugello, but brake supplier Brembo released data suggesting the actual peak is 361km/h (224mph).
“Top speed is very, very high. This is true,” said Nakamoto. “Mugello was over 340. Motorcycles stop only with the front wheel, the rear tyre does almost no work with braking. To go 350, I don't say is dangerous, but lower speed is more safe!”
On how top speeds can be controlled, Nakamoto explained: “Some people say a rev limit or maybe something else. This year we reduced the fuel capacity from 21 to 20 litres. This is the energy which you can use during the race, so automatically top power is reduced. But engineers are engineers. They will try to find an advantage in another area.”
Pressed further, Nakamoto added: “A rev limit would bring top power down easily, but after two or three years the engineers would achieve a similar level as now.” The alternatives include further fuel cuts or use of air restrictors.
A Honda machine that certainly isn't troubling top speed records is the new-for-2014 RCV1000R Production Racer, offered for sale as an Open class entry. Aside from a seventh in Qatar, where five Factory riders failed to finish, the top customer Honda rider is usually outside the top ten.
Nakamoto appeared sensitive to criticism of the machine's performance: “For an Open bike I believe this is a reasonable result. Our Open bike sometimes beats the Ducati Factory machine.”
But what about the Forward Yamaha? “Yamaha Open machine is a Yamaha Factory machine. Everyone knows!”
In terms of its future Factory team line-up, Honda has already agreed a new contract with Marquez for 2015 and 2016, but Pedrosa is yet to sign.
“At the moment I haven't talked to Dani,” said Nakamoto. “Soon we will start to talk. Our priority is to keep Dani on board… The contract between Dani and HRC says we must decide before Silverstone [August 31].”
Although still chasing his first premier-class title, Pedrosa has claimed 25 of Honda's 100 wins, more than any other rider.
Looking further ahead, 2016 will see two major technical changes with a control ECU and Michelin replacing Bridgestone as the exclusive tyre supplier, when wheel size will also change from 16.5 to 17”.
“We had a meeting here with Michelin and all the manufacturers where they said the size of the wheels and we will receive the tyre shape and profile at the end of this week,” said Nakamoto. “The wheels now are 16.5” but the tyre diameter is 17”. I hope we won't have to make any 'crazy' changes to the bike.”
One hitch that needs to be addressed in order to prepare for the French rubber is the present contract preventing teams using anything but Bridgestone tyres.
“The contract between Dorna and Bridgestone says we cannot test [with another tyre brand]. My understanding is that Michelin have asked Dorna and Dorna will talk with Bridgestone - how many days we can test, when. All of these things are not decided yet. The contract between Bridgestone clearly says even test riders cannot use another manufacturer's tyre.”
Regarding the shared 2016 software: "We just start to talk. Now the Open class is on software version six, which will be the best of the Open software."
Away from the premier-class, Nakamoto was asked how he would feel if other engine manufacturers were allowed in the Moto2 class. “Very happy! Because in Moto2 we supply all the engines. We never get a benefit from this. If Carmelo [Ezpeleta, Dorna CEO] can do this we are very happy.”
Honda's 100 MotoGP wins by rider:
25 – Dani Pedrosa.
20 – Valentino Rossi.
15 – Casey Stoner.
13 – Marc Marquez.
8 – Sete Gibernau.
5 – Marco Melandri.
3 – Nicky Hayden, Max Biaggi, Alex Barros.
2 – Makoto Tamada.
1 – Tohru Ukawa, Toni Elias, Andrea Dovizioso.