Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa
will ride Honda's new 800cc MotoGP bike for the first time next Monday, September 26, Satoru Horiike, managing director of HRC, has revealed in an exclusive interview with Crash.net
Incredibly, the two factory Repsol Honda riders still have no idea how many cylinders the 800cc bike has, or what its overall configuration will be, he claims.
"They know nothing," he said. "We have not said anything to them – what the engine configuration is, or the bike's shape or the performance. The most important thing is to make a good machine for them, not to tell them what it is."
The design of the new 800 - and specifically its engine layout - has been the subject of heated speculation in MotoGP for months. Honda has presumably been testing the bike, presumably on circuits in Japan, for some time, but has managed to maintain an extraordinary level of secrecy about it.
The other four manufacturers involved in MotoGP all announced earlier this year that they would retain their existing layouts for the 800cc formula in 2007, albeit with extensive redesigns. Ducati and Yamaha have already publicly tested their V4 and in-line four-cylinder designs, respectively.
But Honda tantalised everyone by saying: "We are looking at every available option, and we will decide later."
However, this philosophy is entirely in line with the tradition of a manufacturer that has raced bikes with every possible number of cylinders from one to six since it started in GPs in 1959, and with a known capacity for stunning the opposition with its radical thinking.
So, will Hayden and Pedrosa be confronted with a triple, a four, a scaled-down version of their 990cc V5, or even a six, on Monday morning?
Honda's dilemma is that if it retains the five-cylinder layout, the new rules require the factory to add 7.5 kg to the bike to take the minimum weight to the new level of 155.5 kg. A six would have to weigh 163 kg, so we can probably rule out that option, especially as fuel tanks will be one litre smaller in capacity, at 21 litres.
A four-cylinder bike could come in at 148 kg - the same figure as today's 990cc four- and five-cylinder bikes. But if Honda unveils a triple, for which the minimum weight limit is 138 kg, it would have a 10 kg advantage over four-cylinder machines.