8 April 2014
‘The lap time difference was 0.3 second’
“The lap time difference at Motegi was 0.3 second. Same rider, same day, same tyres”
One statement that has come back to haunt the Production Honda is that the Open class machine was only 0.3s a lap slower than the world title winning RC213V during testing.
HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto made the comment several times during the official media presentation of the new 'for sale' RCV1000R machine - a toned down version of the RC213V, without pneumatic valves or a seamless gearbox, but enjoying the Open class fuel and tyre benefits - at Valencia last November.
Nakamoto also stated that the lap time gap was reduced to just 0.1s when running the softer spec rear tyre available to the Open category.
Adding to the intrigue, it was initially interpreted that the times had been set by retired double world champion Casey Stoner, who conducted tests for HRC last season. Given Stoner's undoubted pace, a 0.3s difference seemed to further confirm that the machine would be extremely competitive against the best Factory class bikes.
However it has since emerged that this was probably misunderstood and that Nakamoto was not referring to Stoner but an unnamed Honda test rider. Since such in-house test riders are usually several seconds off the peak MotoGP pace this significantly changes the ultimate potential of the bike, which currently lacks engine performance and does not have the full 24 litres of allowed race fuel capacity.
The Production Honda was a best of seventh in the hands of Scott Redding in the Qatar season opener, being promoted up the order after five Factory class riders ahead failed to finish. Redding crossed the line 32-seconds from victory and 20-seconds behind the top Open machine of Aleix Espargaro.
Many have sympathy for Honda in going to the effort of building a cut-price customer MotoGP machine that basically fits under the former 'Claiming Rule' regulations, only to find it is now up against leased Factory machinery such as the pace-setting Forward Yamaha in the revised Open class.
As Nakamoto said in February of this year: "Our [Yamaha and Honda] philosophies are different. We thought, maybe Honda did a misunderstanding, Open class category you have to sell [the bike] to the team. I read the regulation book again and there is no mention you have to sell..."
But that doesn't change the earlier lap time claims, which at least suggest the Production Honda would be in contention when running the soft tyre in qualifying. Especially since Motegi is a stop-and-go circuit that favours engine output.
Instead the best RCV1000R of former world champion Nicky Hayden was 13th and 1.387s from the eventual pole in Qatar, having not progressed to the Q2 shootout. The race lap comparison was more favourable, with Redding twelfth fastest, but only +0.841s from the best set during the grand prix.
However the four Production Honda riders all opted to race the special softer rear tyre, helping them set quick single laps, but leaving them in the 1m 58s by the closing stages. Leaders Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, who like Redding and Hayden were also battling for position, remained in the 1m 55s for most of the latter stages.
Aleix Espargaro chose the medium tyre option (the hardest available to the Open class) and remained in the 1m 56s for all but one lap during the second half of the race, on his way to fourth place.
The '0.3s' phrase is brought up whenever the potential of the Production Honda is discussed, so here is a reminder of exactly what was said during November's Valencia media presentation...
What was the lap time difference between the two machines (Factory and Open) in testing at Motegi?
The lap time difference at Motegi was 0.3 second. Same rider, same day, same tyres. This [Production Racer] machine can use a softer tyre. In this case the gap difference is 0.1 second at Motegi.
[Nakamoto then repeats the figures]. Again: Same day, same tyre, same rider, difference is 0.3. But this specification machine can use one [level] of softer rear tyre. This softer tyre helps the lap time. The gap is only 0.1 second.
When you say 0.3 seconds difference - same rider, same day, same tyres - which rider? Honda test rider or Casey Stoner?
Both. Casey Stoner is a Honda test rider!
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