The main news to come out of Honda's Portuguese Grand Prix technical presentation was that there will be one less RCV on the MotoGP grid next season, that Valentino Rossi's contract talks are still continuing and that the V5 RCV is likely to race for at least one more year.

Mr Suguru Kanazawa, president of Honda Racing and director of Honda Motor Company, was joined by RCV project leader Mr Shogo Kanaumi for the special presentation on Saturday, where certain technical features of the dominating machine's design were revealed and more general racing matters discussed.

The announcement that there will be six, rather than seven, RC211Vs next year almost certainly refers to the termination of the Pramac Honda contract to use Luis D'Antin's spare grid place, due to the Spaniard's expected two bike Ducati deal, throwing Makoto Tamada's ride into doubt.
However, it seems unlikely that Honda will ditch Tamada or Bridgestone tyres next season and the question now is how they'll fit them in with their GP race programme.

The Gresini run Ryuichi Kiyonari is the obvious weak link in Honda's GP effort, as would be expected given his inexperience at world level and being dropped in the MotoGP deep-end this season, but it may look a little brutal for HRC to dump the youngster after entrusting him with the late Daijiro Kato's ride at such short notice.

Kiyonari's results haven't been anything like spectacular since his Le Mans debut, but then they were never going to be - given his situation - and Honda can't really justify dropping him for that reason alone.

But, one current Honda rider will have to go and on paper he's the most logical choice - although Tohru Ukawa is also far from assured of his seat in the premier class next year.

The other question is that of Bridgestone tyres, six bikes mean a clear two-per-team distribution between Repsol Honda, Camel Pramac Pons and Telefonica Honda - all Michelin teams. The chances of one half of an outfit running Bridgestones is next to nothing, given the extra set-up work and secrecy issues, indicating that to stay with Honda in 2004 Bridgestone will have to double their efforts.

The factory Repsol Honda team won't be changing, while Sito Pons has also sounded reluctant to leave long term supplier Michelin, perhaps making the Telefonica team a more likely choice - but having achieved so much this year through their Factory RCV/Gibernau/Michelin combination, Fausto Gresini is unlikely to want to change anything for next season...

Other areas of discussion on Saturday involved the current status of Rossi's contract negotiations. Honda claimed the deal is 90% done and that the Italian had signed a letter of intent for two years. However, they also stated that should Rossi ride for a rival team, ever, then they'll do all they can to build a bike to beat him.

In terms of the RCV's development, there was no talk of a V6 for 2004, although Honda did admit that Ducati had forced them to up their pace of development this year. The V5 is now pushing out a massive 240 plus bhp and a number of its clever technical features - such as a rotary steering damper (pictured being held by Mr Shogo Kanaumi) and engine braking system - were discussed with the assembled press.

The RCV has lost just three races (two to Max Biaggi and Yamaha in 2002, the other to Loris Capirossi and Ducati this season) since its introduction and is said to have another 15% of development left in it. Which could indicate one more year of racing before the introduction of a V6...?