Rather than gaining ground with its all-new '08 racer during the off-season, Honda's factory team has found itself in the unexpected situation of working its way back towards the proven 2007 design.

The underperforming pneumatic-valve '08 engine was the first to go, prompting an '07 engine to be fitted inside the '08 chassis for much of 2008 pre-season testing.

But even that compromise failed to trouble the impressive pace of the leading satellite Honda riders - using complete 2007 bikes - during last week's Qatar night test, when factory riders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa were left just seventh and 13th fastest.

"We've tried many different things but at the moment we aren't getting the results we were expecting. The main problem is grip," said Pedrosa at the end of the final pre-season test. "The tyres are fine, you can see that because the guys with the 2007 Hondas and Michelins are fast, so it's something else."

To try and cure its problems, Hayden and Pedrosa will be given a 2007 machine each to compare against the '08 chassis/'07 engine package - that they had been expecting to start the new season with - when free practice for this weekend's Qatar night race begins on Friday evening.

After a slow start, Pedrosa took last year's RC212V to second in the world championship standings with two race victories - including the Valencia season finale.

The bike with which Repsol Honda finished last season was then duplicated and given to the satellite teams for this year, while HRC handed Hayden and Pedrosa what has turned out to be a troubled all-new model.

Honda had already announced that its pneumatic-valve engine, for which the '08 chassis was originally designed, will not be present this weekend and only be raced once its performance has improved.