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Honda ready for new MotoGP challenge

Honda Debuts 2012 Team and Number ‘1’ RC213V in Sepang...

The Repsol Honda Team kicked off their defence of the MotoGP World Championship by having 2011 MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner and team-mate Dani Pedrosa take the wraps off their all-new Honda RC213Vs at a news conference on the eve of the start of the official testing season in Sepang, Malaysia. Joining the riders was HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto, who gave a brief and light-hearted technical presentation while making certain not to reveal too many secrets.

The 2011 Repsol Honda three-rider team dominated last year’s championship, winning 13 of 17 races and finishing first, third, and fourth overall. Stoner led the way, winning ten times and clinching his second MotoGP World Championship on a emotional day in his home grand prix at Phillip Island, Australia. Stoner had a nearly flawless season, with podium appearances in every race but one, when he was knocked to the ground early in the Spanish Grand Prix. That turned out to be a minor setback, with Stoner winning the title by 90 points. Then Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso finished third, with Pedrosa finishing a close fourth, despite missing four races after being knocked out of the French Grand Prix. Pedrosa won three times and added six other podiums.

With the three-day test set to begin on Tuesday, Stoner is looking forward to rolling out the number ‘1’ plated machine, while Pedrosa is also eager to get back on track after an injury-free end of season and off-season. The Spaniard goes into the 2012 campaign in his best physical shape in years, and he hopes to maintain it throughout the grueling 18-race globe-circling challenge.

The Honda RC213V replaces the championship-winning 800cc RC212V as the MotoGP World Championship begins a new 1000cc era. The machine was developed over the course of the last season, with Stoner testing it three times and Pedrosa twice, with continuous development and testing being done in Japan. Pedrosa finished the 2011 season by topping Stoner in the end-of-season test in Valencia, Spain.

With a winter’s worth of refinements to the RC213V, the riders are anxious to begin the test at the Sepang Circuit, site of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Following this test, the riders will return in 26 days for a second test before finishing the testing season in Spain at Jerez de la Frontera in late March.

The return to Sepang was bittersweet for the Repsol Honda Team. It was here that Honda’s rising star Marco Simoncelli lost his life in a racing accident on the second lap of the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix. The entire Repsol Honda team visited the corner where “Super Sic” lost his life, laid a wreath of flowers, and held a minute’s silence.

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda RC213V
We haven’t started this year, and going from 800s to 1000s I think it’s going to be a little bit more interesting during the pre-season, trying to understand where everybody’s level is, as well as what everybody’s machine level is. We know we have a lot of work to do now before the first race and that’s what we’re focused on doing. But how we can envision this championship going, we have no idea. We’re just going to do the best job we can at these tests, try and put ourselves in the best position we can for race one and start the championship well. But we don’t really know everybody else’s level or where we’re going to have to improve. I think Honda have done a fantastic job to give us this bike that we’re going to start with and hopefully we can improve it over these next tests. Hopefully, we’re going to do a little bit better job than the other manufacturers.

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC213V
Yes, it’s clear I’ve been good all this time. I could enjoy the holidays and think of other things than being in the hospital or things in recovery. So I could be with family and friends and enjoy the time. About the season, as Casey (Stoner) said, there are lots of things to feel in the pre-season, a lot of tests and we have to figure out how we are for the first race. How the rivals are also. And just work, because it’s going to be for sure a long season and the battles are going to be strong, as always. It can be similar to last season or it can be different. Nobody knows at the moment, but actually the thing is to work hard and keep the head until the end.

Shuhei Nakamoto, HRC Executive Vice President
The engine and chassis were developed last year because of the regulation change. We kept the same concept from the last year’s 800 machine. We expect this machine to be competitive enough to win the championship again this year. Even with the 800 machine you must reduce the power from first through fourth gear. With the 800, fifth gear, sixth gear, we could use the full power, then in a straight line. Of course this machine is a little bit faster. But time was gained only in fifth and sixth gear in the acceleration area. At the same time, the top speed is higher, meaning sometimes you must brake a little bit earlier. Then the cornering performance, if the chassis or tyres are virtually the same, it means that the cornering performance is exactly the same. So the new engine couldn’t make such a big difference. Then if you want gain the time, therefore you need more braking stability. And also we are having our chattering problems that we have to fix. Then I expect, of course, the lap time is better than 800, but not such a big difference, I expect.

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