Archive - Nov 26, 2008 - News Item
Interesting news from HRC, and a sign of just how seriously they are taking the 2009 season. Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that HRC has decided that every Honda RC212V on the grid next year will be equipped with an engine which uses pneumatic valve springs. This reverses a previous decision that the satellite bikes would all be running the former Pedrosa-spec engine, which utilized conventional steel-spring valves, but HRC has decided that running single type of valve return actuation in all of the bikes they run is the more efficient option.
There is a good deal of sense in the decision. If the satellite bikes were to run a steel spring bike, then HRC would effectively be forced to continue to develop two completely different engines, as happened in 2008. But once Dani Pedrosa made the final switch to the air valve engine, development on the steel spring bike was always going to be throttled back. Having everyone on a similar spec engine will allow HRC to concentrate more of its efforts on improving the factory bike, and not worry about the satellite bikes.
But this is also good news for Randy de Puniet, Yuki Takahashi and Alex de Angelis, the three riders on the satellite-spec RC212Vs next year. With the satellite bike being closer to the factory Honda, upgrades and improvements should filter down to the satellite teams much more quickly, helping to make them competitive. And it's also good news for MotoGP fans: with 6 Hondas in reasonably competitive shape, there should be more Hondas, and more riders, at the sharp end, and perhaps some closer racing.
The teams will get the new spec bikes at the Sepang test in early February. But first, the engineers and mechanics will be flown to Japan to be trained on the engine. Once the teams hit Malaysia, though, we should see just how much closer the satellite-spec bikes are to the Repsol Hondas and Toni Elias' factory-spec Gresini Honda.
So much for the safety argument. On the first day of testing at Jerez under the new tire regime, Dani Pedrosa took nearly 0.6 seconds off his existing lap record at the Andalucian circuit. It's almost impossible to stand in the way of progress, no matter how hard you try, it seems.
Pedrosa set his time while riding only a relatively few number of laps. Weather conditions this morning were cold, despite the sunshine, and the riders didn't really get under way until early in the afternoon. But while Pedrosa was fastest, the Yamahas are looking strongest, as Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Colin Edwards were 2nd, 3rd and 4th fastest respectively.
The gaps are large, though, with Pedrosa 6/10ths faster than Rossi, who is in turn over a second quicker than Lorenzo, the rest of the field bunched up, until we get to the Ducatis.
And the Ducatis are clearly the slowest bikes at the test, with only MotoGP rookie Yuki Takahashi in last place. Former Ducati test rider and now Pramac rider Niccolo Canepa was the quickest of the Bologna bikes, a fraction faster than Marlboro Ducati's Nicky Hayden. Hayden is nearly 2 seconds behind Rossi, and 2.5 behind his former Repsol Honda team mate, though the Kentucky Kid is still getting used to the bike and the Bridgestone tires.
The man who could make the biggest difference to the standings has been watching from pit lane. Casey Stoner was present at the test, but unable to take part. The official Ducati press release stated that Stoner's wrist injury was healing well, and he hopes to begin training on a bicycle again soon.
Testing continues again tomorrow.
The MotoGP riders are back to work again today, though some earlier than others. The Kawasaki and Suzuki teams have decided to skip the official Jerez test in favor of a private test at Australia's Phillip Island circuit. The choice is particularly important for Suzuki, as the team has struggled to get results at the circuit, the bike being down on both power and suffering with edge grip problems.
So far, the times released from the test, are still some way off the pace they need to run. Marco Melandri is still getting used to the Kawasaki ZX-RR, this being only his 2nd full day of testing on the bike, after the Valencia test in October was curtailed due to rain. But already Melandri is as quick on the Kawasaki as he was on the Ducati during the race here in October, though 0.7 seconds slower than during practice here in October.
John Hopkins was considerably slower, but the American has had some pain from the ankle injury he suffered at Assen in June. The tendons are rubbing on the plate put in place to fix the ankle every time he changes gear, and both knee and ankle are swelling up and painful.
But the fastest Kawasaki rider was test rider Olivier Jacque. The Frenchman is working on a revised chassis, which will form the basis for the 2009 Kawasaki MotoGP bike, due to make its debut at Sepang in February. Jacque believes the chassis should make it possible for him to run consistent 1'31s, which would be faster than the pace of the Kawasakis during the race here.
The Suzukis were both quicker than the Kawasaki men, Loris Capirossi faster his team mate Chris Vermeulen by 4/10ths of a second. But just as at Kawasaki, neither man is close to the times they set in early October, when MotoGP raced here. So despite the revised electronics and suspension, Suzuki still has some work to do.
Suzuki and Kawasaki will be testing at Phillip Island for two more days.
Times released from Phillip Island day 1