By Gordon Hatch, MotoGP correspondent
Honda ends its test of 2012 MotoGP prototype in Jerez
The Honda Racing Corporation ended its first public test of its 2012 1000cc prototype last week with Repsol Honda Team rider Casey Stoner being the only one of its three factory riders taking part in the test. Dani Pedrosa broke his collarbone in a racing incident with satellite Honda rider Marco Simoncelli at last week’s fourth round of this year’s MotoGP championship in Le Mans, France while Andrea Dovizioso was not present at the test.
With a two-week break before the Grand Prix of Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, Stoner arrived for the test at the same Jerez track where he was taken out at turn one by Valentino Rossi earlier this season. However, this time the 2007 champion had the track to himself while he evaluated the machine that he will eventually ride in his 2012 campaign.
By no means its first shakedown, the prototype has been already on track in Japan where HRC test riders Kosuke Akiyoshi and Shinichi Ito were charged with this task in April at Suzuka. Ito performed the shakedown of the new machine early in the morning before Stoner slung his leg over the Honda to begin his testing schedule. In total he completed 50 laps (221km) and as well as using the standard 800cc Bridgestone tyres used this season, he also tested the new prototype tyres for 2012.
Stoner’s laps were carefully monitored by top HRC mechanics flown in especially for the test and along with the company’s Research&Development engineers they listened attentively to Stoner’s opinions on the machine that Honda says is based on the concept of the present RC212V and the experience gained in the last stage of 800cc bikes.
Speaking after his 50-lap test Stoner said, “Everything has gone very well, very positive. It's just nice to ride the 1000cc again, to feel the engine and the power. I had a lot of fun, I enjoyed the first day because everything we've tried seems to be working, so no complaints. The biggest disappointment is that Dani is not going be here to test, as he is important to the development of this bike.
“We didn't focus on anything special today, just tried to understand what the bike is doing, how it reacts on the brakes and things like that, also considering some the issues we have with the 800cc right now. The braking point seems to be stronger, stability in the front going into the corner seems to be very good, and of course we want to understand how the power delivery is, and it is very smooth so no problem. In general, we haven't changed too much from the set up we have on the 800cc right now and the feeling is very similar, so it's pretty good,” he said.
It's just nice to ride the 1000cc again, to feel the engine and the power. I had a lot of fun.
Shuhei Nakamoto Vice-president of HRC was happy with the test but also stressed the importance of getting Pedrosa’s input as already stated by Stoner, “I think we had a good day of testing, the machine worked well as we hoped, without any specific issues. Of course, it's just the first day so we will need to improve but we tested many things and everything was ok. Casey is happy with a more powerful engine, also drivability was ok and on the chassis side we need to keep progressing.
“Unfortunately, Dani is not here and it would be better to have both riders' feedback. Casey's comments are very similar to the ones we received from the test riders, and this is good. Hopefully we can get Dani's impressions soon to keep working on the development,” he said.
Honda believes that with the switch back to 1000cc capacity, a “crucial point” with the new engine will be fuel consumption, as again in 2012 bikes will keep the 21 litre tank – the same as the current 800cc machines. To deal with this issue, Repsol recently sent experts to Japan to develop a specific fuel and lubricant for the new bike and say that engineers at the Repsol Technology Centre are focusing on a fuel which will not only offer “optimum fuel efficiency” but also deliver “maximum performance.”
The new fuel and lubricant was used in the bike tested by Stoner at the two-day Jerez test with no apparent problems. The giant petroleum company is constantly researching and developing new fuels and last year the fuel it developed for Marc Márquez saw him winning the 125cc World Championship. Repsol says it will develop the fuel through various tests with a single cylinder engine for research based on the prototype being developed by Honda for the next MotoGP season.
The single cylinder engine that Repsol mentions could be the new NSF250R 4-stroke engine that Honda will race in the new Moto3 Championship that begins next year in replacement of the current 125cc class. Honda has already announced that it will present the new machine in Catalunya on 2nd June this year.