I wrote a preview article regarding last weekend’s World Superbike and AMA Superbike racing at Laguna Seca. In it I mentioned that the horsepower advantage Honda clearly has with its RC51 superbike would not play a significant role in the outcome of the racing. I was wrong.
Watching the race, particularly the AMA race between Honda’s Nicky Hayden and Suzuki’s Mat Mladin, Honda’s horsepower advantage was key. Indeed, Nicky Hayden may have won that race because of a horsepower advantage (which I guestimate at a minimum of ten horsepower). Twice, Mat Mladin passed Nicky Hayden in turn 11, just prior to the longest straight on the track. Both times, Nicky Hayden (without bothering to draft the Suzuki — it wasn’t necessary) twisted the throttle and easily motored by Mladin. Would Mladin have won the race if he had horsepower equal to the RC51 at his disposal? Maybe so — he certainly would have stayed ahead of Nicky on that straightaway.
The RC51 is a remarkable first-year effort by Honda, which will only receive refinements in the years to come. The other manufacturers are already down on horsepower to Honda (with the possible exception of Ducati), and they better “get their act together” if they want to be competitive on those tracks where horsepower makes a difference (which is most tracks).