After the recent Sepang Test, the fastest rider on a Honda Open bike was Nicky Hayden, yet he was 1-1/2 seconds off the blistering pace set by Aleix Espargaro on his Open Yamaha. The normally diplomatic Hayden was rather blunt about the fact that his bike was severely down on power in comparison with most of the other bikes at the test.
Honda MotoGP boss Shuhei Nakamoto initially responded to the Honda Open class riders’ concerns by stating that the riders simply needed more time to learn the bike. Now, media sources are quoting Nakamoto as stating Honda took a very different approach in building an Open class racer than Yamaha. The rules essentially allow all of the advantages of the “Open” category (among them, many more engines, 20% more fuel during the race and unlimited engine development during the season) simply by running the spec Dorna software. This is the approach Yamaha has followed with at least some of its Open bikes, which are full factory machines (with full factory engine, pneumatic valves, seamless gearbox and factory suspension), while Nakamoto now reveals Honda took a very different approach by building and developing an entirely different, lower spec bike for the Open category featuring traditional valve springs, standard gearbox, lower spec engine and lower spec suspension. Nakamoto also stated that “secrets” inside the full factory Repsol engines would not be shared with the Open class teams.
So Hayden, rookie Scott Redding and other Honda Open bike riders may be out of luck this year, struggling even to be competitive in the Open class itself. Ducati, for instance, appears to be taking the same approach as Yamaha by offering full factory specifications (minus the factory software) to the Open teams.