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The Repsol Honda Era is Ending (Opinion)

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In an excellent article on crash.net, Honda Repsol team manager Livio Suppo lays out the concerns of Honda with regard to the new Open category, particularly in light of Ducati’s switch to that category with its formerly Factory team.

In fact, I think Honda sees the writing on the wall. The Open category allows too many advantages, and Ducati’s impressive testing performance backs this up (take a look at the Phillip Island tire test results posted earlier today, and Ducati is just getting started). Moreover, the close relationship between Ducati and the Open spec software designer, Magneti Marelli, leads to speculation by Honda that Ducati has influenced the Open software package to the point where it is much closer to the quality of the Factory software. If you recall, this was the only advantage the Factory bikes had, i.e., development of superior software. Once that advantage disappears, the Open category will be not only superior from a performance perspective, but vastly superior. Honda can see this more clearly now, if you read Suppo’s comments carefully.

It makes perfect sense that a bike with 20 percent more fuel and software that is close to the Factory quality will be able to make significantly more horsepower, and deliver that power in a better manner for rider performance. This is without even mentioning the other Open class advantages, such as the softer Bridgestone rear tire specifically developed for the class, more than twice as many engines available to the category during the year (12 versus 5 for Factory bikes), and the ability to improve engine performance throughout the year (the Factory engines are locked as far as engine development is concerned once the season starts). 

In my opinion, this will lead to Honda leaving MotoGP, either this year or the next. Honda has been clear from the beginning that it races in MotoGP primarily to develop software that will eventually trickle down to its production bikes. It is now clear that Dorna’s new rules put Honda and other Factory class bikes at a serious performance disadvantage simply for insisting on the development of their own software. When all incentive for proprietary software development has left the MotoGP championship, and it has, Honda will make plans to leave. Honda has said exactly that on more than one occasion.

57 Comments

  1. Dan B says:

    How come there’s no uproar when Honda gets the rules changed to suit them. Gee, let’s see: A rookie can’t race his first year on a factory team (unless it’s for Honda), You can’t have more than two factory riders on the same team (unless it’s for Honda). The list of Honda influencing the rules goes way back. They’re just mad cause they got beat at their own damn game. I guess their just upset that their typical stratigy of flooding the field with their bikes may not work out as well as they hoped! Boo f’n hoo!

  2. Les says:

    Screw Dorna and the dynamic static they call a rule book.

    I personally would love to see Honda leave that goon show before dorna turn motoGP into the Indy series of bike racing.

  3. ohhhhhhhhh says:

    it’s really pretty funny no one is talking about Yamaha They have basicly given Forward a factory bike. Which i’m sure they will help guild the engine development. They are doing what Ducati is but are still running factory bikes also. I think Honda is just pissed there open bike is crap. Poor Nicky F’ed over again.

  4. Don Fraser says:

    Racing bikes have as much to do with street bikes as a NASCAR “stock car” has to do with a street car. It is entertainment and provides a place for the companies to develop their young engineers in a tough environment. Moto 2 puts on a great show using a spec engine. Moto 3 offers great racing. I don’t care what brand, or what nationality rider is winning, just want to see a good show.

  5. HondatheHorrible says:

    I watch motogp to see People race. Not manufacturers. I don’t give a flying monkeys butt where the bikes come from as long as they are fast.

    I have owned 5 Honda’s and liked them all. But as far as I am concerned they can piss off and let the best riders in the world find another machine to ride, and they will!

    Honda’s open machine was made to never threaten the factory machines, the did this by giving it valve springs and a corrosponding low rev limit. You make power in a 4stroke/Cycle engine with valve area. Aka you either have bigger valves, hold them open longer, or you rev it higher. Here is where I start laughing, because 1 of the four engine manufacturers in Motogp has a basic, simple and very reliable system to allow 19000+ RPM… Ducati’s desmo system. (2007 800cc engine was doing 20000rpm according to the coverage of the opening race a Qutar).

    So suck it up Honda, and prey that Ducati don’t get the engine dynamics right anytime soon. Cause if they do, and start handing these engines out to other chassis makers, your open bikes will be abandoned by all who have them. And your factory machines could well have there arses handed to them to!

  6. Norm G. says:

    i keep trying to tell you. check the news fellas. dorna’s done gone and brewed up YET another clusterf#%k…!

    (ps: no it’s not april 1st)

    • mickey says:

      Ya talking about factory 2 Norm? What a joke. We are going to give you an advantage, but if you do too good we are going to penalize you? Holy crap. Cluster is right

  7. OneWhoKnows says:

    Wanna see Honda MotoGP technology on the street? It might be more subtle than you suspect…

    Imagine a scooter that gets better gas mileage because of new lower friction bearings and other engine internals, or ECUs that allow engines to put out good power and feel smooth even when running lean for emissions and economy reasons.

    All technology developed in MotoGP

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      All technology developed in Honda’s auto division 20 years ago.

      • Dave says:

        “All technology developed in Honda’s auto division 20 years ago. ”

        +1. Also all technology that exists in the NC700 (that everyone thinks is too slow).

    • ROXX says:

      That made me so excited that I lost sleep last night over the anticipation.

  8. Jabe says:

    Honda has valid concerns. They have committed huge amounts of money and I suspect got caught a little off guard at the same time. I think they blundered in their approach to the Open Class machines which is only their own fault. I personally would not want to see Honda leave the sport, but I also think the sport would survive without them.

    Btw, for anyone who thinks makes the comparison of the electronics trickle down and the absence of any electronic aids on the CBR 1000, simply look at Honda’s history. The CRF comes to mind as one example. Honda is notoriously slow at times introducing new technologies until they feel it is perfected. Once they did put a 4-stroke dirt bike on the ground, it immediately became THE 4-stroke dirt bike.

    When Honda eventually does introduce the electronic rider aids in their flag ship sport machine, it will be so good that riding it will become benign, which is also another Honda trait at times.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “When Honda eventually does introduce the electronic rider aids in their flag ship sport machine…”

      …the dealers who mistakenly thought the manufacturer would be as dynamic and class leading with their bikes as they are with their cars (comma) will have long shuttered their doors and gone out of business.

      • Don Fraser says:

        Honda has been riding the wave of their original success wirh bikes and cars for a long time. ooks like they may be waking up finally.

  9. Norm G. says:

    re: “Honda doesn’t even put traction control on their top of the line sport bike.”

    re: “yet Honda has nothing on their sport line that shows any benefit from MotoGP electronics.”

    re: “Take a look at the Honda CBR1000 for trickle down software packaging. Uh, oh wait….. It’s all the other open class bikes that have the electronic packages on their street bikes.”

    guys, we’re beating the proverbial dead horse with this argument. i mean, we can cite it as many times as we like…? it’s not going to effect change in Tokyo. never has, not even a lil’ bit. let’s move on.

    Honda as a FOR-profit business is free to do whatever they want, for what ever reason they want. some could even argue, since they are the one’s Dorna called upon to prop up grandprix all these years…? this is a privilege they’ve earned…?

    they gave us gardiner, spencer, doohan, VR46. the gave us the NSR, they gave us the V5, and the zero-shift gearbox. they gave us REPSOL. now they’ve given us Moto2, Stoney, Dan, and Marcus…

    it’s good to be the King. (Mel Brooks voice)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StJS51d1Fzg

    warning, raunchy humor awaits.

    • Pablo says:

      Geez norm, are you feeling ok? Your above post is actually accurate and makes complete sense! You did however fail to mention Honda also gave us electronic steering dampers, gear driven cams, dual clutch autos, balance free shock’s……the list goes on.

      • bikerrandy says:

        I don’t hate Pedrosa, but after what he did to Hayden and the fact he’s lighter than any other RRer(should be a matching bike weight limit) and still can’t win the Championship, I’d just as soon see someone else beat him. Dani, the flea, Pedrosa.

        Honda is the big kahuna in Moto GP, getting their way most the time. I’d like to see them slapped once in awhile. If they leave Moto GP will they still have a monopoly on all the Moto 2 motors?

        • mickey says:

          Yea, I can feel the love in your rhetoric! Just admit it, you hate the guy. Golly he’s a top tier motorcycle racer that crashed and took someone out accidentally. Good thing that has never happened before, or will ever happen again ..and did it change the outcome of ANYTHING? No!

          Hey didn’t Marquez take out his team mate in the middle of a title chase last season? Yep… And you probably LOVE him. But then again you might hate him too because he rides a HONDA!

          Who do you like?

        • zzrwood says:

          Dani is very short and his light weight might have a slight advantage in acceleration and braking, but taller riders apparently get a leverage advantage in corners, so it’s supposed to pretty much level out. Simoncelli (RIP) was a giant in comparison to Pedrosa, and he wasn’t exactly slow…

          When he’s on form, Dani is poetry to watch…

          (Of course Marquez is like watching an acrobat juggling flaming chainsaws while doings double backflips!)

    • mickey says:

      Wondering where you nave been Norm, but of course in this format there is no way of contacting someone to see if they are alright.

      I have a hard time believing there are so many Honda/Pedrosa haters. It’s like Nascar has moved to motorcycling and everyone hates Ford/Gordon ( dont know if thats what he drove or if he is even still relevant since I dont follow Nascar, but I know he was hated by a lot of people for some reason)

  10. ROXX says:

    Take a look at the Honda CBR1000 for trickle down software packaging.
    Uh, oh wait…..
    It’s all the other open class bikes that have the electronic packages on their street bikes.
    Honda, put up or shut up!

  11. goose says:

    Dirk,

    I think you are being incredibly gullible. Honda’s “we race to develop software” is nothing more than political posturing. Honda fought the ban in electronic rider aids because they thought they had the best software, not because they couldn’t do a better job of developing street software internally. Let me put it another way, we’ve all heard/ read (and you and a few others have experienced) the incredibly advanced saftey systems on the new KTM 1190. Honda doesn’t even put traction control on their top of the line sport bike. Not having a MotoGP team doesn’t seem to be hurting KTM’s development yet Honda has nothing on their sport line that shows any benefit from MotoGP electronics.

    Honda is acting like what they are, a spoiled brat who has had too much power for too long. I dream of the day when MotoGP is run like F1, i.e not by manufacturers. Back to MotoGP, Honda has (by far) the best funded team yet they haven’t won the championship all that often. Without the brilliant Marquez Yamaha would (again) have won the championship last year. Given the fiasco that is Dani Pedrosa (how many years and how many Euros down that dry hole?) The people that run HRC have to be wondering how bad they’ll look on a level electonics playing field.

    Goose

    • Dave says:

      Why do people continue to bash Pedrosa? He’s one of the best riders in the world, one of only 4 who can be counted on to win MotoGP races in the past several years. Is it because he’s executed a bad pass and caused a crash here or there? Everyone has done that (Rossi/Stoner?). Honda has kept him while other riders have come and gone from the team. His team gets to decide what he’s worth, not us.

    • Guu says:

      That’s the problem. Honda has (I believe) the most advantaged technology in motorcycling in both the hardware and software. But it only benefits Pedrosa (superb rider btw) and Marquez. The consumer sees little or no benefits from that.

    • Jim says:

      BMW also has good software and no GP team. How do they do it?!

  12. GT says:

    Years ago in a similar situation Kenny Roberts pointed out to an upper level Honda Exec that 500 Gp racing was not all about them and could survive without them. I own 3 Hondas but here’s hoping Dorna stays the course and isn’t bullied into changing what’s looking like a competitive field.

  13. relic says:

    Electronics are not the future. How often does the traction control kick in on a goldwing? or how often does a rider use more than quarter throttle? The future according to me is in total control of valve motion. Pneumatic valves are a step in the right direction, but the ultimate goal is to have variable opening/closing timing and lift. This is the only thing that might save the v twin. There was a blurb about a company in Sweden? that uses pneumatics to open an close the valves (no cams) This has the advantage that the engine can be used as an air compressor on deceleration (energy recovery without 500 kg of electric motors and batteries)

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      What do v-twins need saving from?

      • relic says:

        dead horse beating department. … Increasingly strict emission controls require more technology. Variable cam timing has become the norm in autos. V engines require two sets of cam drives along with the variable timing mechanism. Needless duplication.
        Furthermore, catalytic converters must operate at high temps. Newer auto engines (pentastar) place the cat con near the exhaust port. A V engine must duct the exhaust gas to a single cat (massive heat waves off the headers)
        Variable valve timing/lift without cams means there are no cam drive mechanisms.

    • Hot Dog says:

      Is it pneumatic (air) actuated or is it electric operated?

  14. Brinskee says:

    Honda has enough weight in the GP series to throw around that they can get the rules changed for next year. They’re going to have to suck it up and deal this year, they could have interpreted the rules the same way Yamaha and Ducati did. They chose to develop the production racer to eventually build out a V4 supersport bike (my speculation) to be sold to the public and maybe even raced in SBK.

    There is no guarantee that any of the Open bikes (especially the Ducati) will run up and claim the title this year, but it will be interesting. Honda had until the deadline to decide open vs prototype and of course they chose factory and that is that.

    I’d love to see Espagaro and Dovi running up near the front with the rest of the pack. Bring back some good racing! Next year they will modify the rules again, and in a year or two are they rules up for a sweeping renegotiation?

    Interesting stuff. Those open advantages are pretty incredible, hopefully it will be a great year and not a three or two dog race. I’m personally hoping Rossi keeps his hot pace shown in testing so far.

  15. Bob says:

    Based on articles I’ve read on various moto-sites regarding the factory software vs open class software is that they are definitely not equal, the biggest difference being the ability to time-base map the ECU.

    Based on track day testing, the factories can program the ECU settings based on how long it takes to get from one turn to another and vary fuel delivery, spark timing, traction control level and whatever else those things can do. This is their solution to not being allowed to integrate a GPS into the electronics package.

    As it stands now, according to Hayden’s interview from his first test on the new Honda, the MM software can’t do that. They have to program it the best they can to be as suitable as possible for all areas of the track. I haven’t read anything else on the matter.

  16. newbie says:

    The funny thing about this is that it’s ALL Honda’s fault. They spent years forcing Dorna’s hand to skew the rules toward their strengths. And now they’re winning everything just like they planned. What do they expect everyone else to do–just sit there and take it? What’s funny to me is that Honda is threatening to leave–because they got their way so much that the other teams had to resort to exploiting loopholes to catch up.

  17. Provologna says:

    Of the 50+ bikes I owned, my Honda comment is that my ’83 VF700S Sabre had 115k on the clock when I sold it. For its age and miles the overall finish was still remarkable, and it ran like a top. The only non-scheduled service I recall was a busted voltage regulator, and that’s about it. Fuel economy was remarkably good considering my weight and throttle hand. Much fun sucking any BMW K75 off the road, and even most K100s. Torque a little soft in the mid range, but smoooooooth as glass from idle to past red line, and good power well into the red line. Could have used better suspension, but that was par in its day. Great motor noise.

  18. Jeremy in TX says:

    I have a hard time believing Honda will leave MotoGP. They have two of the best riders in the business, THE premier motorcycle racing sponsor-partner if there ever was one and a strong bike. I think Honda will either race open class, or Dorna will revise the rules next year to reduce the Open Class advantage and keep Honda happy. I think a departure from MotoGP is unlikely.

    Most people saw the writing on the wall as soon as the Open Class advantages were made public. There can’t be enough magic in the proprietary software to overcome that much of a handicap regardless of how much R&D budget you throw at it.

    • Hot Dog says:

      I believe you’re correct. I think Honda will stop beating their chest and join the party. I’ll bet that they’ll kick arse and I sure hope that DORNA leaves the specs alone for a few years.

  19. Tim says:

    So far I only have one Honda that has an engine with trickle down technology from their previous race experience – the six cylinder CBX. However it seems that if Honda were going to put lessons learned from Moto GP into bikes we can purchase, they would have a 1000cc sport bike with a V configuration engine. After all, they have been running V5’s and V4’s since the top class in road racing reintroduced four stroke engines about a dozen years ago.
    Please Honda, start selling a 1000 cc V4 sportbike with gear driven cams. Perhaps I should stop waiting for Honda to make a Moto GP trickle down bike and purchase an Aprilia or Yamaha instead.

    • MGNorge says:

      I’d love to see a V5, or even V4 in the top class from Honda but there’s got to be customers. It’s easy to shoot the s**t about this or that but how about bellying up to the sale’s counter and putting money where the mouth is? That won’t happen in great numbers until the economy improves more, there are good and better jobs and people feel secure.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “However it seems that if Honda were going to put lessons learned from Moto GP into bikes we can purchase, they would have…”

      …done it by now.

      re: “they have been running V5′s and V4′s since the top class in road racing reintroduced four stroke engines about a dozen years ago.”

      and they homologated a 90 degree V4 called the RC30 in the late 80’s… ie. more than a dozen years before that. apparently, it’s been there, done that for BIG RED.

    • James says:

      The gear driven VFR800 was the best road bike ever built. I’m sorry I sold mine. It did a 154mph indicated.

  20. mickey says:

    Randy that is awfully short sighted. Racing benefits when more teams/manufacturers are involved.

    How would you like to spend millions or billions developing software and hardware along the way, making your bikes the epitome of racing motorcycles, only to be told either you play with our stuff and dumb your bikes down, or we will penalize you so badly you’ll be forced to quit eventually.

    This is a very bad omen for MotoGP. The premier class in 2 wheeled motorsports.What manufacturer is going to want to spend development money not knowing if they will be able to use it or not? Dorna sucks. If I were Suzuki I’d be more than worried about returning to MotoGP.

    This is bad…very bad.

  21. bikerrandy says:

    Bye, bye, Honda. MotoGP is the only place left they can win a championship. Don’t let the closing door hit you in the ass on the way out.

  22. Colin says:

    Because, as they’ve stated and is repeated in this article, they compete primarily as a venue for developing software.

    But I don’t believe it, nor do I believe they will leave GP.

    Honda doesn’t even offer traction control on their streetbikes, the last of the manufacturers to do so. And they’ve had years for this to trickle down.

    Honda does offer ABS on streetbikes, yet that software isn’t even used in GP.

    And if the goal is to eventually advance street bikes, then testing software in WSBK would make far more sense (and be less expensive) than running a GP team for that purpose.

    Honda has a proud racing history of developing hardware, not software.

    They’re bluffing.

    • Pablo says:

      “Honda doesn’t even offer traction controll” sory Colin, you are wrong on that one. My 1993 St1100 had traction controll and that’s over 20 years ago! The new vfr1200, and the vfr800 has it as do other models in there line up.

      • Colin says:

        I stand corrected, nobody in the US buys the VFR800 or 1200 so I wasn’t aware, and the ST1100 software didn’t come from MotoGP.

        Their marquee sportbike the Fireblade still doesn’t have it, which was my point.

        And the GPS-based, track-specific, corner-specific software they are developing in GP has little value on the street.

        It’s a red herring.

  23. tori zimbalis says:

    Honda has bikes in the open class… Hayden for example….the problem Honda see’s is the restriction of development in Moto GP which limits effectiveness

    and in the open class the ECU being supplied my Magneti Marelli …Honda is certain the ECU will suit the Ducati (also Italian) and not the RCV

    I think Honda and Ducati have played this game before …..

    interesting

  24. endoman38 says:

    Ducati and Yamaha are using basically prototype engines with the spec electronics. Honda built a new engine for the open class, as they don’t want to technology in their prototype engined to be in other people’s hands. That’s why the new Honda open bikes are way down on power.

  25. Ricardo says:

    I don’t get it, so why doesn’t Honda move to the open class and enjoy teh same benefits? are they afraid they would not be dominant anymore? afraid of competition?. Very soon all factory teams will move to open class and here we go again, start right from teh begining without so many rules Dorna keeps coming up with…

    • banditfan says:

      But they wouldn’t enjoy the same benefits as they would have to use the Magneti Marelli software which at this stage seems to have been developed around the Ducati.

      • Dave says:

        I find the speculation that the software is key to Ducati’s performance interesting. I don’t recall them being significantly down on power before, now they just have a bunch more engines to burn through. Their problems were mostly chassis related, which only gets worse with more power.

        It’s looking like the new Open rules won’t do much to curb the costs of running a team. They’ve taken software out of the Open teams’ hands but for what? They can still spend all they want on engine development and they can burn through twice as many engines in a year. That doesn’t sound like it’ll be less expensive to me..