Are Honda Preparing a Major Engine Upgrade For 2016?

It is no secret that Honda are struggling with the engine for the RC213V MotoGP. HRC have been making the engine ever more aggressive for the past three years, but in 2015, they finally went too far. The power delivery of the RC213V was too difficult to contain, even with Honda's electronics, and HRC suffered their worst season in MotoGP since 2010.

Things had not been looking much better for 2016 either. The engine Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez tested at Valencia and Jerez last November was at best a marginal improvement, with a bit more power at the bottom end, but still delivered in a very aggressive manner. Added to this, HRC have had problems with the new unified software which is compulsory for 2016. Where Ducati, and to a lesser extent Yamaha have managed to integrate the less complex spec software into their engines, Honda have yet to get a handle on it. That has made assessing the engine character even more difficult for Pedrosa and Márquez, the Repsol Honda riders finding it hard to pinpoint aggressive and abrupt throttle response on the engine character, the cruder software, or the interaction between the two.

It is a problem which Honda is now acknowledging publicly. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto admitted to the Spanish sports daily Marca that they were having trouble making their engine less aggressive. At a Honda event in Spain, where the Japanese factory was promoting their Civic Type R sports coupe car, Pedrosa and Márquez repeated their concerns about the engine. "We are at a stage where it is hard to say where we are," Pedrosa said. "The engine still needs some work," Márquez added, "that will be the key to understanding the whole package."

Pedrosa told reporters that Honda was already at work on a new engine. "We saw the engineers in Japan, but they were busy analyzing the data." Though Pedrosa and Márquez gave little away, there are signs that the engine changes could be quite major, with the final engine specification not being ready until the first race in Qatar. A report by Peter McLaren of suggested that Honda's satellite riders will be stuck using the 2015 engine for the first MotoGP test at Sepang. McLaren reports that the satellite Hondas of Cal Crutchlow, Tito Rabat and Jack Miller may even be using a complete 2015 bike, rather than just a 2015 engine in a 2016 chassis.

This is unusual for Honda. Normally, HRC brings the base model for the upcoming season for all of their riders at the Sepang test, with the factory Repsol Honda riders having extra configurations of chassis to test. The Repsol Honda riders may test minor engine upgrades at Sepang, but by then, the engine is usually pretty much settled.

That caused a huge problem for Honda in 2015. The extreme heat and humidity of Sepang helped tame the aggressive nature of the engine in February of 2015, lulling HRC into a false sense of security. Once they arrived in Qatar, with much cooler temperatures, they discovered that the engine was still far too aggressive. By then, the engine specification was fixed, and had to be frozen for the 2015 season.

Leaving the satellite riders with the 2015 engine is a clue that Honda will not settle on the final engine specification until quite late. With testing due at Phillip Island and Qatar after the test at Sepang, HRC will have a chance to test the engine in range of temperatures and climates, before choosing a final design. With the engine specification still being changed, it would be a waste of resources to manufacture enough engines for all of the satellite riders, when those engines will most likely be discarded for improved designs.

Though it remains speculation, it seems likely that the Repsol Honda riders will use both the Sepang and Phillip Island tests to steer the development direction of the 2016 engine. A near-final version would then be tested at the last test of the year, at Qatar from 2nd to 4th of March, with the finalized engines only being ready for all of the Honda riders at the season opener at Qatar on 20th March.

So far in testing, the Honda RC213V has looked like a very poor package, weaker than both the Yamaha M1, which was outstanding in 2015 and will only get better in 2016, and the Ducati GP16, which was already very good in 2015, and which has adapted to the unified software exceptionally well. The very different approach Honda are taking to pre-season testing for 2016 point to some rather major changes for the coming year. HRC face an uphill task in the coming year, with new electronics and Michelin tires adding to their existing problems with their engine. But their strategy underlines once again that you can never write them off. Winning is too important for Honda.

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Historical Honda Power Problems!
This is something that they've suffered from for years!
The usual cause is a complete lack of the Race Department not listening to the riders - and this goes back to the days of two strokes!
Mick Doohan was strong enough to resist them and deny their changes, but it would seem that others aren't as strong minded as Mick!

HRC just never seem to learn!

it may have been Honda's worst season since 2015 but that was in no small part due to Pedrosa undergoing radical surgery to relieve arm-pump, and Marquez thinking with a region somewhat lower down than his head. Had Pedrosa started off as he finished the season and if Marquez had realised you can lose the championship but not win it at every race things would have been very different.

Both of them proved the Honda was more than competitive. If Pedrosa had been fully fit and Marquez used the big head instead of the small one the Honda would be viewed quite differently.

Agree with Albert 100%, Honda never listen to rider requests they always think they know best & is a reason they also release road bikes nobody really wants. DN-01, VFR1200 just to name two, you would think a company that wants to sell there product would listen to there customers requests for upgrades to models people like.

... that's why the fireblade is one of the most popular sports bikes on the road, right?

Why the CBR600RR has won more supersport titles since it's release than anything else? Why the fireblade is still setting lap records at the IOM TT despite being based on a 7-8 year old engine)?

They are fortunate to have almost unlimited resources to throw at it. I'm hoping that they don't get it right because if they do I suspect it'll be a boring season.

since the '60's Honda have always tried the power game,

the RC181 was a classic example,with the smaller bikes,like the little jewel
125cc 5 cylinder,or the 250/297 6's they had less of a problem,even then they
had Hailwood throwing away rear shockers to get them to use Girlings to help the

fast forward to the 80's and the return,the theory of "less is more" was proved
by the 3cylinder 500,then onto the 4 cylinder versions,it was at this time ,most
tracks had "Honda" lanes!!,later as the power grew,only Mick Doohan could
control it,
In the 4stroke era,they worked hard to get the V5 is good as it got,then lost their
way when they split with Rossi,Honda knows best ??? well ,they didn't then,
and in my opinion still havn't truly got their MoJo back,
they need to go back to "Less is more"

"Are Honda's engines about to change?"....
"Is Honda about to change engines"...
Is this a difference in dialect?

'Is' is for singular items and entities, 'are' is for groups of items and entities.

In the first sentence the group of items is the engines - not Honda. It could have also been "Is Honda's engine design" - because the design is a singular, but there are many individual engines.
In the second sentence the singular item is Honda [as an entity].

It's common for people to refer to companies as a group ("Are Honda going to blah"), but I think that's technically incorrect - although widely accepted.

... that is because the other factories haven't stood still.

The 2015 Yamaha engine was significantly better than the 2014 one, so it probably would put them back a step anyway.

And 2015 was just going to get faster with bridgstone bringing more edge grippy tires looking to set as many records as possible before departing, and yamaha brining a fully seemless gearbox.

Honda could not afford to stand still. Staying with 2014 pace would put them 10 sec on avg behind the competion that 2015 showed. Like in life racing is full of moving targets.

Rather had Marquez traded in his 6 DNFs for 4th places he'd have been in the championship at the end just 5 points behind Rossi. Trade a few more of those 4ths fin or 3rds and 2nds, which was entirely possible given the positions he crashed out from, and he'd have been champion.

I don't buy the line that Honda is out at sea with their engine and electronics. Who was fastest at the two postseason tests so far? Honda, even plagued with all their issues. They still have Marquez, who can take a hard to control bike like no other.

Q: with the engine allocation raised from 5 to 7, could Honda (or Yamaha for that matter) mix engines in a rider's allocation? i.e. three 2015 type hard hit engines, and four 'softer' engines for the more flowing tracks?

The enforcement and verification procedures are loose enough to permit it undetected.

For example, it is written in the rules that inspections are only carried out following European rounds, at time arranged between the tech director and the team, at the team's European workshop.

This puts teams in a position to know which engine has been called into question and retain control over it until the time of testing.

Since the rules only state that broken seals count as a new allocation, and they do not state that broken seals constitute a failed homologation inspection. A team could simply change the cams or whatever it was that differed before hand and allocate it as another engine which is now matching the one submitted prior to start of first race in Qatar.

This cost you nothing if you haven't already sealed 7 engines. If you have then it puts you at the back of grid for next race (5 sec delayed pit lane start).

In case that approach seems rather dubious and outright obvious, a more subtle approach is also possible.

That is the option which allows teams not to provide any physical example of their engine to technical control prior to the first race. In this case all eninges must be sealed prior to first race and the first one declared as reaching its end of life and withdrawn from allocation gets set aside and remains sealed as the reference in case of future inspections.

So here if no engines are withdraw then there is no example for comparison until the end of season, and in case any protests are raised, simply retire the first one which has the matching cam in it.

A fast lap doesn't constitute winning races. If it did, Ducati would have fared much better last year.

The fastest times were set on the 2015 electronics. They wanted to minimize the number of variables and focus on engine and tires.