If you were in the happy position to be able to pick any factory ride you wanted in MotoGP, conventional wisdom says you go with Repsol Honda factory team. Over the years, the factory Honda has historically been the bike to have if you want to become a world champion.
Or at least, that used to be the case until the series switched to the new 800 cc format. When the formula changed in 2007, Honda completely misjudged what was needed to build a championship-winning bike, and the once mighty giant has struggled to be competitive ever since. 2007 was a straightforward disaster, with only Yamaha's misfortune allowing Dani Pedrosa to take second place in the championship, while the rest of the Honda riders struggled mid-pack. 2008 was a little better, but Honda's improvement was mostly undone by Yamaha's progression, with Pedrosa slipping to third in the championship, but Dovizioso and battling further up the order.
If one bad season could be dismissed as misfortune, two poor seasons were bordering on a disaster, and after the big shakeup at the start of '08, it was generally assumed that HRC would not allow this to happen again. Honda's pride would not permit another season of failure.
But the omens are not very good so far this preseason. In testing, the Hondas have been significantly off the pace, with Dani Pedrosa once again the only rider capable of getting close to the top of the timesheets. The rest of the Hondas have not just the factory Yamahas and the Ducati of Casey Stoner ahead of them, but also the satellite Yamahas, and even the Suzukis. This is not as HRC had pictured it.
After landing the plum factory Repsol Honda ride after an outstanding season on the satellite Team Scot bike, Andrea Dovizioso is starting to get worried. In an interview with the Italian sports daily Gazzetto dello Sport, Dovizioso expressed his concerns about the state of the Honda. "I had expected a more competitive package," he told the paper. "But I don't know whether that's down to Pedrosa or down to Honda. From what I understand, he doesn't want too many changes."
According to the Italian, the problems are mostly in the braking zone. The bike has problems with stability under braking, which caused the bike to slide around too much in the cold and damp evening conditions at the Qatar night tests. The 2009 RC212V needs work on the clutch and on the engine power delivery, if it is to be competitive.
Although Honda is still developing the bike, Dovizioso is worried about the pace of progress. "I'm happy about the improvements, but it is all too slow. We are having to wait to see small improvements. We need to be more responsive," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.
Dovizioso also had a few words to say about his working relationship with his putative team mate Dani Pedrosa. The atmosphere in the garage is a little uncomfortable, according to Dovi. And though they don't exchange information, at least Dovizioso has access to all of the data. As for Pedrosa's manager, Alberto Puig, Dovizioso did not expect to be troubled by the Spaniard for too much longer. "Everyone knows that Puig is trying to exert as much power as he can. I think that when the new president of HRC arrives in June, things will be better."