Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa are to test a brand new version of the Honda RC213V at Mugello. HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto told the media on Thursday that both Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner will have one machine each to use at the MotoGP test scheduled to take place on Monday, after the Italian Grand Prix.
The two bikes are being flown in from Japan specially for the test on Monday, after having been tested in Japan. The machine was described by Nakamoto as a completely new bike, though the HRC boss declined to share many details on the changes, saying only that the bike looked very similar to the existing bike. It is the bike which HRC had been developing for the 2013 season, but the chatter problems suffered by both Stoner and Pedrosa as a result of the new Bridgestone tires had forced Honda to bring testing of the bike forward. If the tests are promising, then the bike could be replace the existing machine well before the end of this season.
One reason to bring the bikes to the test is because although Honda's test riders had reported the bike was an improvement, it was hard for them to reproduce the chatter. "With the test riders in Japan, it is very hard to fix the chatter. There is almost zero chatter, because the lap time is a big difference," Nakamoto said. "This is the reality. If laptime was the same, he would be here!" the HRC boss joked. With the current machine, HRC was having to sacrifice corner speed and braking stability to control the chatter, Nakamoto explained. With the new machine, Honda's test riders had reported that the bike was improved, making it possible to maintain the same corner speed and braking stability without suffering the chatter.
Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa will now have to verify the findings of the test riders, to ensure that HRC's engineers are working in the correct direction. If the bike is sufficiently better than the existing bike, it will be introduced much earlier than initially planned, with HRC now looking at racing the bike well before the end of the year.
In the meantime, Honda have a few other parts to test as well. HRC have brought a new engine with improved drivability, which both Stoner and Pedrosa will test on Monday. If that engine works as expected, Stoner could start using that engine as soon as Laguna Seca, as the Australian is still only using the first two of the six engines he has in his allocation. Dani Pedrosa may have to wait, as he is already on his third engine. But Nakamoto told the media that Pedrosa would get to use the new spec engine "as early as possible" within the allocation.
Solutions for the chatter problem would not have to wait for the new bike, however. The HRC boss told the press that they also had parts to test for the current bike, aimed at reducing the chatter at the front and removing it entirely from the rear. One option HRC are not currently considering is a switch back to Showa suspension. When asked about the fact that Alvaro Bautista was nearly as fast as the factory Hondas, yet without the chatter suffered by Stoner and Pedrosa, Nakamoto said that although interesting, there was no plan to switch back from Ohlins to Showa. The factory had last tested the Showas back in 2011, but the results had not persuaded them of the necessity to switch.
Just how different the new bike is from the 2012 model will become apparent on Monday. It should also be quickly apparent how successful HRC has been in eliminating the chatter with the new chassis.