Stoner Impressed With Honda Production Racer - Could Aspar Switch Too?

While the 2013 MotoGP season has been favored with fair weather, Casey Stoner's testing duties for Honda have been severely hindered by rain. The previous test was a washout, and most of the last two days at Motegi were also badly affected by rain. However, the Australian managed to cram the best part of two days' work into a single day on Thursday, riding both the 2014 RC213V and Honda's production racer, to be called the RCV1000R.

Stoner was impressed with the progress made on the factory machine, speaking of 'big modifications and improvement' in the press release issued by Honda. It was also the first opportunity Stoner had to ride Honda's RCV1000R, a moment which had been highly anticipated by followers of the sport. Stoner's impression of the bike was very positive, saying in the press release that it felt like a factory Honda with less power and a slightly different feel in engine braking. Though no lap times were revealed for Stoner - all Honda personnel sworn to secrecy, and no other factories present at Motegi to leak times - the press release said that he circulated at 'high average speeds worthy of the RC213V.' When put next to reports that test rider Takumi Takahashi lapped half a second slower on the RCV1000R than on the RC213V, that would put Stoner's time within a few tenths of his time on the factory bike. That would make Honda's production racer a very competitive package.

That could be one reason why Aspar is considering a switch from Aprilia to Honda's production racer. According to reports on, the Aspar squad have spoken to HRC principal Livio Suppo about purchasing two of Honda's production racers. Aspar's main concern are the rumors that Ducati is trying to tempt Aprilia technical chief Gigi dall'Igna to the Bologna factory. Dall'Igna has been the driving force behind development of both Aprilia's RSV4 WSBK machine, and the ART bike raced in MotoGP. So far, Dall'Igna has shown no interest in a move to Ducati, however. One source close to Aprilia suggest that Dall'Igna could have started the rumors himself, to strengthen his hand inside Aprilia.

But perhaps Aspar's interest in the Honda is born of a more practical and pressing need. With the loss of Power Electronics as a sponsor, Aspar is in a more precarious financial position than they have been for a while. That makes them more dependent on Aprilia as a supplier, to the extent that Aprilia look to be underwriting both riders in the Aspar squad. Honda, on the other hand, have three production RCV1000Rs which are in the process of being built, but which have not yet been sold. A persistent rumor in the paddock insists that Honda could be tempted to part with them at a knockdown price, and selling them to a team with a proven track record would be an attractive choice.

That, however, would leave Aspar without riders. If both Nicky Hayden and - most probably - Eugene Laverty are being paid by Aprilia, then Aspar would have no one to put on the bike. Likewise, Aprilia would have two riders under contract, and no team to put them on. Despite the clear potential of the RCV1000R, the chances of Aspar actually racing them look relatively slim.

Below is the press release from HRC after Stoner's test at Motegi:

Stoner tests Honda Production Racer after bad weather again causes delay

HRC test rider Casey Stoner today tested the Honda RC213V works machine currently racing in the MotoGP class, and the "MotoGP Production Racer" as part of Honda’s development tests at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Tochigi, Japan.

Casey was unable to ride yesterday on the first day of scheduled testing, due to poor weather, but testing commenced as planned today under cloudy skies. In the morning, Casey tested the RC213V MotoGP works machine, and in the afternoon he also tested the Production Racer, a machine being developed based on the RC213V. Despite it being his first ride on the test model, Stoner lapped the circuit with high average speeds worthy of the RC213V. Honda is developing the track-only Production Racer to enable teams and riders to race in the MotoGP class in 2014 with a reasonable budget.

At 15h45 local time bad weather once again brought proceedings to an end.

Casey Stoner

"Unfortunately the weather played a big role in this test which was a little frustrating not to be able to share the workload over the two days. We tried to do everything today but it was a little difficult, and we also had the threat of rain again. We started with the current RCV, trying to find a base setting and then work from there. We had two variations of chassis' to try and some big modifications and improvements in my opinion. We also tried the production bike which was more impressive than I predicted. It had a similar feeling to the RCV but with a little less power and a different feeling in engine braking. With some small modifications I believe this bike will be competitive and I look forward to the next test with it! In general it was a good, but busy day!"

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If you want next year's lottery numbers, just drop me an email. (And thanks, fixed the typo now...)

Aspar says that they have "an agreement in principle" with Hayden, but nothing signed. Maybe American Honda is still in the potential sponsor mix....

Based on what I heard at Laguna this weekend, Honda has given up on Hayden. But about-faces happen all the time. I mean, we all expected the Hayden/Aprilia announcement weeks ago ...

Honda giving up on Hayden when they never truly gave him a shot even back on the 800cc bike after he brought the championship back to them after Rossi handed their ass to them on a POS Yamaha (HA!!!) ..... Something Dani has yet to deliver to them and it's been how long now ???!!!

Understood - I would just be curious to see what he could do on a competitive bike where he is the rider the team is focused on helping succeed, sad that his tactfulness, loyalty & work ethic isn't a sell point that would still make him an attractive investment for sponsers and a manufacturer..... guess you're only as good as your last win huh ??!! did an interview with Hayden last week in which he indicated a production Honda is still under consideration. No one mentioned it, which was surprising. Now I guess we know what he meant. I can see American Honda trying to pull this one off in the waning seconds.

And here's a bit of interesting speculaton: Hayden, if the reports are true, was supposed to be paid by Aprilia, which probably means he has agreed to terms with Aprilia and might have a contract directly with the factory. Even if he's signed that contract, I could imagine he has a clause that stipulates that he's to be placed in the Aspar team, which he seemed to be impressed with, or an equivalent. Now, if there might not be an Aspar Aprilia, and there's no equivalent, yet, might there not also be an executable contract?

The plot thickens.

One more intrigue: I could certainly see Honda delight in finding a home for those RCV1000Rs at Aspar and at the expense of Aprilia. Even if they have to sell them at bargain basement prices.

NH on a Honda again in MotoGP gives me goosebumps !!!! That would be phenomenal !!!! C'mon American Honda, make this HAPPEN !!!!

The RCV1000R is good for a young up-and-comer like Redding. I'm not so sure it's the best move for Hayden. He'll spend the next two years still fighting for eighth place with zero chance of ever getting much closer than that. Sure, the Honda is assumed to be a known quantity and it'll probably be decent. But it's been engineered to be a third-tier bike and that's all Honda will ever let it be.

The Aprilia at least offers a glimmer of hope that it'll be ever-improving and may even become a factory-type operation. I think I'd rather see more Aprilia Long Shots on the grid than Honda No-Hopers.

Agreed. Good for a surprise 6th on a track that is odd and favors a certain rider (like the newly reconfigured Indy and counter clockwise sweepers, odd grip and NH69 say?). But the Prod Honda won't strand a rider and wring the life force out of them like the Dudati. Aprilia on the other hand may be on to a 2nd pack bike just as soon as the software is settled! I see the Prod Honda NEVER EVER being inside a full half second of pole or fastest race lap in dry conditions.

My thoughts exactly. It is the same as with the Yamahas at NGM Forward next year: One thing you know for sure is that it will never ever be the best bike on the grid. There will always be AT LEAST four bikes (factory and satellite) that are going to be better, no matter what. And that is not counting - in case of the Honda RCV1000R - the factory and satellite Yamahas, which will likely be faster as well.

I really hope Nicky goes to Aprilia. Then he will at least be sure he will get the best the factory can build, and it will be tailored to his needs. It will be more rewarding, more exciting and he might write some history as well. And he will have the chance to actually have an advantage at some tracks.

... because at least Aprilia will be trying to give him 100%.

On a production racer, he's never going to get the level of performance of the HRC factory bikes, ever. Aprilia will at least be aiming to be the best they can be.

Seeing as Aspar has lost its title sponsor, Hayden has not signed with the Aprilia factory, and Honda has an extra 3 production racers in its hands, then the following conjecture suddenly seems like a real possibility:

American Honda, who has reportedly been able to come up with about half the money for a production racer teams up with Aspar, who throw in another few hundred thousand, while Honda (on the basis of surplus) discounts its production racer.

And suddenly a new MotoGP team is born... American Honda Aspar has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

I can already see the star spangled livery. It'd be huge for the American market.

I don't think it's that big a leap for Honda North America to actually make this happen. Who knows, with the right backing, it could be a one bike team. The rumour mill is in full swing (as ever). Ben Spies on his way to Ducati WSBK. This leaves only Nicky and Colin Edwards from the US in the paddock. Unless I'm missing something. The CoA has a contract with Dorna for the next couple of years (again, could be wrong). And nothing sells tickets like home grown participants.

If nothing's set in stone wit Aprilia then I think Nicky Hayden would be viewing this test and the RCV1000R with great interest. I know his time on the RCV was some time ago now. But surely he'll be able to dial it in a little quicker than he would the Aprilia that he's never ridden. Didn't Colin Edwards say a few years ago "a Honda's a Honda"...

Tell you what, I bet Scott Redding cannot wait to get a go on it either.

i still think it would be kool if Casey Stoner went to Phillip island and raced the RCV1000R

Given Stoner has said previously he thinks GP bikes need more power rather than less, and that he hates the tiered system in place I think there must be a bit of PR speak going on. Like an RCV with less power translates to like a neutered RCV and a bit of a slug.

Agreed. This is 100% HRC marketing speak intended to help convince teams like Aspar and Cardion AB to buy production racers.

If Aspar switches to Honda, I do not think Aprillia would have much trouble finding another team interested in fielding a pair of ART's with factory support. BQR and PBM would probably jump at the chance and probably wouldn't mind dropping one or both of their current riders for Hayden and/or Laverty.

Depends on what use teams can make of those allowances, to make up for the nominal power difference. If they are able to dial up the performance, at the expense of fuel consumption and engine life, then it might still be competitive.

I doubt Casey would call it a dog as he wants to continue riding these machines, but given his history, I'd be surprised if it was not praise worthy.

Take 15 horsepower off of a 250 hp GP bike and they are probably pretty lame, I bet it wouldn't out accelerate my 1200 GSA...

that Nick would do just fine on the Aprilia. Either Dovi or Nick said this year that the only difference between the Ducati and the ART is the Ducati 6th gear. If that is really the case, and Aprilia are going to indeed use pneumatic valve actuation and a seamless gearbox next year, that advantage Ducati have in 6th will likely evaporate.

Aprilia have two years of data to work from now and they aren't bound by corporate philosophies at Ducati. They also have a solid engineer in Da'llinga. Where as Ducati has...???? Add to that the extra fuel the Aprilia will carry next year and I think Nick will surprise a few people. Maybe not right away, but definitely before half season. What ever he ends up on, I hope he can show what he can do.

So this is a Honda press release in which a Honda rider says he is very impressed with the Honda. A Honda that they still are trying to sell.

This sounds exactly like a classic toilet cleaner commercial that we have here in the Netherlands: "Wij van WC-Eend adviseren WC-Eend".
In this case: "We of Honda recommend Honda".

Come on.

why bother eulogizing the new bike in the press release, just release Stoners lap times on the 2014 RCV and the RCV1000 and it will show how competitive it is, unless its not. Now if Stoner can't get within a decent margin of the works bike why would privateer teams shell out on it.

Nothing proves a point like facts and numbers. Stoner and Honda holding a test and only *saying* the bike is good is as about as political as it gets. Sounds just like "vote for me for I'm the best. Why? Because!"

Nothing proves a point like facts and numbers. Stoner and Honda holding a test and only *saying* the bike is good is as about as political as it gets. Sounds just like "vote for me for I'm the best. Why? Because!"

Agreed. Numbers alone will tell the story. Release the tapes! I also wonder about the new rcv213 improvements. Should Yamaha be scared?

The numbers on the ducati look pretty decent. high top speeds, has managed to qualify on the front row in a MotoGP race this season.

I'd say rider commentary (assuming it is legit) is at least as useful.

I'd be willing to bet Dorna would rather have Hayden on a production racer than a modded superbike. That is his (Carmelo's) vision of the future, after all. Hayden's still a popular guy. And if Stoner really did get the proddy racer within .5 of his fastest time, that's .5 closer than Hayden is on the Ducati.

I wonder, though, if the proddy racer's tests are being done with the Magneti Marelli software or not. I would hope so, but who knows with Honda.

seriously, you know casey was fast on that thing, i know they did not release the times, but come on... he was fast on the ducati, and honda is makin a new moto 3 engine just to say &%#$@ you KTM, do you think they are going to put out a junk production racer , maybe its just me, but i don't think so, one more thing,... lets so you own a company , you produce a product for the market, you believe in your product, its a good product, what your not going to tell everyone that its the digg-a-d dank green dream machine?

@ ghostdog6

In reference to your .5 seconds of the factory bike, I really don't think that matters. I'm certain that Stoner could probably get within a half second to the pole sitters on the current Ducati, doesn't mean the bike is worthwhile.

From my understanding the teams are buying these bikes, not leasing them. A well funded team, let's say Redbull, can dump their own money into making it better. Unless of course when Honda hands over the product all 12 engines are already sealed by Dorna.

But I think I read that Honda will provide tech support, which might mean, "ensuring that they're slow enough."

I'm sure Honda would be happy to see them wax a Ducati or three and finish ahead of the other non-factory option bikes. But I wouldn't expect Honda is eager to see an RCV1000R making life too difficult for any of their prototypes as long as they're still on the grid.

Face it, for the next few years, these bikes' primary goal is to help ensure that the factory caste system is preserved.

There should be plenty of crossed fingers that these things are close to the pointy end, hopefully allowing DORNA at some point in the future to revoke "factory team option" and run instead with newer motogp class entries. I understand this will offend the sensibilities of the technocratic engineering fan, but as has been documented, it is acknowledged the "show" is suffering and has been for a long time.
Lose a few Spaniards, a few Spanish races, lose Indy, get back Laguna and we're off and running.

I am rooting for "MotoGP" bikes to do well. And I know Dorna is rooting for them, too. I just don't think Honda and Yamaha want them to do too well, at least as long as they're spending huge sums of money to field pure prototypes. If Dorna gets its way, and the factory option bikes are binned in 2017, Honda will have a good package to continue to sell, and one that they'll enhance for their own teams.

In the meantime, they'll be just fast enough to be intriguing, but not quite quick enough to give the factory option bikes real trouble. After all, if Honda wasn't trying to control the performance and potential of the production bike, why wouldn't they sell last year's prototype minus the seamless gearbox? All of the development has been done. One could even speculate that the development costs of the RCV1000R were as much in neutering an RC213V to achieve a precise level of performance as in achieving a low pricepoint.

Anyway, you and I are just looking at different sides of the same issue. This line of discussion spun off from another about Nicky Hayden and whether he would be better off on the production Honda or the Aprilia. In that context, some (including me) argue the Aprilia is a bike with more potential because it isn't going to be limited by factory option siblings. I'm not unhappy about the production racers, quite the contrary, only that it seems for the next few years, the Honda and Yamaha proddy racers will be third-tier bikes.

Why wouldn't it matter? Given equal rider, if Stoner was within .5 on the proddy racer to his 213V time, that shows the proddy racer is fairly close. If you think Stoner is over-riding these machines to get a good time, think again. Also, if you don't think Hayden and Dovi are getting the maximum out of the Ducati, think again. They have reached the limit of what that bike can do.

Also, it was Takumi Takahashi that was supposedly within .5 of his time on the 213V, Stoner was supposedly closer. So it's not just Stoner's talent that's making the proddy racer get close to the 213V. Some random Japanese guy can also get it close. Supposedly.

Everyone was supposedly sworn to secrecy at this latest test. Takahashi's (Honda's regular test rider) times were from a previous test. David postulated that Stoner would probably be closer than a .5 gap, but that is no more than a guess.

One of the big unknowns is what software it was running at this latest test. If it is non-factory, then that is pretty darned impressive, otherwise, it is not really telling the full story yet.

Stoner was closer to what? Takahashi's time or his own time on the 213V? I haven't seen that. In the four articles I read about this, there was no mention of Stoner's actual time except a vague statement about Stoner's times being worthy of the the 213V and the inference that he was a "few" tenths off of his 213V times. If there's something I didn't see, I'd like to read it.

Maybe David can shed some light here.

No offense Trip, but GP has primarily been a two horse race for a very long time.

1984 Lawson (Yamaha)
1985 Spencer (Honda)
1986 Lawson (Yamaha)
1987 Gardner (Honda)
1988 Lawson (Yamaha)
1989 Lawson (Honda)
1990 Rainey (Yamaha)
1991 Rainey (Yamaha)
1992 Rainey (Yamaha)
1993 Schwantz (Suzuki)
1994 Doohan (Honda)
1995 Doohan (Honda)
1996 Doohan (Honda)
1997 Doohan (Honda)
1998 Doohan (Honda)
1999 Creville (Honda)
2000 Roberts Jr (Suzuki)
2001 Rossi (Honda)
2002 Rossi (Honda)
2003 Rossi (Honda)
2004 Rossi (Yamaha)
2005 Rossi (Yamaha)
2006 Hayden (Honda)
2007 Stoner (Ducati)
2008 Rossi (Yamaha)
2009 Rossi (Yamaha)
2010 Lorenzo (Yamaha)
2011 Stoner (Honda)
2012 Lorenzo (Yamaha)

In 29 seasons of racing, only 3 seasons has a non Honda or Yamaha won the title. So what's changed? The factory teams are still getting the best of the best, just like in years past. The factory teams are still employing the best riders, the best mechanics, the best techs, the best windscreen polishers etc.

I guess I just don't understand what people are complaining about.

Back then,when HRC announced Stoner testing the bike,many said he would race at PI. Clearly he never had any intention and only a conspiracy theorist would have seen it otherwise. My personal 'vain hope' is that HRC and Casey conduct a test at PI with RCV(L)1000R prior to the race weekend to showcase the potential of the bike. PR at its best it would be.Set a benchmark lap time for the weekend.
Hey! It ain't going to happen and anyway would not be significant given the changeable weather/track conditions at the Island day in and night out.
Anyway,lets get Sepang and Marc's potential Sepang penalty out of the way first.
Hell! The FIM should force HRC to equip him with Stoner's RCV1000R and start from the back of the grid. One thing they cannot take away from HRC is Nakamoto,Stoner,Marquez,Suppo,Gabarini and 3 of those names are ex Ducati. Get used to it.

Two horse race season in,season out. Factory Honda/Yamaha sport. Suzuki cur in and cur out at whim,in SBK too. Kawasaki? The stand out within the ambit of your correct histrionic is Ducati. A real pity their momentum was stymied by their pursuit of Valentino commensurate with a fatal lack of funding circa 2009. I just ran a replay of Loris in Sepang 2005. Clearly,their failure 2013 has naught to do with the engineering staff. Stoner alluded to it time and again.
What did he get actually? A pair of winglets on the fairing supposedly to increase downforce on the front. Perhaps Ducati need to give Pierre Terblanche a buzz. He designed an ugly as sin Ducati in the form of the 999SBK bike,but it worked. Ooops,that suggests a pipe frame. Heh Heh!

There are two reasons Loris was fast in 2005 (and 2006):

Firstly, the 4 stroke era had just begun, so all the factory bikes were in their infancy. The Japanese bikes have become veritable space shuttles since then, while Ducati chose to stagnate in development. Sure there were a few swingarms, flywheels, triple clamps, and more recently frame options, but the refinement just isn't there. They figured they had it all right since super freak Stoner was winning on it.

Secondly, there were no spec tires. Bridgestone used to make tires for Ducati that played to the strengths of the Desmosedici, and masked its weaknesses. Even then the bike wouldn't turn, and was hairy exiting a corner (Loris said as much himself), but these issues were mitigated with custom tires.

Also, with regard to Pierre Terblanche, he is only a designer. He only penned the shape of the 999. He did not create the electrics, the motor, the suspension, the chassis, or anything mechanical. There is a popular misconception that he created the whole bike, which simply isn't true. Confronted on this matter Terblanche himself has admitted that he is only a designer and his contribution was solely in the bike's styling.

if he's thinking of the Honda option, should call Casey to get an honest opinion. I'm not sure Casey was all matey matey with many riders, but Nicky should get the truth from him, I reckon.

@ ghostdog,

It wouldn't matter because as history has shown us, Stoner has the ability to extract the extra percentage out of the machine. With all respect to Dovi and Hayden, I don't believe they are getting everything out of the Ducati. Since the inception of the 800CC format there has only been one rider to get everything out of the Ducati, we all know who that is. The Ducati is by no means a championship winning machine regardless as to who is on it, but I'd bet my house Stoner would be noticeably faster on it than either Hayden or Dovi.

The times of the proddy racer are just rumors. If it was just .5 from the factory setting they would publish it as that would be better marketing to sell the machine than just a press release of Stoner giving it a thumbs up.

I'm right with you. The teams with the most resources have always and will always be in front. No one expects that to change completely, but I think a lot of people would like to see the competition get closer; we'd like for there to be the potential for a few surprises. We often romanticize the 990 era, perhaps too much, but there was at least the feeling that someone could spring an upset. Or a darkhorse could end up on the box .Happened occasionally, too.

The march of the electronic era and giant budgets has taken almost all mystery and unpredicability out of the equation. Yes, the Doohan era, and others, were similar in some ways. And GP racing suffered for it. But the machines themselves never seemed to be as big a part of the story as they are today.

Add to that an obvious tiered system that's now falling under the control of manufacturers with a vested interest in eliminating competition and, well, let's just say I'm waiting for 2017.

It's not good for a sport that needs big sponsorship dollars to operate. (I'm constantly amazed that some people think there are companies out there waiting to throw money at motorcycle racing.) And it's certainly not good for interesting racing.

I wonder why Stoner was testing the RCV1000R with an Ohlins fork and shock? I thought HRC wanted to showcase Showa on these bikes?

One statement from Stoner after this latest test puzzled me.

He said the production racer felt much the same as the factory bike, yet with slightly less power. Seeing as the production racer gets more fuel allowed, will this make ANY difference at all after all?

It was assumed that would be an advantage.

Unless HRC was running the factory bike at some 'max power' setting that it couldn't sustain through a whole race, then it doesn't sound like the extra fuel will be of any benefit at all

I had been thinking there might be a couple of high fuel consumption tracks that might allow the production racers to challenge for the front... doesn't sound like it

Nakamoto has already stated that there's no need for the RCVR to carry the maximum fuel allowance, that it's too much. There might be good engineering reasons for that (weight and weight distibution), and it might be a way of limiting the performance of the bike. Whatever the reasons, you can be sure that the production racer won't carry 24 liters of fuel. It'll probably hold more than 21, but don't expect a big gain from the extra fuel.

@ Trip,

While I agree the electronic age has brought upon us more processional racing, I attribute more of the decline to the spec tires. It was literally the demise of Ducati, Suzuki and Kawasaki. Bring back tire competition and the results will change.

Nicky Hayden has not announced where he will be for 2014 yet! We all thought that the Aspar annoucement would have come by now BUT it hasn't, why!? With Gigi being tempted to Ducati... Hayden would be in a very bad situation at Aprilia without him. And so would the Aspar team be... without Gigi to oversee their MotoGP project. Are the papers waiting to be signed or are we waiting for the ink to dry? I hope Hayden goes to Honda with the Aspar team backed by HRC and American Honda... racing 2 new prod-racers! Who would Nicky's team-mate be then??? Laverty on a Honda... may do wonders for Eugene's return to the Big Show.