Blog: Honda's new toy

Published: 23 September 2006

MCN's MotoGP reporter Matt Birt shares his inside knowledge on the new Honda 800cc MotoGP bike

Honda rolls out the new toy

Three weeks ago in Malaysia, HRC managing director Satoru Horiike told me to expect something different when Honda rolled out its new 800cc machine. I dont think anybody was disappointed when we saw Hondas new bike at Motegi. Visually the bike is a radical departure from the current RCV machine and from standing close to it this afternoon, it looks a fair bit smaller too. Some of the Spanish press boys who hung around showed me some action shots of Dani Pedrosa on the bike and they were laughing saying he looked like a giant on it. I wouldnt go that far but Kenny Roberts Senior told me it was smaller than he expected. I had a good long chat with Kenny in the paddock this afternoon, just to get his thoughts on the new 800s. Id seen him watching from the side of the track so I guessed he would have something to say because he always does. I heard from the boys back at the office that the pics I sent over caused quite a stir. Usually when pics of a major new bike wind up at our Peterborough base, theres a massive rugby scrum around the screen to get a look. Today was no different apparently. Once everybody has spotted various different things, its back to the hard graft. It was up on our website before anybody else, and when I contacted the office to tell them about Danis lap times, it became apparent that we should have a quick re-jig of the Japan GP pages and also the front cover. What seemed like a solid cover bike on Friday from the news desk is now relegated to an inside story. Thats how quickly things change. You always have to react to a story and be prepared to carve page after page up to give the readers the best and latest news. Dani's lap times were impressive and there was a bit of a media huddle tonight in the garage with him. As well as myself, there are about 10 of the regular media guys who follow the MotoGP circus at every round around the world who have been brave enough to stay on. It was quite funny actually to see how a manufacturers attitude changes when a new bike is coming on the scene. We were ushered into the Repsol Honda pit to see RCV bikes stripped to their bare bones. Normally youd be thrown out before you could say HRC, but with the 800s coming next season, nobody is bothered about secrets being spotted. You could barely move outside the Honda garage when the bike broke cover, and I cant ever recall seeing such an army of HRC staff in one place together. And when Dani was sat in the pits giving his first impressions, you couldnt see him for engine guys, chassis engineers, electronics technicians, tyre technicians and suspension technicians who were all hanging on his every word. When a bike is at its prototype stage engineers are desperate for a direction to take in development, and decisions made now could be make or break when the new season starts next March. Nicky didnt ride the new bike while he tested a range of new clutches. Nicky said today that a special meeting was called at the circuit last night to discuss the problem. And it was chaired by HRC president Suguru Kanazawa! That proves how important winning the championship is when the president hosts a technical briefing. Shinya Nakano was hanging around the paddock as a cut on his left arm suffered when he crashed on the last lap of yesterdays race prevented him from riding. I say hanging around, but he actually held crunch meetings this morning with Kawasaki staff. From talking to him later, I get the impression he told them he was leaving and going to the Konica Minolta Honda team. Apparently my ugly mush appeared on the BBCs MotoGP show yesterday. They asked me to do a quick thing on Nicky and Valentino. Im surprised they didnt cut it because it went out before the 9pm watershed. Ill be at the track again tomorrow, though Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau, Loris Capirossi and Dani Pedrosa were all heading for the flight home tonight. My turn is not far away and I must admit Im looking forward to it. Ill work all day tomorrow and then drive back to Tokyo airport for the final night of the trip. Later. M.

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