Soup
NewsFeaturesStoreRacingPointsClassifiedsNavigation
The Empire Strikes Back: Honda Looks To 2006
2006 possibly HRC's last chance to beat Rossi. So who's going to develop the bike?
by dean adams
Friday, October 21, 2005

Even now, months away from the new year, it's becoming quite clear that 2006 will be a pivotal year in MotoGP racing. Especially for Honda.

HRC-sources today denied the recent news that Nicky Hayden and Marco Melandri would lead the charge in development of the '06 RC211V."

While it is far from certain as to whether Yamaha's Valentino Rossi will abandon motorcycle racing for some four-wheeled pursuit in 2007, if he does leave bikes for cars after next year, that leaves just one last opportunity to beat their former favored son in MotoGP. If they don't, and Rossi never races bikes again, the fact that HRC was unable to defeat Rossi for the championship will be etched in racing stone forever.

Thus, 2006 is very important for Honda.

Which brings the subject of Honda's development for the 2006 MotoGP season. HRC will use an updated version of the former Grand Prix dominator, the RC211V, in 2006 but which riders will get to do late 2005 season and pre-season 2006 development on the machine are matters of speculation and conjecture. Outwardly there would seem to be a fork in the road in terms of HRC riders who could possibly lead the charge. The camps would seemingly be split between the young and the old: twenty-somethings Nick Hayden and Marco Melandri on one side of the pre-season testing garage, and Max Biaggi and other veteran HRC riders on the other (Sete Gibernau is heavily rumored to be joining Ducati's MotoGP team in '05, leaving Honda behind). Previously, veteran riders did the brunt of the development on Honda's MotoGP machines, but the inability of HRC to beat Rossi and Yamaha speaks louder than any words, and when coupled with the late season charges of the spry Hayden and Melandri, makes the racing fan wonder if it isn't time for HRC to let the old guard stay at home when the testing of the '06 RC211V by MotoGP teams begins in earnest.

Does any of this have any real impact? Yes, no, maybe. Only a fool would suggest that Nick Hayden is completely comfortable—or has ever been completely comfortable—on the Honda MotoGP bike; you can see at times from his race posture that he's not crazy about the front end of that motorcycle. Hence, getting a crack at developing the new bike to his tastes would be most welcome. Meanwhile, Marco Melandri has had little if any development time on the Honda, yet he's gone straight to the front on it. At the Laguna Seca USGP last July, former World Superbike champion and current Camel Honda MotoGP rider Troy Bayliss said he found the Honda GP bike quite confounding, that the set-up area where he seemed comfortable on the machine was razor thin, and indicated that the moment the rider tried to over-ride the bike to go fast, you'd actually go slower.

One issue that even HRC would not deny is that the stakes—for Honda—in 2006 MotoGP racing are almost biblical; the results will be referenced for a half-century.

While it is difficult to discern whether this indicates a trend, HRC-sources today denied the recent news that Nicky Hayden and Marco Melandri would lead the charge in development of the '06 RC211V. This doesn't necessarily mean that HRC intends to stick with the status quo for their development plan, just that they deny that a youth movement is on. (In fact, Tsutomu Ishii—General Manager of HRC—denies he made any statements regarding who will test the '06 RC211V).

Certainly one issue that even HRC would not deny is that the stakes—for Honda—in 2006 MotoGP racing are almost biblical; the results will be referenced for a half-century. Was mighty Honda able to beat the boy-genius of MotoGP racing, or will it go down in history that after Rossi left for their arch-rival Yamaha they were unable to win a single MotoGP championship?

ENDS

Return to News
 
 

PRIVACY POLICY | HOME | RETURN TO TOP

© 1997 - 2005 Hardscrabble Media LLC