MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Honda’s MotoGP tech plans for 2018
First in a series looking at the lessons learned by each MotoGP factory in 2017 and their plans to be faster in 2018. This week, Marc Márquez’s chief engineer Santi Hernández discusses Honda’s RC213V
If you look at the MotoGP gongs that Honda has won over the past seven seasons – six constructors' titles and five riders' titles since 2011 – you’d think the company wouldn’t have much to do for 2018.
But, of course, HRC has plenty to do for 2018. Two years into MotoGP’s new tech era, none of the manufacturers have fully got their heads around the control software and Michelin tyres. And that includes HRC, which has probably made bigger machinery changes than any of the major factories over the past two years.
In 2016 HRC changed the RC213V’s crankshaft rotation from forward to backward to improve turning and reduce wheelies, to offset the effects of lower-tech wheelie control. Last season HRC switched to a big-bang engine that improves grip, to counteract lower-tech traction-control.
Changing from a screamer to a big bang changes everything: gear ratios need to be different, electronics settings need to be different, even suspension settings need to be different, because the engine dynamically loads the suspension differently. And of course the rider needs to ride differently, making the most of the plus points and riding around the negative points.
This is one reason Marc Márquez didn’t hit full form until halfway through 2017; he took only one victory from the first eight races and five from the last 10.
“The first part of last season was more like development,” says Márquez’s chief engineer Santi Hernández. “For the rider, everything changed, so it was difficult for Marc to understand the new engine character.”
A big-bang engine feels very different to a screamer engine – it’s a bit like switching from an inline four to a v-twin; everything seems to happen more slowly, to the extent that the rider feels like he is riding more slowly, even if the stopwatch tells a different story.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.