Interesting news from HRC, and a sign of just how seriously they are taking the 2009 season. Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that HRC has decided that every Honda RC212V on the grid next year will be equipped with an engine which uses pneumatic valve springs. This reverses a previous decision that the satellite bikes would all be running the former Pedrosa-spec engine, which utilized conventional steel-spring valves, but HRC has decided that running single type of valve return actuation in all of the bikes they run is the more efficient option.
There is a good deal of sense in the decision. If the satellite bikes were to run a steel spring bike, then HRC would effectively be forced to continue to develop two completely different engines, as happened in 2008. But once Dani Pedrosa made the final switch to the air valve engine, development on the steel spring bike was always going to be throttled back. Having everyone on a similar spec engine will allow HRC to concentrate more of its efforts on improving the factory bike, and not worry about the satellite bikes.
But this is also good news for Randy de Puniet, Yuki Takahashi and Alex de Angelis, the three riders on the satellite-spec RC212Vs next year. With the satellite bike being closer to the factory Honda, upgrades and improvements should filter down to the satellite teams much more quickly, helping to make them competitive. And it's also good news for MotoGP fans: with 6 Hondas in reasonably competitive shape, there should be more Hondas, and more riders, at the sharp end, and perhaps some closer racing.
The teams will get the new spec bikes at the Sepang test in early February. But first, the engineers and mechanics will be flown to Japan to be trained on the engine. Once the teams hit Malaysia, though, we should see just how much closer the satellite-spec bikes are to the Repsol Hondas and Toni Elias' factory-spec Gresini Honda.