Honda is caught between a rock and a hard place. Like all of the other manufacturers, Honda has been hit hard by the recession, and is looking to cut costs wherever it can. However, the factory is also desperate for another World Championship, having had only one since Valentino Rossi left the factory in 2004 after winning nine out of the previous ten. The factory has to find a way to win another MotoGP title without breaking the bank.
The way they have selected to marry those two very different objectives is simple yet efficient. As of this season, all of the teams, whether satellite or factory, will be given the same bike. The only difference between the two machines will be the electronics, which control the performance of the bike to a significant degree.
The move marks a huge change in direction for Honda. In previous years, HRC supplied two different specifications of machine: A factory spec RC212V provided to the factory Repsol Honda team and a few selected satellite riders; And a satellite spec for the other satellite teams. The different spec of these machines could be significantly different, with different chassis, engines, fairings and exhaust systems. Even the factory spec machines were not identical, the Repsol bikes always at least a few iterations ahead of the bikes supplied to satellite rider.
By simply supplying the same bikes but with different electronics packages, HRC can cut costs and increase efficiency in both manufacturing and maintenance, while still controlling the performance of the satellite machines through the electronics package. Each rider has an HRC electronics specialist assigned to him anyway, and so this does not change the existing way of working in the first place.
The new system was explained by HRC's team director Kazuhiko Yamano at a press conference given at Sepang. "It's true, the bikes are all the same. The factory teams will keep the factory bikes, which use different electronics. If all goes well, the satellite teams will also receive these later in the season. How soon and who will get them first is hard to say, and will depend on the situation."