Jonathan Rea To Test Honda MotoGP Bike In Malaysia

During the winter test ban, MotoGP's equivalent of the dog days of summer, the social media website Twitter has turned into a goldmine for journalists, from both the traditional and the new media alike. With so many high-profile riders, managers, mechanics and other members of the paddock active on Twitter, nuggets useful for filling empty column inches keep popping up almost by magic.

The most interesting nugget of recent days is the announcement today by Ulsterman Johnny Rea that he will be testing the Honda RC212V MotoGP bike at Sepang this week. Rea, who signed an extension to his contract with the Ten Kate Honda World Superbike squad for the 2011 season, enjoys very close relations with HRC, as witnessed by the invitation Rea has received to race in the Suzuka 8 hour endurance race, a highly prized honor among Honda riders. In a further acknowledgement of Rea's importance to HRC, the 23-year-old is being given a chance to ride Honda's MotoGP machine in Malaysia, as part of Honda's MotoGP testing program. As a non-contracted rider (he is contracted to race in World Superbikes, not in MotoGP), Rea is free to test the RC212V during the winter test ban, and as often as Honda ask him to, unlike the men racing Hondas in MotoGP in 2011, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Simoncelli, Toni Elias and Hiroshi Aoyama.

The benefits for Honda are twofold. Firstly, they get good feedback from a clearly competitive rider, Rea having been a title contender in World Superbikes for the past two seasons. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Honda gets a chance to evaluate Rea's ability on a MotoGP machine, to see how quickly he adapts to the stiffer chassis, stickier Bridgestones and carbon brakes fitted to the RC212V. Rea is widely tipped to move into the MotoGP class in 2012, and has hinted as much in interviews discussing his contract renewal earlier this year. With the 1000cc machines due to make a return from 2012 - and Ben Spies' stunning performance in his rookie year proving that switching series is not impossible - MotoGP may start looking towards World Superbike as a feeder series once again, as they did in the early years of the original switch to four-strokes in 2002. Rea is clearly at the top of several people's lists when the change comes.

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of emerging talent to break into G.P's. He has that ethereal ability to ride a motorcycle much in the way a certain Mr Schwantz did back in the day. Jonny is special and will make a real impact when he arrives in G.P's. I suspect he'll post damn quick test times too. Jonny doesn't strike me as one to get to wrapped up in or psych'ed out by the whole 'it's completely different to a WSBK machine' with it's 'stones and carbon discs. I'm sure it'll just be a two wheeled motorcycle when he slings a leg over the RCV212 and grabs a handful.

I just hope his Ten Kate Fireblade is up to the task of WSBK 2011 to enable his career to progress as it should.

He's clearly a top rider and I'm sure if the funding was there HRC (and especially Dorna I'm sure) would've liked to see him on the grid this year. 2012 should be very interesting.

...there isn't more of this.  Ducati and HRC have this figured out (at least a little bit), but what about the other two?

Yamaha would have good non-contracted riders begging to line up to test their bikes.  Suzuki should have bikes running around the clock, and could probably coax a couple of their former GP riders back out onto the test track(s).

I think the spirit of the testing limitations keeps this from happening more. If it did, it would just be more of a rider penalty and hurt satellite teams more. If they all did this more I think the increased costs would get out of hand. I think it's clear that no one involved is prepared to make the league a spare-no-expense endeavor.

...but it does not apply to Suzuki.  I realize they have the problems they do because they won't spend the money necessary, but getting to Sepang a couple times during the off-season to have a non-contracted rider test a few things before bringing the bike for the contracted rider in February is not all that expensive, in the grand scheme of things.

Also, in the same scenario, the satellite teams do benefit from any advances the factories make in the off-season with test riders.  In-season development helps the factory teams more, but anything done in the off-season (especially with test riders) is usually for the sake of all the teams on that bike.

I'd like to see an extra test or two for similar reasons as Rea's outing, just to see how some potential riders could do on MotoGP bike. Even if those riders never make it to the top league, a factory could develop experience with fast riders for future testing. I imagine that the people who do this for a living know better than me on how to manage development riders, but some Suzuka or Motegi tests would probably be interesting and not be too costly with minimizing equipment and engineer transportation. Satellite teams could directly benefit from factories being able to give rookies try-out opportunities.