The big technical news of MotoGP testing, in case you missed it, is Honda's mystery gearbox. Speculation has centered so far on a system either identical or similar to the Xtrac Instantaneous Gearchange System, which uses a system of ratchets to allow two gears to be engaged simultaneously while driving only one.
The system provides several benefits, not just in terms of time gained in changing gears, but even more in terms of stability. Andrea Dovizioso explained that the biggest benefit of the system is that it keeps the bike much more stable when shifting gears while leaned over, making it easier to get drive out of corners.
With Honda obtaining yet another technical advantage, speculation has turned to how soon the other manufacturers will respond with a system of their own. That might come sooner than expected; MotoMatters.com found Yamaha's MotoGP engineering guru Masao Furusawa - due to start his official retirement and move into a consulting role after this test at Qatar - and asked the Japanese engineer whether Yamaha is working on a system of their own. "Sure we are working on a system back in Japan," Furusawa said, "but it is not ready yet."
The problem, Furusawa explained, was torque transfer. The sudden transfer of load from one gear to another under power was the key to a solution, and a problem that Yamaha had yet to crack. Yamaha's work and Honda's progress had made him very curious about HRC's problem, Furusawa said. "I am very interested to know their solution, but I have not been able to work it out yet."
But Furusawa downplayed the advantage that an instantaneous shift system had to offer. "It will only give a small advantage on the track," Furusawa told MotoMatters.com. The Yamaha boss was more interested in another advantage that the Hondas have, emphasizing the the big difference is Honda's bottom end drive coming out of corners. Cracking that problem would be the key to beating the Hondas, Furusawa suggested.