This season sees the end of the line for the two-stroke engine in MotoGP, with the last two-stroke class, the 125cc class, to be replaced by a four-stroke alternative, the 250cc Moto3 alternative. And probably the most eagerly anticipated Moto3 bike has been Honda's 250 machine, with the bike expected to play a major role in the series. Honda had whetted appetites for the machine around the world by releasing partial photos to the media, but that merely left the press and fans wanting to see the whole thing.
They will finally get their chance in Barcelona, on the Thursday before the Catalunya round of MotoGP. There, HRC is to present the NSF250R four-stroke bike to the world in the MotoGP paddock. The bike will also get a few laps around the track, with former 500cc World Champion Alex Criville running a few demonstration laps on Thursday, and then again on Sunday after the MotoGP warm up, and before the 125cc race.
Honda's NSF250R is expected to be the backbone of the Moto3 championship for a number of reasons. Firstly, the extremely tight Moto3 regulations have cracked down on engine cost, making it very difficult to produce racing engines at a profit. This makes it likely that only the larger manufacturers will be able to produce the engines at the 12,000 euro price tag and still break even. The point of this is to prevent a horsepower war breaking out in the Moto3 class, which is meant as an entry class into the MotoGP series, and a class in which young riders can learn their craft.
But though the number of engine suppliers may be limited, there should still be a good variety of machinery on the grid. Several chassis makers have also been waiting for details of Honda's Moto3 machine, and will basing their own chassis and bikes around the Honda engine. The Honda NSF250 engine is likely to end up powering a number of bikes on the Moto3 grid, housed in a range of chassis. Moriwaki have been offering a version of the 250cc race class with the MD250H, an entry level racer aimed at young riders. It will be only a small step to adapt that chassis to the new engine - and make the bike larger to use full size wheels.
While Honda are ready to officially present their Moto3 project, the status of the projects from other manufacturers is less clear. The other major Japanese manufacturers are all expected to enter the class, with both Yamaha and Suzuki having expressed an interest. KTM are much further along with their project, with former Spanish 125 rider Joan Olive putting the Austrian Moto3 bike through its paces over the past few months in his role as official test rider. Once Honda have presented their project, no doubt the others will soon follow suit.
Below is the text of the Honda press release:
Honda Racing Corporation to Present Moto3 Machine in Catalunya
On Thursday 2nd June 2011 at the Catalunya Circuit, Barcelona, Honda Racing Corporation will present the NSF250R 4-stroke machine to be used for the future Moto3 class in 2012 that will replace the current 2-stroke, 125cc model used in the GP125 class.
This high-performance, lightweight and compact racing machine inherits important elements from the RS125R and will allow users to ride with the same sense of comfort whilst learning the basics to move up from entry level to the premier class, serving as a springboard in creating future MotoGP Championship riders.
From 1976's MT125R to the RS125R, which finished production with the 2009 model, Honda has produced an accumulative total of 15,000 market racing machines and over this long period of 34 years, Honda has broadened the base of 2-wheel motorsports both in Japan and Worldwide whilst also supporting a number of riders.
During this time, Honda has nurtured all 29 Japan Championship 125 cc class champions, a grand total of 130 Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (WGP) victories, 11 manufacturer championships and 9 champions with the RS125R. Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, currently riding the RC212V in MotoGP, both won World Championships aboard the RS125R and built up a great deal of experience. Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) has also supported customers by selling kit parts to make the engine and other components more powerful while continuing with sales of base vehicles, thereby expanding constructor business opportunities.
Later, environmental challenges for mass production models were pushed to a global level, accompanied by a similar shift to 4-strokes for motorcycle racing machines. The shift came from the the pinnacle of World Championship Grand Prix racing, moving from the GP500 (2-stroke, 500 cc) to the MotoGP (4-stroke, 990 cc or less at the time; currently 800 cc and next year returning to 1000cc) in 2002 and starting the Moto2 (one-make 4-stroke, 600 cc Honda engine) in place of the GP250 (2-stroke, 250 cc) in 2010.
The new NSF250R will be presented at the Catalunya Circuit at 15h30 on Thursday, 2nd June in the Relax Area of the MotoGP Paddock. This will be followed by a demonstration lap ridden by Alex Crivillé at approximately 17h00 on Friday 3rd June and a further demonstration lap after the MotoGP Warm-Up session on Sunday 5th June.