Honda is working on a simplified version of its RC213V MotoGP machine to sell to teams as a CRT bike. Working together with Thomas Baujard, journalist for the French magazine Moto Journal, MotoMatters.com has learned that work on the V4 machine is already underway, though a production date for the bike is not yet known.
HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto confirmed to Baujard at Silverstone that work was ongoing on the project, though Nakamoto did not like it being referred to as a CRT bike. "Not a CRT bike," Nakamoto told Baujard, "it is a production racer!" When asked later by MotoMatters.com about the engine layout, Nakamoto confirmed that the bike was a V4 rather than an inline four. "It is a replica of this bike," Nakamoto told MotoMatters.com, pointing to the Repsol Honda garage, "But cheaper. It is easier to use an existing design."
The main differences would be in the level of technology in the bike. "The bike will maybe use a standard gearbox. And we are still thinking about pneumatic valves," Nakamoto said. The decision on using pneumatic valves was not dependent on the introduction of a rev limit in MotoGP, Nakamoto said. "The rev limit is not important." Pneumatic valves offer other advantages, such as more precise timing and more aggressive cam shapes, the pneumatic valves better able to follow a steeper cam profile.
Nakamoto was coy on when the bike would reach production. "Soon," was as precise as the HRC boss would be. "I know when it will be," he said, but he would not be drawn any further than saying "soon".
The production of a Honda RC213V replica CRT machine is a game changer for the CRT project. The return of a production racer, similar to the Yamaha TZ, Suzuki RG and Honda RS series of machines, has long been the hope and aim of all parties involved in MotoGP - back in early 2010, FIM President Vito Ippolito told MotoMatters.com that what was needed was a "series prototype", a production racer like the TZs he used to race in the 1970s and '80s - and Aprilia's ART machine was the first step towards such a bike. The Aprilias are suffering reliability problems, however: though built for racing, they were also designed to be rebuilt regularly. Max Biaggi used 28 engines during the 2011 WSBK season, more than two per race weekend. Randy de Puniet has 12 engines to last for 18 race weekends, meaning his engines need to last about three times as long as Biaggi's WSBK-spec RSV4 engines.
Honda can use the knowledge gained from their RC213V (already a paragon of reliability) to ensure that the bike is both powerful and reliable enough, and being based on the bike currently being raced by Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, it should be significantly more competitive than the current crop of CRTs, despite the lower technology spec being applied. The bike should suit the spec Bridgestones better than the CRT bikes, helping make it more competitive. Pricing will likely be a little less than the million euros that satellite lease prices are likely to be capped at. With only a few satellite bikes available - at a million euros, the factories are not inclined to produce very many, as the cost of supporting satellite bikes is high - a CRT version of the RC213V would be very much in demand.
The fact that Honda are willing to produce such a bike and make it available to CRT teams could mean that the Claiming Rule itself is about to be dropped. The MSMA members have seen that the bikes being entered under the CRT rules are no threat to their domination of the MotoGP class, and therefore have nothing to fear from dropping the claiming rule. Indeed, not losing an engine to another factory makes it more attractive for a company such as Honda to build a CRT machine. HRC would have control in the first instance over who the sell the bike to, and by the time it is sold on at the end of the year, the technology would be sufficiently outdated to make it acceptable to lose to a competitor.
More details of the bike are keenly awaited. For now, we shall have to wait for Nakamoto-san's "soon" to arrive.
~~~ UPDATE ~~~
MCN has a little more detail on the contractual part of the bike. Matt Birt writes that the bike will be sold and not leased, but that it will not run as a CRT entry, presumably to prevent the engine from being claimed. Pricing will come in at around 1 million euros, according to MCN, which is the level at which the cost of leasing a satellite bike is set to be fixed at at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Assen. The bike will be ready for 2014.