While the 2013 MotoGP season has been favored with fair weather, Casey Stoner's testing duties for Honda have been severely hindered by rain. The previous test was a washout, and most of the last two days at Motegi were also badly affected by rain. However, the Australian managed to cram the best part of two days' work into a single day on Thursday, riding both the 2014 RC213V and Honda's production racer, to be called the RCV1000R.
Stoner was impressed with the progress made on the factory machine, speaking of 'big modifications and improvement' in the press release issued by Honda. It was also the first opportunity Stoner had to ride Honda's RCV1000R, a moment which had been highly anticipated by followers of the sport. Stoner's impression of the bike was very positive, saying in the press release that it felt like a factory Honda with less power and a slightly different feel in engine braking. Though no lap times were revealed for Stoner - all Honda personnel sworn to secrecy, and no other factories present at Motegi to leak times - the press release said that he circulated at 'high average speeds worthy of the RC213V.' When put next to reports that test rider Takumi Takahashi lapped half a second slower on the RCV1000R than on the RC213V, that would put Stoner's time within a few tenths of his time on the factory bike. That would make Honda's production racer a very competitive package.
That could be one reason why Aspar is considering a switch from Aprilia to Honda's production racer. According to reports on GPOne.com, the Aspar squad have spoken to HRC principal Livio Suppo about purchasing two of Honda's production racers. Aspar's main concern are the rumors that Ducati is trying to tempt Aprilia technical chief Gigi dall'Igna to the Bologna factory. Dall'Igna has been the driving force behind development of both Aprilia's RSV4 WSBK machine, and the ART bike raced in MotoGP. So far, Dall'Igna has shown no interest in a move to Ducati, however. One source close to Aprilia suggest that Dall'Igna could have started the rumors himself, to strengthen his hand inside Aprilia.
But perhaps Aspar's interest in the Honda is born of a more practical and pressing need. With the loss of Power Electronics as a sponsor, Aspar is in a more precarious financial position than they have been for a while. That makes them more dependent on Aprilia as a supplier, to the extent that Aprilia look to be underwriting both riders in the Aspar squad. Honda, on the other hand, have three production RCV1000Rs which are in the process of being built, but which have not yet been sold. A persistent rumor in the paddock insists that Honda could be tempted to part with them at a knockdown price, and selling them to a team with a proven track record would be an attractive choice.
That, however, would leave Aspar without riders. If both Nicky Hayden and - most probably - Eugene Laverty are being paid by Aprilia, then Aspar would have no one to put on the bike. Likewise, Aprilia would have two riders under contract, and no team to put them on. Despite the clear potential of the RCV1000R, the chances of Aspar actually racing them look relatively slim.
Below is the press release from HRC after Stoner's test at Motegi:
Stoner tests Honda Production Racer after bad weather again causes delay
HRC test rider Casey Stoner today tested the Honda RC213V works machine currently racing in the MotoGP class, and the "MotoGP Production Racer" as part of Honda’s development tests at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Tochigi, Japan.
Casey was unable to ride yesterday on the first day of scheduled testing, due to poor weather, but testing commenced as planned today under cloudy skies. In the morning, Casey tested the RC213V MotoGP works machine, and in the afternoon he also tested the Production Racer, a machine being developed based on the RC213V. Despite it being his first ride on the test model, Stoner lapped the circuit with high average speeds worthy of the RC213V. Honda is developing the track-only Production Racer to enable teams and riders to race in the MotoGP class in 2014 with a reasonable budget.
At 15h45 local time bad weather once again brought proceedings to an end.
"Unfortunately the weather played a big role in this test which was a little frustrating not to be able to share the workload over the two days. We tried to do everything today but it was a little difficult, and we also had the threat of rain again. We started with the current RCV, trying to find a base setting and then work from there. We had two variations of chassis' to try and some big modifications and improvements in my opinion. We also tried the production bike which was more impressive than I predicted. It had a similar feeling to the RCV but with a little less power and a different feeling in engine braking. With some small modifications I believe this bike will be competitive and I look forward to the next test with it! In general it was a good, but busy day!"