Honda

2018 Buriram MotoGP Test Preview: Burning Rubber For Bibendum

The Sepang MotoGP test proved to be most instructive, both for the fans, who got a first taste of what the 2018 season could look like, and for the factories, who put the first imaginings of this year's bikes – and especially engines – through their paces. We learned that Ducati have taken another step forward, that Honda is improved, that Yamaha have solved one problem but possibly created another, that Suzuki are showing promise, that Aprilia are still waiting on a new engine to match their new chassis, and that KTM are starting to realize that closing in on the top ten was much easier than getting into the top five will be.

From Sepang, MotoGP moves to Thailand, some 1300km almost due north. The Chang International Circuit – mostly referred to as Buriram among the MotoGP faithful, as the circuit is owned by (and named after) the main Thai rival to Official MotoGP Beer Supplier Singha – may prove a good deal less instructive than Sepang, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it offers more of the same, especially from a climate point of view. And secondly, it offers less, in terms of variety of corners and bike maneuverability.

The layout of the Buriram circuit is relatively simple. There are no real elevation changes, though the track has one or two crests and dips. The track consists of three straights strung together with tight corners, and then an ornery section of tightish corners taking the riders back to the final first-gear corner, and back onto the relatively short start and finish straight. It is, unsurprisingly, a Hermann Tilke track, and exactly what you would expect as a result.

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The Winds Of Change At Ten Kate: Leon Camier And Kervin Bos On Honda's 2018 WorldSBK Challenge

No team has undergone more change than Ten Kate Honda this winter. With a new team manager and rider line-up will they have a change of fortunes?

It's hard to imagine a more tumultuous season than the one Ten Kate went through in 2017. On and off the track the team faced incredible challenges. The death of Nicky Hayden robbed the team of their leader and hindered the developed of a troubled bike. They had a season unlike any other and the winter has seen them make drastic changes for the 2018 WorldSBK season.

The introduction of the new Fireblade was supposed to be a game changer rather than a headache. A season that saw a best finish of seventh illustrated the task ahead of the team and wholesale changes have been made for 2018. Kervin Bos has been promoted to team manager, and Leon Camier has been brought in to lead the team as a rider.

For Bos, a long-time Ten Kate employee and former rider, the challenge is huge. The 30 year old replaces Ronald ten Kate, and inevitably with any change of management, the vision and direction of the team also changes.

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Subscriber Interview: The Huge Honda MotoGP Interview - Kokubu-san And Kuwata-san Talk 2017 And 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Honda's MotoGP program, Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Shinichi Kokubu. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett

In 2017, Honda achieved the triple crown in MotoGP; manufacturer, team (Repsol Honda Team), and rider’s title (Marc Marquez). Above all, the fierce battle between riders for the championship went on until the final race of the season, which fascinated people all over the world. Tetsuhiro Kuwata, director and general manager of Honda Racing Corporation, and Shinichi Kokubu, general manager of Technology Development Division in HRC, unreservedly looked back how tough their 2017 season was. They also give a frank view of their expectations for the 2018 season, which is already well underway in the laboratories and offices of the HRC race department.

AN: The 2016 season saw very spectacular races with nine riders winning one after another. In 2017, we had another exciting season that the championship battle went on until Valencia. Did you expect such an intense and close championship?

Kuwata In the past, there were many seasons that the championship was decided at the final round of the year so that the hard fight was within our expectations. On the other hand, regarding our performance, it was a difficult year for us because there were ups and downs during the season.

AN: It was the first season for you to manage the MotoGP championship. What was your priority to work on?

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Numbers Don't Lie: 2017 vs 2018 MotoGP Tests Prove You're Better Off On A Ducati

Normally, when comparing times from a test, it makes the most sense to stick to a single year. But sometimes, there are good reasons to look back at past years, in search of a larger and more universal pattern. Comparing the best laps of riders who were in the championship last year and this year proves to be a highly instructive exercise.

Doing that, there is one thing that immediately leaps out at you. The two riders who improved the most between the two seasons are the two who switched between a Honda and a Ducati. Honda riders will freely tell you that the RC213V is very physical to ride, and the fate of rookies who have come into the championship on a Honda has not been great. Tito Rabat came to MotoGP as Moto2 champion, but struggled to make an impression on the Honda. On a Ducati, he finished the test ahead of factory riders Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone, and just seven tenths behind Lorenzo on the Ducati.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test: Tuesday's Quick Takes

Three days in the tropical heat of Sepang always generates so much information, and so much to think about, that it is impossible to encapsulate it all in just a few short hours immediately after the test. It takes time to digest, analyze, and separate the wheat from the chaff. That will happen over the coming days here on MotoMatters.com.

Yet there are clear lines emerging from the murk of testing. Avenues worth investigating, trains of thought worth pursuing. So here is the short version of what I think we have learned from three days of testing in Sepang. The long version – or more likely, versions – are still to come.

Honda – cautiously hopeful

After the Valencia test, Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa were happy about the new Honda RC213V motor. The electronics were roughly in the right place, and it sounded like the only work left was in refining it to turn it into a capable weapon. They were so happy they decided to skip the Jerez test, and left the donkey work to Cal Crutchlow.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Round Up: Motor Monday, Miller Monday

The second day of MotoGP testing at Sepang turned out to be Motor Monday. Four of MotoGP's six manufacturers dedicated their day to gathering the data to make a decision on their 2018 engine. All of them have the lessons of 2017 in mind, when the rule on sealed engines caught Suzuki out completely, and Honda to a lesser extent. Make the wrong choice in testing, and you have nineteen races to spend regretting it, much as Suzuki did last year.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Sunday Round Up: Deceptive Pace, And New Engines, New Frames, New Hopes

The first day of testing after the winter break is always tough, and often deceptive. Riders spend the day trying to get their heads around mind-warping speed which simply can't be replicated by time on an MX or Supermoto bike. They have to deal with cramp in muscles they had forgotten existed, and which are only taxed by the very specific task of wrangling a 157kg MotoGP around Sepang's serpentine tarmac at speeds of over 320 km/h. They have to do all this in tropical heat, temperatures in the mid 30s °C and humidity of over 70% or more. The fresh-faced youngsters who spoke to us the day before are looking about 20 years older at their debriefs.

So sure, we have a timesheet, with names ranked in order of fastest lap. But that ranking should be regarded with a certain amount of caution. The first day of the test is a day of acclimatizing to riding the fastest racing motorcycles in the world again, and preparing for what is to come before the season starts. "The target today is just ride," Andrea Iannone said on Sunday night. "Ride, recover the feeling and arrive ready for tomorrow to start the plan we have."

Some recover that feeling faster than others, of course, and some aim to put in a fast lap and establish themselves, while others prefer to focus on getting back into a race rhythm, and working on all that entails. But in the end, the results should be taken with a grain or two of salt, at the very least.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Preview: A Comprehensive Look At Who Is Doing What, And Who Will Succeed

The Sepang MotoGP test is always a key moment in the MotoGP season. It is the first time the riders get a look at all the hard work that has gone on over the winter. It is the first time the engineers get to see if the ideas they extracted from the data from the November tests have any value, or were just wasted effort. The Sepang MotoGP test is the place where the dreams of riders and engineers careen headlong towards the iron wall of reality. It is where they learn if they will destroy the wall, or the wall will destroy them.

This year, the Sepang test is even more important. With so many riders out of contract this year, the outcome of the test will heavily influence any decision about their future. The lucky ones will get to make a decision on their own future based on their results, and the result of the bike. The unlucky ones – the reader should regard "unlucky" as a synonym for "slow" here – will end up having decisions made about them, whether the fault lies with them or elsewhere.

Why are the first three of nine full days of testing, and still months away from the first actual race, so important? Silly Season grows ever more precocious, starting earlier and earlier, factories now regarding it as normal to make a decision before the season proper has even got underway.

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Repsol Honda Team Manager Alberto Puig Interview: On Rider Contracts, Honda's Focus, And A New Role

In many ways, the appointment of Alberto Puig as Repsol Honda team manager is both surprising, and a logical choice. Puig was both the obvious person to run the Repsol Honda team, as an experienced team manager with a long association with Honda, but someone with a complicated history with the team's existing riders, having previously managed Dani Pedrosa, and crossed swords with Marc Márquez' manager Emilio Alzamora.

The Sepang test was the first time the Spaniard had a chance to talk to the racing press since his appointment. In a press conference with some of the assembled media who had turned up early, Puig addressed a broad range of topics. He talked about the challenges he sees in the Repsol Honda team, and his new role as its manager. He gave his perspective on managing relationships with the riders.

But Puig also shared his vision on racing, and the key ingredients in racing success. He spoke about how he sees the rider contract situation developing. And he also talked about Honda's main focus at this particular MotoGP test, telling us that the main objective will be to choose an engine for the rest of the season.

Here is what Puig had to say:

Q: Were you surprised when Honda appointed you manager?

Alberto Puig: I've been many years with Honda, so it was a possibility that people who are already involved can do more jobs in the future. So I was there at that time, and this is it. It's nothing new or something that couldn't happen. Normally I think that when you are in an environment and you have some years of experience in some areas, you have a possibility to get new opportunities and new challenges. This is what I think.

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Sepang Private MotoGP Test Final Day Notes: More On Yamaha And Honda's Aero, While Ducati Tries A New Frame

The final day of the private MotoGP test was wet once again, with just a few hours of reasonably dry track time before the heavens opened and teams turned their thoughts to building arks. It was enough to get some work done, but the rain meant that Casey Stoner did not do any testing on Friday, leaving the fastest time – according to GPOne, and unofficially – to Mika Kallio on the KTM.

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