Why Honda’s latest MotoGP tech update is its biggest philosophical change

Honda’s current problems are very bad Marc Marquez He remains the best rider in the 2022 standings by 14 points despite not racing since the Italian Grand Prix.

Ahead of the summer break, Honda president Alberto Puig admitted that Honda will have to “change the mindset” once again at its Japanese base to get itself out of the hole it found itself in.

Honda’s problems are a combination of factors. Marquez’s major injury problems in 2020 highlighted how much of a difference he was making in the RC213V that would have been nearly impossible for any other rider to get the best out of.

Riding was below its peak in 2021 and an eye injury at the end of the year meant Marquez was unable to contribute much to the development of the 2022 bike.

Honda introduced a massive concept change with its bike of the year, making it even more rear-biased to try and remedy the rear grip issues that plagued its riders in 2021.

This didn’t work, and moreover it changed the way Marquez could ride a bike. Known for his aggressive entry into corners and feel for the front tire, Marquez was unable to use his usual riding style in the races he ran this year before missing after Mugello to have a major fourth surgery on his right arm.

When he returned to the track in Austria, Marquez said Honda had to “change the concept” – both with its bike and the way it operates in general.

We made a drastic change on the bike from the 21 to the 22nd, HRC technical chief Takeo Yokoyama said of Honda’s overall assessment so far on Thursday.

“But obviously we can’t be as confident as we used to be of course. Of course now is the time to study and decide what to do with next year’s bike.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / motorsports pictures

“Obviously we’ve found that some things are going as we expected, but some other things aren’t working as expected. So, we need to make some kind of tuning for next year. So, we won’t stay quite as we do now, but we won’t go back to the old concept” .

While all eyes were on Marquez last week at the two-day post-San Marino Grand Prix test in Misano, which was his first MotoGP ride since Mugello, it was what was going on in the Honda garage that mattered most.

In a significant departure from traditional work practices, Honda has operated a Calyx-made swingarm instead of its in-house designed component.

Kalex has been the chassis manufacturer in the Moto2 class, winning its 10th consecutive constructors’ championship this season because it remains the bike of choice for most teams. Kalex built something in the 50 swingarms area in 2022 for the 24 riders running its chassis in Moto2.

The Kalex swingarm is also a general departure in the design of this rear suspension piece at MotoGP, where most of them – Honda included – have worked with carbon-fiber swingarms in recent years.

Marquez tested it at Misano, but remained silent about how he felt about it. However, LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami Song praised in Aragon.

“We focused for a long time on the carbon swingar, but the Misano Calix test brought an aluminum swingarm and I had some question marks about the performance,” said Nakagami. “But once I tested a few laps, I felt something interesting. There was absolutely nothing negative, I felt very good. It was positive, frankly. So, I explained the pure feeling of the bike to the HR as well as to the Kalex engineer.”

The swingarm’s styling design, aside from the technical benefits — which Honda surely hopes to help solve mainly rear grip problems — is a massive shift in philosophy from the traditional squishy Japanese manufacturers.

Paul Espargaro He said at Misano that Honda’s decision not to give it much to test despite the problems it still faces in 2022 is due to the Japanese brand’s fear of slipping its secrets to competitors. While this will likely survive, they at least become happier to open their doors to outside influence.

At Yamaha, it brought in former Formula 1 engine chief Luca Marmorini as a consultant to help develop the not-so-powerful M1 engine for the 2023 world champion. Fabio Quartaro He praised the gains Yamaha made with its new engine when he tested it at Misano last week.

Takaaki Nakagami, Team LCR Honda

Takaaki Nakagami, Team LCR Honda

Photo by: MotoGP

While the likes of Honda and Yamaha likely won’t follow the European manufacturers’ course, they seem to have finally realized that falling in their ways is more harmful than risky.

Yokoyama made it very clear at Aragon, saying, “Overall, we’re the sixth manufacturer – we’re at the bottom [of the table]. Therefore, we need to ascend as quickly as possible. So, we just try to do whatever we can. We got to know people from Kalex, had some discussions and can understand that they can make something really fast. We know very well that their technology is very high, so we decided to cooperate. This is not the end of the story. We do everything for everything.”

Manufacturing new Kalex cylinders will not be an instantaneous process. Obviously this has been in the works for a few months. However, this is still faster than the Japanese brand’s tendency to roll out updates.

On an episode of Autosport’s Tank Slappers Podcast, Suzuki Alex Rains Offer this insight into the workings of Japanese MotoGP manufacturers.

“We speak like the Japanese are very bad, but they are very good,” he said. “They take their time to produce and improve things. Like, for example, we can see in the Championship that maybe Ducati has some new aerodynamic parts, and Aprilia – the Italian guys – are trying to improve their aerodynamic. Not copying Ducati, looking at Ducati. Suzuki has pushed It also leads to improvement in some areas and it takes time. But when they bring it up, they have an explanation for why they took so long.”

Given how tight MotoGP is now, it’s all too easy to lose a spot in the click rankings from week to week. Outsourcing something like swingarm design to Kalex not only brings much-needed fresh perspective and technical expertise to a high-profile, championship-winning brand. But it does mean that resources at Honda in Japan can be reallocated to other bike regions.

During the FP1 race in Aragon, no rider has tested the new Honda Swingarm but is likely to appear later today in FP2.

The new Calix swing system won’t alter Honda’s season and suddenly force it into the system. But the fact that he is so clearly broadening his horizons to reverse the dearth of its results suggests that the Japanese MotoGP manufacturers have learned their lesson.

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