Standard ECU Could Force Honda To Quit MotoGP
by staff
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Honda's long-term involvement in Grand Prix as a factory effort will be in peril if they are forced to use the spec ECU on the RC213V.
image thanks HMC

If standard electronic control units are in Dorna's upcoming crystal ball for MotoGP, then that future may not include Honda.

HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto told European media Honda will quit the MotoGP World Championship if standard electronics are made mandatory, which is rumored to be introduced for the 2017 season. Factory teams must use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU hardware in 2014 but still can write proprietary software for those black boxes, with the penalty of a maximum fuel capacity of 20 liters and only five engines per season.

Honda always has used Grand Prix motorcycle racing for an engineering laboratory for young engineers as much as a tool to sell motorcycles since the Honda Motor Company formed HRC in 1982 to lead all of its motorcycle racing activities. So Honda would lose half of its vital mojo for competition at the highest level if no avenue for electronic exploration was available, Nakamoto said.

This proverbial line drawn in the asphalt by Nakamoto will set up a fascinating - and risky - high-stakes game of poker between Dorna and Honda.

Dorna needs the competitive and marketing might of Honda in MotoGP. Honda riders have won the premier class world title 16 times since Freddie Spencer claimed the manufacturer's first championship in 1983. Riders such as Spencer, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson, Valentino Rossi, Nick Hayden and Casey Stoner either built or enhanced their legend by winning championships on a Honda.

But Honda also needs a global platform for its engineering excellence and to show the technology that presumably trickles down to its street machines. World Superbike already is adopting EVO rules for all bikes in 2015. That formula, which includes little engine tuning and mandatory electronics, probably won't satisfy Honda's engineering jones.

So where will Honda go to flex its mental muscle in worldwide road racing?

It will be fascinating to see whether Honda needs an elite-level global series more than Dorna needs the cache and factory expenditures of Honda.

Honda may not be able to ride a wave of resistance much longer. New Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna said the Boys from Bologna are committed to the new Open class, which features spec software and black boxes. It's presumed Suzuki and the planned factory bike from Aprilia probably will toss their chips into the center of the Open table, too, to save money.

So Honda's effort to force Dorna to allow electronic development by factories could rely on ironic support from bitter Japanese rival Yamaha, which has been relatively quiet about its position on electronics development in the future. Nakamoto's strident stance could become amplified by a factor of 10 if Yamaha Factory Racing bosses echo it.

MotoGP without Honda is a weakened championship. MotoGP without Honda and Yamaha is unthinkable, the commercial equivalent of a neutron bomb landing on Dorna offices in Madrid and Barcelona.


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