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Hayden, Pedrosa to meet 'mystery' 800 on Monday.
Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa will ride Honda's new 800cc MotoGP bike for the first time next Monday, September 26, Satoru Horiike, managing director of HRC, has revealed in an exclusive interview with Crash.net.
Incredibly, the two factory Repsol Honda riders still have no idea how many cylinders the 800cc bike has, or what its overall configuration will be, he claims.
"They know nothing," he said. "We have not said anything to them – what the engine configuration is, or the bike's shape or the performance. The most important thing is to make a good machine for them, not to tell them what it is."
The design of the new 800 - and specifically its engine layout - has been the subject of heated speculation in MotoGP for months. Honda has presumably been testing the bike, presumably on circuits in Japan, for some time, but has managed to maintain an extraordinary level of secrecy about it.
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The other four manufacturers involved in MotoGP all announced earlier this year that they would retain their existing layouts for the 800cc formula in 2007, albeit with extensive redesigns. Ducati and Yamaha have already publicly tested their V4 and in-line four-cylinder designs, respectively.
But Honda tantalised everyone by saying: "We are looking at every available option, and we will decide later."
However, this philosophy is entirely in line with the tradition of a manufacturer that has raced bikes with every possible number of cylinders from one to six since it started in GPs in 1959, and with a known capacity for stunning the opposition with its radical thinking.
So, will Hayden and Pedrosa be confronted with a triple, a four, a scaled-down version of their 990cc V5, or even a six, on Monday morning?
Honda's dilemma is that if it retains the five-cylinder layout, the new rules require the factory to add 7.5 kg to the bike to take the minimum weight to the new level of 155.5 kg. A six would have to weigh 163 kg, so we can probably rule out that option, especially as fuel tanks will be one litre smaller in capacity, at 21 litres.
A four-cylinder bike could come in at 148 kg - the same figure as today's 990cc four- and five-cylinder bikes. But if Honda unveils a triple, for which the minimum weight limit is 138 kg, it would have a 10 kg advantage over four-cylinder machines.
We asked Mr Horiike whether there was truth in the rumours had Honda had designed a triple. "I can't say," he laughed. "I can't say anything."
But he confirmed that his riders will test the 800 for two days next week, after Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi. They will next sample the bike on October 30, the day after the final grand prix of the year at Valencia, where the machine will also be presented to the media.
We turned the conversation to another hot debate in MotoGP, the heavy testing load that Hayden has to carry at the same time that he is attempting to wrest the championship from the ferociously competitive Valentino Rossi.
Is the testing burden too great? Pedrosa and Fortuna Honda's Marco Melandri have proved that the 'standard' RC211V can win races this season, so why can't Hayden be allowed to focus on his riding?
Hayden's crew chief Pete Benson recently said: "We have probably lost at least one practice session at almost every grand prix to tyre testing. Nicky's bike is a lot more difficult to set up than Dani's: the engine, the chassis and the swinging-arm are all different."
But Mr Horiike said: "I don't think that it (the testing) affects his results. We have some schedules for the weekend. We have to test on Friday. We test tyres, and if the results are good we continue. If it's not good, immediately we change to make a better setup for the machine."