The 2010 RC212V handed to Hiroshi Aoyama at the first Sepang test, earlier this month, was so different to the version he had previously tested that the MotoGP rookie had to start almost from scratch.
Not only was the new bike effectively two years newer than the ex-Gabor Talmacsi machine Aoyama had tested in late 2009, but it was also mounted on Ohlins suspension, compared with Showa on the former Team Scot bike.
Combine that with some technical problems, plus the fact that Sepang marked only the second time that the new Interwetten Honda team had all its team members in place, and it is perhaps not surprising that the last ever 250cc world champion left the test just 14th out of the 17 MotoGP riders.
“We’ve had a tough couple of days,” said crew chief Tom Jojic, speaking exclusively to Crash.net. “The first impression of the new bike wasn’t particularly positive, but having visited Honda when they were building the bike I already had a plan of which direction to go in.”
Most frustrating of all for Aoyama was that his best lap time, a 2min 3.195sec, was well behind the 2min 2.3sec he had recorded on the Scot bike during his rookie test at Sepang in December.
“I think he was quite disappointed because he expected to come here and so the same lap time that we left Christmas with, which didn’t happen on either day, which is a shame,” admitted Jojic.
“I think there is quite a big difference between what he had before and what he has now. He was riding a two year old bike basically. He rode the end of ’07 [Factory] bike, which then became the ’08 Satellite bike which really didn’t change that much in ’09. It was quite old but he had a fairly good feeling with it. It did have its negative points but he managed to get on with it maybe a little bit better than this one.
“For me it’s just a question of time though, because you can see that Dani [Pedrosa] – okay he’s not as fast as Valentino [Rossi] – but he made a big step on the last day of testing. So I’m sure there is something we can find as well.
“We also had a few technical issues, some of which were self-induced by us to be honest. It’s a shame but we’re all learning at the moment and these things happen. That broke our momentum, because he’d just done his fastest laps and then we had to stop for an hour to solve our problems. And then the weather changed.
“The positives points for us were that in the wet he was competitive. For a rider who doesn’t really like the wet he was quite happy and said the bike feels good. And then we did make some improvements in the dry, but we still need to find a big step.”
So what exactly is the problem?
“Hiro’s struggling with braking,” Jojic replied. “That’s his biggest problem. With the old bike he could brake better than he can at the moment. It’s mostly the front of the bike. The rear seems to be better.
“I’d heard Pedrosa’s previous comments about the rear so I had a plan for it. On the second run we got the rear working well. So we had a quick fix for the back, but not the front unfortunately!”
The ex-Team Roberts engineer now hopes to sort the front end at the second Sepang test, which starts later this week.
“I already know what we are going to do at the next test. We’ve looked at the data, listened to Honda and seen what some of the other riders have done. So we’ve got a game plan already,” he revealed.
“I think we’ll be able to start more positively. He’s not 100% happy with the rear so I’ll also have another attack on that. Some new parts are on there way which will also help us. Some parts are on back order with Honda, which you have to expect when you have six bikes going around. When they are here I think we can make a big step.
“We have a Honda support engineer who is in and out all the time,” added Jojic, when asked about the level fo technical support from HRC. “I ask him questions during the day like ‘has anyone tried this?’ Because there’s no point me trying it if it is a big negative.
“The Honda engineers walk up and down and talk to their teams all the time. And if they find a good step somewhere, sometimes they will say to us ‘maybe you should try this’ which is just what we need in our first year as a satellite team,” he concluded.
The second Sepang test starts for test riders on Wednesday, with race riders taking over on Thursday and Friday. Only one more test session, at Qatar, will then be held before the start of the new racing season.
Retrieved February 22, 2010; from http://www.crash.net/MOTOGP/news/157037/1/new_bike_new_problems_for_aoyama.html