Honda and the RC211V

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
The two day IRTA MotoGP test at the Circuit de Catalunya ended with Hondariders filling six of the top seven places. Valentino Rossi was fastestaboard his Repsol Honda RC211V, 990cc five-cylinder four-stroke, 2/10ths ofa second faster than the West Honda Pons NSR500 two-stroke of LorisCapirossi. Tohru Ukawa, on the second Repsol Honda RCV, was third fastest.

The three Honda men were almost in a class of their own. Rossi held fastesttime overnight before Ukawa moved to the top of the time sheet. Rossiresponded with the outright fastest lap. Capirossi then put in a big chargeon the two-stroke and split the two RCVs...

Honda's finest were well clear of the M1 Marlboro Yamaha of Carlos Checa,in fourth place. Alex Barros, team-mate to Capirossi, set fifth fastesttime, after reverting to machine settings from the opening day.

Reigning 250cc World Champ Daijiro Katoh ended the session in sixth placeon the Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR500. Katoh spent the first day of the testsearching for an ideal machine set-up before chasing a fast time. Theafternoon saw Katoh at his best. Setting a string of very fast lap times hejumped from ninth place to sixth.

The second Marlboro Yamaha, in the hands of Max Biaggi, was seventh. He wasone of only three riders not improve upon their time of Saturday.

Rossi not only set the fastest lap time over the two days but swept passedthe timing lights at an incredible 314.8km/h. The fastest speed ever by amotorcycle at the 4.727km circuit. The combination of speed and lap timefiring a warning shot across the bows of his rivals for the title.

The Bridgestone shod Team Kanemoto Honda NSR riders concentrated the secondday on finding engine and chassis settings to suit the circuit in readinessfor the GP of Catalunya, later in the year. Team rider Jurgen van denGoorbergh had spent day one testing tyre and suspension combinations.

The teams NSR500s were equipped with very competitive front tyres but bothVan den Goorbergh, and HRC test rider Shinichi Itoh, agreed the rear tyresthey are developing for Bridgestone did not match the performance of theirfront tyres round the Catalan circuit. Consequently, their lap timessuffered the rear tyre limiting their ability to exploit the trueperformance of their four-cylinder two-stroke race machines.

Pramac Honda rider Tetsuya Harada, suffering the lingering effects of abroken collarbone, wisely spent the two day test familiarising himself withhis NSR500 in preparation for the season."

QUOTES:

Valentino Rossi: 1st. 1m 44.280s.
"It seems that in half an hour the bike is 95% good. Making the percentagebetter is now difficult. I'm very happy we feel this good about the bike insuch a short time. It is especially satisfying as usually, if it's good atCatalunya it is good at many of the circuits we race at."

Tohru Ukawa: 3rd. 1m 44.611s.
"I'm very happy with the test program. Things have gone well over wintertesting and we seem to make improvements in every area every time we go out."

"Most of the work we have done at Catalunya has really been re-confirmingwhat we have tried in the past It seems to be working, I can't rememberfeeling this satisfied at this stage of the season ever before. I'm readyto race."

Noriaki Nakata. Team Manager HRC:
This has been a very good test for usI'm very pleased with what we have achieved here. We tested everything wecame here to test and the results have been satisfactory. The team hasworked very well. We are now looking forward to the final test at Suzuka atthe end of the month.

Carlo Fiorani. Sporting Manager HRC:
"The bike is working well, and thespirit in the team is good. We have one more test at Suzuka before thegrand prix, which will be held on April 7th. Then we'll be ready to raceand look forward to adding to Honda's 525 GP victories to date."

Loris Capirossi: 2nd. 1m 44.483s.
I'm very, very happy, I killed the two-strokes out there today. My feelingwith this bike is very good, and I'm confident mood for the championship.We have made even more progress here than at the other IRTA tests. The twoHonda RCVs four-strokes are the top level, much faster than my NSR - theother four-strokes are about the same speed as my two-stroke machine.

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Brent Avis
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