Suzuka - What could of happend with the race



There was some concern in the Honda pit, as Rossi, after setting a record lap of 2’04.970 while pulling well clear of Capirossi on lap six, continued to run in the mid to low 2’05s. Honda had done what they thought was a conservative fuel estimate and believed Rossi, running mid 2’05s and low 2’06s would complete the race distance of 76 miles over 21 laps (plus the sighting and warm-up lap) with over a liter of fuel. As it turned out the Honda #46 ran out of gas just after crossing the line and obliging Rossi to take the lap of honor as a passenger on Nori Haga’s Aprilia (Rossi’s first appearance on an Aprilia since Buenos Aires, 1999 an observant Italian journalist wrote nostalgically).

Even before the accidents suffered by Marco Melandri and Diajiro Kato, Valentino Rossi was vocally critical of the track, saying that the walls were to close and that the bikes were now too fast for a circuit that was marginal even before the 500s were replaced by 990cc four strokes.

Prior to Melandri’s practice crash (and badly broken leg) and Kato’s life-threatening fall, HRC President Suguro Kanazawa replied to a journalist’s question saying that Honda intended to continue another four or five years with the V5 configuration and that “if we wished, we could increase power by from 30% to 40%.” Given Honda’s current 220+ horse power, a 30% increase would take the V5 to around 285 HP and a 40% increase would crack the 300 HP barrier.

Some believe that the only factor keeping horse power down to 220 HP is the current limit to 24 liter fuel capacity.

If Capirossi, who was quickest in the opening free practice, had had enough dry practice time to sort out a few problems and if he had started alongside Rossi on the front row, would Rossi have had to push so hard that the RC211V would have began sputtering on the last lap instead of the cool-down lap?

Capirossi explained after the race that running with Rossi was not a problem until his tires started to go off. GP observers have pointed out that the Desmosedici seems to be harder on tires than the Honda and that both Capirossi and Bayliss seem to start sliding and spinning after a few laps in most sessions.

If the engineers find a way around fuel consumption problems, the 30% increase in power that Kanazama mentions would take the MotoGP bikes to around 285 HP and applying such power increases to the road would put tire, suspension and chassis design to an extreme test.

Michelin, Dunlop and Bridgestone are hard at work testing and developing tires that will withstand the horse power that these 990cc four strokes are capable of producing. It is for this reason that Bridgestone are backing the Pramac Honda team with Makoto Tamada. Bridgestone also supply and back the Roberts Proton V5 effort. Bridgestone want to produce tires for the most powerful racing motorcycles currently built. Dunlop, dropped by Suzuki after three races last year, is working with Kawasaki.

But even without a 30% increase from current levels, the sudden jump from 190 HP 500cc two strokes (that were considered to be at the limits of their potential) to 220 HP 990cc four strokes (that are, according to Honda, just at the beginning of their development) may have made some circuits unsafe and obsolete.

I believe Honda’s opinion, as expressed by Kanazawa, is shared by the other five members of the MSMA (Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia and Ducati). At present the only factor limiting engine performance to the 220 HP range is the 24 liter tank.
It may not be very difficult for Honda to find another 40 horse power, but finding more run-off room at some sections of Suzuka could be almost impossible, which is another way of saying very expensive
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