rand Prix racing has
changed much in 66
years, but there has been
one constant. Factory bikes run
by factory teams do the winning.
The rest make up the numbers, in
a battle to prove themselves good
enough for a factory ride so that
they too can get their chance.
It's a meritocracy, reinforced
by money. And it's worked well.
A bit like the music business: not
every good musician makes it
to the top, but by and large the
cream rises. Big rewards for the
few, a struggle for the rest.
One might even call it the
spirit of racing. That's more or
less what HRC's vice-president
Shuhei Nakamoto did, when he
railed against Ducati for switch-
ing to the "Open" category, and
Yamaha for supplying its custom-
er team with a factory bike, both
of which handsomely outclassed
Honda's RCV1000R customer
Having bent over backwards
to comply with Dorna's wishes,
and suffering a ﬁnancial loss on
each of the hand-built bikes sold,
these actions were (said Naka-
moto) "against the spirit of the
Given the rate at which rules
have been changing, that was
ages ago. But HRC were going
to have to submit to another kick-
ing, and yet more loss of face,
as Dorna went into paroxysms
of increasingly convoluted rule
changes to accommodate the
changed circumstances, con-
cluded barely in time for the Qa-
Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta
had originally proposed a sliding
scale of loss of technical privileg-
es (20 percent more fuel, seven
more engines, softer tires and
free testing) for any Open teams
that got too uppity, by ﬁnishing
on the podium. What emerged
from the next couple of weeks
of wrangling suited his purposes
After years of trying to bring
the factories to heel, he came out
with a landmark victory: Agree-
ment at last for all to use control
software from 2016 onwards.
This was softened by further
agreement for the rivals to share
in development of this mutual
software. Which is where the
whole thing leaves the rails.
Why would Honda, Yamaha or
indeed any manufacturer want to
share its most important ﬁeld of
development – not only for rac-
ing, but also for streetbikes? It's
a bit like two knife-ﬁghters of-
fering to share tricks on how to
sharpen one another's weapons.
Or chess players advising each
other on the soundness of their
And if it's that implausible, then
it probably isn't true.
Which begs the question: Why
did Honda sign up for it? Was it
because they didn't mean it?
We need to think about just
why Honda goes racing. It's not
to share secrets, that's for sure.
It is what they've always done.
Founder Soichiro "Pops" Honda
chose the Isle of Man TT as his
original proving ground, and ever
since that 1959 debut racing has
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
III IN THE PADDOCK
WILL HONDA QUIT… OR IS IT DÉJÀ VU
ALL OVER AGAIN