Repsol Honda Team Manager Alberto Puig wasn't lying when he said new parts were on the way on Tuesday, as Honda showed off plenty of new and interesting parts at the Official Test in Jerez. The all-black Honda that Pol Espargaro used in the closing stages of Monday's session caught the eyes of our experts for a number of reasons, mostly because it appeared to be a much-changed RC213V prototype being prepared for next year.
Firstly, though, let's quickly touch on the new parts HRC brought that we might see in action at a Grand Prix weekend very soon, mainly a new aerodynamic package. Five different packages were seen out on track during the day, as the factory look to find some immediate improvements. As you can see from the images below, Honda were seen, of course, working on their current aero package, they were testing an aero package first introduced at the Qatar Test earlier this year, two variations on the 'moustache' aero, which was first rolled out at the Misano Test last year, and also, quite remarkably, Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) was seen running the aero package that Honda used back in 2018.
Now onto the new RC213V that was spotted in Jerez. Firstly, the biggest giveaway: a new air intake. It makes sense that this would be here if Honda are testing a new engine spec as when teams develop a new engine they often change the intake slightly or redesign it completely, as we see here with Honda. The change almost mirrors what we saw from the air intake on the Yamaha M1 when they switched from their 2019 to 2020 engines.
Next, is the vastly different chassis. The first giveaway that this chassis is new is the lack of carbon on the main beam. Honda’s current chassis’ both have carbon bonded onto the main beam in one location or another. The 2021 chassis has carbon bonded onto the main beam around where the riders’ knees sit, where the 2020 chassis has carbon bonded onto it towards the top, around the headstock area. If you look at the top of the main beam, just underneath where the Honda badge is on the tank cover, you’ll see that there are two welds. The weld that points diagonally down to the left is new, something we haven’t seen from HRC before.
The other giveaway that this is a new RC213V is the location of the engine mount bolts, that sit above and below the swingarm pivot. The one above the swingarm pivot sits in the middle of the cross-section of the frame but the one below, right at the bottom of the frame, protrudes forwards a bit and is very close to the clutch housing. The location of these engine mount bolts is different compared to both the 2021 chassis and the 2020 chassis. All of this indicates that Honda were testing a new engine in Jerez, just like Suzuki. With this new bike having new engine mount points, without a doubt that will change the balance of the bike, so could it solve all of their issues? Well, only Honda will have the answer to that as they start to gather data and make a decision on whether it's the way forward for a new bike.
Finally, the all-black bike on show in Jerez had larger exhaust tips than what we see on the current RC213V. This is very interesting as Honda switched from this large exhaust tip to a small diameter one mid-way through the 2020 season, so them returning to this larger diameter exhaust shows them going back to what they had before.
When it comes to aero upgrades, Honda are allowed one during the year as they are currently running what they had in 2020. The rules dictate that this change is for a rider rather than the team, so theoretically we could see all four Honda riders using a different aero package at some stage throughout the year. However, the reason we mention the other new items as being part of a new RC213V, is because current rules state that Honda, and all other MotoGP™ manufacturers, are stuck with their 2020 engine for the rest of the season. All of the above changes revolve around the new engine they had in Jerez, which means none of them will be seen at a Grand Prix weekend until Qatar 2022 at the earliest.