Honda’s left­field ap­proach

The Big H de­cides to make up for lap­time deficits with a tac­ti­cal fo­cus on en­durance. It nearly paid off...

Performance Bikes (UK) - - SUZUKA 8 HOURS -

Af­ter 10 years with­out a full-fac­tory Honda en­try at Suzuka, they could have been for­given for can­ning their in­tended 2018 en­try. Frac­tured ribs knocked star rider Leon Camier out of the race weeks be­fore, and robbed the wind from Honda’s sails.

With­out their lead rider and with a bike that wasn’t a match in terms of one-lap pace, Honda opted for an al­ter­na­tive strat­egy in the race. With en­gine power wound right down, they were able com­plete up to 30 laps per stint – a cru­cial three more than their ri­vals, Honda were a me­chan­i­cal tor­toise tak­ing on mul­ti­ple hares. It came close to work­ing hav­ing fin­ished only 30 sec­onds be­hind the win­ner. That, how­ever, doesn’t tell the full story of their race. With 90 min­utes be­hind the safety car and two fewer pit­stops, there were plenty of fac­tors that played into Honda’s hands.

World Su­per­sport race win­ner PJ Ja­cob­sen was thrown in at the deep end with his only stint in the race tak­ing place in the rain. Hav­ing never ridden the bike, cir­cuit or tyres in the wet he was fo­cused solely on avoid­ing mis­takes and getting to the flag, mir­ror­ing much of Honda’s ap­proach to the race. Their lack of out­right speed ul­ti­mately was an in­sur­mount­able hand­i­cap, but by fin­ish­ing sec­ond they sur­passed the ex­pec­ta­tions of many ob­servers, even though in­ter­nally Honda rarely ac­cepts be­ing beaten; much less on home turf, the Suzuka cir­cuit be­long­ing to the man­u­fac­turer.

With a fully fit Camier, their story might have been dif­fer­ent: an up­dated Fire­blade is also ex­pected for 2019, so they’ll be one to watch next time round.

‘With en­gine power wound right down, Honda were able to com­plete up to 30 laps per stint’

Ja­cob­sen was tasked with bring­ing the Blade home

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