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