Honda’s RC213V has been the talk of the paddock over the pre-season Tests, and for good reason. The latest edition of their machine is a huge departure from what we’re used to seeing from the Japanese constructor.

Before delving into the details, let’s remind ourselves of what’s new; a new chassis, new engine, new aero, new fairings all around, new exhausts and a new seat and tail unit. 

Hardly a single thing has been carried over from the 2021 bike to the 2022 bike. The main feature of this bike is that Honda have finally found the rear grip they’ve been lacking for the past few years. From the looks of the engine mounting bolt locations, it appears they’ve achieved this by rotating the engine back, placing more weight on the rear and less on the front. The bike’s balance has changed and so it means that the Honda riders are now on a bike that has different strengths and weaknesses from before. 

One of the big things that Honda have been working on throughout the pre-season is their final chassis spec and it appears that the one seen on this bike pictured above is the one that they’re going to go for. Take a good look at the shape and size of all the different sections of the main beam because in the next image we’ll show you the second of three chassis that Honda have been testing

This is the second chassis and it’s clear to see how different it is from the one in the previous picture. The span of the main beam is larger with it seeming to be wider pretty much everywhere. 

While this chassis was tested throughout the pre-season, LCR Honda duo Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez only had limited time with the set up. The Repsol Honda riders never rode this chassis in Sepang or Mandalika, so we’re fairly convinced this one hasn’t made the cut.

And that makes sense, as the third and final chassis Honda were testing was an updated version of this one. Look carefully at the cut out section up towards the headstock on the main beam, this is one of the areas that changed on the updated version, which you can see below.

The first thing that’s different on the third chassis is the additional horizontal and curved weld on the main beam that wasn’t there before. But a bigger change is the cut out section further up. On this chassis, we can see how it has a smoother edge to it and doesn’t cut into the frame as sharply as before and it does look as though the span of the cutout section is slightly larger, with it appearing to stop closer to the top edge of the frame than on the other chassis in the previous image. 

Nakagami did a lot of laps with this chassis, often back-to-backing it with the chassis we first mentioned. Alex Marquez also did some laps with the chassis, but in Mandalika, he appeared to mainly work on the chassis in the first image, giving us the impression that Honda’s 2022 bike in Qatar will most likely be fitted with that one.

But, it wouldn’t surprise us when we turn up to Qatar if they, and Taka in particular, continue to have one bike fitted with the chassis pictured third and one bike with the chassis in the first image.

Elsewhere, Honda updated the whole back end of their RC213V. The top exhaust has been moved to the side to accommodate a large boxy tail unit. It’s suspected that Honda might have a mass damper inside that tail unit, but it’s not something that’s been confirmed. But it may also simply be that Honda have elected to house some of the electrical components there and cleverly use the weight of them to help with the balance of the bike that they want and finding rear grip.

The new exhausts are also coupled with a new engine, something which Honda have been waiting a long time to update. After the engine development freeze due to the effects of the global pandemic, Honda were left stuck with an engine spec that they weren’t happy with. While there is no doubt that Honda’s chassis and front-heavy RC213V of old was causing a lot of problems for itself, it wasn’t helped by an engine that seemed tricky to use efficiently and effectively on the brakes.

The updated engine is fed by a new air intake and new airbox. And concerning the new engine, we understand that pretty much all of the internals have been revised, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the firing order and the fact that it’s still a V4. 

One thing over the tests that we have noticed is that while the new engine may be very good, with nice characteristics and user-friendly power delivery, it does seem like it may be slightly down on power compared to the Ducatis, Aprilias and possibly even the KTM (but that’s hard to judge as KTM are having rear grip issues and so are unable to get out of the corner well).

We noticed on the speed trap charts that often Honda would be around the ballpark of Suzuki, and sitting down there amongst the slowest V4s, so perhaps as Honda continue to develop this entirely new engine spec we’ll see them aim for more power in 2023.

Honda have also been working on finalizing their aero package for the 2022 season. Aero packages have to be homologated, with each factory having to decide on one package for the season with then only being given one upgrade which they can bring in during the year whenever they wish.

Honda were running this aero for much of the test. You can see how the top wings are quite large and then there’s the additional set of ‘side pods’ further down on the side fairings. For the most part, it seemed that most of the Honda riders preferred the aero with the side pods too, instead of just running the top set on their own.

However, Marc Marquez was also trying the old aero package occasionally, but we believe this might have just been for Honda to reconfirm a few things they already know, so we doubt this aero will be on the bike when they arrive in Qatar.

So to summarise…

Honda are properly back. And that is a scary thought. Let’s not forget, this is an entirely brand new bike and it’s just ended preseason testing quickest of all. When was the last time a brand new motorcycle did that? 

They’ve finally found the rear grip they’ve been desperate for. The bike allows the Honda riders to grow their confidence, encouraging them to go faster and faster and it allows them to do it safely. If you think back to 2021 preseason testing in Qatar, Honda riders had an insane amount of crashes but this year, they’ve barely had any.

One thing to note is the difference in the feeling of the front end. Marc Marquez is such a front-end-heavy rider, famed for his ability to use the old Honda’s front end in a way that nobody else could. Will the new bike allow him to retain that alien advantage he has on the brakes compared to others or will it bring him back in line with the others a little bit? Only time will tell and it’s going to be interesting to see if Marquez is as dominant in places like COTA, the Sachsenring and so on, with this bike as he was with his old bike.

So that’s it for our Honda round up heading into Qatar. They’re in fine shape and the smiles on their faces after the Mandalika Test said it all. The menacing grin and the twinkle in the eye… Honda have their swagger back and that could prove to be devastating for their competition. –

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