Motorsport: Stoner's MotoGP bike on Kiwi visit

By Jacqui Madelin

Hand-built gyro small but mighty addition to world champ

Casey Stoner's hand-built frame took 50 hours to produce and helped the Australian ride to world championship glory. Photo / Supplied
Casey Stoner's hand-built frame took 50 hours to produce and helped the Australian ride to world championship glory. Photo / Supplied

As the cover slides off the bright-orange paintwork it's obvious this is no ordinary race bike. Bruce Nielsen's hands all but flutter as he tells me about the hand-built RC212V that took Casey Stoner to MotoGP victory last season.

Honda is a technological octopus and its development arms work together, so the solid state gyro within this bike was developed for the Asimo robot. Half the size of a pack of cards, it's what lets it walk, run and jump. In the bike it knows its exact attitude and what the rider is doing, then tells the engine how much power to apply: "It's a completely dynamic system," Nielsen says.

He's technical manager for the brand here, and a mine of information. "The hand-built frame took 50 hours for one senior welding technician to produce. He says it's a love-hate relationship with the rider, especially with Dani Pedrosa. He asks for a bit more flex, a bit more movement and the engineers have to go back and redesign the frame.

Now they must include the rider as a dimension in the design equation to get good results."

They build the titanium exhaust, too. "The engine technicians give them a tuned length and a few other parameters then they reverse engineer it to fit within the frame. It's especially challenging as it snakes back on itself under the seat to get the tuned length right. It weighs nothing and lasts less long than the engine thanks to heat stress - in a road bike it'd last 1000km," he says.

Yet all this cutting-edge tech still relies on a human skill.

"Precision equipment measures each gear during assembly, but the final check is by a master technician and done by feel. It might measure okay but if it doesn't feel right, they keep on working."

This RC212V boasts better power-to-weight than a Formula One car, put to the ground via a single contact patch smaller than a playing card, through tyres machined from solid billet rubber.

Like almost every part on board this bike, they're not available for sale but hand-built to order and priced to suit. "At the start of the season the team works out what it will crash or break and orders spares for 12 weeks. Because they're hand-made, Honda only makes what is ordered and there's no spare waiting on a shelf. Anywhere."

No wonder this one was flown in under cover of darkness and kept under wraps until today's conference, accompanied by the brand's head of global sales to celebrate 40 years of Blue Wing Honda in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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