No Pneumatics for Nicky

Ex-champ and teammate stay with metal valve springs...for now.

No Pneumatics for Nicky

Honda is no longer the tower of power of past years. Or is it? What we know: The factory Repsol-backed RC212Vs of 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden and 2007 series runner-up Dani Pedrosa will not start the 2008 MotoGP season under the lights at Qatar with the hoped-for pneumatic-valve V-Four. Rather, power will continue to come from a traditional metal-valve-spring powerplant updated to suit an all-new twin-beam aluminum frame.

According to HRC, the air-spring engine will remain in development and see duty only when performance has reached appropriate levels. As for the rest of the machine, the gas tank remains for the most part under the seat, but it has been modified to allow passage of one of the exhaust pipes, the muffler for which now resides under a larger, more supportive tailsection, a la the five-cylinder 990cc RC211V.

The other exhaust, with its longer header, exits on the right of the bike, passes under the footpeg and finishes alongside the rear wheel. This new location addresses rider complaints about concentration-distracting noise levels. Continuing along the rear of the bike, the rear fender is smaller, while up front, two forced-air inlets once part of the fairing sides have reappeared (only half-visible) under the lower triple-clamp.

At the final round of 2007 at Valencia, Spain, Pedrosa steamed past the Ducati of newly crowned World Champion Casey Stoner en route to victory, a clear indication of progress. With these developments, can he (still recovering from a hand injury suffered in pre-season testing) do it again when the series kicks off this weekend in Qatar? Hey, anybody got the Vegas odds on Hayden?