With Honda stating last season that they would be moving from their 2017 Cosworth based electronics system to the Magneti Marelli system this year, many watchers were surprised that the team did not attend the previous test in Jerez with at least one bike per rider running a full Marelli system.
Politics was said by some to be the problem but according to Robert Watherston, Head of Motorsports at Honda Motor Europe, it is something more practical that is holding up the appearance of the Italian electronics.
“It is not a political problem, we do not have the parts,” said Watherston. “We are waiting to get everything through. You have to have all the spare bikes on the same set-up and we have not got everything through. Once we get the equipment we have to then get it working. It is not necessarily a Marelli thing, we just haven’t got everything sorted as early as we would have liked to have done. We are just a little bit late.”
Given this situation, it was decided that Triple M, the only other Honda team in the championship should go down the Marelli route from the beginning. As they had no previous experience of the Cosworth system, it made logical sense to Honda. “It was just the practicalities of them building a system on their bike,” said Watherston in Portimao. “We already had the Cosworth system on these bikes so we were going to run them anyway, because we knew we would not get the parts. Then as they were drip-fed through it made more sense for Triple M to build from the ground up with the new stuff. We are trying to be as practical as we can and Triple M are very close to us.”
The exact status of Triple M, and the nature of their relationship with Honda and their official team run by Ten Kate, was explained by Watherston. But there is apparently no direct sponsorship or budget from Honda Europe for Triple M as a team.
“They are running their own team, and we are involved in helping them through Ten Kate, through the Red Bull Honda World Superbike team,” said Watherson. “So in that sense there is a contribution. We are trying to help them go faster, we have got expert help, a structure in place, but it is an independent team. But PJ, for example has a Honda contract. They have an independent structure but we are trying to help as much as we can. Our job is obviously to make Hondas faster and we want to be as fast as we can, so another good rider, having a good new team, stepping up to Superbike, and having faith in Honda – good news for us – so we will help as much as we can.”
By Gordon Ritchie