THE Sepang MotoGP race was somewhat a disappointment for the Repsol Honda Team.
Marc Marquez finished fourth and Dani Pedrosa was at fifth spot despite the latter starting from pole position. The rain dampened things for the team.
Despite this, the atmosphere in the Boon Siew Honda grandstand, where the participants of the Honda Asian Journey 2017 were camped out, was still upbeat.
The participants, like the Repsol Honda team, also endured Malaysia’s hot sun and monsoon rains but with a happier ending.
It all started with their arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Wednesday. The almost 100 participants included journalists, motorcyclists, Honda dealers and associates from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and India.
The group took a rapid tour via Melaka, Bukit Tinggi and Genting Highlands before arriving at the Sepang International Circuit.
Some lucky participants tested Honda’s flagship sportsbike, the RCV213VS, at the Melaka International Motorsports Circuit in Durian Tunggal, Melaka.
Boon Siew Honda also displayed a variety of bikes to try out - from the Akira-inspired NM-4 Vultus to the new X-ADV scooter for all to sample. I managed to test-ride an NC750X, a CRF1000L and the CBR650F and CB500F on the road.
On track, I got to try the NM-4 Vultus as well as the mighty RCV213VS. The seeding process for those who got to test the bike was stringent as it included a safety riding test consisting of a gymkhana-style cone circuit. Only after passing the test would you be able to test the RCV.
The RCV213VS is basically Honda’s MotoGP bike with headlights. It was expensive (probably close to RM1 million) with less than 200 units built (because the factory was damaged in an earthquake and the projected 213 units could not be completed), and a super-rare beast.
The V4 engine produces 213hp and the whole carbon-fibre clad bike weighs less than 190kg. The suspension and brakes are MotoGP equipment (or as close as you can get to Marc Marquez’s equipment). Needless to say, the main exhortation by the Honda crew was: “Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Crash It’.
The first time you hear an RCV being started would curl your toes and raise the hairs on the back of your neck. It rasps, barks and rattles away just like a MotoGP bike (but without the accompanying soundtrack (street-legal exhausts, you see).
The test-rides would be led by none other but Zaqhwan Zaidi, Boon Siew Honda’s star rider and ARRC SuperSport Champion.
He would be riding the full-fat race-kit equipped RCV, which incidentally sounded more like the Baby Samurai’s bike. The Melaka track, being what it is, would not be a super-fast test but mainly a sampling of the potential of the RCV.
The Honda crew wisely capped our test RCVs to 9500 rpms but even in fourth gear, it would be 160 to 170kmh at the end of the main straight. First impressions of the RCV are that of a sensible race tuck position, a tall first gear with the other five spaced closely and super-light predictable handing.
The 213 horses hardly woke up so I can’t comment on it other than how lightning fast it shot up to the imposed redline necessitating a fumbling search for the next cog. Race pattern gearshift for the next test session, please, Mr Honda.
The 570km tour itself was pleasant enough although the marshalling could be improved upon. Other than that, the hotels and food were great with the guided tours and destinations being particularly interesting.
The next Asian Journey should be particularly interesting if the venue is Thailand and the RCV test in Buriram Circuit. What a ride that would be.