The challenge for HRC and Repsol: more power, less consumption
Interview with Shuhei Nakamoto, Vice-president of HRC
The rider, the bike, the tyres and the engineers are the four key factors in the performance of a motorsport racing team. At the Repsol Honda Team, the fuel and lubricant are also decisive factors.
When Repsol landed in the official Honda HRC team —the strongest team of the Motorcycling World Championship— back in 1995, one of the main objectives of the Spanish energy company and his Japanese partner was the joint development of their own fuel and lubricant that will offer new characteristics compared with what was used at that time.
With an intense joint work, the Repsol and HRC engineers developed the fuel of the current 4-stroke bikes and the success arrived soon. The introduction in 2012 of the 1000cc engines is a new challenge for the researchers of the Repsol Technology Centre and for the HRC engineers. To speak about the importance of research, development and innovation in top level racing, nobody better than Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda HRC vice-president and spearhead of the Repsol Honda Team at the Motorcycling World Championship.
“Thanks to the fuel that our partner Repsol supplies to us, consumption has been reduced; our engines use a little less and that is due to the fuel. We work very closely with our partners, in fact, we have a test MotoGP engine at the Repsol Technology Centre of the company in Mostoles. For some time our engineers travel to Madrid regularly to collaborate with them and their Spanish counterparts due the same, visiting our headquarters in Saitama”, explains Nakamoto.
At the World Championship, working at the top level and managing significant budgets, consumption is supposed to be unimportant, but it is not so, as one of the technical rules that regulate a MotoGP bike’s architecture is specifically the limitation of the fuel tank’s capacity to 21 litres. That means that for Sunday’s race the bike of the premiere category have a limited quantity available to complete all laps. Taking into account that those bikes have great power and need to keep their competitive level during the whole race, to achieve a lower consumption was undoubtedly a great challenge for the Repsol and HRC engineers.
“There are two notable aspects when it comes to fuel. The first one is that a good fuel must offer a significant improvement to the engine’s set-up and its response, making the power curve more usable. The second important point is consumption and its reduction, which allows to have a good fuel, always keeping the same performance level. This becomes even more difficult when at the time of developing a fuel you need to take into account the current FIM regulations, as before it was easier to find points for improvement, specially in the power department, but now the FIM applies many restrictions to fuel development”, states Nakamoto.
“And another of the challenges for racing fuel and lubricant is to keep the engine in perfect conditions during the maximum possible number of kilometres, thus increasing its lifespan”, adds the head of the Repsol Honda Team.
“The combustion process is the result of mixing fuel and air. A basic concept is that you can have the same performance and power with more air and less fuel. This way fuel is saved and the weight of the bike is reduced. Due to the evolution done by our HRC personnel together with the Repsol engineers, we achieved a fuel that, despite offering the same performance as fuels from other brands, allows us to reduce consumption and, in this moments —with the 21 litre limitation— is a particularly valuable feature. We can say that with the fuel developed jointly with Repsol we achieved a better proportion between fuel and air”.
Energy efficiency and environmental care
To the technical requirements add to the concerns for the environment. “The rule that compels us to have a tank of a 21-litre maximum capacity is a great challenge. We had to adapt ourselves to the environment and starting with the experience we have in MotoGP, we can apply that knowledge afterwards to other engines of daily use for the road. Both Honda HRC and Repsol are concerned about the environment, so our work is aimed at reducing consumption and emissions, but always keeping the highest performance level in such a technically demanding competition as the MotoGP World Championship”.
To that end, the knowledge exchange between Honda HRC and Repsol is constant. The MotoGP experience is transferred to the Honda factories and the Repsol service stations. “Both in Honda HRC and in Repsol we are very conscious of the importance of environmental care, so we use technical solutions in racing that we know that when applied to production engines can offer more performance while respecting the environment. Japanese environmental and emissions regulations are very strict, so we have a lot of experience in that field in production engines. In fact, I am able to confirm that the development of the 1000cc bike engine we will use the next season has some aspects of the technology of production engines that Honda equips in specific models of its production bikes”.
Continuing with the consumption concept, Nakamoto adds: “While last year the development of the fuel jointly with the Repsol engineers was focused in achieving the performance of the 1000cc engine we are developing, this year our engineers and Repsol’s centred their job in consumption and in reducing it to the minimum possible quantity. The new 2010 regulations offers us a great challenge: same fuel capacity (21 litres) for higher displacement and power with the 1000cc engine. Thus the key will not be to achieve a higher horsepower, but to reduce the consumption for a higher performance. It is a great technological challenge for the Honda HRC and Repsol engineers”.
“These new rules are an incentive to keep working for the environment. This leading fuel technology that is being developed by Repsol will be available, sooner or later, in their service stations, thus benefiting the final costumer and, above all, the environment”, concludes Nakamoto.
Source: Repsol Media