In the wake of two unusual suspension malfunctions at the 2017 Motocross of Nations, Team Honda HRC has released a statement on the issue that prevented Team USA’s Open Class competitor Cole Seely from completing either moto. Persistent rain turned the Matterley Basin circuit into a muddy mess and the heaviness of the British clay was impossible to avoid, as it stuck to every open inch on a motorcycle. According to Honda, this added weight is what caused the shock collar to slip out of place two times on the factory KYB part (consumer bikes come equipped with Showa suspension products), a problem that they had never experienced at previous mud races with the current machine.
Team Honda HRC also notes that the problem did not occur to Evegny Bobryshev and Tim Gajser because the bikes ridden by two European-supported riders were outfitted with Showa suspension components.
We talked to the team on Sunday and Monday, and the unusual mechanical issue was something that caught them completely off-guard. Although the problem occurred on an international stage, there was a sense of relief that Seely was not injured by something that could have been catastrophic. The team will work with KYB to better understand the issue in the coming weeks.
Seely, meanwhile, will skip the upcoming 2017 Monster Energy Cup to have a small plate taken out of his hand and to recuperate after months of racing. Shortly after this, Seely will line up for the 2017 Paris SX in France and will then focus on preparing for 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series and 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
Team Honda HRC today confirmed that the double DNFs by Cole Seely during the Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin in Winchester, England, last Sunday were caused by identical shock-absorber failures on his CRF450R. Seely was forced to withdraw from the muddy first and third motos after the spring holder on his factory KYB shock became dislodged, allowing the spring to drop.
"Clearly, we're very disappointed by what happened at the Motocross of Nations," said Takashi "Sam" Mishima, Manager of Motorcycle Sports at American Honda. "The factory KYB shock on our bike uses a cup-shaped spring collar with a slot where it slides over the shaft, and when the mud packed on the bottoming bumper during the first moto, enough force built up to shift the collar out of place. We used this same setup the entire AMA Pro Motocross season, including at muddy races like Unadilla, but this was the first time we experienced this issue. We replaced the entire shock for Cole's final moto, but the same problem occurred again. Normally with issues like this, it's difficult to even recreate them again, so the fact that this problem occurred twice on the same day suggests there was something particular about the Matterley Basin track layout and/or the consistency of the mud that created the perfect conditions for the problem. Honda customers should know that the retaining system on the production Showa CRF450R shock is different; in fact, the system is the same as that on the factory Showa shock used by our MXGP counterparts at Team HRC, whose bikes didn't experience this issue at the Motocross of Nations. Obviously, we'll look into this along with KYB and address it for next season, but in the meantime, we offer our sincere apologies to Cole, and to American motocross fans for the fact that Team USA's results were so significantly impacted by this issue."
KYB would also like to acknowledge the impact the failure had on the U.S. effort and offer their apologies to the MX community. Countermeasures and design updates are currently being instituted to ensure this type of situation does not happen again. KYB adds that only factory KYB-issued parts for HRC factory bikes and race teams are affected.