Photos: 2003 Yamaha YZR-M1 Prototype

12/05/2011 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

It seems only fitting that after reviewing the BRD RedShift SM prototype, that we should turn our attentions to another prototype machine…or should we say, a prototype of a prototype. A glimpse into how lost in the woods Yamaha was with its MotoGP program pre-Rossi, the 2003 Yamaha YZR-M1 prototype is the work of a company desperately looking for a solution against Honda’s very potent RC211V. Employing two Öhlins rear shock absorbers, Yamaha’s philosophy and process of handling over power is very evident in this prototype’s design, though the implementation seems a bit murkier.

Laced with linear potentiometers through out the M1’s chassis, it is at least interesting to note the unit extending from one of the rear shock mounting points to the front of the frame — presumably measuring the flex of the chassis from front to back. With all the data acquisition that is on the 2003 prototype M1, you would think Yamaha would notice one of the most obvious mistakes with the design, namely how the exhaust routing was cramped in with both shock absorbers, surely cooking both units as the machine came up to temperature.

Yamaha would finally settle on a more traditional single-shock suspension setup for 2003, though the Yamaha YZR-M1 still proved to be a basket case on the track. It wasn’t until Valentino Rossi came to the tuning fork brand in 2004 that its MotoGP racing fortunes started to change at the Japanese company. Turning the M1 from zero to hero seemingly overnight in the off-season, Rossi’s pedigree for developing bikes secured, with more than a little help from Jeremy Burgess & Co. of course. Now facing the same challenge in this MotoGP off-season, these photos seem to have a new relevancy.

With the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 already showing itself to be as much of a mess, if not more so, than the 2003 Yamaha M1, Rossi, Burgess, and Ducati Corse have a large task in front of them the next few months. Similar to Yamaha’s desperation in trying two shock absorbers, Ducati Corse has made itself open to virtually any possible solution under the sun, having tried more chassis variations this season than this author cares to count. GP11, GP11.1, GP12, GP0, and all the variations in-between, it is anyone’s guess as to what sort of frame Ducati will arrive with at the season-opener in Qatar. We’re pretty sure that there will be only one shock absorber though…but never say never.

Source: Yamaha Racing via Racing Café

  • Cpt.Slow


  • nace

    I don’t think anyone really gives Yamaha enough credit during their time before the Rossi years. It has to be said that big changes were already in store at Yamaha even before Rossi & Burgess joined. Furusawa had recently taken over Yamaha’s MotoGP project and was already in the process of making big changes to the bike, such as a switch to fuel injection and the crossplane crankshaft.

    In addition, Yamaha never really had competitive riders on their bikes. Their worst year in 2003 had Checa, Barros, Melandri (I think it was his first year in MotoGP), Abe, Nakano and Olivier Jacque.

    All this is not to say that Rossi and Burgess did not make a difference but I don’t think enough credit was given to Furusawa. If you look back at the 2005 and 2006 seasons when Furusawa had a less active role in development, Rossi was still competitive the results weren’t quite the same.

    It will be interesting to see how the 2012 season pans out with Lorenzo and Spies taking development roles and Furusawa being retired.

  • 2ndclass

    Those units running front to back seem a bit to solidly mounted to be a potentiometer, maybe some sort of tuneable damper so they can have adjustable flex? Or for adjusting it until they can settle on a set spec?

  • froryde

    Gotto love the low-tech inner tube rear brake pedal return spring amongst all the hi-tech gizmos!

  • Skeptical

    @nace, you said it nice. I’m totally with you.

  • Bob


    You may very well be right about the long ones being a hydraulic damper. I’ve used dozens of different make linear transducers at work. Neither end has a cable for the internal stroke readings. The small box on the left side one appears to possibly be a strain guage. If they are playing with flex adjustments, the strain guage is likely to measure twist instead of bending side to side.

    The others at the shocks are indeed linear transducers (pots). Depending on who makes them, they have stroke resolutions of .001″ to .0001″. As there are 2 of equal placement, they’re acquiring data on either flex of the swingarm from side to side transitions or if the separate shocks are extending and retracting at the same rate. Chances are one shock had compression and the other rebound, like the separate function forks you see on some dirt bikes. This was before Ohlins had a TTX type shock. I’m betting they are measuring both scenarios. If the shocks don’t extend and retract at the same rate, the swingarm is likely flexing as a consequence.

  • I wonder how hot the shock on the Panigale will get since it sits close to the rear cylinder?

    cool linkage design…

  • Man, this beast is so fast on that bald, slick tires