We have already published about the sizable sales trouble that Yamaha is encountering in the United States, seeing its last 12 months of sales drop 19% compared to the 12 months prior.
We have also talked about Yamaha’s plans to move its headquarters from California to Georgia, taking the brand away from the epicenter of the motorcycle industry, and off to cheaper waters for operations.
Today, we continue our news about Yamaha Motor USA, talking about the company’s role in American road racing, as Yamaha is set to shake up its involvement in the MotoAmerica Championship.
The starting point for today’s news is the same as our previous installments, as everything concerns money – more specifically, budget reductions.
As such, Yamaha Motor USA is set to massively reduce its racing budget in the United States – we have heard that the budget will be reduce by a staggering 75% next year.
It should be obvious that Yamaha cannot maintain all of its racing activities with such a reduced budget, and our sources tell us that Yamaha plans to end its supersport involvement in MotoAmerica as a result.
This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone watching the supersport class in MotoAmerica, where Yamaha is the only factory effort, and the blue bikes dominate the results.
In the United States, the Yamaha YZF-R6 just about outsells all of its competitors…combined, and thus one could argue that it doesn’t need further promotion in the sport bike market to move machines. There is a chicken-and-the-egg argument here, but we have to keep moving on…
Continuing the budget reduction efforts, Yamaha will also remove its hospitality services in the MotoAmerica paddock. Playing caterer and lounge to teams beyond just the factory Yamaha squad, this luxury is apparently not a moneymaker for Yamaha Motor, despite the fees teams pay to use the service.
The real item in this news though is the growing split between Graves Motorsports and Yamaha Motor USA, as the two racing partners have been moving apart from each other, season after season. Set finally to go their separate ways, Yamaha’s superbike racing effort in MotoAmerica will be an in-house endeavor for 2019.
To be fair, Yamaha Motor USA already shoulders a great deal of its superbike racing pursuits, and the name “Graves” is nowhere to be found on the team’s official title. The end of this season is set to be the final nail in the coffin, with Yamaha believing it can run its superbike racing for cheaper than with Graves as a partner.
For its part, there is talk that Graves Motorsport could be linking up with Suzuki next season, but we will see about that.
If true, this could mean a sizable shift in the MotoAmerica paddock, as many teams rely on Graves for parts and technical development on their Yamaha machines. With Graves collaborating with Suzuki, it could mean more GSX-Rs in the paddock in the coming years.
The Rider Logjam
We have yet to see Yamaha announce its 2019 MotoAmerica rider lineup, but it looks increasingly likely that Cameron Beaubier has missed his chance to move out of the USA, and into the international spotlight of the WorldSBK paddock. As such, the expectation is that he will remain in MotoAmerica to defend is recent championship victory.
This means that Yamaha has a potential logjam in its superbike program, which does little to reward JD Beach for his trouncing of the MotoAmerica supersport field. As such, Beach has been linked to a superbike ride with Suzuki for next season (to be fair, I have heard Josh Herrin linked to the same ride as well), or could well find himself instead in the American Flat Track paddock next year.
Despite the upheaval, this news could help level the playing field in MotoAmerica, and bring some more excitement to the racing. If the World Superbike Championship has taught us anything, it is that having one manufacturer dominate the results does little to make for an interesting racing spectacle.
With more space for other brands and other riders to shine, Yamaha’s step-back from the MotoAmerica Championship could actually help the series. As always though, time will tell.
Source: Bothan Spies