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2013 Yamaha YZR-M1

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You may have seen this image in a PHOTO.GP Pressure Reducer and at PHOTO.GP we’ve speculated about what exactly this apparatus does when placed atop the Yamaha YZR-M1. We’ve come to refer to it as The Black Box.

The photo above is from 2013, and I’ve been wondering about this item at least since Mugello of last season. But only recently did I take steps to find out just what it is.

The fact is that while I wander up and down pit lane as someone who understands, at least in relation to the level of technology on display in MotoGP, only the basics of how motorcycles work, I frequently see exotic bits of engineering that are utter mysteries to me.

For the past couple of years, it has seemed as if there is some kind of unwritten law which states that any MotoGP weekend must be accompanied by rain. The weekends without the threat of rain or some other form of ill weather have been few and far between, so it is both a relief and a joy to come to Jerez, and have the prospect of a full weekend of stable and dry weather.

That’s not to say that no rain has fallen: this morning, as we walked to the car, we felt three or four large drops, but that was all. From the forecast, this looks like the entire quota of rain for the weekend, and the paddock is duly grateful for small mercies.

A consistently dry track still posed problems for the riders, however. The last time MotoGP was here, back in March, conditions were far from ideal. It rained, every day, with plenty of sunshine in between, leaving the track treacherous and difficult, with low grip levels and a patchy surface.

Though the teams collected plenty of data at that test, very little of it is usable this weekend, with much higher temperatures and better grip. Until the afternoon, that is, when the warmer temperatures meant that grip levels started to drop again, a perennial problem at Jerez. The bumps, too, are an issue, with many riders running wide after hitting them as they braked for the hairpins at the circuit.

The last of the factory MotoGP teams to unveil its 2013 livery (Ducati Corse, Pramac Ducati & Repsol Honda here), Yamaha Racing has finally officially debuted the 2013 Yamaha YZR-M1 race bike, along with the team livery for riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Unlike his 2011 defense, Lorenzo will not rock the #1 plate, perhaps getting wind of the dreaded number’s propensity to kill its owner’s chance of a successful title defense. For Rossi fans, the return to Yamaha is surely a welcomed sight, with The Doctor’s neon yellow “46” working better with Yamaha’s blue and white paint scheme. Somethings just seem to go better together, right?

It is hard to believe, but it has been eight years since Valentino Rossi raced a Yamaha in liter capacity in MotoGP. Without even getting into the 800cc era that started in 2007 and ended in 2011, it is safe to say that a lot has changed since Rossi’s 2006 Yamaha YZR-M1 and the still unofficially debuted 2013 Yamaha YZR-M1. While we already have a pretty good idea what was under the fairings of Rossi’s 2006 M1, since Yamaha Racing made detailed high-resolution pictures of the machine publicly available, what lies beneath the fairings of MotoGP’s current crop of prototypes is a closely guarded secret.