Why did the factory Yamaha team head to the Motorland Aragon circuit to join Honda and Suzuki at a private test? Was it perhaps to give Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi their first taste of the seamless gearbox Yamaha have been developing, to counter Honda’s advantage?
That is the question which many fans have been asking, and in recent days – and weeks – I have been inundated with questions about the seamless gearbox. Well, question, singular, actually, as it all boils down to just the one: When will Yamaha finally start to race their seamless gearbox?
It is a question I have been trying to pursue since the start of the season, since rumors first emerged that they may have used the gearbox at the first race of the year. All inquiries I made, at all levels of the Yamaha organization, received the same answers: Yes, Yamaha is developing a seamless gearbox, and is testing it back in Japan. No, Yamaha has not yet raced it, and has no plans to race it. And no, it is not yet ready to be tested.
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.
Light on sponsors, but heavy on style, the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1 broke cover today at the Jerez. The 1,000cc inline four-cylinder machine will catapult factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies, as well as satellite riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad, as they attempt to overturn the Honda supremacy of last season. With more than 240hp at the crank, there can be little doubt that the new M1 will be blisteringly quick, and 220+ mph speed trap times are already being pondered for fast tracks like Mugello. Called the best bike in the paddock by Repsol Honda boss Shuhei Nakamoto, the tuning-fork brand seems set to give Casey Stoner and HRC a run for their money in their Championship defences.
After finishing a very successful weekend at the San Marino GP, the factory Yamaha squad stuck around Misano for another day, and tested the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. Though the 1,000cc class MotoGP monster has remained basically unchanged from its debut at Brno, reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and teammate Ben Spies continued development on the bike’s electronics package and overall setup. Misano proved to be a good contrast for Yamaha, as the Italian track’s tighter layout made the extra horsepower from the new M1 less of a factor than it was in the Czech Republic.
“It’s been a little bit more difficult here than Brno, which is a very fast track. Misano is a little bit slower so the difference between the 800 and the 1000 is much smaller,” said Jorge Lorenzo. “It’s difficult to understand the riding style you must use straight away. We’ve made a lot of progress in a couple of hours and the bike has a lot of potential. I’m very excited about the future. We’ve been working on the electronics to help in the braking area but mainly I’ve been getting used to the riding style of the bike and also adapting the bike to my riding.”
Taken during a Yamaha testing session in Japan, these two videos appear to be our first glimpse into Yamaha’s next MotoGP race bike: the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. Though MotoGP regulations will be allowing up to 1,000cc in factory team motor displacement, it is still anyone’s guess as to what displacement Yamaha and the other teams will be running. Likely not to reveal that information until the new M1’s formal launch ahead of the 2012 season, we will still get our first official glimpse of the new Yamaha M1 on Monday.
After the race at Brno, Yamaha plans to test its 1,000cc bike with Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies. On-hand will be Honda with its 2012 Honda RC213V, while Ducati will test its 2011 Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, and not the new GP12. There’s no word yet on what Suzuki will be doing for 2012, though it is widely held that the team will run an updated version of it 2011 machine in a 800cc capacity. A second spy video is after the jump, and though the video quality is poor, the sound of the new M1 is crisp.
Along with the official unveiling of the 2011 Yamaha MotoGP team & livery, the Japanese manufacturer has also released photos of the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1, with accompanying technical specifications. Unsurprisingly, Yamaha is keeping many of its exact specifications close to the chest, but test reports indicate that a refined chassis, and a slightly more powerful motor have been added to the 2011 YZR-M1.
Yup, it’s official folks: Yamaha will run without a title sponsor for the 2011 MotoGP season (at least initially), as the team’s official race livery has been released, along with the official unveiling of the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP race bike. Trading a corporate sponsor for a “50th Year in Road Racing Championship Grand Prix” emblem, Yamaha has seemingly been unable to woo a title backer onto its carbon fiber fairings after Fiat’s departure, despite winning the team, rider, and manufacturer Championships in the 2010 season.
Ben Spies made his factory debut today, taking to the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 for the first time. Showing an impressive position as third fastest for the day’s testing time sheets, Spies clearly showed an aptitude for the new Yamaha, as did teammate Jorge Lorenzo who topped today’s charts. Spies used the 2010 spec tires from Bridgestone to get a base feeling for the new M1, while tomorrow he is expected to try the 2011 tires. Meanwhile Lorenzo spent his time divided between a modified 2010 chassis and the 2011 bike, as the Spaniard tested new Öhlins suspension and various setups.
“For the first day of testing I’m super happy with the team, a lot of things are new including obviously riding the prototype bike,” said Spies. “There are a lot of subtle changes from last year so I spent some time getting used to it along with working with a new Japanese engineer who is very, very good. I had a couple of new mechanics who were learning the ropes as well so it was a lot of learning today. I’m really happy, I can feel the potential of the bike and I think there’s quite a bit more to come.” More photos of Ben and some guy named Jorge after the jump.
With the announcement that MotoGP would “allow up to” a 1000cc format in 2012, there was a hinting that manufacturers would be allowed to use their current 800cc machines in the coming years. The provision comes from the concern that another switch in engine rules will mean another financial blow to the teams that have already spent so much time developing their 800cc race bikes. We’ll skip the economic dissertation on what a sunk cost is, and go straight into the news that Yamaha will reportedly not make the jump to 1000cc’s, and instead continue to use its 800cc M1 in 2012.
MotoGP teams have flocked to Sepang this week to test their bikes on the Malaysian track in preparation for the 2010 season. Fiat-Yamaha was on hand to unveil their 2010 YZR-M1, along with riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Speaking at the unveiling, Managing Director for Yamaha Racing, Lin Jarvis said, “The MotoGP program is a very important brand image promotion activity and the racing requires us to demonstrate all of our company’s power in engineering, organizational and passion if we are to be successful at the top level. He continued with, “we are extremely fortunate to have retained all of our existing loyal sponsors and even to have added a few more to the team.”
You cannot deny the fact that Colin Edwards has a new found strength since joining the Yamaha satellite team Tech3. The YZR-M1, which was developed with substantial input from Valentino Rossi, has found further refinement in the Monster Tech3 garage with the help from Edwards. Already known as a good development rider, Edwards may see an offer from Tech3 boss Herve Poncharal to continue test riding, after the Texan’s racing career has concluded.