MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Can Yamaha give Rossi a winning bike?
Valentino Rossi’s chief engineer Silvano Galbusera explains what went wrong last year and what needs to go right this MotoGP season
Yamaha has a lot of work to do: the factory needs to win back the MotoGP world title and (for the sake of Dorna and millions of fans) build a bike good enough to keep Valentino Rossi racing for another season or two.
Achieving both those goals will keep Yamaha busier than any of the other factories, because it’s got to dig Rossi and Movistar team-mate Maverick Viñales out of a big hole. Last year was one of Yamaha’s worst MotoGP seasons, with just four wins from 18 races. But it wasn’t only last year that was bad. Since the start of MotoGP’s new technical era – different tyres and electronics – Yamaha’s win rate has slumped by more than 50 per cent. Indeed the factory won fewer races in 2016 and 2017 combined than it did in 2015 alone.
In other words, Yamaha has made the worst transition of all from Bridgestones and tailormade software to Michelins and Dorna-spec software. It’s not so much that the YZR-M1 has become a worse motorcycle, but that the bike hasn’t been adapted to suit MotoGP’s latest control components.
Last season the M1 suffered corner-entry and mid-corner issues, plus a lack of both mechanical and electronics grip during acceleration. In other words, the full set of woes.
“It was a very terrible season,” admits Rossi’s chief engineer Silvano Galbusera. “In 2016 Valentino had a good feeling with the bike but we destroyed the rear tyre with five or six laps to go. For 2017 Yamaha modified the bike to save the tyre. At some tracks it was good, but Valentino missed the feeling he needed, so he could not go into the corners quickly and keep his line. On the data you could not see this very well, but it was clear from the rider’s explanation. The 2016 bike was easier to ride, with better feedback from the tyres, so he could push more, but we used the rear tyre too much.
“At the beginning of 2017 we found that the new bike wasn’t 100 per cent for Valentino. At the same time Maverick was very, very fast. The first races weren’t so bad for us, but after we couldn’t find the right setting. Yamaha changed the chassis a little bit, with different geometry and similar stiffness, but Valentino never had the feeling he had in 2016.”
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.