Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Rossi’s solemn Silverstone mission

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.


Rossi’s solemn Silverstone mission

Can the arrival of a new electronics engineer help Valentino Rossi save Yamaha from equalling its longest victory drought since the 1990s?

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales have a solemn mission to perform this weekend at Silverstone. The pair needs to win Sunday’s race or the next one at Misano to prevent a sad new chapter being written in the annals of the Yamaha Motor Company.

If it fails to achieve victory at Silverstone, Yamaha will have gone 22 races without a premier-class win, equalling its worst victory drought since the 1990s, between Loris Capirossi winning the 1996 Australian Grand Prix and Simon Crafar winning the 1998 British GP.

And if Rossi and Viñales fail again at Misano next month, Yamaha will suffer its worst racing crisis since the company first entered the class of kings in 1973.

Of course, Yamaha isn’t the only factory to have fallen into a slough of defeat. Ducati went 101 races without a win between Casey Stoner’s last victory on the Desmosedici in 2010 and its first success under Gigi Dall’Igna’s guidance in 2016, while Suzuki went 167 races without a winner’s trophy, between Chris Vermeulen’s win at Le Mans in 2007 and Viñales’ victory at Silverstone two years ago.

Even Honda has had its dark days – the 800cc RC212V took years to get right, so Honda went 18 races without a win between 2008 and 2009. And the company went three years without even scoring a world championship point when it campaigned the oval-piston NR500 four-stroke against Suzuki’s and Yamaha’s faster two-strokes between 1979 and 1981.

Perhaps it was the bells of history tolling at Yamaha head office in Japan that had YZR-M1 project leader Kouji Tsuya making a public apology to Rossi and Viñales during the last Grand Prix in Austria.

“We have to apologise to our riders for the poor acceleration performance,” said Tsuya. “We are investigating how to solve this problem...”

Japanese companies always like to look forward, but history and tradition are also important to them. Yamaha has been a major player in 500cc and MotoGP racing since Jarno Saarinen won first time out on the factory’s original 500 four in April 1973, since Giacomo Agostini won the brand’s first 500 title two years later, since Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey each added another three 500 crowns to the company’s roll of honour and since the seven MotoGP titles won by Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

It was therefore easy to understand Tsuya’s discomfort during his statement, but anyone who suggested his words were unprecedented has a short memory.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 14
Total votes: 26

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Comments

The Italian from Tavullia must be thinking "each time i try yo get out they pull me back in"...

Sorry i could not help but quote that Corleone line... i mean: why this title?  Why the need to use him in the title when the problem is clearly a Yamaha problem and not a single person's? 

Wouldn't this be the perfect opportunity to tell us more about Gadda? Or maybe some insight on how the 2019 new electronics will or will not truly level the performances?  Or how did Gadda work in Brno or during sunday test? 

No; just a long list of non winning streaks and a short note on crankshaft which honestly does not begin to cover nor match all the infirmative posts written in the past weeks on this website.

The icing on the cake is the fabolus antiyellow fest happening at the end of the article summarized in one simple concept: all yamaha problems lie with their italian rider.... 

 

Total votes: 32

Agreed. I generally like Matt's writing, but this one not so much. And I agree with you and what BrickTop wrote below, the anti-yellow fest that goes on in Matt's comment section is getting a bit tiresome. If you try to moderate one of their comments you are immediately labeled part of the yellow hords and condemned, even if you point out that you're not part of the hord. Ah well, passions about riders run deep in this sport, for better or worse. Keeps folks like Matt & David in a job, which means we get to enjoy their writing regardless! :-)

Total votes: 23

Seems to me it would be a relatively easy thing to allow the manufacturers to adjust the crankshaft weights. If you allow the crankshaft counterweights to have several holes then you could design plugs for those holes that adjust the inertia. Simply remove the oil pan, add/remove weights, reattach the oil pan and you're done without fundamentally changing the engine. Perhaps I'm being naieve and it's more difficult that I'm thinking, but it seems like it should be possible and that it would solve a lot of problems.

Total votes: 25

With the current fixed spec and sealed engines that approach is not possible. Yamaha would have to homologate the engine either with the weights or without them, leaving them commited for the whole year. Of course they could try cheating, but doing that without getting caught would be quite the feat.

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One of those plugs coming loose would result in a pretty spectacular explosion too!

Total votes: 23

have often wondered about the ability to have the ends of the camshaft exposed and tapped (with a protective shield of course); thus the adjustment is totally external but allows you to screw in weight (with or without extra radius to really influence rotational spin).  Thus modifying the outside of the engine each week by changing either the weights and/or their circumference.

Alternatively, they could have just hired some decent electronic guys in the first place like Ducati and Honda did. :-)

Total votes: 14

In Neil Spaulding's must read "MotoGP Technology", there are pictures of Ducati's 2014 bike with an external flywheel on the end of the crankshaft which allowed them to adjust crankshaft inertia.  In fact Dovi and Cal used different weights than each other. Seems like changing the current rule to allow that again could avoid full season disasters like Suzuki last year and possibly Yamaha this year. IMO that Could tighten things up even more than the unbelievably close grid we are enjoying now.

Total votes: 26

I like the external flywheel idea better than the one I pitched above. It allows for the engine to remain sealed and is likely better than the counterweight plugs from a balance perspective. I wish Dorna would allow it as an option.

Total votes: 17

The anti-yellow is now as annoying as the overly zealous yellow.  All the top riders, heck all the riders must be respected.  If you race for a factory, and you are regularly on the podium, you deserve your job.  And if you ride for Suzuki, Aprilia, or KTM you may still deserve your ride with no podiums.  

Total votes: 46

To me it seems much more likely Vinales will get the first win when Yamaha finally fix their stuff.

Total votes: 46

I'm not sure why as Valentino Rossi outrides him nearly every weekend. I too am tiring of the naive and imature nature of 'rider fanboys' that has become a part of racing in the last few years. Racing like all sports is relative. At the MotoGP level thay are all riding 'gods'. Some more godlike than others, some are having a good run, others not so. Bikes, tyres, riders, tracks, setup. It all makes for what we have at the moment, fascinating racing. Personally I love Rossi for many reasons. His ability to change, his ability full stop, his unique character. I also love Marquez but I think I'd rather have a few beers with valentino :)

Total votes: 30

Seems like history repeats itself. In 2003 the M1 was plagued with fierce powerband and resultant wheelspin together with wheelies. Solution was to add crankshaft weight and revise firing pattern. Fifteen years later similar issues resurface. It can't be an engine mapping issue as everyone's using the same software although Ducati and Honda may have more knowledge of the standard software. Maybe its because there's an extra 40+ bhp to manage and the tyre footprint hasn't changed. It should not be difficult to add weight to the balance shaft to increase flywheel effect via an externally accessible crankcase opening. However the Ducatis speed gives an indication of what needs to be done. Their engine is the same weight with the same bore and stroke. Their firing pattern is 0, 90, 290, 380. The M1 firing order is 270, 180, 90, 180. They may need to rethink that as Furusawa- san did in 2004.

Total votes: 32