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.