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.
Could a V4 M1 be Valentino Rossi’s silver bullet?
Ducati and Honda V4s have won the last 22 MotoGP races, so is it time for Yamaha to ditch its faithful inline-four engine?
Valentino Rossi finally said it. After finishing a miserable seventh on Sunday in front of his adoring fans, the seven-time MotoGP champion wondered aloud: “Ducati and Honda have V4 engines; we have an inline four – maybe this is the problem…”
But would a V4 M1 really get Rossi and Yamaha back to their winning ways? In other words, is a V4 engine better than an inline-four engine?
It all depends on how you look at it. V4 engines have won the last 22 races, but does that prove beyond any reasonable doubt that a V4 is best, or is it simply a case of Ducati and Honda working more efficiently on their engine internals and electronics than Yamaha?
Most MotoGP engineers believe that V4s and inline fours are like swings and roundabouts: they’re both better in some ways and worse in others. Everything in racing is a compromise. It’s all about maximising your advantages and minimising your disadvantages.
An inline-four engine is more compact, so chassis engineers can move it fore and aft and up and down to find the ideal centre of mass and so on. This is why Yamaha’s M1 has been the best-handling MotoGP bike for the past decade and a half.
Only a few years ago, many wondered if the 90-degree V4, so beloved of Ducati, had had its day. The engine was too long, they said, which explained the Desmosedici’s woeful steering and handling problems, because engineers were unable to put the engine in the right place. Then Honda revealed that its RC213V also uses a 90-degree vee. The answer for both factories was to rotate the engine slightly backwards in the frame to create more space for the chassis designers to do their job, but still, there’s no doubt that the M1 can use more corner speed than its main rivals.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.