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.
How Yamaha is digging itself out of the doldrums and reviving Valentino Rossi
After four years of struggle, Yamaha is closing the gap on its rivals. Its new MotoGP project leader Takahiro Sumi tells us how
Yamaha only won two races during 2019 but, inch by inch, the factory began to close the gap on Honda and Ducati.
The reasons were a better engine, improved electronics and less messing around with chassis set-up, especially so that Maverick Viñales could focus more on his riding. The arrival of remarkable rookie Fabio Quartararo also helped, by putting the proverbial rocket under Viñales and Valentino Rossi.
There was one other big change at Yamaha in 2019. In January the factory had a new MotoGP group leader. Takahiro Sumi’s background is chassis design, so he knows the benefits of keeping chassis set-up constant.
He joined Yamaha’s MotoGP project at the end of 2003, just before Rossi. He later worked on production-bike design before returning to MotoGP in 2010.
His predecessor Kouchi Tsuji, who was there through Yamaha’s glory years and into the doldrums, was transferred to the company’s marine division a few months ago. This kind of transfer is entirely normal in Japanese companies.
We spoke to Sumi after his first year of fighting to get back to the front.
Maverick Viñales finished 2019 with his best run of results since early 2017, so why is Yamaha finally coming out of the doldrums?
“The main thing is that we concentrated on adapting the bike to find a good base setting. When Maverick first arrived at Yamaha in 2017 he was very fast at every circuit, then when he struggled we tried to improve the setting, but sometimes that just made confusion. Finally at the Barcelona tests [after June’s Catalan GP] we found a good base setting, so he could get back his feeling on the bike. If the bike doesn’t change during the weekend he can concentrate on adapting himself to each situation and conditions.
Now the bike setting is very stable, for all track conditions. Sometimes before we struggled in different conditions – the bike would be okay in the morning on a cooler track and he was super-fast, then the bike feeling was completely different in the afternoon.
Our base setting isn’t just chassis setting, it’s also the electronics – we are improving acceleration and engine braking. Maverick’s main thing is always braking and entry. This is his crucial point, so we are always trying to improve in this area and this has helped him.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.