Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Yamaha dig itself out of its hole?

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 dig itself out of its hole?

Yamaha’s 2020 YZR-M1 was a disaster, so what chance has the company of fixing its problems after five years out of the title fight? And is Yamaha’s best bet for the 2021 title a two-year-old motorcycle?

Yamaha won its last MotoGP championship in 2015. It’s no coincidence that 2015 was the last year of Bridgestone tyres, because since then Yamaha engineers have been unable to make the YZR-M1 work consistently with MotoGP’s current tyres, made by Michelin.

Yamaha’s problem is as simple as that, although fixing the problem is anything but simple.

Spec-tyre racing requires engineers to build their bikes around the tyres, rather than the other way around, which was how it worked before spec tyres took over most major motorsport championships.

Michelin’s MotoGP tyres famously work across a narrow temperature range, so what Yamaha needs to do is build a bike that generates the correct temperature in the tyres, regardless of the track and conditions.

In recent years the M1 has done just that now and again – when it’s got grip the bike can exploit its corner-speed potential – but not consistently enough to win the championship. And that’s despite having Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli on board.

And yet last year was Yamaha’s best since the Bridgestone era, with seven race victories.

Does this suggest that the factory is inching towards fixing its problems? Not really, because three of those victories were achieved by Morbidelli, riding a 2019 M1, while the 2020 bike seemed to have much more erratic performance.

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

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Comments

Yamaha what?

I remember when Yamaha & Honda took turns winning the championship. Where are they now?

Is their test team based in Japan or Europe?

Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha's most recent champ, left. Jonas Folger left MotoGp racing, then their test team as well.

From 2019 to 2020 seems to have been a step in the wrong direction.

Can they be more competitive? Maybe. If Lin Jarvis worked for me I'd send him into the house of mirrors & tell him to take a look at himself and his performance. The team? Maverick Vinales & his mercurial variability, IMO Mav doesn't have the consistency to win a MotoGp championship. He will win races, not the chip. Sorry I had hoped M.V. 12 or 25 would do better. He hasn't got it.

Frankie Morbidelli I think will do well. Frankie and Ramon Forcada do have the right stuff. As Mat Oxley says in his article they are both motivated to do the business. Double plus good combination. They both have something to prove. Their steady, workman like approach can work in the MotoGp circus. Improving himself and his riding little by little and riding the bike he has makes sense to me. Frankie " accepts the limitation " of the jam jar.

Whereas Marc Marquez transcends limitations. Other than his injuries.

As Joan Mir demonstrated in 2020 consistency is better than Win, crash, finish outside the points etc. Morbidelli was second in the championship, Maverick wasn't that far behind, his dnf at Austria Two, the red flag ring, was an own goal as far as I know. Vinales chose the wrong brakes despite advice from Brembo.

Fabio Quarteraro had his ups & downs to. I have hopes for F.Q. Another excitable boy, given time he will grow into the role. He has improved during his 2 years in the big show. But he is now the rider who took Valentino Rossi's ride in the factory team. To me this means big pressure to perform. I'm assuming Fab will beat his team mate. Quarteraro is temperamental like the 2020 M1. Inconsistent, his crashes last season dashed his hopes of fighting for the number one plate.

My crystal ball turned into a kaleidoscope when I had a squiz at Yamaha 2021.

At the end of Oxley's article there are two quotes from Lin Jarvis that seem contradictory. Valves what valves? The different valves are the same as the valves in the first engine presented at Qatar. If so why did Yamaha loose the manufacturers points?

Jarvis pulled off a good "these aren't the droids you are looking for" on valvegate. I think they are now free to run the preferred ones and it is swept under the Dorna carpet. The motor will still suck anyway. 

Apical, ready to call what the Jr Team bike dance will look like for 2022? Aqua sticking w Yamaha, or Suzuki? VR46 grabs Ducatis, or Yamaha, or Suzuki? Gresini sticks w lovely slow poke Aprilia, or Suzuki? 

(My favorite crystal ball, forgive me. Aqua Yamaha, Gresini Suzuki, VR46 Ducati is my guess but not my wish. Bet against it even).

 

Can? Yes. They know what mistake they made in the 2020 chassis choice and how. Their organizational changes and addition of top notch Euro Test Team is nearly Gigi-esque. Cement blocks on the feet adhering to an old revered bike recipe was Tswapped out for renewed progress. It was a blip. But, then came the top end reliability issue. And didn't come the two steps in outright power gain. 

Can? Yes. Will they? I think so, but back to just a poor Aprilia-like dyno performance when they do. Props to Cal leading Test duties, he is THE MOST PROVEN experienced test rider out there, so much mule work behind him. We are going to see him race again as a replacement, and I look forward to it. 

Honda finally turned their self inflicted design corner, albeit entirely against their will. Ducati looks set to debut a revolution bike for 2022. KTM is charging forward. Suzuki is there. Aprilia's powerplant? No idea, and not holding out much hope on that one. Everywhere else though, SO much good forward movement going on. Wonderful era!!!