Yamaha

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The Yamaha MotoGP bike you never knew existed

Almost two decades ago Yamaha built a single-crank new YZR500 to beat Honda and Valentino Rossi to the final 500cc title. The bike remained a secret, until now…

Yamaha has won plenty of MotoGP titles since the four-strokes arrived 16 years ago, but the factory had a miserable time in the final years of the 500cc World Championship. Yamaha was defeated nine years in a row, mostly by Honda, which is why its engineers built an all-new bike for the final 2001 season of 500s, when Honda and Valentino Rossi would be their greatest rivals.

This bike was tested in Europe in the summer of 2000 by Marlboro Yamaha riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa, less than 18 months before the final 500 GP, but never raced. And somehow, Yamaha managed to keep the project secret. Until now.

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Subscriber Interview: Guy Coulon Explains Why Johann Zarco's Unique Approach Makes Him So Fast

In a year that was full of surprises, perhaps the biggest was the performance of Johann Zarco in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. After previous Moto2 champions had come into MotoGP and taken their time to find their feet – or in the case of Tito Rabat, struggled badly – the 27-year-old Frenchman had taken to the premier class like a duck to water, leading the first six laps of his first race in MotoGP before crashing out.

That race would not be a one off. He finished on the podium at his home Grand Prix at Le Mans, started from pole at Assen, and ended the season with three podiums in total, as Rookie of the Year, as best independent rider of the year, and sixth in the championship. Zarco was a factor to be accounted for at almost every race in his debut season.

Earlier this year, at Barcelona, we spoke to his crew chief Guy Coulon, a veteran of the series and one of the most thoughtful and wisest of the chief mechanics in the paddock. Coulon gave us a fascinating insight into how he works with Johann Zarco, and why he believes the Frenchman has been so quick this year. He talks about what makes him unique, the difference in his approach compared to other riders Coulon has worked with in the past, and what makes him such a competitive rider.

Q: Johann Zarco is doing something extraordinary in his rookie season. Where does that come from, do you think?

Guy Coulon: Now we know better, of course, so we can analyze it. But in the beginning, when we started to test together during the winter, we could feel he had some good possibilities, some strong points, no weak points. So I mean – and this is true also for Jonas [Folger] – from the first test, he had no problems with the MotoGP about braking style, how to use the throttle. It was already very good for MotoGP, so this is a good point.

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Are MotoGP Managers Right About WorldSBK As A Talent Pool?

In my article analyzing the Jerez private tests, which took an in-depth look at the times set by the WorldSBK bikes and the MotoGP bikes, I set out several reasons why I thought Jonathan Rea would not be moving to MotoGP, despite obviously being fast enough. Though Rea has good reasons of his own to prefer to stay in WorldSBK, a good portion of the blame lies with MotoGP team managers, I argued.

That argument was based in part on a press conference held during the last round of the season at Valencia. In that press conference, the heads of racing of the six manufacturers in MotoGP gave their view of the season. During that press conference, On Track Off Road's Adam Wheeler asked Yamaha's Lin Jarvis, Ducati's Paolo Ciabatti, and KTM's Pit Beirer whether they regarded WorldSBK as a viable talent pool, or whether they were looking more towards Moto2 and Moto3 as the place to find new riders.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How does Zarco do it?

No doubt about it, Johann Zarco was MotoGP’s new kid on the block last season. Except he wasn't much of a kid at all, says Mat Oxley

The Frenchman was 26-years-old when he made his premier-class debut in Qatar. Compare that to MotoGP’s previous red-hot rookies Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales, who were both 20 when they graduated to the premier class.

France isn’t mad about toddler racing like Spain, so Zarco started relatively late and didn’t get fully serious until he was in his teens. When he was 16 he loaded up his 50cc scooter and rode 150 miles to live with the family of Laurent Fellon, who has been his mentor and manager ever since. Zarco was almost 19 when he made his GP debut, by which age Márquez had already won two world championships.

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Crunching The Numbers: Jonathan Rea vs MotoGP vs WorldSBK - An Analysis

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now "Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike" season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi's side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured.

How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes? Why are MotoGP manufacturers spending ten times as much to be shown up at a test by Jonathan Rea? And why, for the sake of all that is holy, does Jonathan Rea not have a MotoGP ride?

The answer to all but the last of those questions is buried away in the bigger picture of the laps posted throughout the week. When you examine the numbers, the picture is a lot more complex than the headline times seem to suggest. Tires, temperature, and track all play a part. But all of that can't disguise a rather outsize dose of talent.

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Alex Lowes: A Change For The Better?

Making a change at the crew chief position can reap rewards or add a new set of challenges. For Alex Lowes the 2018 season will see him work with Andrew Pitt and first impressions were very positive at the Jerez test.

A change can be as good as a holiday and having fresh eyes to look at a problem can lead to new solutions. For Alex Lowes, the 2018 season will see the former British champion work with a new crew chief, but following the Jerez test the Yamaha rider is excited by the prospect of working with Andrew Pitt.

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Jerez WorldSBK & MotoGP Test Wednesday Notes: Hard Work, Secretive Factories, And New Asphalt

It has been a very busy track at Jerez, with a total of 27 bikes on track at some point or other on Wednesday, with a good mixture of MotoGP, WorldSBK, and the Honda Racing BSB team of Jason O'Halloran and Dan Linfoot. What the first day of testing showed is that the WorldSBK bikes are almost as fast as a MotoGP machine – or at least, a Kawasaki is, shod with qualifiers and ridden with sufficient attitude by Tom Sykes in this case – and that the new surface means the track is a good deal quicker than it was when the MotoGP race was held here back in May. Full times are here.

As it is a private test, there is very little official communication from the teams, despite the fact that a group of journalists – including myself – is here in the paddock. KTM and Suzuki have been forthcoming and helpful, Ducati are cagey, Aprilia don't have much to test, and Honda are secretive – and all of the work is currently falling on Cal Crutchlow's shoulders, as the Repsol Honda team are saving their test days for next year. Honda are not as secretive as Yamaha, however, who are holding their private test over in Sepang, under a virtual media blackout. All we know about that is that Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Johann Zarco, and Kohta Nozane will be on the bike, as Jonas Folger is still not fit enough to be riding.

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Valencia MotoGP Test Wednesday Press Releases

Press releases from the teams after the final day of the Valencia MotoGP test:


Repsol Honda duo top the time sheets on final day of Valencia test

The Repsol Honda Team’s long Valencia stint, comprising a very successful final race weekend of the 2017 Championship and two productive days of testing, has finally come to an end.

Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa took advantage of another sunny day to continue their work in preparation for 2018. As was the case yesterday, they started on the current machine before switching over to the new one also.

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Valencia MotoGP Test Wrap Up:

The moment the bikes fell silent at Valencia, at 5pm on Wednesday, officially marked the end of the beginning. The 2018 season is now well underway, the initial outlines of next year's bikes being revealed. There is still a long way to go to Qatar, but the first step has been taken, the first few hundred terabytes of data downloaded to laptops and uploaded to factory servers for analysis.

The new season began in much the same vein as the old season ended: with Marc Márquez fastest, and on a tear. The Repsol Honda rider was fastest on the second day of the test, and fastest overall, four tenths quicker than his teammate on Wednesday, and a tenth quicker than Maverick Viñales, who had topped the timesheets on Tuesday.

The timesheets had a familiar look to them. The top five overall consisted of the two Repsol Hondas and three Yamahas – the two Movistar factory bikes and Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 machine – followed by a couple of Ducatis, Jorge Lorenzo on the factory bike and Jack Miller on the Pramac machine. Whether the timesheets will stay like that when Qatar rolls around is another question entirely.

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Valencia MotoGP Test Tuesday Press Releases

Press releases from some of the MotoGP teams after the first day of testing at Valencia:


Movistar Yamaha Find Mojo on First Valencia Test Day

The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team successfully completed the first day of the Valencia MotoGP Official Test at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, testing various bike chassis and set-up options. Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi had positive feelings after the progress they made today and set the first and fourth fastest time respectively.

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