Yamaha's MotoGP Test Program: Jonas Folger Out, But Who Will Take His Place?

With MotoGP testing becoming ever more restricted for full-time MotoGP riders, the so-called contracted riders, the importance of test teams has grown. Where in previous seasons most Japanese manufacturers have used Japanese riders based in Japan to push the development of their MotoGP bikes, in recent years, they have all switched to using teams based in Europe with ex-MotoGP riders as test riders. Suzuki have Sylvain Guintoli, Honda have Stefan Bradl, and Yamaha had Jonas Folger for 2019.

But not for 2020, it seems. In an interview with German-language publication Speedweek, Folger announced that Yamaha have decided not to continue with the German for next season. "This bad news came as a surprise to me," the German told Speedweek. "They gave me a verbal assurance that Yamaha wanted to continue with me. We were already discussing what the test plan and other events might look like. But then they canceled, despite saying I would get the contract." Folger said that he had been told Yamaha would continue with Japanese test riders.

That seems a curious suggestion. When Valentino Rossi announced he would be changing crew chiefs for 2020, bringing in David Muñoz to replace Silvano Galbusera, Yamaha team boss Maio Meregalli told multiple media outlets that Galbusera would be going to lead the test team, so that he would have to travel less.

Thwarting progress

Reversing the policy of having a European test team would also surely meet with resistance from Yamaha's factory riders. Both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales pushed hard for the establishment of a test team based in Europe, using a more competitive rider than their trusty Japanese riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane. The progress made with the bike this year is at least in part due to Folger's work with the test team.

Yamaha has denied any verbal agreement with Folger, but they have also denied that they are looking at scrapping their European test team. "Our MotoGP test program will be continuing in Japan and Europe as planned," Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis told Speedweek. "As far as contracting a test rider from outside of Japan, we are keeping all our options open."

Those options are limited. Most competitive ex-MotoGP riders have already found other options for 2020. Stefan Bradl and Sylvain Guintoli will be staying with Honda and Suzuki respectively, Michele Pirro remains Ducati's main test rider, Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio will continue their work developing the KTM RC16.

Bradley Smith could have been a possibility, having had four years of experience on the M1, as well as two years with KTM. But Smith is close to a renewal with Aprilia, putting him out of the question. Yamaha has also rejected a number of offers from other riders, including from the likes of Dominique Aegerter.

The obvious answer

Who is left? There is one ex-Yamaha MotoGP rider who is currently out of contract for 2020. After asking for his contract with KTM to be terminated at the end of 2019, then finding himself out of a job after KTM decided to push him out of the team before Aragon, Johann Zarco has been left without a job for next year. Zarco has already been in talks with Yamaha over a role as test rider, but Yamaha broke off those talks when Zarco accepted the offer as substitute for LCR Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami, while the Japanese rider recovers from shoulder surgery.

That ride was widely seen as a way for Honda to take a look at what Zarco is capable of, to assess him as a possible replacement for Jorge Lorenzo, after the Spaniard's miserable season in the Repsol Honda team. But talk of Lorenzo being dropped by HRC has gone quiet, after Honda bosses spoke with Lorenzo at Motegi. Publicly, Lorenzo was given assurances that he would remain with the Repsol Honda team for 2020, and Honda bosses stated their aim was to build a bike that Lorenzo could be competitive on.

The public pronouncements of Johann Zarco appear to back that up. At Phillip Island, Zarco said he was looking at all options, including a ride in Moto2. Notably, the Ajo team is yet to officially announce its second Moto2 rider, after losing Iker Lecuona to the Tech3 KTM MotoGP team for 2020. Zarco won his two Moto2 world titles with Ajo, and it is believed he has a place there if he wants it. At Sepang, Zarco had gone silent on his future, nor was he asked about it.

Nothing decided yet

At the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Zarco spoke to Italian website GPOne.com. He told them that his future was still open, and that he was still available to take the place of Lorenzo should Honda and Lorenzo decide to go their separate ways.

Zarco would appear to be the ideal fit for Yamaha. The Frenchman was extremely fast on the M1, and on a bike which he understood, his feedback was highly rated. At Honda, his comments have also been praised, though at KTM, he was such a bad fit on the RC16 that he didn't know where to start, and his feedback was little help in improving the bike.

At the moment, Yamaha's Japanese test riders are preparing the 2020 prototypes ready for the Valencia and Jerez tests. It would be useful for Yamaha to have a test rider at those tests to work on the new bikes. But with Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli also showing strong pace on the bikes, the need is less pressing, as the two Petronas Yamaha riders can also provide input.

But Yamaha will need a good test rider for the 2020 season if they are to continue the strong progress they made in 2019. Various sources around the paddock indicate that Johann Zarco could well be where Yamaha end up.


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I could have sworn he said something to that effect during his rookie year. He kind of boasted of not getting into the technical nitty gritty of bike setup and just trusted his mechanics/engineers

Not to say he can't provide productive feedback, but it may be limited in detail. Who knows...

In any case, raw deal for Folger. Him and Zarco serve as cautionary tales for cavailier career/contract management. Not sure if irony is the word to characterize the fact that they were both rookies on the Tech3 squad in 2017, but it's definitely a funky coincidence.

Total votes: 31

Yes, he did say he didn't delve into technical analysis (and seemed to assert he could feel or intuit his way to higher levels of perfortmance.) It seemed to work for a while. 

Total votes: 28

When riders come in and give feedback they aren't giving technical specifics, it's "in corner X I did Y and the bike did Z". Zarco meant that he would come in, give his feedback but then didn't want to know that the team had put more rebound in the front or changed the tyre pressures or pushed out the offset etc etc. He would just go out and ride then tell the team if he was happy with the change. That's not necessarily a bad thing, a criticism that has been leveled at some riders (I believe Smith is one of them) as that they get to into the technical details and get lost and forget to, you know, go out and ride fast. A rider who blindly rides the bike as it sits and isn't looking to see if the new shock or ignition mapping or whatever works may be able to give better, uninfluenced feedback.

Riders can be great development riders for many different reasons. Rossi is apparently a human data logger and can describe in exacting detail what he was doing and the bike's behaviour. Stoner is at 100% the moment he turns off the pit limiter so the team can get through so much more work in a session. Lorenzo has such metronomic consistency that the engineers can tell if a change has worked from the timesheet.

Total votes: 29

It appears we have entered a new era with respect to bike/rider balance in determining success. Jeremy Burgess famously stated that MotoGP was unique in that it was 80% rider and 20% bike. Although that may still be true, it appears that the field is so close that that 20% makes the decisive difference, and allows the rider to unlock the full 80% of their abilities. 

From Rossi's struggles on the old Ducati to Zarco's most recent disaster on the KTM, it is clear that some riders are more suitable to certain bikes than others. It appears that the Yamaha and Suzuki are the most rider-friendly bikes, with Ducati in the middle and Honda on the more difficult end. KTM and Aprillia are too far behind for any rider to be able to make a difference, as demonstrated by Zarco's failures.

Zarco is an immensely talented rider, who was immediately competitive on the Yamaha in his first season (at the very first race, no less!). His recent stellar performances on the Honda with zero prior experience consolidates this fact. This goes to show how far behind KTM is in their engineering, and how little difference even a highly talented rider can make in reversing the fortunes of a struggling engineering team.

The best strategy for a rider looking to succeed in MotoGP would seem to involve a clearheaded assessment of their riding style followed by a concrete plan to obtain a ride on a bike which suits that particular style. 

A rare rider like Dovi appears to be capable of succeeding on a variety of different bikes, although all of those bikes were top tier at the time he rode them (Honda, Yamaha, Ducati).

I still believe Zarco can excel on any of the top tier bikes, although the more time he spends adapting to a new bike, the less time he spends winning races. He has enough experience now to choose between Honda and Yamaha, and would probably excel on either. Here's to hoping he gets a ride, as the fans need fast riders on their preferred bikes to even have a chance at challenging Marc. 

Total votes: 7

My experience dealing with Japanese companies is certainly not all-encompassing, but it does extend over several decades of manufacturing and engineering work. Since I was typically brought in to troubleshoot an issue of conformance to specifications, I have a limited outlook with regard to the financial side of Japanese contracts, but a rather extensive one dealing with contractual compliance issues. And within this scope my experience with the Japanese has been entirely positive...once I gained a limited understanding of some cultural differences. For example you rarely heard the word "no", but learned that "it will be difficult" pretty much means exactly that, and "it will be very difficult" means "why don't you go piss up a rope and come back when you can be more helpful?". With the Japanese, solutions are far more welcome than criticism, as is the acceptance that failure belongs to everyone. I do not think there is a common Japanese word for "scapegoat", and while employees willing to fall on their swords to protect their managers was not uncommon, the idea of pushing them onto those swords was. I never met a Japanese manager who would throw their staff under the trolley for their own self preservation. Sadly, over the years, I have met fewer non-Japanese managers who wouldn't. And the whole damn place runs on data, not subjectivity. No one is all that interested in what you think the issue is, they want to see the numbers. And if you say you will do something, even something that is very challenging, it is expected that you will return from that struggle with your shield...or on it. I got along with that just fine, and besides, I always like being called Jinx-san.

So I can just imagine the consternation of the Iwata brass just prior to and during the fly-aways. They had already chewed on the gristle that the Folger/European Test Team (ETT) had disappointingly served up, a meal consisting of not all that much productive testing...and a rider who seemed to think chasing butterflies through the Moto2 fields was the same as fulfilling his duties to Yamaha. And this is not a cut at Jonas; I fully sympathize with his personal issues (that came from exposure to the bright lights of MotoGP), and understand that later he only did what any young fast guy would do; chase an opportunity to race. We can understand all that. But how it would be perceived in Iwata might be very different. Someone was hired to accomplish a task and that didn't happen, and the pursuit of butterflies is just not their problem.

And then Zarco darkened their doorway. And because he has extraordinary gifts, and because Rossi and Vinales want something great to happen with the ETT, Monster Energy Yamaha submitted a formal proposal to Iwata to bring him on as the ETT test rider, with Galbusera as the ETT crew chief. The it will cost this, and he will do that paperwork was reviewed, and Iwata approved a contractual offer for Zarco. And don't think for a second that both Johann's messy divorce from KTM and his negative comments about his employer's products were not considered before that offer was made. But Yamaha HQ were convinced by the race team that the rewards outweighed the risks, that Johann had learned his lesson, and that he had no further interest in butterflies other than as an occasional wildcard on an M1 next year. So the Iwata management, perhaps against their own instincts, said yes. And then Johann ditched them at the alter and ran off with Honda. Which to Yamaha was pretty much; "I would like to have married you today, but your sister is waiting for me in a cheap motel down the street with a bottle of good scotch and a butterfly net. Maybe I will call you after I am done with that".

There is just nothing I can think of that would enrage the bosses in Iwata more than first being courted (after all, it was Zarco pursuing Yamaha, not the other way around) and then jilted...for Honda. Mortal Enemies is too kind a term to describe the competitive relationship between the two Japanese giants of motorcycle racing. And the fact that Yamaha has played second fiddle to HRC for most of the recent past just amplified this in Iwata. Yamaha doesn't like being beaten by Ducati, but they can live with it, since the Italians are just amusing foreign devils but otherwise harmless. But being smacked about by Honda is life and death. So they put their foot down, and in effect told Monster Yamaha; "Since you cannot manage this situation...we will. There will be Japanese Test Riders who will show up on time and work hard. There will be no more foolishness about Wayward Boys and Butterflies".

And from our perspective we may be thinking that this decision is near to cutting off your nose to spite your own face. I mean, if Zarco comes out of all this with his capture-net empty, why wouldn't you still hire him? He remains the best option for moving the program forward, and it is all about winning, isn't it? Except maybe it is not. Because at times it can be more about what it means to be Japanese, be part of a proud company like Yamaha, and doing things the correct way. I cannot overstate how much that last one matters. And while I may think that is a difficult position to take, perhaps a little out of step in our modern world of Stateless Corporatism, a large part of me respects it. So is that curtains for Zarco? Maybe. Because you could cook all the rice in Japan for the next month on just the steam that must be coming out of Yamaha HQ.

But perhaps not. The scale may be heavily weighted on one side with "the correct way of doing things"...but the other side is weighted with the ever burning desire to whip HRC like they stole something. If Zarco can actually stop being the Jello of Gibraltar long enough to sneak back into the kitchen, Monster Yamaha may be able to make a fist of it for his return. But they will require their current riders, and most importantly Vale, to press their thumbs on the Let's Beat Honda side of the scale as hard as possible. Well, that and ask who the hell is going to teach Silvano to speak fluent Japanese at his age. I give Iwata's chances of being convinced to change their minds as 60/40 against. And it goes without saying that they had better not see one more goddam butterfly net anytime soon. Cheers.

PS - And all of this may still turn on how Jorge and HRC view his post-season lunch date with the 2020 RC213V prototype. And the fact that this means Yamaha's dog is being wagged by HRC's tail cannot be helping the blood pressure of the Iwata bosses. Cheers.

Total votes: 73

That was my first thought also. That´s certainly what I would do if I was in that position but, not sure if the japanese work in that way...

Total votes: 10

and this especially sums up how I was feeling, "There is just nothing I can think of that would enrage the bosses in Iwata more than first being courted (after all, it was Zarco pursuing Yamaha, not the other way around) and then jilted...for Honda"  

Weeks ago when it was reported on Speedweek that Folger was continuing as test rider and Zarco was going to sub for LCR I was sure it was lights out on any possible Yamaha return for him. I just hope your speculation is correct and your 40% gains some heft somehow... I have a couple of thumbs to help push. ;)

Total votes: 21

To be clear, it's not just that Johann decided to throw his leg over a Honda, it's that he wanted to keep his butterfly net as-well. Had he signed on the dotted line and fully committed himself to the Yamaha ETT program, at least according to Lin Jarvis, the Honda ride could have been discussed, and probably accommodated as a one-time thing. But using the HRC ride as a tool to potentially undermine that commitment to the ETT was something else entirely. What stuck in Iwata's throat was that Zarco evidently saw the ETT program as just something to do while he continued shopping for a full-time seat on a racebike. In other words, if he saw a pretty butterfly in the next meadow over he was going to grab his capture net give chase, ETT role or not.

When I wrote about the Japanese insistence on "the correct way of doing things", this is very much what I had in mind: Jobs are not hobbies in Japan, and waffling commitments to your employer are unheard of. But Johann reportedly (again per Mr. Jarvis) gave the clear impression to Iwata's management that any future offer for him to race full-time would have precedence over his testing role with Yamaha...and Iwata had to have seen that yes, he would be using his (temporary) HRC satellite ride to help make that happen. So while Zarco was willing to be involved with the ETT program, he would not really be committed to it*. And that's when the Iwata Bosses booked flights to Sepang and explained to the race team how things were going to work from now on. Cheers.

PS - Yamaha will be fine now that they are applying some adult supervision to the ETT, and I hope that Johann catches that elusive butterfly. This is all really far less tragic than it is confusing. Cheers.

*The great Junior Johnson once perfectly defined the difference between involved and committed: "When you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, the chicken was involved...the pig is committed". And the Japanese are all about the bacon.

Total votes: 25

If Yamaha wants to beat HRC then the correct way is to swallow their pride...whatever form that comes in...and get the best possible test program going...regardless of other feelings or issues. The likelihood that they won't do this speaks to a mindset that is both a strength and a weakness. Any organization or nation or even an individual who carries dogmatic views on how to do things can use that iron belief to drive things forward. But it also leaves them vulnerable. In their own way the other MotoGP manufacturers all have their dogma that both drives and limits them. HRC with its bike first riders after...Ktm with its WP suspension and trellis frame....ducati with its motor layout. Like everyone and everything, Yamaha will need to decide which dogma is strongest...in their case....beat HRC or do it the "correct way".

Total votes: 25

"I never met a Japanese manager who would throw their staff under the trolley for their own self preservation. Sadly, over the years, I have met fewer non-Japanese managers who wouldn't." - Independent of motorcycling, this is an epidemic (at least in my experience) 

Total votes: 23

I had actually mentioned this in my response to Jinx but then deleted it because it wasn't on topic and I figured most people already knew already... but I'm glad you did! :)

Total votes: 34

No one, save VR46, seemingly, can ride forever.  Jorge's best years were on the Yamaha.  His time at Honda has been worse than his stint at Ducati, which at least ended well.

What if he's decided he doesn't want to race any longer?  Who could blame him for wanting to hop off the Honda for good?  It sounds like he's rather wary of another serious injury.  But, I'll bet he can still ride a bike that likes a smooth pilot.

Perhaps Jorge to Yamaha as test rider, and Zarco takes his place with a 1 year deal?

Total votes: 10

They are painful to read with very little substance.

Total votes: 53

IMO they're erudite, entertaining pieces and very much in keeping with the motomatters culture. But that's part of the beauty of this site, there's something for everyone, isn't there.

Total votes: 46

There could be more complete and nuanced considerations of the Folger - Yamaha Test fit, as well as Zarco as a development rider. Folks in various places are saying some bitter things from partial awareness.

Yamaha is apparently unsatisfied with the work that was done by Folger last year. We are hearing Folger's account of verbal planning for next year. The Japanese riders piece is alarming and contrary to previous news, yes, but is coming from Folger only at this point. Obviously, it is a bit complicated. Poor Folger has fewer Moto2 options in November, and this is unfortunate. Not the end of the story yet. Careful extrapolating to "how Yamaha treats riders" and more so saying something about Valentino re this scenario. Yamaha decided not to continue with Folger, and have reasons. One is Folger's work. A other may be Zarco...the quickly moving pieces indicate Jorge staying put another year. Jonas isn't the only person with a telephone number. "Japanese riders" could mean possible for 2020 as an option if we can't get Zarco, rather than seen as change of plan back to endurance SBK guys. We don't know.

Recently the vast majority of talk re Zarco on Taka's bike was bitterly negative. Extrapolated from his KTM performance, and made quite personal. Attacks on his character, and brash criticism of his chances on the Honda. Right away running 9th? Looking good? Folks are quiet...until jumping to him as a test rider?

As a racer, Zarco was inclined to not get too into the technical particulars of the bike. While on a well sorted utterly developed and shaken out customer Yamaha. In the Tech3 garage surrounded by talented people for whom it was THEIR role to SET UP the bike for Zarco. Develop it? NO ONE there was! And he was immersing himself in his rider role function. There is a video of Zarco's very first time walking in to the garage there, and he and the team display this symphony of focused parts to play from the get go. Given the context that Herve's team got old bikes and treated like a customer makes this extrapolative criticism of Zarco's development potential ironically underwhelming. And paradoxically funny, in that he is being considered to lead the transformation of their Factory development after years of languishing, directly related to Herve's not being like Aqua is finally! Zarco is intelligent and articulate, focused and driven. And can take a bike to 10 tenths right away. Especially a Yamaha, which he has taken to 12 tenths with the parts bin and embarassed Factory boys with regularity.

So now, he had an initial offer with the Euro test team at Yamaha. He took an opportunity to race right now w LCR Honda that is going great. His stock is on steep rise. There is a chance Honda lets Jorge go. And another chance that Jorge tries the 2020 Honda and hates it too. Another scenario in which Lorenzo's hefty injuries aren't sufficiently recovered from. Honda may see fit to find a place for Zarco on their Test team. Or even get him on a contract with them on their new 215hp potential WSBK pointy ender. Or, yes - the Yamaha GP Test team is still there, and if you think Yamaha is going to "take it personally" that he "snubbed them by racing with LCR" right now...? SMASH.NOT may be a better reader's section?

P.S. it is Iannone that you are confusing other riders with, instantly takes a bike REALLY fast (SO TALENTED!) then gives up in favor of modeling. More gifted than Dovisioso re raw riding skill. Most self involved guy in years. Zarco? Cool dude. *****Bet he joins the Yamaha Test team and is a dream fit. Does a replacement or wildcard and challenges the front. Jorge does 2020 where he is, healing up and getting the bike to work for him. Honda benefits from getting their bike to handle better, and mildly appreciate his contribution. Does fine but nothing even peeking out from under Marc's shadow, then retires rather than try another bike change. Respected. The whole Yamaha program is on the rise in every way - rider talent to organizational structure. Their inline 4 2020 Dyno development? No crystal ball on that one. But the Vinales - Quartararo battle for points and on track is something to look forward to. Quarty is quite content being in Aqua for one more year, but no more. And Valentino retires gracefully in a year just in time to make it all work perfectly, for reasons his own and fun fanfare. Quartararo eeks out Vinales as the top Yamaha rider, both of them benefitting from chasing Marquez and pushing each other, perhaps with help from JZ05 in Italy under that.

Total votes: 33

..."The Japanese riders piece is alarming and contrary to previous news, yes, but is coming from Folger only at this point."...

From Massimo Meragalli, Monster Energy Yamaha Team Manager (Translated via GPOne.com)

 ..."I'm very sorry for what happened with Jonas, but our plans have changed...At Sepang we had a meeting with the Japanese leaders of Yamaha and by mutual agreement we decided to change the setting of the test team”...

..."Logically we will continue to try in Europe, but we will do it differently ... We will rely on our two Japanese testers, Kohta Nozane and Katsuyuki Nakasuga. The team will also be entirely made up of Japanese technicians, with the exception of Silvano Galbusera, and some electronic engineers from the Italian headquarters when the need arises"...

I can only speculate, but the "and by mutual agreement we decided" bit sounds a lot like how Bambi and Godzilla decided, by mutual agreement, which one of them was going to be crushed by a giant lizard foot. Cheers.

PS - Massimo does hold out the hope that there may be a door open to allow additional changes to the Yamaha ETT Program in the future. But I suspect that will also depend more on Godzilla's views on the subject than Bambi's. Cheers.

Total votes: 28

Thanks for this Jinx "Logically we will continue to try in Europe, but we will do it differently ... We will rely on our two Japanese testers, Kohta Nozane and Katsuyuki Nakasuga. The team will also be entirely made up of Japanese technicians, with the exception of Silvano Galbusera, and some electronic engineers from the Italian headquarters when the need arises" curiouser & curiouser.

Nozane & Nakasuga are very good riders. How familiar are they with Europe & Italy? How much have they ridden Gp circuits in Europe. Very different style of circuit to what they are used to at home. Don't they have commitments in Japan. Do they speak Italian or like Italian food?

"and some electronic engineers from the Italian headquarters when the need arises" i.e. if they get stuck & have to call them in. Or not.

A European test team with Japanese riders & Japanese technicians run by remote control from Japan aint exactly European is it?

Total votes: 20

Interesting piece thanks David, after reading it I have more questions.

Auf wedersehen Jonas Folger viel gluck.

Enigma 1 Johann Zarco rides a Yamaha quite well, demonstrated his ability to adapt on the Honda RCV convincingly. But the KTM & JZ 5 didn't work together, like the Ducati GP11 & 12 didn't work for Valentino Rossi. That doesn't make VR 46 any less of a legend. So Zarco's unhappy experience at KTM shouldn't end his career either. Only 4 Yamahas in MotoGp so it's testing for Johann or maybe a Suzuki would be a good fit. Good luck to him

Enigma 2 Jorge Lorenzo. After 5 world championships, 2 x 250 & 3 MotoGp titles & 68 gp wins, what is JLo's motivation? Does anything drive him to risk everything on a difficult motorcycle & be comprehensively flogged by his team mate. Jorge tried pushing that bike & it bit him. More than once! Why would Jorge want to put his life on the line & his spine on the chopping block. He doesn't need the money, or more silverware. Wayne Rainey has been in the news lately. A timely reminder to Jorge of what can & does happen. Makes me think, and Jorge is aware of this to. Lorenzo would be a good tester for Yamaha. Testing exposes the rider to slightly less risks, unlikely to be hit by another bike or rider when you are the only bike (or team) on the circuit. No full feild first corner mayhem. Testing might suit Jorge now. Lorenzo doesn't need to prove anything, he has shown how tough he is many times. Crutches, being lifted onto the bike, & still riding very fast.

Enigma 3 Yamaha the Inscrutable. What was the plan with the European test team? What is the program for the future? How long have they got? Is it just Jonas Folger or are they having doubts about the non-Japanese organisation itself? Reversing the policy would be a mistake in my opinion & a loss of face. Yamaha need just a little bit more. Fabio Q could be the answer to the Marc Marquez phenomenon. The tuning forks need to resonate with Quartararo for the next few years and make the most of any opportunity to beat Marc.

"As far as contracting a test rider from outside of Japan, we are keeping all our options open." that sounds positive.

Total votes: 25

Not least mysterious is number 4 enigmatic Maverick.

Of corse how could I forget Maverick Viñales, who has been doing the winning for Yamaha in 2019 & 18. M.V. 12 (or is he 25?) is also a bit of a mystery rider. When he is fast, Mav is very fast. Quick enough to lead races & win. When Mav is off the pace he struggles & it can be hard to see why. Viñales seemed to have a problem with starts, seems better this season. Good start at Sepang, but a woeful start at P.I. from pole. I don't understand? I like Maverick and like seeing him do well. I was rapt with Topgun's win at Assen. Hugely disappointed at Phillip island. Also disappointed at Assen that Vale didn't finish. That's racing.

Total votes: 20

is in line with what we know about them. Aside from having an almost all Japanese test team now and stressing that the Italians would be called only when necessary, recall the reason why they fell behind in the electronics department when the controlled ECU was first enforced was because they refused to hire ex Magneti Marelli engineers like Honda and Ducati did. They wanted to do everything in-house and it bit them for a while. 
 

In F1, Honda's turbo hybrid engine program was run and built by Japanese from the get go even though none of them had any real world experience of building such a complex piece of engineering, plus starting a year later than their competitors. It would have made a lot more sense to poach a top engineer from Mercedes or Ferrari but pride wouldn't let them. 
 

Personally, I don't think Zarco will ever put a leg over a Yamaha again. 

Total votes: 6